This is a question that we get from time to time on the range and I’m sure that the various range officers have somewhat varying opinions. Here is mine:
First, we have to understand why we clean guns at all. Each time we fire a gun the primer in the ammunition cartridge ignites and produces a flame that ignites the gunpowder. Just like a log fire, the burn leaves a small residue of gunpowder ash inside the barrel and also on the frame or slide of the pistol and the internal parts of the Action. As the bullet is forced down the barrel by the expanding gases a tiny amount of bullet metal is scraped onto the inside of the barrel (the bore.) This is usually lead or copper. Repeated firings continue to add more bullet material along the bore. If it is not cleaned out regularly it builds up and begins to affect accuracy and reliability. Also, the ash left over from the gunpowder burning can build up as a black material that cakes moving parts, impedes their correct operation and may also attract moisture that can lead to rusting and corrosion.
Ideally, we should give firearms a light, but thorough cleaning after every shooting session to remove this caked on “crud.” Once the gun is clean, we then apply a very small amount of a light gun oil or lubricant to any surfaces that rub together, such as the rails between the frame and slide of a semi-auto and the “hinge” between a revolver’s cylinder and frame. The inside of the barrel (the “Bore”) can also be swabbed with a very, very light coat of a light gun oil to help prevent rust. If you leave too much lubricant on the gun, the next time you fire it you will probably be enveloped by an oily cloud and that should be an indication to use less lube and wipe off the excess before firing.
Guns are not cheap and like any other mechanical device they run much better and last much longer if they are regularly cleaned and lubricated.
At Shoot Indoors, we also have a gun cleaning class—ask at the front desk for details.
For guns that are extremely dirty, we also have a sonic cleaner available for handguns. Ask at the front desk details and pricing.