Friday, October 1, 2010

Soldiers' Care Packages - Donations Please

It is October 1, 2010. Once again, as over the past few years, I am going to start putting together care packages for some of our military personnel foreign soil or seas and I am again going to ask for my readers' help by way of donations. I have already requested, just minutes ago, that Soldiers' Angels assign me a new soldier. I specifically asked for someone in Afghanistan and asked if this time they would assign me a female since the others were all men. I figure it is both our men and women over there, so why not try to get at least one lady included among those to whom we send these packages. If they can do it - fine; if not, then to whomever they assign me will be fine just as well.

I also went out today and picked up the first items to include in the first package, I hope, with your help, there will be at least a few to several other good ones going out between now, Christmas and New Year's Day. So far this is what I have purchased for the first package:

A four pack of Merino Wool Socks (it is about to start getting cold in that part of the world)

A large box of Tootsie Roll Pops

A 48 pack of AA alkaline batteries

A 30 pack of Hershey's candy bars including Hershey's milk chocolate bars (both plain and with almonds), KitKat bars, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups)

A 60 pack of Quaker Chewy Granola Bars (including a variety of chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal raisin)

That set me back about $56.93. This is my donation so far, all out of my pocket. Any donations I receive from my readers, or others, will go toward future purchases of items to go into the care packages.

So, once again I am asking that you, my readers, help out with whatever monetary contributions you can to help make these packages something worthy of our young men and woman who are fighting terrorism, and protecting us and the freedoms we enjoy. As in the past, if you donate anything to me, every penny I receive will go toward the purchase of items to be included in the care package(s). I will also make a sizable donation to the package(s) (such as the items I already bought today - they are at my expense alone and I will probably throw in another $50 or more worth of goods that I alone pay for). I will also pay for boxes, tape (unless I use free boxes and tape), and I will pay for shipping the package(s) to my assigned soldier and his or her unit all out of my own pocket. I guess I am also paying for the gas to drive to the store and pick this stuff up. Again, any donations I receive from you go 100% toward the cost of items I put into the care packages. (Note: What I RECEIVE as a donation is what goes toward the purchases. So there is no misunderstanding, if you donate $25.00 by way of PayPal, I will use all the funds I receive, after PayPal takes their small cut, toward the items for the care packages. PayPal is not free; I get nothing of the percentage they charge but they do charge a fairly small amount for receiving funds through them. a Paypal account is free, or was when i signed up. If, on the other hand, you donate $25.00 cash, then 100% of that money will go to buying items for the care packages. (Please note, PayPal is free to sign up for and, as far as I know, still does not charge you for sending money; they charge the person who receives the money - see this link.)

By the way, these gifts are nondenominational and will be for anyone in my assigned soldier's unit regardless of religious beliefs or anything else. Regardless of it being the Christmas season, they are to be shared among the unit and with other units if my soldier and his or her unit feel generous and I hope that will be the case. I just send em out at Christmas because I was brought up as a Catholic. I am not a practicing Catholic any longer but have the Christian upbringing and still feel this time of year is an especially nice one for giving. I especially like the Christmas spirit. The Christmas spirit is not one of a stingy scrooge; it is a time for giving what you can give. I know, the economy sucks. I know a lot of people are hurting. Still, you have to realize these guys and gals are far from home, they are hurting even more than any of us and they are in some god forsaken hell holes. They surely could use some recognition from us beyond simply saying - I support the troops. No matter how tough times are, if you are reading this you have something to give - don't you?

"Money is tight, times are hard" - we have all heard talk like that recently. Remember though, talk like that is cheap but so too are the donations for which I ask. Send whatever you can to help out. Send $50 if you have it and can spare it, or send $5.00 if things are bad. Heck send a dollar if things are really that bad - then feel happy you did something because even a dollar will help make some of our boys and girls have it just a bit easier during the holiday season and the time leading up to it. I do not know about you but I don't want to be the one to send our troops a photocopied Christmas card showing Santa giving them the finger and saying "Money is tight and times are hard, so here's your fucking Christmas card"! I got that card once, I laughed until my sides hurt. Think about sending that sentiment to our troops, it quite likely would be seen in another way. Think about the message we send when we send nothing - then think about the joy we send when we send whatever we can. If it is is just a few pennies, then do it please because those few pennies will help both our troops and you.

