The internet gun world is full of information. Unfortunately, much of it is wrong, and it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Too many information seekers take digitally regurgitated misinformation as gospel. One of those polluted topics is firearms maintenance. I’ll cover some of the myths, misinformation and basic stuff every cop should know.
Back in the revolver days, it wasn’t uncommon for a cop to show up at the range with a less-than-optimally maintained duty gun. I’ve personally seen a Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolver so saturated with diet cola and apathy, the cylinder would barely rotate. I cringe when I think of all the traffic stops and other contacts that officer made with that paperweight on his hip. Sadly, times haven’t changed much. Thankfully, our department does firearms inspections after our five-month firearms qualification and training season. That seems to quell a lot of negligent maintenance issues. That’s my first bit of advice: Departments should conduct firearms inspections regularly. Street cops necessarily engage in hypervigilance 40 or more hours per week. It’s natural they let some things go, like firearms
Don’t let your magazine springs rest!
I’d like to start with the most pervasive myth about magazines. The myth is that one must unload your carry magazines on structured occasions to let the springs “rest.” Then, load them back up for carry after they’re properly “rested.”
It made sense to me at one time (but so did wearing a mullet). Since first being published, I have had the pleasure of communicating with people all over the industry, including reps and techs from many major pistol manufacturers. I’ve always made it a point to ask them about the spring rest myth. I endured their looks of annoyance so that I could write these words: Magazine springs don’t need to rest. Metal springs experience more fatigue from being compressed and released regularly than they do from a static compressed state. Test your carry magazines with your duty ammo. Load them, carry them and leave them alone until it’s time to change ammunition. Occasionally test them again to see if they’re working properly. Quality, unflawed magazines will last a few decades with this regimen. Keep several practice and training magazines to abuse. Along those same lines, consider magazines as disposable accessories rather than parts of the actual firearm. Buy as many of them as you can afford.
Picture this scenario: You make a traffic stop. A felon jumps out of the car, shooting. You execute a perfect draw and press-out. The front sight settles on the target as you press the trigger, and you hear the loudest noise known to law enforcement — a click when there was supposed to be a bang. Of course, you clear the malfunction only to get the same result. The second clearance does the trick, and you are able to solve the problem.
This actually happened to an officer up north. His agency administrator contacted the ammunition manufacturer in a rage and sent the faulty rounds to them for evaluation. They informed him that the rounds had been chambered so many times that the primers had been damaged and would not function. The back story is the officer unloaded his gun after every shift and reloaded it before he left for work. Those same two rounds were chambered a few hundred times apiece. Another problem this practice can cause is bullet setback. When a bullet is seated too deeply, you can experience an overpressure situation, and that’s bad news. I’ve never experimented with this, but my personal number is five. No round gets chambered more than five times before it gets thrown in with the practice ammunition. Just like magazines, consider duty ammunition disposable. Depending on your environment, the ammo you have in your gun and magazine carriers should be changed out on structured occasions. Office dwellers like me can get away with doing so annually. Real cops who work in humid environments will want to switch out more often.
Lights and sights
Speaking of structured occasions, change out your light and sight batteries on structured occasions as well. I keep a spreadsheet with changeover dates for all of my important (duty, defensive) equipment. Many of the red dot sights today have a battery life that will stretch into two or three years. With these optics, I change them out at least yearly, depending on their usage. Batteries are cheap, so changing them out every six months probably won’t break you, but it will help ensure your equipment works when you need it. Speaking of sights, use Cat Crap (yes, that’s a real product) on your lenses to keep them from fogging up and to keep rain from obstructing your view. I reapply every few months, and I’ve never had a problem.
Man, we love cleaning those ARs, don’t we? I know cops who won’t take a class or practice with their rifle because they don’t want to clean it. Well, the truth is, you really don’t need to clean them every time you put a few rounds downrange. A quality AR will work pretty well when it’s dirty, but it won’t work well when it isn’t lubed. Still, they do break on occasion, and I’ll direct you to an article by Greg Ellifritz (www.activeresponsetraining.net/ar-15-
rifle-maintenance) that I think is the best guide on the subject of AR-15 maintenance and which parts you should keep on hand for potential breakages.
The biggest takeaway should be this: Pay attention to your equipment. Make it a point to check all of your stuff, maybe the first of every month. If you’re nice to your gear, it will likely be nice to you. Don’t let apathy or diet cola put your safety at risk.