Truth is though that sometimes the “gun geek” yells so loud, we can’t hear the logic behind a specific technique or the use of a specific cleaner or lubricant. The speaker has too much energy wrapped up in their point of view that the volume of the words prevents the clear articulation of the point they are trying to make. I want to try something different . . . by stepping WAY outta the box and I want to spend some time on process rather than specific items. I want to discuss how you clean your gun . . . not what you clean it with. Still, it’s hard to do by posting pictures of a specific handgun, my cleaning kit, the chemicals I use . . . because we all know how to do it “right”. Much of my foundational information is simply lost in the mental argument of . . . “I can’t believe he uses THAT as a degreaser!!!” “Did you see his crappy brushes?!?!?” “Holy cow!! You use THAT as your lubricant?!?!?!?” Yeah . . . so let’s not do that.
Let’s talk about cleaning boots . . . riding boots . . . dressage boots to be specific. And allow me to show you that cleaning your gun is just like cleaning your riding boots.
My wife is up and rolling early this morning (literally this morning, she’s about 90 minutes into her 4.5 hour drive as I type this). She’s off for a week of training with an instructor and the instructor’s “school master” horse to continue to work on her riding. Honestly, she doesn’t compete, not her thing. She’s demoed riding techniques to both brand new riders and well as those who ride 4th Level Dressage and higher. She’s skilled . . . as she should be after well over 40 years of experience. In fact one of our first dates in the summer of ’66 was horseback riding. It ended with my horse stepping on a ground hornet’s nest and bolting full out for his stall. Memorable to this very day. I only add this bit about how long she’s been riding in to illustrate that to develop your craft, to become the best you can be and to maintain that level and push the upper levels of your capability . . . training never ends. Whether you are a dressage rider or a shooter. This is something my wife understand very well.
Anyway . . . a task I forgot last night was to clean and polish her riding boots. They were setting next to the door so I gathered them up and took them to the kitchen. I dug out the cleaning kit and the polishing kit and set to work.
There are five foundational steps to a clean riding boot. Cleaning off the dirt, deep cleaning the leather, allowing the boot to dry, inspection of the boot for torn seams and finally the application of the right preservative – typically a boot polish or oil. In this case, as simple black boot polish. (Hoping you’re seeing some similarities here.)
If you look at the first photo of the boot, you notice that the seams around the sole are dirt filled, there is some mud build up in various areas of the leather and the boot as a whole is just dusty. Over a long period of time if you fail to properly care for your boots the leather will crack, the seams will break down and a good pair of boots will become so much scrap. This particular pair is about 10 years old and in reasonably good shape.I begin cleaning by waiting for the mud to dry and then using a stiff bristled brush to brush off as much of the dirt and mud as I can. Once this is removed I make a close inspection of all seams to see of some repair is called for. I never try to remove mud when the mud is fresh or by using a wet rag to wipe it off. Leather has pores and you would simply be filling these pores with the mud. Better to brush it off after the boot and mud have dried.
You can see the difference between the dirty boot and this image of the brushed boot. Next, a deeper cleaning.
This is one point of crossover between the gun geek and the boot geek . . . what’s the best cleaning material and process. Ours is one we were taught and have used for over 40 years. We use warm water, a damp natural sponge and a bar of saddle soap. You want a DAMP sponge, not soaking wet. You rub the bar of saddle soap with the damp sponge and then use this soapy surface to deep clean the leather. The soap both cleans and conditions the leather. It is a gently process not a heavy-handed process. Once the entire surface of the boot has been cleaned and conditioned, the boot is again inspected and then left to dry. The same process is used on the second riding boot.
Once they are dry, notice the difference from the first photo to the clean boot. Quite a difference. Finally, the boot conditioner – polish – is applied. The kit shown is the Ziploc has components that are nearly 40 years old. The buffing brush has buffed out riding boots, low quarters, combat boots, dance shoes . . . I can sit and brush and buff and feel over half my lifetime in my hand. I find it comforting for some reason and it is a task I find enjoyable.
I take an application rag, stick my index finger in a fold, rub a couple circles in the top of the can of polish and then rub the polish into the boot beginning with the toe and ending at the gusset at the top of the boot. Again, I let it dry a bit and apply polish to the second boot. Once I am finished applying the polish I return to the first boot and use the buffing brush to buff out the boot. I am not looking for a high gloss, we are orders of magnitude from a traditional military “spit shine” but we do end up with a black and slightly shiny CLEAN boot. Which is the point.
Clean away excess dirt, use the proper cleaning material to clean the boot, inspect the boot and finally polish and condition the boot.
I’m not going to go into a “blow by blow” comparison of how this all relates to cleaning your defensive weapons . . . but I’m hoping you see the obvious similarities. Use a firm nylon brush to remove the excess GSR, us a cleaning material that can be fully removed when you’ve done a deep cleaning of your weapon, inspect your weapon for damage and finally apply an appropriate amount of lubricant to protect your weapon and to insure it operates smoothly.
Cleaning your gun truly is just like cleaning your riding boots.