How frequently you clean your firearms is one of those topics people seem to like to debate. Should you clean 'em every time you shoot them, on a particular schedule, based on use, or just whenever you happen to get around to it? Here is what I do; I'm sure some readers will strongly disagree.
Firearm Cleaning and Maintenence:
No longer am I subject to weapons inspections like I was when I was in the Marine Corps. And for quite some time after I left active duty, I maintained a stringent view of firearms maintenance. While there may be benefits to cleaning firearms after every use, and sometimes just for fun, I no longer feel bound to carry this same standard.
I've found that, in general, quality guns will run even if they are filthy. Lubrication is far more essential to keeping the gun functioning than being so clean that you're ready for a white glove test.
An Important Point:
I want to start by addressing the difference between cleaning and inspecting the gun's components for functionality. Inspecting various components should be done before using it on the range and for an everyday carry (EDC) gun regularly.
For example, it only takes a moment to ensure your optic battery is functioning, the glass is clean, and the optic isn't loose. Similarly, confirm your iron sights aren't damaged and haven't shifted or loosened up. I conduct this quick inspection along with a chamber or press check on my EDC before I leave the house.
However, cleaning your guns is important, and when it comes to frequency, you likely fall into one of these 4 main groups.
Clean Your Guns After Every Use:
As I mentioned, this is the stance I held, and probably many gun owners who spent time in the military see firearm maintenance this way. There are benefits to cleaning a firearm after each range session.
First, it is likely easier to clean a gun that's only had 500 rounds shot through it than one that's seen 5000 rounds in between cleanings. The flip side is that if you shoot a lot, you're constantly cleaning guns. For those who enjoy the act of cleaning their firearms, “less cleaning, more frequently” isn't an issue. But for others, this isn't sustainable.
Another positive is that cleaning your guns after every use likely means you're looking at the components on a more consistent basis. This way, you may catch worn springs sooner or before you have a failure because of an upkeep issue. Conversely, keeping a log of how many rounds you've fired and following the manufacturer's recommendation for replacing parts is likely sufficient. Also, regularly performing a functions check should uncover a significant issue.
So, can you clean your guns too much? Probably not. But you have to balance your time with the actual benefit of cleaning guns after every trip to the range. A clean gun looks nice, but not at the expense of more pressing responsibilities.
Clean Your Guns on a Routine Schedule:
Depending on the frequency of use, you might clean your guns every month, every 3 months, or some other pre-determined frequency.
This strategy lightens the burden of a trip to the range for people who shoot several different guns. But, clearly, cleaning 4 or 5 guns takes longer than one. So you may start limiting the number of firearms you actually shoot because you're calculating the added time of cleaning yet another gun.
This strategy can work and ensures all the guns get cleaned, but it isn't as time-intensive.
Like all the others, this strategy depends on the frequency of use and, or the round count.
Clean Your Guns Based on Usage:
This method, I think, works best for me.
I don't clean my guns after every trip to the range. I'm also not waiting for a specific date to start a full-scale cleaning of all my guns.
Instead, I perform general cleaning somewhere in the ballpark of 2000-3000 rounds. I clean any gunk from the rails, feed ramp, and breach face. When I have time, or the gun looks exceptionally dirty, I'll break it down for a more thorough clean.
Because I don't clean my guns regularly or on any set routine, I apply light oil after shooting them unless they don't need it. Then, before shooting them the next time, I check to see if they need any lube.
I mentioned this is the method I use because I think it balances the necessity of keeping the gun running and lubricated, with the time it would take to clean based on how often I shoot. I can conduct a deep clean when I have some spare time, but I am not beholden to a specific schedule.
My family appreciates this approach as well.
Clean Your Guns Whenever You Feel Like it:
Sometimes folks who realize how dirty their guns can run without issue go to the extreme of just not doing anything with them at all. I would advocate against this process, especially for a gun you use for self-defense. You should have an idea of the general condition of any firearm you shoot.
For example, students show up to classes with guns that are filthy. That's cool; I like to see a well-used gun. But when they are bone dry, it's not a good thing.
First, this is when I typically see more malfunctions. Second, it also shows that the person hasn't handled or inspected the gun in a while.
This specific strategy for gun cleaning is more like no strategy at all.
I'll end by coming back to the point that we should regularly inspect any self or home-defense gun. While the gun doesn't have to be spotless, we should ensure to lubricate it appropriately. You also want to examine any components like optics and sights for functionality or damage and ensure the gun is in the condition you want.
If you want a gun cleaning kit that works on multiple calibers, check out this one from ReadyUpGear. I like the stiff all-purpose brush as well as the dental pick and brass barrel brushes. Snag some Gun Fighter Oil, and you're good to go.