Once I know the identity of my soldier, I will post what I can here on the blog. As usual, by the rules at Soldiers' Angels, I can only give my soldier's first name and where he or she is located (in general). If I later get permission from the soldier, I will post more info. I will also post any thank yous I receive from the soldier and his or her unit. I can tell you this without a doubt, when you and I gave in the past, when we sent those other packages, the folks on the receiving end had a better time for it. We made them smile, we made their days, we showed them that the ones here still at home really do care and they were thankful for it. Please, let's do it again - anything you can donate goes a long way toward making a soldier smile.

You can either click on the donation icon above or click on the donation icon located on the upper right hand side of my blog page. The icon in the upper right of my blog page will remain there throughout the time period I will accept donations which probably will be sometime in early to mid December. If you prefer to donate by money order, please email me for my address. I will only send my mailing address to those whom I already know. Thanks.

All the best,
Glenn B

Ballseye's Gun Shots 93 - Gun Cleaning Kits - Real Men Prefer Brass

When it comes to gun cleaning kits, I have tried a pretty good variety of them to get the dirty work done. I try to assure I am doing it without damaging my firearms. The various parts of a gun cleaning kit can be made from quite a few different materials, some of those materials are more likely to cause damage to your guns and I think they are just best to avoid.

Of all the types of cleaning kits that I have tried, and they have been numerous, I prefer those using a brass cleaning rod as the heart of the system. (Note: the one shown is only an example, I would change and add a few things with that particular kit, which is available here.)Others I have tried have included those with aluminum rods, steel rods, steel rods coated with polymer, other polymer coated metal rods, nylon rods, bore snakes and chains. The reasons I prefer brass rods are several. First and foremost, brass is not as hard as steel. This means it is less likely to abrade or otherwise mar the breech, the chamber, the bore or the crown as I run it through the barrel to clean it. While some of the other types of cleaning rod are even softer than brass, I still prefer the brass. Aluminum is pretty good but cannot stand up to the repeated use as can a brass rod. All of the aluminium multi-section rods I have used have always started to compact at the point where two pieces screw together by way of repeatedly being pushed though the bore. They then tend to flange out forming a collar like bulge at the joint of two rods. This is not desirable as the bulged out sections are more likely to rub unevenly along the bore. While the aluminum or other softer metal is softer than the steel of the bore, repeatedly runs these bulged areas against the bore could begin to cause damage to the rifling sooner or later. Brass is hard enough that this either does not happen (at least with good quality brass cleaning rods) or takes so long to do it that the cost to replace the rods would be minimal. With aluminum, I find myself replacing multi-section cleaning rods, in my field cleaning kits, on a regular basis of at least once every year. Brass rods I have had for between 5 and 10 years have never had this problem and did not need replacing. One other thing with aluminum as compared to brass, in my experience. Multi-piece aluminum rods I have used also tend to bend and snap easily at the joints and sometimes even in mid rod. This is a much rarer occurrence with brass rod. brass is, in my opinion, a much better choice than aluminum as a cleaning rod. Note that brass rods are available in various sizes to fit different caliber barrels however, I prefer a universal cleaning kit just because I own various calibers and the universal kit makes the cleaning chores a little easier. Sadly, it is much more difficult to find universal field cleaning kits with brass rods than it is those with aluminum rods. It is not difficult to find universal kits with brass rods - just the type you would normally consider a field kit - which is the type I prefer.

