Firearms Maintenance Thoughts

Proper maintenance of firearms is a partnership between the officer and the agency.

About a month ago, I attended the Glock Armorer Course to renew my certification. That reminded me of several gun maintenance issues I've run across in the past few years, so I thought I'd mention them while they are still fresh in my mind. The level of interest in guns and their maintenance varies greatly in the law enforcement community. Some people are "gunnies," but most are just carrying a pistol around because they might need it someday. Some consistently demonstrate the ability to maintain and operate their guns safely and accurately, and some just "get by." Certainly, individual interest in firearms plays a role in this, but the leaders of the agencies involved have a responsibility as well. I'd like to look at this from both sides of the equation.

From the agency standpoint, there are certain responsibilities that are important. Whatever firearms are selected, issued or authorized (and that's a big responsibility in itself), the troops must be properly trained in how to maintain the guns in proper working order. Then, the agency must perform regular maintenance and inspection of those guns. I mention both of these because I know of cases where officers have not been given any training about how to routinely care for their firearms. I also know of agencies that have no established maintenance and inspection program. While it is up to the individual to take care of day to day cleaning and maintenance, the agency must make sure this is done. But even at roll call briefings, I seldom hear of supervisors really checking the condition of the guns that are headed for the street. I have seen officers on the street with dust built up on their sidearms. My guess is that they leave the gun in the holster and just put the belt on and take it off. Depending on how often they have to train or qualify, the build-up can reveal a lot about their attitude toward the tool at hand.

One problem is, of course, that the gun is seldom needed (thankfully) and it is only used a few times a year, at best. Some agencies conduct training/qualifications once a year, some twice and year, and some quarterly. In any case, a lot of junk can build up on a duty gun in a very short time, if it is not cleaned regularly. The big problem, as I've said before, is that when you need your gun, you NEED your gun. And it must be in 100% working order. Agencies can stay on top of this with regular field checks of their officers and with a regular scheduled maintenance program. Glock, for example, recommends an annual inspection by a certified armorer. During the inspection, the operation of the entire gun, including the safeties, can be evaluated and repairs or replacements accomplished. By Glock's latest count, they figure they have over 70% of the law enforcement market. Part of the reason is that they make a reliable, uncomplicated and safe pistol that can take a lot of wear and tear. Maybe these features are part of the reason some agencies don't have a maintenance program or any armorers on staff. But just because they are hard to break, doesn't mean they don't break. The good news is, they are easy to fix (even I can do it!). I have seen failures of about a half dozen different Glock parts during classes and range sessions. The fact that they happened in a controlled environment where no one's life was in jeopardy was a good thing. But if you don't regularly "run the gun," you may only find the problem when you are trying to protect your life or someone else's.

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