Note to Self

Using brake cleaner to clean a gun can often help get carbon and other gunk from crevices where q-tips can’t reach. It’s also excellent at removing all oils, grease, and other petroleum products from metal.

In that regard, it’s very handy.

On the other hand, when the spatter and overspray from the nozzle happens to land on — and partially dissolve — the vinyl cover one’s wife put on the patio table to keep away dust, it’s a bit more of a liability.


Mobil 1 10W-30 motor oil seems to work quite well as a gun oil, as well as being rather inexpensive. After a few hundred rounds through my DPMS M4gery, I had zero lubrication-related failures1 and there’s still some visible oil left on moving parts. Even the parts without visible oil are slippery and oily to the touch.

Considering the small amount of oil used in normal gun maintenance, I’m not sure that using motor oil would be a considerable cost savings compared to more expensive, gun-specific oils like CLP, Militec, etc. That said, it does seem to work well enough. It doesn’t seem to have the same cleaning properties as gun-cleaning solvents and oils like Hoppes #9, CLP, and so on, but it seems to make a great lubricant. Certainly good enough for emergency use, though reading various forums online seem to indicate that there’s lots of people who use it as their main gun oil.

  1. I had one due to a magazine failure. Be sure to test your gear! []

I Did Not Know That

Evidently one of Break-Free CLPs uses is for “auto[motive]” purposes. I’ve refilled my little bottle of CLP so many times that the yellow lettering is all but worn off, so I must have missed that. One learns something new everyday.

Fortunately, I discovered this serendipitously today when I was trying to remove a small, screwed-in cover in the crankcase of my motor scooter. The blasted thing refused to unscrew, and I very nearly stripped the soft aluminum of the cover. Bad times. With a bit of Simple Green, I removed the built-up road grime on the metal, wiped it dry, and then remembered that CLP is a penetrating oil and might be able to help.

Unsurprisingly, after I applied a few drops of CLP to the cover and let it penetrate for a few minutes, the cover came free with only a moderate amount of effort. Now, to find a metric socket large enough to rotate the crankshaft so I can check the valve clearance1

Although my story is rather mundane, I’d imagine that people have come up with clever uses for CLP (and similar lubricants) in non-gun-related contexts. Although I might regret it, I’m curious what other uses for these substances people have found. Anyone care to volunteer?

  1. I’m attempting to teach myself basic auto/motorcycle mechanical skills. Can be useful, and saves a lot of money. []

Voiding Warranties

Ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve been curious about everything — it might explain why I got into science.

As an adult, this curiosity has persisted. One of the more practical aspect of this curiosity is taking stuff apart to see how it works. This has been particularly handy when dealing with firearms.

Take, for example, my Marlin 336 rifle — it was made sometime in the 1960s and I bought it on consignment about 5 years ago. Fine rifle, and looks to have been very gently used. I’ve kept the barrel and the parts accessible after a basic field-strip well-oiled with Break-Free CLP, but never really got into the guts of the action, nor took off the wood and magazine tube.

After yesterday’s Great Re-Zeroing and Caleb’s admonition to inspect the bolts of one’s AR-15s, I figured I’d go through all the firearms I own, detail strip them, clean every part, lightly oil all the internal parts to prevent corrosion, and then lubricate them according to their respective manuals. Glocks and ARs are easy, as I do this about once or twice a year for them, but I have never taken apart the Marlin.

Although the Marlin is constructed very simply out of large, durable parts, there’s a lot of screws and two barrel bands. There’s a very specific order — which I found by trial and error — to removing everything. Since the barrel bands hadn’t ever been removed, I gently tapped them off1. Unfortunately, I added a few very minor scratches to the quite-shiny, blued receiver and around the screw holes on the barrel band. Hardly noticeable, but it irks me a bit.

After thoroughly cleaning, oiling, and greasing the appropriate parts of the gun, I managed to get it all back together. A few hours spent this afternoon concluded with a more thorough understanding of how the mechanism works and will serve me well if I ever need to work on it in the future.

While some might not find much value in understanding all the little mechanisms that make up their gun, I do, and I strongly recommend that others explore the working parts of their own guns, for cleaning, at the very least.

  1. My small tools for working on guns are on loan to a friend, so I gently used a claw hammer to tap a brass .50 BMG case to carefully remove them without marring the finish. []

Treasure Trove

As mentioned previously, I’m back in the San Francisco Bay Area for a bit, and have been spending some time at my parents house.