As far as some of the other choices go:

While I have used them before, I now never use uncoated steel rods because of the chance of damage to the bore with repeated use of such a hard metal. As far a coated steel or other coated metal rods go, let me just say I hate flaking and peeling and scraping. Every time I have used coated rods, the coating begins to flake, peel or scrape off within just a few uses. Not only do you then stand the chance of the metal possibly scratching the inside of the bore and damaging the rifling, you now also are quite likely to have a residue of the polymer/plastic coating remaining in the rifling, or to even have larger pieces of it remaining in the bore or in the action. I sure don't want any crud left over in my guns once I have cleaned them, what about you?

Nylon rods do not flake or peel, do no damage to the metal parts and seem almost perfect. The thing is that nylon is a lot softer than steel. So as you run a nylon rod in and out of the barrel there is a good chance you are leaving very small pieces of it (probably specks to small to notice) inside the barrel. My guess would be that these specks begin to form a buildup sooner or later inside the grooves of the rifling. Now before someone goes and says that this is BS because shooting a round through the gun would force out any small particles, let me tell you that I know of at least one pistol manufacturer who says you should never shoot Nyclad ammunition through there pistols because the buildup of residue left behind by Nyclad ammo (from the nylon coating over the bullet). If it does not blow all of that out, well - I am none too certain it would blow out any small particles left by a nylon cleaning rod. They probably would be blown out but I figure why take
the chance of a nylon coating being formed in the rifling. The other thing I do not like about nylon rods is that they have no spine, so to speak. They are flimsy compared to metal rods and bend way too easily. I have only used them in pistols and did not like them at all but if it is all I have on hand I use them.

A final note on gun cleaning rods. I have mentioned above, several times, the fact that use universal cleaning rod kits. besides being in a small diameter to fit down to at least .22 caliber these kits always contain multi-piece cleaning rods that you can screw together to reach the needed length to clean your firearm's bore then unscrew for storage. Another type of cleaning rod is the one piece rod. These are more expensive that multi-piece kits but are excellent cleaning rods and are usually caliber ranger specific. They are best used when you are especially concerned about about avoiding damage caused by a cleaning rod due to the flanging of the joints or about the possibility of the rod or joints snapping when in use.

There is yet another choice of cleaning tool though this one can't really be called a cleaning rod. This choice would be the bore snake. A bore snake is basically a flexible rope like tool with a weight on one end and the cleaning brush on the other. The weighted end helps it go through the bore, you then grab that end and pull the rest of it through. This type of cleaning kit is pretty compact since the snake coils inside the carrying case and is therefore good for the field. The thing is, the place you are probably most likely to wind up with a barrel obstruction is when out in the field. The bore snake is no substitute for a good cleaning rod to help rid the barrel of an obstruction. For instance, - it won't do the job if the barrel just got filled with dirt because you fell while out deer hunting and the muzzle rammed down into the soil. I have used them and was unimpressed by their capabilities at all. I don't even consider using them when I clean my firearms.

Bore Snakes are akin to bore chains and I don't use the chains either. I have seen very few bore chains ever offered for sale. The only time I have actually gotten any were with old military surplus rifles and once with an order of ammo from an online surplus dealer (it was free with my order so I took it, looked at it, put it away, remembered it, then gave it away by way of a contest on my blog).

Before I get into all of the other accessories that I use regularly to clean my firearms let me talk about a specialized little piece of brass that may save you a lot of heartache and cash If you have a rifle or pistol that is a real pain to take apart, or if you are cleaning revolvers, and therefore are passing the cleaning rod into the bore from the muzzle end first, you may want to consider picking up a muzzle guard. This is a small conical shaped tool with a hole running through it from wide end to narrower end. It gets placed into the muzzle so it appears to be evenly placed and slightly snug. Then you run the cleaning rod through the hole in the muzzle guard and down passed the muzzle into the bore. This helps protect the muzzle and the crown, from uneven application of the cleaning rod, when you clean a firearm from the muzzle end.

The next cleaning accessory I will discuss is the slotted patch holder. It is basically a cleaning rod tip that screws into the rod. it has a slot in it designed to hold a cleaning patch. These come in nylon, plastics and metal. Again, I prefer brass. Nylon and other plastics just do not hold up to the repeated pushing and pulling of a patch through the bore. A good brass patch holder will outlast a nylon or plastic one by scores of years. Anything harder than brass could damage the bore. There are universal and caliber range specific patch holders available.

