Thursday, August 10, 2017

Regular Handgun Cleaning

Colt's Government Model manual says to clean the gun after shooting it and every three months; every month if regularly carried.  Why?  After shooting of course to remove burned powder residue and prevent corrosion (more of an issue with Berdan primers than Boxer primers, from what I have read).  Many decades ago, I had fired a Government Model just "a few" times, and did not bother to clean it.  A few months later, in a motel room in central Nevada, I racked the slide to remove a chambered round.  More accurately, I tried to rack the slide.  No motion.  With a bit more effort, it finally moved.  Burnt powder had absorbed enough moisture from the air to form a very solid quantity of semibrick.  Had I fired it in self-defense, I am unsure of whether it would have successfully cycled the action.  Now, I clean after even "a few" rounds fired.

Why every three months and monthly when carried?  Because semiauto pistols need a little lubrication to reliably cycle.  Those built to loose tolerances for very reliable functioning, like most M1911s in Government service for decades, seemed to work well at the cost of accuracy.  But lack of lubrication on the slide rails, or barrel to slide, or slide stop, may well impair function in a potentially embarrassing (or worse) way.  A carried handgun has more opportunity to pick up lint and sweat from your pocket, holster, or hand, so more frequent cleaning.

Another advantage of regular lubrication, if not barrel cleaning, is remembering the sequence.  I just finishing lubing and safety testing of my Colt Mustang, Browning Hi-Power, American Arms PX-22 (a licensed PPK copy), and Firestar 9mm.  (Just remembered: my wife's Colt .380 and my safe queen Colt Government Model.  After lunch.)  Three of those guns are children or grandchildren of John Moses Browning.  Yet each has slight variations in field stripping.  Do this regularly, and you don't forget the quirks.  And another reason: hand strength and coordination are not what they were before the stroke.  Regular exercise helps.


Jim Dunmyer said...

You mention a Browning High Power: I recently bought a brand-new BHP, simply because I've always wanted one. I did shoot someone else's several years ago, but don't remember much about it. However:

At 73 YO, I know I'm not as strong as I once was, and it's even worse because of the hours I sit my fat butt in front of a computer instead of working. But: I can barely rack the slide on my BHP, and actually cannot if the hammer is down. Is something wrong with it, or is it really me? I did manage to shoot 2 mags, loaded to 9 rounds, so I've run 18 shots through it.

I have a half-dozen or more M1911s or variants and have no trouble with any of them.

Thanks for the cleaning reminder!!

Clayton Cramer said...

Jim: Cocking it with hammer down is a real struggle for me since the stroke. I prefer carrying pistols hammer down with a round chambered, and cocking it with my thumb. The BHP is quite a struggle to cock by hand. Not sure why the BHP is more of a struggle than the other 1911 variants that I own.

hga said...

I've found that by using Tetra Spray on all the metal parts of my 1911s after degreasing, then Tetra Grease for everything but where penetration is needed like the disconnector and magazine release spring (where I use Tetra Oil :-), they will function reliably for years, even with firing a "few" rounds or more of Sellier & Bellot FMJ or Gold Dot. If you're in a really dusty place this might not be a good idea (I've read grease + dust can be a bad combination), and I would certainly clean mine more often if getting range time for test firing wasn't so difficult, but so far this has approach has worked flawlessly for me, with modern reasonably tight guns from or with reliability jobs by Wilson.

Will said...

One of the changes made to the 1911 to create the 1911-A1 version was to radius the firing pin stop plate bottom edge. The original version used the hammer spring as a major part of the slide retardation, by having to move the hammer with little leverage. That, of course, makes it difficult to rack the slide with the hammer down.

Empty chamber with hammer down became the Army mandated carry method, and cocking the hammer separately prior to racking the slide was slow and awkward for the average soldier. So, they made racking with the hammer down an easier chore.

I would not be surprised if the High Power still had the JMB square corner design. (Supposedly, the felt recoil of the 1911 is easier to control than the 1911-A1. Less rise and twist. Swapping that plate is planned for my .45, one of these days...)