Today we have a plethora of commercial gun cleaning products.
That wasn’t always the case, as shooters had to improvise before cleaning kits came around.
These six age-old gun cleaning tricks got the gunk out when gun cleaning products were scarce.
1. White vinegar/hydrogen peroxide cleaning solvent
When lead and other metal buildup becomes an issue, mixing up a 50-50 concoction of both white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide will cut right through. Soaking overnight will cause the metal to flake off. Use this mix sparingly, though, as a little will go a long way. Keep that mix out of your eyes and off your skin as a precaution. I haven’t personally used this mixture to clean guns, but it has a reputation of being the DIY super solvent.
2. Sperm whale gun oil
The mighty whales offered an oil that many shooters used religiously. Whale or sperm oil as it was called predates our modern oils, but it protected bores, actions and exposed metal from rust and provided lubrication. For obvious reasons, whale oil is impossible to find in the modern day. Nowadays, Otis, Break Free, Hoppes and Clenzoil offer good care when it’s time to clean your guns.
3. Bear grease
Some black powder enthusiasts still use bear grease rendered from bear fat. It’s said by some to be on par with whale oil. Some gunsmiths have used bear grease for cutting rifling in barrels and other tasks. It’s also great for waterproofing leather and cooking. The key is to use rendered bear grease that has no salt in it for gun use. Salt will ruin any metal it comes in contact with. Any bird or animal fat can be rendered to oil in many cases if need be.
4. Copper penny and oil removes gun rust
An ordinary all-copper penny (pre-1982 U.S. penny) combined with some oil will remove surface rust on guns without damaging the gun’s bluing. Apply oil and lightly rub the copper penny flat across the rust. That’s all there is to that trick, and I’ve used that one many times on used guns in need of some attention.
5. Rubbing alcohol works well as a solvent
Long before modern gun cleaning solvents like Hoppes #9 there were many forms of alcohol. While many black powder enthusiasts are well aware of the great benefits of ordinary rubbing alcohol many other do not. Alcohol is a solvent that’s great for general gun cleaning. It’ll also displace water anywhere on or in a firearm and quickly evaporate. A spray bottle is your best mode of applying where you need it. Make sure to use oil afterwards, as the alcohol will strip all oils off your weapon when used as a degreaser or solvent.
6. Hot water and soap
Is something dirty? Well, hot water and soap will get it clean. That’s especially true of black powder firearms, which I personally use hot water with Dawn detergent to clean. This way does a great job of cutting the corrosive salts left behind. Be sure to always oil well after using any cleaning solvent, new or old, or your barrel might look like the above picture.
This know-how is why the frontiersmen and women of yesterday survived during rough times.
Do you like articles about the outdoors? Click here to view more articles by Eric Nestor. You can follow him @ericthewoodsman on Twitter, The Classic Woodsman on Facebook, and @theclassicwoodsman on Instagram. You can view more Nestor Photography photos at Nestor Photography.