Firearms Maintenance when SHTF

SHTF Blog – by Road Warrior

I’ve seen a few comments and gotten a few emails concerning maintenance regimens with firearms, and since theoretically your survival SHTF firearms could take a real beating when things go downhill, it only makes sense that it be foremost in mind for the prepper.  

Whether the firearm you have is a single shot .22 or the snarliest AR-15 your wallet could build, sooner or later, it’s gonna need to be taken care of, sorry to tell ya. Most gun owners know how to pour oil an a gun and wipe it down, and run a brush down a bore, but, just like you don’t use vegetable oil in the crankcase of your car, there are specific materials you should have in your tricky bag to take care of this specific purpose, and certain areas of the gun that will need more attention than others. Let’s go into what the general prepper will need in a basic kit to head out the door and keep a gun supported and clean temporarily, as well as more intricate items that will allow detailed maintenance.


This here is my basic firearms maintenance kit. Yeah, basic for me…but with this one kit, I can clean and service pretty much any basic firearm, as well as detail strip and do armorer’s maintenance on SIG-Sauer P-series pistols, Glock handguns, and AR-15s. However, it’s all saddled up in a large tacklebox that really takes up a lot of space, and is more than most people will need for a basic maintenance kit. I’m sure you’ll notice several things that no prepper with a gun should be without:

CLEANING ROD: – A MUST. Your firearm’s bore is the most important part of the firearm when it comes to maintaining accuracy. A segmented, QUALITY rod (not the cheapo Wal-Mart aluminum kit ones) made out of brass, (preferably) coated steel will last indefinitely if taken care of (and not used to pound stuck bullets out of the bore!). I keep a sturdy brass one in my kit, and a smaller segmented steel one with my Grab-n-Go AR. Warning: steel ones can damage the rifling, so care is needed.


From top to bottom: Chamber brush (for an AR-15), bronze .40 cal bore brush, stainless steel .40 cal bore brush, slotted jag, barbed jag.

BORE BRUSHES/JAGS: To go on the cleaning rod, you need caliber-specific bore brushes. They can be bronze or stainless steel – I prefer to have a mix of both. Solvents can slowly melt copper brushes, so they are good for just scrubbing, where the stainless ones are a bit rougher on the bore, so I use them when I am using solvents to eradicate powder residue and copper jacket buildup. Jags are barbed or slotted tools that hold patches onto the cleaning rod, so you can run solvents and oil in the bore, or swab the crap out. I heartily recommend stocking up on these…they are less than a couple bucks apiece, store forever, but don’t last forever under use.

CLEANING PATCHES: These can be either pre-made caliber-specific perfect squares, bought from a store, or knife-cut pieces of your old tighety whiteys. These have myriad uses; they can be used to wipe oil on a gun, clean out carbon, swab solvents down a bore, or….? It’s always good to have lots of these around, as well as an old t-shirt or three that can be used for everything as well.

TOOTHBRUSH: Always handy to have around, to scrub out bolt faces, the front of revolver cylinders, and anywhere else you have residue buildup. I keep a standard dental one, a nylon one, a brass one, and a stainless steel one. You can buy kits with all of them in it for dirt money, and they’re versatile as hell. Get some!

CLP: Cleaner/Lubricant/Preservative. Developed for the military, Break-Free is the most popular brand, and it works pretty well to cover most of the firearms lubricant bases. I have some in my grab-n-go bag for field maintenance, but for long-term storage, or in-depth cleaning, it really has a lot to be desired. More on that later.

SCREWDRIVER MULTI-TOOL/LEATHERMAN: Sometimes, screws get loosened up with use, and need to be tightened. Pretty simple.

Q-TIPS: Stock up on these puppies. Know how they get in your hard-to-reach ear spaces for cleaning? They do the same thing for guns too.

The above items should be in everyone’s BOB for firearms (and other stuff!) maintenance, and will get you by for basic cleaning. However, after a couple thousand rounds, any gun (no matter what the internet armchair gunshow commandos say!) can jam or have parts break, especially under hard use and adverse conditions. I’m guessing that when SHTF, it ain’t gonna be as easy on firearms (or anything else!) as a day going to the range with the buddies, and you probably won’t have the luxury of sitting and choosing what you’ll have with you.

In your bug-in location, you should have the provisions to completely detail-strip your firearm, and the tools and spare parts to support it. It goes without saying that the more commonly available firearms will be easier now (and after a disaster of sorts) to find parts for (even scavenging off found guns), so plan your firearms choice accordingly…and remember that you get what you pay for. That SIG Sauer may be $900, but it’s gonna stay in service one hell of a lot better than a $250 Bersa. But I digress.

