Despite the push from some politicians, it seems that the country as a whole is still very much in favor of individual gun ownership. In fact, many recent polls are suggesting the number of people supporting these sorts of gun rights are growing. Of course, if you are one of these individuals buying a gun for the first time, it is important you take personal responsibility and make sure you are taking care of your new tools. For many, the idea of taking courses on shooting is common sense, and it should be for you too. Beyond just learning about safe and responsible gun handling though, you should also consider going into more depth on cleaning and maintaining a firearm.
When maintaining a firearm, it is important that you keep some general rules in mind. First, make sure to clean your weapon every time you go shooting. After you return home from the range, this should be the first thing you do. Second, those firearms that you don’t normally use should be cleaned periodically. Depending on who you ask, the frequency may vary, but for those with a large collection you might consider cleaning the guns at least once every year (personally, I would recommend no more than 6 months, but I never go that long without shooting, so I don’t actually perform random cleanings). Third, you should have cleaning supplies for all of your weapons, which includes bore brushes, cleaning rods, cotton swabs, patches, oil, lube, bore cleaner, etc. You might consider just investing in a pre-made cleaning kit if you are getting your first firearm.
In general, these kits are a great way to go because they also outline all of the different things you need to do. For many firearms (especially handguns) you want to clean the barrel every time you use it with that bore brush and bore cleaner. Afterwards, make sure to dry it nicely so there is no residue. You also want to lubricate and wipe down certain parts, which can vary depending on your firearm. Once again, if this is your first gun, do your homework. The manual goes over more specific details. Regardless of what specific parts you need to monitor, the real key to cleaning and proper maintenance is to ensure you perform it after every trip to the range.
Before you perform any maintenance though, it is important to take a look back at your basic rules as a gun owner.
For cleaning, #4 is not really important, because you shouldn’t be shooting anything. #3 is definitely a good rule, even when your firearm is in multiple pieces. For general maintenance, you don’t need to clean the trigger much anyways. Before you disassemble your firearm, #1 and #2 are essential to observe. Remember to inspect your weapon prior to cleaning, remove any magazines or clips (there is a difference, but that’s another story), and visually inspect the chamber to ensure it is not loaded. Once you are certain the gun is unloaded and you take care not to point it at anything, then you can proceed to disassemble it.
In addition to general maintenance considerations, your average sporting rifle needs a few extra steps if you want to keep it running at its best. Before getting into those steps, enjoy this free bonus less about the AR-15 platform. AR stands for Armalite Rifle, which refers to the original company that developed this design (model 15). While the term “assault rifle” is used for some classifications, most gun owners will refer to this type of gun as simply a “rifle,” a “sporting rifle,” or an “AR.” In fact, the definition of an “assault rifle” is: “a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use.” The next time someone refers to a semi-automatic rifle (the kind that people own) as being an “assault rifle,” politely remind them to learn more about guns before they talk about them.
With that public service announcement aside, keep in mind that your typical AR requires some extra attention. In fact, while you typically want to avoid having a layer of oil on your handgun, you actually want to keep your rifle well lubricated. The action on your standard direct impingement (DI) rifle relies on plenty of lubrication if you want it to work right and not damage itself during operation. Depending on who you ask, the frequency of lubrication might vary, but in general you will want to lubricate the bolt carrier group prior to using it at the range, and afterwards (after you clean it). If you own any AR rifles and haven’t been properly trained on maintaining a firearm, you should definitely spend 30 minutes watching this video. It teaches you everything you need to know.
As a final consideration in maintaining a firearm, make sure to consider how you are storing your ammunition. If you don’t already have some, purchase some dry boxes and use some silica packs to keep the moisture away. As a general rule, never store ammunition for long periods of time. My first firearm instructor actually suggested that you get rid of old ammo after 1 year. While this might be a bit excessive, just keep an eye on your ammunition and make sure to rotate it. Yes, there are certain rounds you won’t use often (perhaps you keep a box of hollow points just for self-defense). In that case, use that box at the range after a few years and buy a new one. The last thing you want is to have ammunition that is too old and fails to fire in a self-defense situation.
If you follow these rules, you should have a great peace of mind knowing that your guns will be ready whenever you need them.