The edge of the wilderness is not a fixed line of boundary, but a waving flag, of welcome or challenge. The sound you hear is not just the wind but the breathing in and out of the land itself and all it contains. It's the breath of the rivers and the ghosts of those that walked these lands, those that named the hallowed places before the white man ever saw them. It's the sound of life and death, playing to an orchestrated cycle that is as old as time, all sung to the tune of the skies unceasing and manipulative caress.
And in its breathy voice, I hear my name.
Just as there are those that have never left home, there are those who have never slept in the wild. They may find it fascinating, from their armchair wildlife shows, looking out onto pristine snow for the chipmunk or listening carefully for the hoot owl in the night. But then they shut the window tightly, draw the shades, and turn back to a room that has all the coziness of a dental lab, stark, pristine and safe. Their view of the wild is that benign cloak of nature that hides the terrible evidence of the realities of life, for both human and animal, as they begin and end. I see people like that every day. They don't look afraid, they don't look tired or old. They just look like they sleep in silent rooms with dust covered dreams.
But it's easy to get complacent in certain parts of the country. Here in Indiana, cougars are easier to spot now thanks to yoga pants and Cosmopolitans, bears are non existent, and killer bees don't much like our winters (though I have come up against a pretty pissed off squirrel when hunting with Og).
But out in the mountains of the West, there are all manner of critters that see man as simply lunch. One has to be on guard, mountain lines are stealth predators, sneaking up on you from behind while you are taking photos and taking you down with one bite to the back of the neck before you get can say cheese. Bears may ignore you, but if you get on their turf or near their young they'll knock even a full grown man around like they were flipping burgers.
So I carry when I'm in the high country, in case I come up against a critter, meaner and faster than me. (And not something in .22 or or .380 but something in a 21.5 grs H-110/325 gr Keith or LBT bullet recipe.)
But even if you only carry going to Kroger, you still need to make sure your weapon is in working order and clean. How clean your firearm is does affect its accuracy, and it's reliability. I know several brand new shooters that were hesitate to properly clean their weapon after their lessons, believing they have to disassemble them to the last screw every single time or that it would take all sort of expensive supplies. Neither is true.
There are a number of sites and publications with detailed directions on selecting and caring for a firearm. Cornered Cat - The Book has some excellent information, as do several manufactuer sites. For today, I'm just going to pass on some general tips that are useful for any firearm, for you never know when you might need it to defend and protect.
UNLOAD the weapon and remove all ammo from the cleaning area. Remove clips or magazines and open the action and take a good look to make sure it's unloaded. If you have an owners manual for it, read it. Even if you think you know everything there is to know about it, you just might pick up a helpful hint or two which could spare you some headaches down the road. Rules and Tips exist because someone once did it the wrong way. Which is why we have tags on our hairdryers that say do not use in the shower and have learned such things as "Do Not Hug the Grizzly Bears" as well as ANYTHING involving a live Peregrine Falcon and a Nudist gathering is probably bad news
NO FOOD OR DRINK. You are going to be working around chemicals you can't pronounce and substances not designed for human consumption (the firearm equivalent of a Little Caesars Pizza). Don't be snacking on chips, jerky or candy or sipping on a soda while you work. Save the beer for when you are done, you want to be as clear headed handling an unloaded weapon as you do a loaded one.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE NO DISTRACTIONS. Do not clean your guns while watching TV, minding the kids or talking on the phone about the great little Kimber you saw at the gun show. If you can't give handling your firearm, loaded or unloaded, your complete and undivided attention, don't pick it up. Do whatever it takes to do this. Put a do not disturb sign on the back of your T-shirt. Give the sixteen year old the keys to the car (you won't see them until their first year of college). Tell your spouse you will be working in the garage for a while to get rid of that big nest of jumping spiders (you won't be bothered for hours).
HANDLE YOUR FIREARM as if you were going to shoot it. I don't care if you're "just cleaning it", the rules of gun safety apply. All of them. Don't point the gun at anything you don't want to see a big hole in, at any time during the cleaning process and keep your finger away from the trigger.
In 1995 a fellow by the name of Robert Overacker rode a jet ski purposely over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls to promote the plight of the homeless. His not so cunning plan was to deploy a rocket propelled parachute strapped to his back, let the jet ski drop and float gently into a pool at the base of the falls. The parachute did not open which ended up promoting not the homeless, but better parachutes.
Dont' end up promoting gun safety by accidentally shooting yourself while you clean your "unloaded" gun.
HAVE YOUR SUPPLIES HANDY ahead of time.You may use a brush and swabs or you may prefer a boresnake. Whatever you prefer have everything within reach before you start You will need a pack of disposable gun swabs, little rectangular swatches you will use to scrub down your firearm with the aid of some solvent. There are many solvents on the market. None of them smell good to the non shooter, so if you have a partner that does not like firearms and you want to get kicked out of the house while she's watching "Toddlers and Tiaras" or some other crap on TV, simply get out the Hoppes and start cleaning away and she'll happily shoo you out to the shop and tell you to enjoy yourself. Myself, I love the smell of it. It's like the smell of machinery in the garage, humming away; there's just something soothing about it.
CLEAN IN THE NATURAL DIRECTION OF THE BULLET. When you fire your weapon, the powder resident and gunk are in the barrel, the chamber and receiver are still clean. So what do you think happens if you run your patch or brush fro the muzzle end first? Yes, you push all this gunk, dirt and moisture into the chamber and receiver and as you push or pull the brush back towards the chamber, the brush is going to cast off debris from the back back into the chamber and locking lugs. In level actions and auto loading rifles and shotguns especially, this can cause problems.
Take your time in CENTERING THE TIP AND THE ROD. An experienced wood cutter can see, from a cross section of a tree, its health and its history, where there was damage or fire. An experienced gunsmith or gun buyer can also see from a look down the barrel just how much use the firearm had and how well it was maintained and cleaned. Many unnecessary marks inside a barrel are caused by folks who, in hurrying, let the tip or rod rub the inside of the barrel. A muzzle guard can be used to keep brushes and rods centered within the firearm bore.
DON'T GO BACK AND FORTH REVERSING YOUR BRUSH. This bends the bristles, and like a wire you've bent back and forth, it will eventually break and probably not at a good moment.
USE A CLEAN PATCH SURFACE each time you go down the barrel. If you reuse a patch surface again, dirt can be deposited in the chamber and neck and the next bullet down your barrel can then pick up this dirt and erode the throat. This can cause the same problems as cleaning in the wrong direction.
LESS IS MORE. You don't need gobs of solvent and lubricant. More solvent is NOT better and may cause more harm then good. Use only the amount the patch can absorb. Don't dip the brush in the solvent. The solvent at the brush core will collect dirt and drop it into the receiver and chamber (likewise, you don't want to run a bare brush in the barrel first ). Too much solvent or oil can drip down into the trigger mechanism (gummy bears are good, gummy triggers are not).
When REASSEMBLING YOUR FIREARM make sure you wipe down any metal surfaces that you have come in contact with,. Perspiration has a high acid content which isn't good for the surface. The finished firearm should be clean, oiled and free from sweat and fingerprints. Make sure the barrel is clear of any obstructions before storing your firearm for future use.
PROPERLY STORE YOUR SUPPLIES. When everything is done, put everything away - away from the kids, dogs, heat, hippies and moisture. Properly dispose of non reusable wipes and patches that are soiled. You may be fast, but you can't outrun even a small explosion.
A clean, cared for firearm offers the comfort of protection, wherever you are at.
Be safe out there -