The Value of Proper Gun Cleaning

Offering gun cleaning classes keeps customers coming back for more.

The Value of Proper Gun Cleaning

New gun owners can find thousands of gun cleaning videos online, presenting them with a hundred different methods for cleaning a handgun, rifle or shotgun. For these folks, or, say a life-long hunter who just bought their first semi-auto handgun, it can get confusing really quickly. And some of the gun-cleaning methods taught in YouTube videos are just plain wrong.

Like most things, you can explain to customers how to clean the gun being purchased at the counter as they’re filling out their 4473 and other forms, or while showing them the ins-and-outs of the cleaning kit they’re taking home with their first gun, but they won’t absorb much. The NSSF estimates there were nearly 8.4 million Americans who potentially found themselves in this situation last year as they became first-time gun owners. While it’s certainly not the only way, the best way for someone to learn how to clean a firearm is by actually doing it while someone shows them how.

Granted, these days online videos can be used to learn how to do all kinds of complicated things, but the instruction is only as good as the maker of the video. Plus, while videos are a great teaching tool for many, lots have a hard time learning this way, especially when it involves a tactile task they have to perform.

For retailers and ranges that have the space, it could be extremely valuable to your customers and good for your repeat business to host a simple class that teaches them how to clean common firearms, like “How to Clean a Glock,” or perhaps a “How to Field Strip and Clean an MSR.” Of course, a general pistol cleaning class in which the instructor shows attendees how to clean a semi-auto and a revolver from start to finish is just as valuable, as would be a shotgun-cleaning class or a general rifle cleaning class.

These classes could be open to the public for a fee and discounted or gratis for recent customers who have purchased a firearm. Perhaps attendees could use and take home a bore snake or a small bottle of your best-selling lubricant or solvent as part of the deal.

By offering such classes and putting these events on your business’s calendar, you’re not just spreading good and accurate gun-care knowledge, but you’re also creating confidence in your new-gun-owner customers. Both stand-alone retailers and shooting ranges can offer this type of training to engage with their current customers and gain new ones.

Confidence is an extremely important thing. It inspires newbies to practice more often, which, in turn, makes them better shooters and inspires them to try different types of shooting more regularly. They are also more likely to explore the firearm training options available to them, especially if you offer those as well. It all serves to help make new gun owners more able to defend themselves if circumstances should require them to do so, and it makes them better and more responsible gun owners who feel confident that they’re safely disassembling, cleaning and reassembling their new firearm correctly.

At the same time, you’re also demonstrating to all of your customers that your business is not just a place to buy guns and ammunition or to pick up transfers bought online, but a place they can go for quality gun knowledge, instruction and to access a part of the community of gun owners.

Starting From Scratch

Seasoned gun owners, hunters and shooters may not realize this, but just because people decide to buy a firearm for home defense, or for whatever reason, doesn’t mean they know the first thing about what they’re doing, and that’s natural. If people weren’t raised around firearms or hunting and never really had anyone in their life who exposed them to shooting and gun maintenance, they’re literally starting from scratch. Even if they’ve been on a number of range trips with friends or family, that doesn’t mean they’ve been around for the cleaning chores afterward.

These people want to defend themselves, start hunting, pick up a new hobby, or all of the above. They take the plunge, which may simply involve a trip to the local gun store, or a weeks- or months-long process depending on the state they live in.

They bring their new gun home and look at it way too much. They learn how to field strip it from a couple of videos, maybe screw up reassembling it once, resulting in the gun sitting in pieces for a day or two, the mere sight of it sending a jolt of anxiety through the new gun owner until they figure out what they did wrong and get it back together.

The next weekend, they take it to the range with a couple boxes of target ammo and do the best they can at paper targets 10 feet away after wondering if there’s something wrong with the magazine, and if not, why they’re so difficult to load. They break the gun down at home, open the cleaning kit they bought with it and do what they hope is a good job before slowly getting it put back together with too much lube everywhere. They load it, put it in a bedside single-gun safe, and there it sits, possibly for years. This is not, overall, a good experience.

Nothing Is Trivial

A gun-cleaning class may seem trivial or too basic — and granted, the striker-fired polymer-framed pistols that are the handguns most in demand are typically quite easy to break down and clean compared to older designs—but learning how to clean a gun the right way from someone who knows what they’re doing and is standing right in front of them, ready to answer questions is actually extremely valuable, and often necessary.

It allows someone to form a natural intimacy with the workings of their new firearm. Some people like taking stuff apart to figure out how it works — others are very content not knowing how the machine runs, only that it does, and that they know how to operate it externally. People treat automobiles this way all the time. There are those who prefer to change their own oil, brake pads, spark plugs, fuses and other regular maintenance tasks — and those who don’t know transmission fluid from washer fluid, and they don’t want to know. Both types of folks are all driving on the same roads.

Unfortunately, there is no AAA for gun owners. When a gun jams up or is otherwise not behaving as it should, it’s up to the operator to safely address the issue at the range, working with live ammunition around other target shooters.

Knowing how a firearm works, intimately, is part of being a responsible gun owner for this very reason. Even those who don’t think of themselves as being mechanically inclined simply have to get over that hurdle and get into the guts of their gun. Teaching them how to deep clean it is a great way to do this.

Gun-cleaning classes also provide you with a chance to showcase a bunch of gun cleaning products in your inventory to groups of regular customers. They don’t have to be long — 15 to 20 minutes should be plenty for a Glock-cleaning class — but in that time, you can bust out a quality cleaning mat, cleaning solutions as you prefer, cleaning kits and tools like cotton patches, non-marring brushes and even a basic set of brass punches for deep cleaning sessions. And you’re not trying to convince people that they need these items, you’re showing them, and letting them feel, upfront, exactly how each one is used and what they accomplish.

As an added benefit, new gun owners will get to see and possibly handle several different types of firearms they may not have encountered yet. Everyone knows once that first gun purchase has been made, the itch begins to make the second. Something like a gun-cleaning class can provide an accessible familiarity with a variety of gun types and hopefully propel first-time gun-buyers toward that all important second purchase, which truly gets them involved in the shooting sports and the advocacy that comes with firearm ownership.

This will result in sales, if not right after the class, then soon after. It also will result in confident new customers who, hopefully, will become regulars coming around to your shop to purchase their 20th firearm someday. Offering services like gun cleaning classes will also help your business become more than just a place to transfer firearms, but as a vital institution in the local gun community.


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