Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Were I more disciplined like Jim Wilson or Richard Mann, this little admonition would not be necessary. But I have learned that I am not all that unique, so if I screw up like I’m about to divulge, maybe you do too. Oh hell, let’s just get it out: Sometimes I get a bit lackadaisical when it comes to gun cleanliness.

A few days ago I had my friend Ginny Burns out for a shooting session. I am introducing her to shooting with an eye toward self-defense. Ginny is eager to learn and soaks up my opinions like a sponge. She has gained enough confidence to begin exploring beyond her SIG Mosquito. One of the guns I brought along was my Smith & Wesson Model 60, once my pocket-carry gun, but now my pocket gun is a Model 342PD. I brought the Model 60 for her to try because it is a bit heavier, and, therefore, recoils a bit less. During our discussion of J-frames I withdrew my 342PD from the front pocket of my Tactical Wranglers and nearly keeled over.

To my chagrin the area around the cylinder release and recoil shield had become a receptacle for pocket grit and lint. Making matters worse, the cylinder release latch itself—one of the few parts of this revolver made from carbon steel—had a disgusting coat of rust on it. I am sure Ginny thought that perhaps her “gun expert” might not be such an expert if his carry gun looked like it had been dragged on the ground behind a horse for a few miles.

Normally when I put myself together for the day I do a quick press check of the gun I am carrying that day before installing it on my person. Like a lot of folks, I am often running behind, so the gun gets a cursory look about like my truck keys. Anyway, I needed to clean that revolver right away.

So, later that afternoon I retired to my shop and tore the revolver down for a thorough cleaning. Generally speaking, I have three levels of teardown and cleaning I do on any firearm. The level of teardown is determined by how dirty the gun has become. The first level is that typical of after a day of shooting. It consists of swabbing the bore with bore solvent and running enough dry patches through it until they come out clean. Revolvers get the same treatment through the cylinder as well. The rest of the gun gets wiped down, and I am careful to make sure that corners where ash and debris can collect get cleaned out. Then it gets a final wipe down with a light coat of Ballistol.

The next level—and the one I performed on my 342PD—involves tearing the gun down into its major components; each getting a thorough cleaning. For this revolver that meant removing the Craig Spegel Boot Grips—in my opinion the hands-down best grips or stocks for a J-frame unless you are a laser aficionado—removing the cylinder and detail cleaning everything. The bore gets a scrubbing with J-B Bore Cleaning Compound, and places like the barrel underlug get the gunk congealed in it dug out with a wood toothpick. Everything gets a thorough blasting with brake cleaner; moving parts get some Ballistol worked through them, and even those beautiful Spegel grips get wiped down with a paper towel and some Ballistol.

The ultimate cleaning level means a complete disassembly, right down to every screw, spring and pin. For a pocket gun like my 342PD, that should occur about once a year unless the gun takes a dunking in water or mud. A quick side note: For those of you who have never completely torn down a Smith & Wesson revolver, after removing the three (or four on older models) sideplate screws, DO NOT put a screwdriver under the sideplate and pry it up. At best you’ll throw up a burr on the closely fitted perimeter of the sideplate. At worst you can actually bend the relatively soft metal and ruin it completely. The correct method is to use something like the plastic handle of a screwdiver and tap the grip area of the frame a few times. The sideplate will pop up and can then be removed without damage.

At any rate, it took about 45 minutes of TLC to return my pocket revolver to its proper status. I removed the rust on the cylinder latch by first removing it from the revolver and then taking a little Flitz on an old dish towel and briskly polishing it on the surface of my welding table. The steel table provides a dead-flat surface to support the towel. Flitz is a non-abrasive polishing compound and is something every gunner should keep a supply of. To replace the bluing sacrificed by the rust I dabbed a little Brownells Oxpho-Blue on it, and it looks as good as new. Oxpho-Blue is another product anyone with blued guns should keep around. It works quickly and well, and is tougher than most other cold blue solutions.

My little pocket gat is now ready for service. I’d like to think that this little episode will serve as a reminder to thoroughly check my guns every time, but likely as not, I’ll falter again sometime.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”
  1. Mark Hartman Reply

    Oh Dave…so much jabbing to be done and so little time. One of the boys forgot to clean his rifle after a particularly snowy elk hunt…Ol dad got to shoot the deer cause the boy’s firing pin was rusted fast.

    Mark

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