Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gun maintenance

Yall made some cool comments on the last post. Andrea, the entire reason I got a gun was because I go riding all alone so far away from civilization. Dear god, I hope I never have to shoot my horse.. but I can't think of anything more horrible than waiting hours for a vet to four-wheeler out to me to put down a horse with a shattered leg. That's how I picked my caliber, too - I asked around, and gun experts agreed that a 9 mil would probably kill a horse but a .40 definitely would.

Ugh. I don't even like thinking about that.

Anyway, I've never shot a long gun but I've heard enough horror stories from women who got knocked down that I'm gonna be careful when I learn. Don't be scared to shoot a pistol, they don't have much recoil at all! Yesterday I let S shoot my gun, and she's maybe 100 lbs - tiny little teenager - and she had no problem with it. All of yall have been jerked harder by a horse on a lead rope than a pistol will kick.

So. I have a Smith & Wesson M&P .40. I wanted a .40, and I wanted something lefty-friendly, and that pistol fit my requirements at the gun store I went to. It's got a switch inside it somewhere to swap which side you eject the magazine from. It's a pretty good gun - it's full size, which should make it marginally more accurate and definitely makes it easier to hold with gloves on. It's a bit persnickety; when it's dirty it tends to misfire. This is really annoying but makes me keep it clean! Here's how I clean it.

Make sure it's empty and assemble your stuff. Here's my gun (unloaded), some vile-smelling gun solvent, gun oil, and a screwdriver. Not shown are nitrile gloves and a chunk of an old flannel pillowcase.

WAIT! Stop what you're doing and go open the door. Or do it outside. I'm not kidding about how horrible the solvent smells.

Rack the slide back and pull the Pointy Thing out of the grip.

Look down the top of the gun. See the yellowish thing?

Use the Pointy Thing to flip that down/forward. Also my hands are pretty dry.

Look on the left side of the gun. See the little thing above the trigger that looks like a wing?

Flip it down toward the trigger, and you can move the slide completely forward off of the gun.

This is the underside of the slide. The spring is sitting on top of the actual barrel. To the right of the spring you'll see some golden colored metal - that needs to be cleaned.

Here's the body of the gun after you take the slide off. All the flat surfaces on top of the gun need to be cleaned and lightly oiled.

So, when you buy your gun you're going to buy a cleaning kit with it. Unlike me, you won't immediately lose the cleaning kit. You'll have plastic rods and brushes and pretty white cotton swabs. I, however, can't find half the rods or any of the white cotton swabs. Therefore I am using a screwdriver and part of a flannel blanket. Put your nitrile gloves on. They tell me that gun solvent will eat latex or vinyl gloves. Dip the swab in the (horribly nasty smelling) solvent, so the swab's completely saturated.

Use your cleaning rod to shove the swab completely through the barrel. It'll come out dirty. Repeat, with clean solvent swabs, until it's not dirty anymore (took me three passes).

Take a look down the barrel. It should be pretty clean. The swirls are rifling; they make the bullet spin as it comes out of the barrel and greatly increases accuracy.

Get another swab with some solvent on it and scrub off all the parts that look like they slide together. With some good light you'll see black crud in various spots, just scrub it off with light pressure. Wipe all the bits of dirt off your poor gun, too, you silly redneck.

Now that it's dry, you want to oil it. Less oil is waaaay better than too much oil! The oil lubricates the moving parts a tiny bit, and it keeps the shiny metal from rusting, but it also attracts black crud (GSR) and makes your !$#@$ gun jam.

You can click on this picture and go to "all sizes" on the flickr page - this is oiled enough. I put a drop of oil on either side of the slide, then smear it out with another (clean) swab.

Now look down the handle, where the magazine locks in. Pull the trigger and note where the trigger gears move. Put one drop of oil on the trigger gears and pull it a few more times to distribute the oil. Oil the flat metal pieces on top of the back of the gun while you're there.

Put two drops of oil on the barrel and smear them all around with a swab. It won't look like much, but it's enough. This is half-oiled. The inside of the barrel doesn't need oil.

Here's everybody's favorite car repair manual phrase: "Reassembly is reverse of disassembly." You'll probably want to check the manual! Drop the barrel in the slide, put the spring in (it only goes in correctly one way), get the slide back on the gun locked back, find the Pointy Thing and put the green lever back where it was, and you should be able to rack the slide and NOT have the slide fall off. Put the Pointy Thing back in the grip. Dry fire it (pull the trigger) just to make sure, then you're ready to reload and store it.


