Firearms manufacturers often emphasize reliability as one of their key selling points. For a tool that could someday save your life, that makes sense. But even the best-designed and -constructed firearm can suffer reduced reliability if not properly maintained. “But I haven’t shot it since I cleaned it last!” one might argue. Yeah? Well even normal carrying habits can adversely affect your gun’s reliability over time, and if you don’t stay on top of maintaining your weapon, it could fail you at an inopportune time.
If you keep your gun on you at all times, odds are pretty good you’ll sweat on it—even if you carry in a well-made holster. The salt in your sweat and the acidic film on your skin can do damage to a firearm’s finish and cause rust. A quick spray of Rem Oil and a rubdown with a rag helps to keep parts lubricated and protected. Just don’t get too carried away with the oil—if applied excessively, it can gum up your weapon’s action.
Though innocuous sounding, pocket lint poses a very real issue in terms of weapon reliability—particularly for a gun that spends most of its time riding against the fabric of your pants or shirt. Pocket lint—and I’ll also include dust, dirt, grime, dog hair, and all the other foreign matter that you accrue on your person during your travels—has a way of getting into every nook and cranny of your weapon. That much is almost unavoidable. Regular cleaning habits help to overcome this.
This is clearly not a point of concern for those who carry revolvers. For the rest of us, the spring in each of your weapon’s magazines is almost constantly under pressure. You load cartridges into the magazine to compress the spring, and it resultantly pushes the rounds up after each shot. Over time, particularly in the case of a carry gun that spends more time loaded than not—the spring can lose its strength and may result in misfeeds or jams. Disassemble your magazine occasionally (left), clean it out (an oft-neglected part of cleaning guns after shooting), and should your weapon begin having feed issues, replace the spring—they’re typically less than $10, and the increased reliability is certainly worth the cost.
Loose or broken parts
Modern guns are generally built to withstand the rigors of regular carry and abuse. But that’s not to say that screws and pins won’t still work their way loose, grips won’t crack, and spare magazines won’t bend after being repeatedly sat on. Regular visual inspection of your weapon and making necessary adjustments or fixes is key to maintaining optimal reliability.