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Weapons and Equipment Maintenance
Maintaining your weapons is critically important for safety and maintaining the value of your weapons, regardless of whether it is knives, guns or other items.
On to gun maintenance. There are plenty of cleaning kits available on the market but I have found some to be better than others. Most of the time, a kit will include a cleaning rod and assortment of brushes and eyelet holders for cleaning patches. You will also need some bore solvent, oil and a supply of cleaning patches. It is common for cleaning rod sections to be lost, bent or broken, so it does not hurt to have extras. One major difference between military cleaning kits and sportsman's cleaning kits is that the military kits tend to have rods made of steel and the sportsman's kits have them made of aluminum. The military kits are far far more durable, but the aluminum rods of the sportsman's kits cause considerably less wear on the bore when you are cleaning the gun.
Sniper rifles require specialized cleaning kits for maintaining peak accuracy and dealing with the sensitive nature of high precision barrels. These kits use a one piece cleaning rod that although lightweight, are not readily portable. If you have a sniper rifle, a military cleaning kit with steel rods should only be used in an emergency. This is because the barrel's accuracy can be degraded by the linked sections of the rod dragging over the lands in the bore and causing microscopic abrasions in the rifling that will degrade accuracy.
Regardless of what cleaning kits you use, there are certain consumables you will need when maintaining your guns. You will need cleaning patches, bore cleaner, lube and paper towels. Some people use rags and pipe cleaners. The most common combination gun solvent and lubricant is WD40, but there are plenty of better substances on the market. In extreme cases, brake cleaner and carburetor cleaner can be used to clean unusually dirty and fouled guns. This is usually the case with .22s and shotguns as they tend to get dirty in the inside more than other guns. My theory is that price competition for ammo makes the ammo manufacturers use powder that has a lot of impurities and this is what fouls up the guns. These impurities get burned in place and it takes strong chemicals and lots of scrubbing to get them out.
It is not difficult to live without a specialized handgun cleaning kit since you can just use a section from the rifle kit to clean the barrel of a handgun. I commonly use a pencil to push cleaning patches through the bore of a .45 caliber handgun.
Many guns have sights that are engineered to be set with a special tool then more or less left alone. Re-sighting is commonly needed when you switch between types of ammo, especially from high powered ammo to low powered ammo and when you take the gun from one climate to another. A gun that is sighted in for sea level shooting in hot weather will likely shoot differently in a cool alpine environment at high altitude. This will require re-setting the sights with the special tool. While this is not entirely critical with most handguns, it is very critical with you average rifle. It is important to ad the appropriate sight adjusting tool to your kit. The tool shown at the right is a sight adjusting tool for the AK series rifles and SKS. It is available from Sportsman's Guide at nominal cost and can save hours of frustration.
Many newer guns use Allen head screws on several parts, especially on scope mounts. Make sure you have the appropriate Allen wrenches in your kit. Older guns will make extensive use of slot head screws and sometimes hex bolts. Phillips head screws are rarely used in guns, but the Phillips driver on your Leatherman tool should be sufficient for dealing with them. The tool kit shown here is a decent low cost way of getting most of what you need in one compact package.
Gunsmithing is a specialty skill that not every survivalist should have to learn, but if you are isolated or designated as a specialist for your group, then you will have to learn more than basic maintenance and obtain more than the basic tools. Many guns are put together with pins that are held in place by a tension fit alone. Installation and removal of these pins requires precison punches and a hammer. While these punches can be improvised from nails, the proper tools are not too costly and can prevent damage to your guns.
The above pictured items are available at Sportsman's Guide and you can get to their site by clicking here. Part of your purchase will go toward supporting savvysurvivor.com.
A Dremel tool is a small electric motor that can be used with a wide array of bits. No gunsmith is worth anything without one. It is probably the single most important piece of equipment to any gunsmith and will be an important part of any advance gun maintenance kit. I have found the battery operated models to be too weak for most work and if you decide to get only one Dremel tool (gunsmiths generally have several) then you should get the deluxe kit. Note that several of the bits can wear out and the cutting and grinding disks are a consumable item. These tool kits are available at most hardware stores, Sears and Home depot. Several companies sell them online and they can be found on Ebay.
Obviously, the Dremel tool is not something you would put in your backpack, but it is something you would need to have at the retreat. The Dremel is so incredibly useful for so many things that no survivalist should be without one.
For knives, the most common maintenance is going to be sharpening, followed by cleaning. Nearly all modern knives are made from stainless steel. This is not necessarily the best metal for blades but it eased maintenance. Higher carbon steels, which tend to rust more, are easier to sharpen and stay sharp, but they require more oiling and cleaning.
One of the most common and dangerous metal cleaning and preserving substances is WD-40 or one of its imitation products. It is a water derived lubricant that also comes in several local brand and generic forms, usually in an aerosol spray can. It should NEVER regularly be used on blades, tools or utensils that will come in contact with food. If you use it to clean or restore an old knife, you should boil the knife in water (in a pot you will never use again for food, I suggest a large coffee can) to remove any residue of the WD-40. Lubricate and preserve knives with mineral oil or, vegetable oil. If you use vegetable oils, remove any excess residue as it will become sticky and attract dirt. For long term storage, a chemically neutral substance like petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is reasonably safe.
Common hardware store sharpening stones are sufficient for sharpening knives and common blades, but machetes and axes will often require a file. Chainsaws require specialized sharpening apparatus.
Old or rusted knives can be cleaned with fine steel wool and regular dish soap. In extreme situations, a wire brush or grinder with a wire brush attachment will remove heavy rust.