A few extra items you should have in a secure location, for when your gun goes down, or if you have the luxury of doing preventative maintenance:

-PUNCH SET/BALL PEEN HAMMER: Most guns utilize pins to hold them together, and you will probably, at some point, need to drive them out to replace those parts. A couple sets of steel punches (They do break!) will be a lifesaver. I have 1/16″, 3/32″, 1/8″, and 5/32″ sizes, and they take care of 90% of what I need. A couple brass punches wouldn’t hurt either, for they don’t mar finishes. A good hammer to drive them is a must.

RUBBER/PLASTIC MALLET: Sometimes parts just gotta be smacked. True story. Use something that won’t break things.


SOLVENTS/OILS/GREASE: For more thorough cleaning, just any ol’ lube you find in a shed won’t do. Yeah, WD-40 can be used in a pinch, but for serious work, use the right stuff for the right job. CLP is a good all-around lube to keep your guns going in the field, where you won’t have the luxury of carrying a lot of stuff, but having a dedicated solvent to really break up lead, copper, and caked up powder residue is a must. I use Shooter’s Choice and the good ol’ Hoppe’s No. 9 for these duties, and they are awesome at it. A big bottle of No.9 will last you a while, and is a godsend for cleaning bores and built-up gun crap anywhere in a gun. Nobody should be without a couple big bottles squirreled away.

A dedicated gun oil to lubricate and protect finishes is also a must. I use Hoppe’s Elite, Militec-1 Synthetic metal conditioner, Extreme Weapons Lube, and/or Frog Lube. Most of these penetrate into the pores of the gun and stay there a good long time, maintaining lubricity and keeping moving parts moving and from rusting, such as frame rails for a pistol slide. A couple drops will do wonders, and it should go a long way.

For places where there is metal-to-metal contact, like a sear-to-hammer contact, or disconnectors, I use a dab of good synthetic grease like Magnalube. Grease is good because if you shake the gun or it gets soaked, it doesn’t go anywhere, and it keeps parts from seizing. However, it does accumulate dirt and debris, so use it sparingly.

-GUNSMITH’S SCREWDRIVER KIT: While most modern guns use pins, older and more traditional guns use screws to hold them together. A Gunsmith’s set will have the proper hollow-ground screwdriver bits to fit firearms screws properly.

-SIGHT PUSHER TOOL: Many of these are universal. Will save you when your gun gets banged on a rock right on the sights. It’s happened to me under regular hunting conditions, so I can just imagine how it will happen under more dire circumstances. A sight pusher will get your sights realigned.


GUN-SPECIFIC TOOLS: In the above picture, the top screwdriver multi-tool is all I need to pull a SIG-Sauer apart. The bottom punch and orange plate are all I need for a Glock. I have a few dedicated tools for AR-15s (barrel wrenches, etc.) for my AR-15. But they are tools that it will be hard to rig or make in the field, so it’s good to find if there are specific tools  needed for your weapons platform disassembly.

VISE: A good bench-mounted vise, with a couple hockey pucks, will clamp your gun solidly if you need to really wrench on some parts.

DENTAL PICK: Helps scrape junk out in crevices, etc.

SPARE PARTS: Spare parts, generally, are pretty cheap, or at least the ones that go frequently are. Coil spring replacement sets for guns are readily available (peruse,, and for your gun) and inexpensive. For instance, a complete spring kit for my SIG P220 is about $15, and includes recoil spring, mainspring, firing pin spring, disconnector spring, and mag release spring. I have three of those kits (most coil springs have a service life of about 5,000 rounds). Metal parts, like extractors and ejectors, wear too, and a few of those should be on hand for each gun you have. Service kits are available for many guns, and will have all the commonly worn parts in a package.

ARMORER’S MANUALS AND KNOWLEDGE: I can’t recommend this enough: KNOW YOUR SHTF GUN INSIDE AND OUT. Yeah, it’s good to be able to scrub the bore, but if you have to replace the hammer spring on your AR-15, do you know how? If not, you are well and truly screwed when that part, for instance, breaks. If possible, take an armorer’s course for your specific weapons platform, or know someone if your group who has, and get him/her supplied. Courses are $300-$400 or so, and will be worth every penny and more when the chips are down. As an added bonus, being able to fix someone’s gun could very well be a great point for bartering…

Sorry for the long post, but it’s an important one to consider. Like cars, guns don’t last forever under constant use and abuse, and being able to take care of them could very well save your life. Why not know how to do it?

Next week, we’ll delve into proper cleaning methods with the above stuff! Fun fun!

Stay safe!


One thought on “Firearms Maintenance when SHTF

  1. The military really drove cleaning the weapon into one’s brain, and if vet’s don’t remember the importance of a clean weapon, then they must not have had a MOS 11B. I know in just basic tng. they drove that in, but in AIT, if you didn’t know how to clean a weapon properly, you paid the price. so, thank you for bring your tng. back home, the walk down memory lane make’s me miss the good ole’ days, God Bless, & thanks.

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