There are a number of other accessories that go along with whatever type of cleaning rod you choose to get the dirty work done. I suppose the next one to consider would be the jag. A jag is another form of patch holder. It does not have a slot but usually has a small pointed end and also has a ribbed body. It is designed to push a patch through the bore with even pressure on all sides of he patch as it slides along the bore. Note, I said designed to push. It is not slotted and therefor the patch usually fall off if you try to pull it back through the bore after it already exited the other end. This is a good tool to help assure a snugger patch to bore fit and therefore to help achieve a cleaner bore. Jags are caliber specific or caliber range specific.

Next come the bore brushes. These are available in metal and nylon (or other plastic). I never use nylon for all the reasons I mentioned above and because i find that nylon brushes are not stiff or strong enough to remove fouling as well as do metal brushes. I prefer metal brushes and use Phosphor Bronze Brushes almost exclusively. These are the copper colored prickly brushes you usually find in the gun cleaning accessory section of your gun store. They are as popular as they are because they get the job done well without damaging the bore of your firearms. They come in a variety of sizes to clean just about any sized bore out there as far a commercial and military small arms go. While you can usually get away with using a universal cleaning rod to clean your rifles, you should always use the exact size cleaning brush meant for your bore when cleaning the interior of the barrel. I sometimes use one or two sizes up but only for the chamber of the firearm, the chamber being wider than the bore. I never try to force to wide of a brush down the barrel, this could result in a difficult to clear obstruction. If this ever happens to you, and you cannot clear the obstruction with a wooden dowel from the other end, then bring it to a gum smith. Never try to shoot an obstruction out of a barrel - this could rupture the metal parts and seriously injure you or even kill you. If you use the correct sized brush, such an obstruction should not be a problem. One other thing about Bronze Phosphor Brushes - they are meant to clean the bore or the chamber and nothing else. If you use them to clean the inside of your action, or to scrape rust off the outside of the gun, you will in all likelihood bend the bristles unevenly on at least one side of the brush. You may as ell throw it out once you have done that because the brush is almost useless as a bore brush after it has been bent out of shape. Even with regular use, metal bore brushes bend, usually evenly is used only in the bore or chamber. When they start to look a bit on the skinny side - replace them to assure good cleaning results.

There are other types of brushes out there for cleaning a bore. One of these is the Tornado Brush. These are offered by Hoppe's. They consist of s steel brush (yep steel just like the barrel material) with a looped spiral design with no bristle ends. These brushes are designed to snugly glide down the length of the bore and to very effectively remove fouling while doing so. I found they are also excellent it and are also great at removing rust from a bore that is frosted with it. That could be the case after firing corrosive ammo and not cleaning it correctly immediately afterward (live and learn - who knew Hoppe's No. 9 would not work for corrosive ammo residue). They are available in a variety of popular calibers. I use these brushes now about once or twice per year on my regular guns for an extra good cleaning and a bit more often, maybe 4 times per year, on my military surplus rifles. I always use them in combination with Phosphor Bronze Brushes - a few passes with the tornado then I switch over to the Phosphor Bronze Brush for a few passes. At other times I use only the Phosphor Bronze Brushes. Replace Tornado Brushes when they either start to look skinny or star to slide through the barrel to easily to be making good all around contact.

One thing, as far as cleaning accessories go, that I hardly ever use are bore cleaning swabs. Now don't get me wrong; I often use Q-tips or similar swabs to clean parts of my guns. When I say I do not use bore cleaning swabs, I mean those designed to be attached to a cleaning rod that are a permanent accessory in the cleaning kit. just see no use for them. Basically they are a cotton swab with a metal rod bass that screws into the end of the cleaning rod. Not sure of what I mean, then click on
this link. They come in a variety of sizes for use in different calibers. I see no need for them, though they may help get fouling out of the grooves in the rifling a bit better than cleaning patches.