  1. Your Smith definitely has some pieces that my Glock 26 (9mm) doesn't have!
    Personally i kind of like the way Hoppe's solvent smells . . . although you ARE supposed to use it in a well-ventilated area. :)

  2. Oh, also, i have TONS of rifle/shotgun experience if anyone needs help or recommendations in that area.

  3. When I ran into Hoppy the other day, we got on the topic of putting horses down and she firmly believes that guns are better than meds. She's done it herself (people have called her out to do it), and she says even the tiny calibers work fine. The only difficulty is knowing HOW to do it. No matter what gun you use, you have to know the correct way to put down a horse or it will all go horribly wrong.

    I didn't realize that was why you got it. I don't like thinking about it either. I wonder what plans the park rangers have where I ride in such situations.

  4. The smell of gun solvent and oil smells as good as leather oil and saddle soap to me LOL

    In a horse and rider issue a few years ago they had an article on where to shoot your horse if the need arose. Its not as easy as you think, correct placement of the bullet to kill them instantly is very important it was a great article.

    In Europe they do not put horses down by injection, only by bullet.

  5. Serena, I'm definitely going to talk to you when I get some funds allocated for a rifle!

    Sara, I believe you... but the thought of botching the job cause I bought a gun that was too small was just too horrible.

    reddunappy - Hi! I've looked into it, and most sources say to draw an X between the ears and eyes - bottom of left ear to inner right eye, and vice versa, and aim there. Does that sound right to you? I know there's really not a lot of brain in all that skull.

  6. HA! I'm callin' my husband in now..You'all are not JUST my peeps, as he calls you, You are heat packin' peeps!

  7. This post makes me feel vaguely dirty, as if members of the Canadian govermnent are watching me read it and waiting to pounce on me. It is, of course, mostly illegal for us to own things like these.

    I'll be pretty happy never firing a gun, I think. I agree that it's just another one of life's experiences, but it is very much not part of Canadian culture the way it is part of American culture. I do ride out with a serious knife though, and I would slit a horse's throat if necessary.

  8. Um, that would be TERRIBLE to have to knife a large animal. I know that a HUMAN takes 5 minutes to bleed out so i can't imagine how long it would take a horse. It would be faster for the horse if you were to get through the trachea rather than the veins . . . but i have gutted a lot of (decidedly non-horse-sized) deer and the trachea is a very very difficult thing to get into and/or through. Think of using your knife to cut through a garden hose. Plus the pain and the struggle for the animal as well--firearm would be way way way better for all parties involved.
    I am a firm believer that no one should even trailer a horse anywhere without possessing the (emergency) capability to dispatch the animal should the need arise. Because accidents DO happen. And in all honesty, you can't count on a friendly state trooper happening along soon enough, or even having the knowledge to dispatch a horse properly if he/she DOES happen to arrive in a timely fashion.
    I know, these things aren't much fun to think about. But it's better than the potential alternatives.

  9. Funder,
    YOU ARE AWESOME!!! But more about you in a second.

    DP, I felt the same way. Got a big knife and everything. Then a local gun range had a "ladies" night where it was free to come out and shoot a handgun. I was so scared I was shaking. After three rounds, it was no big deal. I am actually a pretty good shot with a handgun, considered getting into it competitively, looking into cowboy mounted shooting, etc.

    I need long gun assistance. Can I get some help on aisle 9? Yes? Thank you. I am looking for a small caliber rifle or a shotgun. I have a coyote problem, but black bears and an occasional moose will take out fencing. I don't want to kill either the moose or the bears, maybe a shotgun with bird shot?

    I do want to kill the coyotes.

    Back to you!!! YOU ARE SO AWESOME! So my sig is a lot less complicated to take apart. It's got a DAK trigger so the poundage is the same across all the pulls in the magazine. As a result, I just start on the step with the "wing". Also, the gun guys told me you can never have too much oil?? Oh well. My gun is known to not misfire and in the 500 rounds or so I have put through it, in obviously different states of cleanliness, it's been fine. I love my gun. It's the same model as standard police issue so I trust it to work when needed and take some abuse.

    I am going to go check out my gun now and see if I cleaned it correctly. I did not lose the cleaning kit, but I don't really know all the pieces.

  10. Good gun choice!
    That's a bunch of bs about girls getting knocked down. I have a .303 British and yeah, it has bruised my shoulder but it wouldn't knock you down. I have an SKS too and that's a nice all around rifle.
    I've also shot a .306 with no problem. I think the way people fall down is either, they're not paying attention or they're trying to be cute and giggle about shooting a big gun and that's when they get knocked down or smashed in the face with the scope or the butt. Or...they just don't know how to shoot a gun properly in the first place.
    You'd be just fine funder!

