I think there was a time when the majority of first-time gun purchases were made by folks, unlike me, who grew up around firearms. Grandpa taught you how to shoot, Dad and Uncle Buck took you hunting, that kind of thing. So, when you whipped out the stack of crisp twenty-dollar bills that you’d been saving up all summer to buy your very own bird gun, the clerk probably made a lot of assumptions. Assumptions like… even if this is your first gun, surely, you’re intimately familiar with firearm ownership. Surely.
When I bought my first gun, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, I didn’t know the first thing about firearm ownership, yet I suspect the store clerk made a few assumptions about me. I was a strapping young lad with a valid driver’s license, sporting a pair of Wranglers and a hip Mossy Oak camo hoodie. As far as anyone was concerned:
- I was most certainly a firearm expert,
- No way was I a first-time buyer, and
- I definitely knew how to properly clean and maintain that fine piece of machinery.
That shotgun still sits in the back of my gun cabinet. There’s rust all over the barrel and receiver, splattered like an epitaph of sorts, an homage to my ignorance. Assumptions indeed.
The day and age of assumptions about gun purchasers has since surpassed us. In June of 2018, the Washington Post reported an estimate of 393 million firearms in the United States. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates that 21 million background checks, for the purchase of a firearm, were conducted in 2020 (blowing the previous background check record of 15.7 million back in 2016 well out of the water). The most recent census data projects the current (2021) U.S. population at 331 million with 122.8 million households.
Let’s crunch those numbers:
Firearms Per Person: 393 million + 21 million / 331 million = 1.25
Firearms Per Household: 393 million + 21 million / 122.8 million = 3.37
Statistically speaking, there are 3.37 firearms, in your house, at this very moment. That must mean, statistically speaking, you’ve also got a few gallons of CLP and a toolbox full of Sage & Braker gun cleaning supplies…right? Chances are, if you were anything like me when I was a first-time gun owner (and there were at least 5 million new gun owners in 2020, according to NSSF), you’re heavily lacking both knowledge and tools when it comes to gun maintenance.
Firearms, whether handed down, purchased second-hand, or bought brand new from the manufacturer, are an investment. Unlike a new car that loses twenty percent of its value the moment you drive it off the lot, a firearm can retain its value for over a century. But only if you take care of it. That may be easier said than done for some. I have friends that find the task of cleaning their firearms to be therapeutic, while others find the task to be a dismal, painful chore. I fall somewhere in the middle.
For those of you that find yourselves side-stepping the task of cleaning your firearms, I recommend incorporating the practice of firearm maintenance as part of a rhythm. What I mean by that is… do you already mow the lawn every Tuesday and do the dishes after dinner every Thursday? Approach cleaning your firearms in the same manner. Go ahead and add, “Clean My Gun” to a rhythm.
Establish, mentally (and maybe on a written checklist if that helps, too), that if you’re going hunting, you will inevitably be cleaning your gun the moment you step foot in the door back home. For example, when you pull back into the driveway, perhaps your rhythm looks something like this:
- Partake in the obligatory “I missed you, it’s so great to be back home…”
- Drain the cooler and transfer the meat to the fridge or freezer.
- Clean the gun and put it back in the safe.
- Toss hunting clothes in the laundry.
- Regale your friends and family of your pursuits, exaggerate the good parts.
If you establish firearm maintenance as a pillar of your hunting or recreational shooting agendas, chances are you’ll actually end up making the time to take care of your firearms. Your firearms will thank you, and your grandkids will too.
Whenever there’s a new personal frontier, like purchasing your first gun and trying to figure out how to maintain it, the landscape can be a bit overwhelming. The good news is that it’s 2021 and there are ample resources on the internet to assist you in caring for your firearms. Sage & Braker, the industry’s premier creator of gun cleaning supplies, offers a great series of tutorials on their website for the wide array of tools in their catalog. Here’s a short summary of their catalog, and why you’ll want these tools to ensure your gun functions safely and endures the test of time:
Manufactured in both a pistol (short) and rifle/shotgun (long) configurations, this durable mat made of Crazy Horse leather, waxed canvas and wool provides a designated space to break down your firearm and clean it. Having a mat is extremely beneficial as it helps protect your firearm from getting scratched while you work on it; it simultaneously helps contain the grime and oils from the gun. It also allows you to store all of your gun cleaning supplies in one convenient place with its numerous pouches.
Simple, quick, and highly effective, run this “snake” through the barrel to grab, pull, and remove and built-up carbon. This is to ensure optimum barrel conditions to allow the projectile to travel in a safe and effective manner, while also preventing “pitting” in the bore.
“Clean, Lubricate, Protect.” CLP is an absolute must-have. The title says it all – spray this on your firearm to clean it, to lubricate it, and to protect it. It's both a solvent for gun cleaning as well as lubricant. With it being a bio-based, non-hazardous formula, your lungs will thank you as well as your gun.
While CLP has lubricating properties and is ideal for most jobs, firearm grease provides an additional layer of lubrication. Appropriate for those areas where metal moves on metal, such as the slide of a pistol or the hinge point of a break-open shotgun.
It’s easy to lose a little piece, like a bolt or firing pin cotter pin, when breaking down a firearm. Keep yourself organized and house all of those nitty-gritty parts in this tray while you’re working on the rest of your firearm.
No, this isn’t for your teeth. The various brushes can be used to breakup carbon and grime build up before wiping down the firearm. The assortment of picks can be used to scrape, pick, poke, and prod hard to reach places or those areas where carbon has built up to the extent it won’t just easily wipe off. The pick’s tips are made of a soft brass in order to prevent scratching your firearm.
Gone is the need to ruin your mother’s favorite nightgown to wipe the CLP and grease off your firearm. These absorbent and soft cleaning chamois are washable and reusable.
These pliable pipe cleaners come in handy every once in a blue moon when cleaning up those hard-to-reach spots, like deep in a trigger mechanism.
Similar application to the pipe cleaners, these swabs are useful in the hard-to-reach spots. They can also be used for a more precise application of firearm grease.
As for the seasoned veterans of the gun counter, shooting range, and field, I implore you to recall the first time you held a firearm in your hands. Did you know how to maintain it? How to run the bore brush or pick the carbon with a dental tool? Where to put the droplets of grease and oil? Make the concerted effort to be a resource, a mentor, to those new or less experienced gun owners.
If you run into impatient friends or family hassling you because you’re cleaning your gun(s) and they believe your attention ought to be elsewhere, drop this Shakespearean knowledge:
“Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.” (Henry VI)
This not only conveys that you are a person of strong conviction, but you are also clearly well read and classy as all get out.
Written by Ian Burrow