Patches, did I just mention patches. These are an important part of any firearms cleaning kit. Again, there is a variety of them available. prefer 100 percent cotton cleaning patches, one cut to fit one or two calibers up from the caliber bore I am cleaning. I try some different ones and use the size that passes through the bore snugly but easily. A snug fit assure good contact and therefor good cleaning, easily assure or helps assure that the cloth will not get stuck and require Herculean efforts, that may result in a broken cleaning rod, to clear it. I not only use the patches in the bore but on all parts of the firearm for cleaning. I tend to buy quality patches, made for firearms cleaning. Doing so helps assure I avoid some of the traits of poorer quality patches such as: being too thin to get the job done, non-absorbency, shredding apart, pilling and leaving bits and pieces of cotton behind in the muzzle.

Some other accessories I use to clean my firearms are:

Utility brushes - again I prefer metal to nylon. I use both brass and steel brushes depending on the job I need them for but prefer to use brass first each time to see if it gets the job done. The reason I use brass first is because brass is less likely to harm the finish or the steel or alloy of the gun itself.

Cotton swabs - I use only good quality swabs and prefer those with a plastic body as opposed to those with wood or cardboard. I always make sure that no visible cotton has been left behind in the bore or the works of my firearms.

Cleaning picks - I use steel cleaning picks, if I could find brass I would buy a set of them instead. I use these only for special cases when I cannot otherwise get to an area of the action or frame to remove visible fouling. I never use a pick inside the bore - NEVER. I do use a pick, or a knife or small screwdriver blade to clean behind the extractor claw on most of my firearms.

There are also the cleaning solvents and lubricating and protecting oils. I am not going to go into these in this blog post. There are just too many types to cover and I will probably dedicate a future post just to them. I may even make it two posts, one on cleaning solvents and one on lubricants. I will say this, you almost cannot go wrong if you shoot modern non-corrosive ammo out of your guns and then clean the gun with a general purpose gun cleaner like Hoppe's No. 9 and/or a product containing a copper solvent like Hoppe's Bench Rest Copper Solvent. If you shoot copper jacketed bullets this is highly recommended; after I use the copper solvent I follow up with dry patches, then once the bore is clean I again clean the bore with a patch with regular gun cleaning solvent. I do this because I have heard rumored that copper solvents can sometimes corrode the bore. I am not sure it is true; but unless proven false, why take a chance! After I have cleaned my firearms, I give their metal parts a light coating of Break Free CLP. (Note: If the manufacturer's instructions say not to oil a part, or to oil it heavily, or something other than giving parts a light coat of oil - I follow those instructions). As for the Break Free CLP, it is the best lubricant and protectant for the money as far as I am concerned. It can even double as a cleaning product in the event you run out of your regular solvent; though I recommend using a solvent made for cleaning instead of using a lubricant that doubles as a cleaner.

I also keep a variety of small tools on hand to help facilitate cleaning chores. Not so much as cleaning tools but as disassembly and reassembly tools that I might need to take down and put together my firearms before and after cleaning them. Tools you might need could be: a screwdriver set (especially one made for guns), a punch set, a small hammer for the ppunches, a borelight and so on. Bear in mind though: One of the easiest ways to damage a firearm while cleaning it is to disassemble in with the wrong tools and or without the proper knowledge of how to properly take it apart. So read the manual for your gun and learn how to do it right when taking it down for cleaning. Don't try to force pieces apart or force them back together during reassembly. Use proper punches, screwdrivers or other tools as needed and remember those proper tools also include the use of the right cleaning kits.

In closing, let me repeat the words of Pete G, U.S. Customs Service Special Agent & Firearms Instructor, Retired, who always reminded his shooters - A Clean Gun Is A Happy Gun! Let me just add one thing with which I am pretty sure Pete would agree when it comes to cleaning rods: Real Men Prefer Brass!

All the best,
Glenn B