  11. I agree with Stacey one million percent. I have never fallen over backwards because common sense dictates that you want to lean into the recoil.

    *disclaimer* don't read the following if you don't want to know more than you ever wanted to about shooting coyotes.


    Check with your local fish and game office on what calibers are permitted for coyote. I know that coyotes are considered "varmints" out here in the West and you can shoot them with whatever you feel like (including crossbow)(god i love Idaho), but that for big game (deer, etc) you have to have a rifle that is larger than .240 caliber.
    Additionally, i know that shotgun hunting is encouraged/required back East due to the fact that you have a lot more people in a smaller area and the lethal range of a shotgun is measured in yards vs. some rifle calibers that can travel over a mile (!). So your state fish and game/fish and wildlife headquarters can help you out with that. They may even address it on their website.
    That being said, coyotes are spooky beasts, especially after you fling a little lead at them. A 12 gauge shotgun loaded with birdshot will only travel about 60 yards--that's why people can have trap and skeet fields basically in TOWN, because the lethal range on a shotgun is pretty ridiculously short. I would be surprised if you could get within 60 yards of a wary coyote, and even if you do, bird shot is just going to annoy it when it is that far out. Fur coats are a little like armor. Rifle calibers pack a bigger and better punch over a much increased yardage.
    You can actually kill a coyote with a well-placed .22 shot but in the interest of reducing the animal's suffering, you should ramp up the charge a little bit. If i were you i would look into getting a fairly small, flat-shooting, common cartridge such as a .223, .243, or .243 WSM (Winchester Short Magnum). Magnum calibers are constructed with a larger amount of powder than standard calibers, which means the same size of bullet goes farther, faster. Think .22 versus .22 magnum. Same bullet, but the .22 magnum cartridge is like 3 times as long as a standard .22. I would get a .243 WSM if i were you. Hardly ANY recoil, wicked accurate, and very humane. Plus if you ever want to harvest a deer (the ORIGINAL organic meat *smile and wink*), a .243 will work fine for that as well. I hunt deer with a .30-06 (with the world's THICKEST and GOOSHIEST recoil pad on it) but most women i know prefer a .243 or .243 WSM.
    Whatever you decide on, get a good scope (and a good scope will almost definitely cost you more than the rifle) and spend a lot of time at the rifle range sighting it in and staying sharp. Clean your rifle every 5-10 rounds because the rifle-ing (spelling FAIL) in the barrel is a lot tighter than in a handgun, and due to the increased bullet speed and exponentially increased yardage of the shot, every little variable makes a massive difference in accuracy.
    Also, they make paper targets that are shaped like life-size coyotes and those targets are worth the money so that you know just how "on" you are. You can shoot coyotes in the vitals (the fist-sized area where the heart and lungs and liver all hang tight) or in the head. It does take a lot of practice though, either way. I would suggest a head shot if you want to tan the hide.
    Oh, and definitely check with your fish and game office on hazing away the bears/moose. Those are big-game animals and are carefully regulated with set hunting seasons and methods of take. Moose might even be a once-in-a-lifetime draw tag (like a lottery) so don't shoot even in the direction of one unless you know if you are allowed! You shouldn't have too much of a problem with bears, although i would keep an eye on/around your compost heap. Moose kind of just go wherever--not much you can do about that!

  12. Sheesh. Sorry for the brain dump.
    Maybe i should start a shooting sports blog!

  13. Serena,
    You just gave me about 10x more information than the local yokels (backwoods Maine rednecks) at work and they shoot guns every weekend. Thank you! I will check with my local F&G department but I know it's open season on coyotes all the time. My neighbor had one attack one of his dogs while he was walking it in his woods ON A LEASH. Now he has a 22 rifle. This little neighborly community is in a "shoot on sight" mode.

    I have some serious research to do because I've never hunted anything, including big game, but I am interested in learning. Start a gun blog!

  14. Stacey - I think the girls who get knocked down by long guns didn't have them seated on their shoulders, or they weren't braced for it. I am always slightly suspicious that Some Dude thought it'd be funny to not tell the girl the right way to hold it, too :(

    Serena, feel free to talk guns, I think it's fascinating. Or start a gun blog, that'd be cool too!

  15. I just might! Beats working, and it seems like there is enough interest in the subject matter . . .
    My shotgun club (um, yeah) does a Ladies' Day 1 or 2x a year. The last one was in November and just on the strength of me e-mailing some women who i thought might enjoy the experience, we had like 30 ladies show up! It was a wild success. The next one is tentatively scheduled for Mothers' Day. :-)
    If i get off my fanny and start one, you all will be the first to know! And i will be tapping alla y'all for guest blogs too.

