Reasons Guns Fail

In today’s post I’m bringing to the masses the plight of the forgotten guns.  

Yes, we’re all guilty of neglecting our firearms every now and then.  Maybe you’ve spent a day at the range firing dirty ammo, then forgotten to clean up your firearm until your next range session when you discovered that your gun just wouldn’t shoot.  Maybe you’ve recognized that a gun needs a good cleaning, but your busy schedule causes you to keep putting it off until “later,” which ends up coming far later than you’d have liked.  But even the newest gun enthusiast should know better. 

More guns are broken or made inoperable because of laziness and dumb mistakes than are put out of service by normal wear and tear.  With the guns becoming more and more expensive, a trend unlikely to stop any time soon, neglecting firearm care is also a pricey mistake. 

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  The answer is to know the most common problems and the corresponding best solutions.  Protect your guns by knowing what is best for them so they’ll work when you need them to, withstand the elements, and be worth something should you want to sell them in the future.  

Rusty Marlin 366
Brand new Marlin 336 that rusted on the store shelf!

Now I’m not trying to wag fingers at anyone.  Your firearms are your property to take care of however you want.  That said, I can’t justify dropping hundreds or even thousands of dollars on what’s going to a dirty paperweight, and I doubt I’m alone on that. 

For those of us with that mindset, we first need to identify the problems that most guns are going to face in their lifetime and then know how to prevent of fix them.  

Now, everything breaks eventually.  Just like even the most reliable car can get a flat tire, even the most reliable gun can break or become damaged.  There is no maintenance free firearm, but there’s also no amount of maintenance that can completely protect your gun from all harm.

So now, without further ado, let’s talk about how firearms become damaged.

Wear & Tear

Just like anything else, guns wear out, though they are getting increasingly durable and resistant to wear. 

Springs are the parts most vulnerable to wear, including main springs, trigger reset springs recoil springs, and more.  To a certain degree, you just have to accept that you’ll have to replace a spring here or there every so often.  On the other hand, guns also have lots and lots of moving parts that need to be cleaned and lubricated.  Failing to do so can lead to a lot of wear that could have been totally avoided with proper care.

wear and tear on turkey gun
Normal Wear and Tear on the Author’s Turkey Gun

Improper Storage

Most of the time guns rust out it’s because people have failed to store them in an environment that will protect them from the elements.  If there’s a particularly humid day, or worse, you use a humidifier in the room where you store your guns, your firearms will come into contact with the moisture in the air and need drying out!  Otherwise you’re liable to see surface pitting and corrosion in a matter of a few days.  

Dirty Pistol
This gun was submerged in a safe for three days during Hurricane Katrina. You have no such excuse.

Careless Transportation

Few people get to walk out of their back door and start pulling the trigger.  That means you need to transport your guns to and from the shooting range.  Safely transporting firearms means loading them into a padded case, that holds them securely and prevents them from rubbing together.  

*Remember in some states you must lock the gun case while transporting to and from the range, contact your state officials when in doubt!

Over Tightening

When you screw down a bolt, a but, or any retainer don’t over tighten it.  This includes the levers that secure quick detach mounts on picatinny rails.  Hand tight, then a quarter turn!  You don’t get brownie points for cranking down the bolt and tripping out the screws.  

Aftermarket Parts

Anything you instill on your gun needs to be thoroughly vetted and have an established track record before you can trust it.  Especially internal parts that make up critical parts of your gun.  Springs, trigger packs, bolt carriers, magazine catches, it all need to be tested. 

Modded Glock 40
It looks cool, but you need to make sure your aftermarket parts won’t damage your gun.

Improper Installation

Don’t just let any monkey wrench on your guns.  That includes you!  If you put a part or swap a spring on your gun, make sure you know exactly what you’re doing and how it’ll effect your firearm.  Otherwise you may be sorry when you see the effects down the line.  

Internal Rusting

Most guns will start to show rust on the outside far before you notice the inside is rusting out, but it’s often too late by the time you notice.  Internal pitting on rifling, or chambers is a death knell for guns.  You can ruin a firearm by allowing the internals of it to rust out in short order and destroy them.

Cleaning internal parts of firearm
Keep the Inner Parts Nice and Clean

Flooding with Oil

Oil it’s self isn’t a problem.  Flooding with oil that attracts lint and other debris is certainly a problem.  Oil makes a good glue for unburned powder, carbon fouling and just general lint and sand to get gummed up into the action of your gun.  Over lubrication of a gun is just as big a problem as no lubrication, in all types of guns.  

