0240 – Proper Maintenance of Life Saving Tools

Last week I did a bunch of teaching. Nothing unusual. I did have a great bunch of students in my IFHF-OHCCW which is a bit different than usual. Don’t get me wrong, most of the folks I come across are excellent people, but this group had a synergy that isn’t found very often in a class of people who don’t know each other before they show up. When You get a group of people that are learning well together and having a good time, things work more smoothly, everything makes more sense, the students learn more and the instructor learns more too. I have to say that was my favorite part of the class. You see, most folks who take a CCW course are either pretty inexperienced with guns and self-defense, or have a good bit of experience and are just showing up to check a box. People that are there to simply meet a requirement set by the state aren’t terribly invested in the class to provide quality feedback, and those that are inexperienced don’t necessarily have the background to know the quality of instruction they are receiving, good or bad. This makes it difficult for them to comment effectively. This group was a good cross section of folks. From never shot a gun before to very experienced. This group of people had some good feedback. One of the best comments I received on the class was in an email I received after the course. The basic point of the email was that as an instructor it was conflicting to say that reliability is paramount in a self-defense handgun on one hand and then on the other to offhandedly comment that I can’t remember the last time I cleaned my Glock. What an excellent point. Today we are going to talk about keeping our life saving tools properly maintained.


  • SHOT Show 2012
  • Work with Templar Custom Arms
  • Welcome Helix Arms Contest

First A Comment for the Instructors Out There

I have to say that I am grateful for each and every one of my students.  I have as much to learn from them as they have to learn from me, but only if I am open to learn it.  The email I received was full of praise which is great, but as important was the constructive criticism about my conflicting messages.  As an instructor I simply could have blown it off.  I mean seriously, in a one day 12 hour course I am bound to make some errors right.  Not to mention actually teaching how to clean a gun isn’t even on my list of priorities.  There are too many ways one can learn to clean a pistol.  But to give contradictory information is not what I’m after.  The fact is, however, that every time I teach I need to make the class more effective than the last, or I am failing my students.  So as I talk about what I learned, and I work to correct my error I simply ask, are you doing everything you can do for your students.  Remember, no matter how experienced you are, no matter how tough you are, no matter how many classes you have taught or missions you have completed, it isn’t about you.  It is about your students.

Life Saving Tools

So BC’s email was pretty simple.  A clean, properly lubricated, properly maintained machine is going to perform better than a dirty unmaintained, machine.  In general, flukes discounted, I have to agree and I have to make sure to make this point clearly to my students.  So a podcast is born.  Why is this important?  To BC it was important because I made my point abundantly clear that reliability is the number one consideration for a self-defense handgun.  Glossing over cleaning and maintenance with an offhanded comment about Glock reliability is ignorant and counter intuitive.

It is really a pretty simple.  Life saving tools have to work.  Your seat belts must function every time you wreck your car.  Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and sprinklers must work every time there is a fire.  You should be getting the point.  When your life is on the line you must have well maintained equipment.  I have talked about some of the pass times I have pursued in my younger years.  Among them were climbing and diving.  Both pretty intense when it comes to life saving gear.  You better bet that as a climber I took pretty good care of my harness, rope, carabiners and rack.  Ignoring any signs of wear or damage could have deadly consequences in what would normally be a routine fall.  Routine inspections and replacement of worn gear was a regular occurrence.  The same was true with my diving gear.  Being at 165′ of 40′ fresh water is no less dangerous that 165′ off the deck.  If gear fails the consequences are catastrophic.  Maintenance takes place on an annual basis or at the first sign of any problems.  Why would we treat our self-defense handgun any differently.  We shouldn’t.

Cleaning and Maintaining Self-Defense Guns

Cleaning and Maintenance are two seperate and independant functions.

Cleaning takes place at intervals to remove dirt, debris and residues from normal use while maintenance takes place at intervals to inspect, repair or replace parts.  The intervals could be based on several factors the most common which are the same as the intervals between firing the gun, the number of rounds fired, or an amount of time that has passed.  It isn’t much different from other things we clean and maintain in our life.

  • Your oil gets changed every fill in the blank.
  • You update that batteries in your smoke detectors every time you change the clock.
  • You need to determine the maintenance and cleaning schedule for your self-defense firearms.

Determining the Cleaning and Maintenance Schedule for your CCW Handgun

There are a series of factors that we want to consider in how often we clean and maintain our defensive weapons.  First of all it must be said that cleaning and maintenace must be conducted at the very first sign of any problem that develops with our weapon.  In a perfect world we would always do the work before it needed to be done.  I don’t live in a perfect world.  Therefore, I must be vigilent of the condition of my weapons.  If a problem seems to develop before routine cleaning and maintenance is to take place, I need to take care of it immediately.  Don’t wait to address a problem, you ma not get another chance.

Factors to Consider When Determining Your Maintenance and Cleaning Schedule

  • Performance of the handgun during your break-in period
  • Manufacturers recommendations
  • Time elapsed since last cleaning
  • Rounds fired since last cleaning
  • Carry method
  • Carry conditions
Different combinations of the above might lead to drastic differences in schedules.
Consider open carry of a tightly fitted 1911 in a dry desert area compared to concealed carry of a polymer production gun in the Midwest.  The Tupperware might be shot 3 times as much or carried 3 times as long before it needs care.  At the same time take the same pistol and carry it concealed OWB and then in pocket carry and you have drastically changed the schedule.
When it comes to how to handle your weapons only you and your experience can determine what your schedule needs to be.
The suggestions on how to care for different types of firearms are as varied as the people who carry those guns.  If you are at a loss for how to actually maintain and clean your pistol first read your owners manual.  There may be some very specific dos or don’ts that you need to follow.  Once you understand what your manufacturer recommends it is time to head to youtube.  Do a search for your weapon type and cleaning and you will have several opinions to hear and see what you might choose to do or not.
  • When in doubt over do the cleaning and maintenance.  Your gun can’t be too clean, or springs too new.
  • Overdoing the cleaning doesn’t mean you need to overdo the lubrication.  Too much juice can attract dirt and debris which can shut your gun down.
I will leave you with a selection of resources where you can begin to make decisions on how to properly maintain your life saving tools!

Shooting Illustrated Defensive Gun Maint

Handgun Magazines Take

Yet another way

The Yeager way


Keep in mind that this is just the beginning of the opinions on how to maintain your handgun.  There are thousands of ideas out there.  I am not endorsing any of them.  Dive in, figure it out and get your tools in shape!


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