We’re having guests over for a barbecue tonight, so I was volunteered to locate, assemble, and erect the badminton net that was somewhere1  in the “wine cellar((A small, dark room in the basement which contains, for the most part, the plumbing connections between the house and the municipal water and sewer lines. It also has stuff like Costco-sized packages of toilet paper, cans of paint, and old Boy Scout camping gear. When I lived here, I kept a locking gun cabinet in thise room as it was probably the least likely place a thief would look for guns. To the best of my knowledge, no wine has ever been kept there. ))”

While searching for said net, I stumbled across a small treasure trove: a medium-sized cardboard box filled with .30-06 Springfield brass, mostly PS-headstamped Korean mil-surp which I used to shoot from my M1 when ammo was cheap and plentiful, and a bunch of solvents and oils used for gun maintenance. I always wondered where that gallon of Ed’s Red and the quart of Hoppes #9 went, and now I know.

Yes, it might seem odd that I equate a box of brass and some jars of chemicals with “treasure,” but that’s the type of person I am.

Alas, I’m flying back to Arizona with only carry-on bags, so the brass and chemicals will have to remain here until the next time I drive out.

  1. To quote my mother, “Nothing in this house gets thrown away.” Nothing important, that is — trash and whatnot is, of course, discarded, but pretty much anything of use is squirreled away somewhere. []

On Plumbing

I’m back visiting my parents in the SF Bay Area for a few weeks, and while I’m here they asked me to repair a broken PVC sprinkler pipe in their backyard.

As with most things, it’s easier said than done. Theoretically, it would have involved cutting out the broken section of old pipe, cutting the new pipe to fit, then joining them with the appropriately-sized couplers and some PVC primer/cement.

Practically, attempting it that way resulted in me covered in mud, swearing, and having a bad time of it. The lack of flexibility in the buried pipes meant that I couldn’t effectively join the pipes, as the replacement part had to be long enough to complete the pipe, while being short enough to fit between the couplers. As I couldn’t move the pieces of pipe buried in the ground, this was remarkably difficult and time-consuming (read: several hours spent covered in mud and swearing like a sailor).

Fortunately, some bright person had invented a telescoping coupler that resolves this very issue — one cements one end of the coupler to one pipe, then extends the telescoping part such that one can then cement the other end to the other pipe. A greased o-ring seals the whole assembly and prevents leakage.

Total cost (including the telescoping coupler, primer and cement): $10.
Total time fixing the broken pipe with the telescoping coupler: 10 minutes.

I’m not a very good plumber, but as with any challenge, I learned a lot and will be able to better address such issues in the future. Issues that will likely strike a (soon to be) newly-married person living in a condo.

Also, PVC is some remarkably nifty stuff. It’s also really cheap (about $0.10/foot) and, other than having immovable pipes buried in the ground, easy to work with.

Tip of the Day: Cleaning AR-15 Chambers with a Brush and Drill

As an owner of several AR-15 rifles, I’ve found that it’s relatively difficult to clean the chamber from accumulated gunk. Q-tips and patches don’t easily reach all the little nooks and crannies, and the standard chamber brushes are difficult (particularly when new) to fit into the chamber.

An easy, if somewhat l0w-tech solution, is to screw the brush into a length of cleaning rod that you’re not terribly fond of and then chuck the rod into an electric drill (or a brace-and-bit if you really want to go low-tech). First, I apply some cleaning solvent (I’m partial to Break-Free CLP, but anything should do) to the brush. Next, start the drill  clockwise at its lowest speed setting (you do not want high rpms while doing this) and insert the brush into the chamber via the back of the upper receiver as normal.

Voilà! While being driven by the drill, the brush now goes into the chamber with considerable ease. With it now fully in the chamber, the bristles can scrub all the oft-neglected parts like the locking lugs.

I generally keep the brush turning through the insertion, cleaning, and removal phases, as it makes it much easier to move about. While one can remove the non-rotating brush, it’s much more difficult to do so. Running the drill counter-clockwise will cause the brush to unscrew from the rod, which is trivial to fix, or jamming the brush in the chamber and possibly scratching the chamber, which is less trivial.

I’ve been doing this regularly for years with no ill effects — the steel and chrome of the chamber is much harder than the bronze bristles of the brush, and I’ve detected no signs of wear, scratching, or other problems.

Hopefully this helps people clean their ARs more effectively.

Got any more tips and tricks? I’m always interested in more.