Not Cleaning Out Solvents

Go easy on the solvents you use on your gun.  Chances are you only need a patch or two, and normally only on the barrel.  If you get solvent in a hard to reach place like the gas key on an Ar15 then you’re going to see corrosion, there.  The purpose of solvent is to break things down, don’t be surprised when that solvent eats your gun when you don’t clean it out.

Flaking Finishes

Most guns come with a finish.  Stainless steel and rust bluing are the best because it doesn’t come off.  The newer colored coatings like Duracoat and Cera-coat can be problematic if you have the coating flake off in critical areas and gun the gun up.  For example, if you Duracoat the frame of a 1911 or other pistol, make sure you keep the Duracoat off the slide rails.  It won’t hurt clearances while it’s in good shape but it will eventually wear off and cause problems.  

Flaking Winchester Rifle
Flaking On a Winchester Rifle

Don’t Be That Guy

If you haven’t noticed the key to not being the guy who abuses his equipment generals falls into three categories:

  • Know how to clean, use and maintain each firearm your own.
  • Use the correct equipment to clean and maintain your firearms.
  • Have the equipment and know how to properly store your firearms.

The first step is to know what you’re doing.  Just like breaking your gun while taking it apart and putting it back together, you can ruin a gun by not using the proper cleaning solvents and lubrication.  All you have to do is to read the manual.  Google and YouTube are also your friends.  Just about any gun in exist stance has advice on taking it apart and putting it together, as well as opinions and advice for cleaning and lubing.

The next step is to make sure you have the correct equipment.  A stainless-steel wire brush is going to ruin the rifling of your barrel.  If you leave a heavy copper solvent on the finish of your pistol, it is going to pit and corrode it.  If you over lubricate a striker fired pistol with a thick grease, it is going to have light primer strikes and misfires.  Have the correct cleaning and lubricating equipment and know how to use it.

Finally, and arguable the most important part, is to store your firearms correctly.  I live in Florida and it is so humid here guns literally rust while on store shelves.  If you have a gun safe or vault and don’t take steps to control the climate inside, then you can ruin the function and value of a gun.  Look for ways to help mitigate these problems and create permanent storage solutions for your guns so you don’t have to be worried weather or no they’re rusting out.  

Finally, for the crowd who shouts “My guns are tools I don’t care how they look!” I have two answers to this: reliability and tradition.  There’s no argument that a properly maintained gun will function better.  As said above, even the most durable firearm needs proper care and maintenance to meet its full potential.  Every single firearms manufacturer publishes information on the best way to clean, lubricate and properly store their guns.  Follow their advice and the guns just work better.  

dirty ccw pistol
The Author’s Father’s Concealed Carry Pistol

My other answer for the “No clean” crowd is tradition.  One of my most prized possessions is a .357 magnum two shot derringer style pistol my father carried for over 30 years.  It has its dings, its scratches and a little surface pitting, and to be honest isn’t a very effective firearm.  Still, it means the world to me that I have it now that he’s passed on.  Firearms are intensely personal items and your children, or grandchildren will appreciate having such a personal piece of your history that you’ll leave behind.  Of course, you can only leave it behind if it is still in one piece.

What’s the worst case of gun neglect have you seen?  Are you guilty of weapon’s abuse yourself?  Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

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4 Comments on "Reasons Guns Fail"

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John
Guest
Great article! But I’d like to add an extra point regarding cleanliness- touching. While it won’t exactly lead to the failure of the gun, the oils from your skin can lead to anything from light surface rust to possible pitting. Gunsmiths have told me of people that can put their hands all over a piece and it’ll be fine, to people who can lightly touch a gun and you’ll see some light surface rust by the end of the week. For whatever reason, it looks like it depends on the person, but it just underlines the fact that you should… Read more »
jerry the geek
Guest
Actually, while it’s possible to “over=oil’ a gun, you have to work at it. A man who once owned the company which builds the most reliable of competitive pistols told me that. Then he went on to say something to the effect that “well, of course, you have to wipe off the excess oil”. I think that’s the genesis of the concept that you shouldn’t use too much oil on a gun. The best approach is to give it plenty of oil of the appropriate quality and grade, let it sit for a while (to penetrate the areas where the… Read more »
Tim Lange
Guest

Carbon fowling? When are they in season? 🙂

Eric Hung
Admin

Lol, good catch!

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