Basic Weapons Maintenance

What follows is a basic document on weapons maintenance and restorations. These techniques are all techniques that I’ve personally used, and that have worked for me. YMMV!!!!! Don’t do anything dumb, treat all weapons as if loaded, make doubly and triply sure everything is clear, etc etc etc etc…….. I’ve used these techniques for the last 7 or so years, on both personal weapons, as well as when I was an armorer working on Army junk. If anyone has anything to add or a correction make sure you comment so I can change it! I’m not perfect, even though I tell my wife I am……

Basic Maintenance:
In the military, we had various stages of maintenance. I’m unsure what the official ruling was on these, as the levels seemed to change depending on the time of day and what unit you were in. The gist of it, was that the levels ranged from 1-3, level 1 being a basic “no rust, no dust, relube” wipedown, progressing all the way through level 3, which was essentially scouring the gun of it’s own finish and leaving it dry.

In the mind of an accountant, this might sound like a great plan. However, in reality, where the rest of us shoot, humidity wreaks havoc on dry rifles, and joe snuffy is more likely to scrape the finish off than not, leaving his rifle in an advanced state of uselessness, far ahead of any maintenance schedule.

For the average, and even advanced shooter, a “level 1 cleaning”, is all that we need to do in order to keep our rifles and handguns/etc… running.

Materials required:

-Your favorite PROVEN weapons specific lubricant. Many like SLIP EWL, I personally prefer Ballistol, but to each his own.

-Dry rag, fairly clean. A cut up old t-shirt works wonders.

-Baby wipes.

-Duster Gas/canned or compressed air

“Level 1” style maintenance is the most common maintenance we will perform. This is what we do after range trips, after classes, and in preparation for other hooliganly activities. In short, using the supplies above, field strip your rifle into it’s most base components, blow off anything big while the gun is dry, use the wet wipe to get caked up goo off of moving parts, dry with the rag, and relube. Reassemble the rifle and you are finished.

For lubrication, in most platforms, more is better. For AR’s feel free to drown the gun in lube. Paraphrasing a signature line from another forum, “ARs, like women, run better wet”. Limit your lubricational activities to the inside of the gun, please. Metal to metal contact should be the primary concern here. A quick spray on the “rails” the BCG rides on, quick spray on the bolt itself, (preferably not on the actual bolt face), and a quick spray in the lower receiver where the trigger group resides. If you are feeling froggy you can put some lube on the buffer if you choose, this isn’t necessary though. A dab on the charging handle won’t hurt anyone either. Many people have various philosophies on lubrication points, but keep metal to metal in mind, and spray away, (within reason), and you will for the most part be fine.

For handguns, keep in mind that it will be riding on your person, very close to your skin. Because of this reason I usually spray a Q-Tip first, and hit all the slide rails and other contact points, as opposed to wildly spraying like I do with rifles. Keep in mind different weapons systems have different requirements, so make sure you read up on your specific gat piece.

Higher level maintenance is very periodic for me. If I know that I haven’t cracked my gat open in a hot minute, or alternatively if it’s been through an excessive firing session, I will spend more time on it. This maintenance consists of all of the above, plus breaking down any smaller parts. On my Glock, this is where I will do a complete frame strip, (probably once a year). On my AR, this simply means taking out the buffer and buffer spring, and breaking the bolt down completely. While cleaning is your ultimate goal, maintenance is the superior word here. Maintenance is more of a mindset. Yes, you are cleaning your gun, but in these more advanced breakdowns, you are MAINTAINING your gun as well. While breaking the parts down, inspect each part individually. Clean it off, give it some more scrutiny, and hit it with some solvent. Let the solvent-ed part hang out on a rag while you attend to all other components.

Once you hit all of your parts, move back through them, wiping off the solvent and replacing it with a light coat of lubricant. You should be constantly examining and reexamining your components during this process, looking for cracks, chips, abrasions, missing springs, or essentially anything that looks wrecked. Reassemble and run through a quick functions check. Charge the rifle, attempt to fire it while the gun is on safe, remove from safe, dry fire the trigger, ensure that the selector doesn’t move while the hammer is forward in the fired position, then while holding the trigger to the rear, rerack the charging handle and allow the trigger to reset.

If everything sounded good, throw that bitch on safe and move on to bigger and better things. Follow similar steps for other platforms.


Another common issue seems to be getting rid of rust. Follow the steps below.

Materials Required:

-Your favorite PROVEN weapons centric lubricant

-dry rag

-0000 steel wool, or brass/copper wool if available. Alternatively a brass/copper brush, or toothbrush will work in many cases.

This one is simple. Spray the affected portion of your nasty looking gat piece with lube. Apply it LIBERALLY. Let that stuff sit for a few minutes, up to 30 if you are super bored. Attempt to wipe the rust off with a rag. If it works, great, if the rust persists, repeat the steps, only instead of using a rag, LIGHTLY brush it with either the steel/copper/brass wool, or a brush.

In most cases that will solve the problem. If the rust still wont come off, you are probably looking at some serious pitting. Fill a container with weapons specific lube, and submerge the part in it. Let that lube sit overnight and readress. If it still isn’t coming out I can’t help you. If a part is legitimately pitted and rusted so deeply that it requires more intensive steps, make sure you take it to a certified smith so they can inspect the rifle, in order to make sure that it hasn’t degraded the gun to the point that it’s dangerous.

Water Recovery:

With the recent flooding, we have had to address the issues of recovering waterlogged guns. Your biggest hurdles are going to be recovering waterlogged wood, as treated steel tends to be a bit more forgiving if only waterlogged for a short amount of time.

Materials Required:

-Lube (again)


-Canned air/etc…

-Finish friendly brush

-Boiled Linseed Oil

-Wifes Hair Dryer/heat gun (looooooooooow loooooooooow heat if using on wood!!!!!)

Disassemble completely and hand dry all items to the best of your ability. Utilize canned air or similar in any crevices in order to remove as much water as possible.

Submerge all small parts, or steel/alloy pistol frames, (BCGs, etc…), in a bowl of lubricant, or alternatively douse them liberally with that lubricant. Give any metal parts, including barrel and etc and thorough dousing as well. Allow these parts to sit for up to a day, re lubing occasionally in order to purge water from the nooks and crannys.

For wood, allow to air dry, or use a blow dryer on loooooooooow heat. Getting wood too hot will warp it. Apply boiled linseed oil in order to assist the wood in purging itself of moisture.

Once you believe all parts are thoroughly water free, wipe everything down and do a thorough cleaning as normal. Wood parts may require refinishing if the damage is bad enough. Rust can be taken care of as mentioned above, just make sure not to scour it with an overly rough pad or brush.

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