  16. I can't believe all you people have guns. Canadians are told from a young age that guns are evil and we can't have them. I honestly don't know anyone who owns a pistol like the ones in these pictures. I do know some people who own hunting rifles, so I guess we're allowed to own those. It's really blurry gray field of knowledge for me because...well...guns are evil and we can't have them.

    Now I don't know what to do if one of my horses shatters a leg. Maybe Canadians are allowed to own captive bolt shooters...

    pretrond: pretend that you've never seen Tron

  17. Funder, I agree. You're right, I'm sure Some Dude is standing there with the video camera. Here's a good example of people not paying attention and not being ready:
    I swear to god if I ever shot with any idiots like that just dropped their weapon like that I'd pick it up and hit them in the face with it.
    Now check out this dude and the size of rounds going in this thing and he doesn't come close to falling down or being dumb:
    That thing is a freaking .100 cal!!!!!!!!!
    dp, that's strange about Canada I didn't know it was like that. I remember we had several guns (pistols and rifles) in the house when I was younger. My dad started taking me shooting when I was 12 and one day I remember him asking me "If some one ever came in the house, would you be afraid to get one of the guns?" I said HELL NO! We had some sweet guns in the house, one being an AR-15 which is the civilian equivalent of the military M-16. That would have been the one I would have grabbed. It's a scary looking rifle, and not something any one would want to have pointed at them.

  18. Rrrrgh, there are so many youtubes that just make me furious. But it seems like there's an equal number of kickass ones!

    Oddly, I didn't grow up with guns. I mean, we're southern Americans, so of course my parents have a 38 revolver and a .22 rifle, but they weren't a part of life. Every now and then Dad would have to shoot a varmint, but he never took me shooting. I just decided, a couple years ago, that I am in fact more important than anybody trying to kill me, and I'll do my best to kill them first.

    My husband's a Navy brat, so he grew up in a gun-familiar environment. Oddly, he's been totally neutral about me learning to shoot. I think he didn't want me to feel like he was pushing me into it or trying to steer me away from it.

  19. OoOo...your last comment reminds me of the time I was in the basement when I was about 16 and I heard my mom start screaming. I ran upstairs like WTF is your problem?!?!?! Then I heard the rattle! This was in Southern CO and rattlers are EVERYWHERE! She said she had reached into her flower bed and it started rattling and she freaked out. She said "Just do something! Just kill it!" So I said "Let me get the .380!!" She said she didn't care just kill it! So I grabbed the Sig .380 and shot it in the head. End of story :) Then we cut the head off and buried it away from the body. Some CO myth says to do that. Whatever.

    word = inabily...the way I spell inability when I'm drunk?

  20. Stacey: Most Canadians think it's strange that our neighbors are allowed to have guns, so I guess it goes both ways. And I have painted the picture in black and white for the sake of a little humour. We are allowed to have guns, but we have a comprehensive set of laws concerning their purchase, use and registration. I think about 10% of Canadian households have a gun on the premises, most of them rural. David and I have talked loosely about getting a rifle so that we can quickly dispatch an animal if necessary, but the thought of firing a gun really is abhorrent to me. It shouldn't be, I know.

    briad: a triad of brides. Watch out!

  21. And just in case anyone is really interested in your neighbors to the north, here's a primer on gun laws in Canada for Americans:

    What it really comes down to is that you have the right to bear arms and we do not. We can earn the privilege to bear arms if we meet all the criteria. Hand guns are heavily restricted.

  22. That takes me back to cleaning bolt action Lee Enfield rifles. There was a pull-through cord used to drag a piece of oiled wadding down the barrel as well as all the other stuff, and that was the hardest part.

    I have a vet book that shows how to shoot a horse. Imagine two lines joining opposite eyes and ears. Where the lines cross in the middle of the face, that is where you put a bullet.

    I have once had to euthanase a horse. The choice of firearm was AK47 and shotgun. On the advice of a soldier that a 7.92mm bullet can ricochet around in the skull and return to kill someone (he had seen this happen!), the shotgun was chosen. It did the job instantly.

    I have also met a Hungarian who euthansased a horse which had broken a leg by cutting the jugular vein. He had no access to a firearm or a vet. It was in wild country, and subsequently he and his companions roasted and ate one leg of the horse as a kind of homage. He did regard himself rather as a successor to the Hunnish warriors!

  23. DP, that gun primer is crazy. Canada is so similar to the US that it's easy for us to forget that you don't have the Bill of Rights. Well, I mean, you DO have a bill of rights, but not the same rights we have. The differences are fascinating.

    WHP, that Hungarian is amazingly hardcore. Gotta do what you gotta do...


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