Wpn cleaning - a manufacturers view

A good summary, including a good SA-80 slagging:



1. Introduction: Without a doubt, the British SA-80 (L86A1 and L86A2) rifles have proven to be among the worst small arms ever developed. It is embarrassing that the SA-80 is a poor Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield) derivative of ArmaLite’s own AR-180. During many attempts to improve the SA-80, Engineers of the United Kingdom and Germany have learned much about rifle maintenance that may be applied to other more reliable rifles like ArmaLites.

Any process that can keep the SA-80 operating is surely a good process. The purpose of this Technical Note is to present the lessons learned by the Armed Forces of both the United Kingdom concerning the SA-80 and U.S. Forces concerning the M16 family.

2. Firearm performance in adverse conditions: Firearms do not perform reliably when sand, dust, snow, or water are blown into the mechanism by wind, moving vehicles (helicopters!) or by muzzle blast. Local conditions and exposure to contaminants must dictate the extent of cleaning and the number of times that cleaning will need to be carried out during the day. It just takes more work to keep a firearm operating under extremely bad conditions.

3. Cleaning and lubrication in adverse conditions: U.S. Forces have followed a long tradition of leaving firearms dry of lubricant during desert operations under the belief that less sand adheres to a dry surface more than to a lubricated one. This tradition has been proven incorrect. The need for good lubrication even in the desert has been well established during desert training and peace keeping operation, during the Gulf conflict, and by trials in a variety of climatic conditions.

The U.S. Army Infantry School recently concluded a series of tests that concluded that the best single product for maintaining most firearms is Cleaner, Lubricant, and Preservative (CLP). CLP has been developed to cover a wide range of climatic conditions and has been developed to act as a cleaner, a lubricant and a preservative. Using other oils may cause reduced reliability.

The following should be cleaned and left dry for firing: Bore and chamber

Face of the bolt


(Preserve rifle, including these surfaces, with CLP for storage. Wipe dry before firing. NEVER lubricate or clean ammunition with CLP or any other oily material.)

The following should be cleaned and left dry (desert) or lightly lubricated (other):

Exterior surfaces and sights

The contact and bearing surfaces of these parts should be generously lubricated:

Trigger mechanism

Pivot and takedown pins

Cam pin guide rail within the body (AR-180)

Guide rods and springs (AR-180)

All rubbing or contact surfaces of the following parts: carrier, cam pin, receiver, charging handle, operating springs, AR-10 or M15/M16 buffer, and AR-180 guide rods.

Breech bolt body and locking lugs

Moving/sliding surfaces of the bipod, if installed.

Most operators tend to put too little lubricant on the firearm. Most inspectors tend to criticize firearms that are properly lubricated. A properly lubricated firearm will have lubrication flowing away from the intended surfaces. Any surface that holds all the lubricant applied to it is probably not lubricated well enough.

Emergency lubrication: In an area where immediate lubrication is important and absolutely no better material is available, a bit of oil drawn from an engine is better than operating the firearm dry. A vehicle dip stick can serve as an awkward applicator.

4. Clean often: Under extreme conditions of sand and dust, every opportunity should be taken to clean and re-lubricate the firearm during lulls in firing. In particular the gas affected parts, gas plug and cylinder, should be cleaned after firing around 330 rounds and the breech mechanism and recoil rods lubricated.

If possible, the solvent portion of the CLP should be allowed to evaporate before using the firearm, leaving behind a well lubricated surface. Ignore the “white glove” standard of cleanliness; proper application of CLP will leave a sort of grainy/oily looking surface that includes particles of PTFE (Teflon®) on the surface. CLP must be well shaken to thoroughly mix it before use, otherwise little lubrication will be left behind when the solvent evaporates.

In conditions of extreme cold, a lighter lubricant such as “PLS” should be used. PLS is a light oil similar to “3 in 1” oil.

5. Abrasives: A carbon-removing pad (like Scotchbrite) is mildly abrasive and must be used only on gas effected parts such as the L85 or AR-180 piston (the fixed piece that the gas cylinder slides over). It is seldom to be used on the AR-10 or M15 rifles. Its use on optical sights will quickly damage lens and remove paint from the sight body. Its use on the exterior of the firearm will remove the protective coating which will allow rapid corrosion. Abrasive cleaners should not be used in the bore at any time.

6. Lack of time: Under high-tempo operations there may not be enough time to strip the complete firearm at any one time. It is therefore permissible to unload the firearm and clean just the upper or lower receiver group, and then clean the other group at the next short opportunity.

7. Magazines are THE rifle component most prone to trouble. They are prone to the entry of sand and dust and should be protected by a plastic bag or other enclosure before use. They should be periodically stripped and cleaned when exposed to sand and dust. Particular attention should be paid to the follower and lightly lubricating the magazine shell surfaces that touch the follower or the bolt catch trip at the rear of the AR-10 follower.

Ammunition should be checked and dried and cleaned before reloading the magazines. In sandy/dusty conditions it is advisable to load magazines with less rounds than their maximum capacity. This reduces the load on the compressed magazine spring and allows space for sand and dust to collect in the bottom of the magazine.

8. Do not experiment with other oils and greases. Military personnel, especially, should not experiment with other lubricants (WD40, vehicle lubricating oils, etc) unless CLP or another military-grade cleaner or lubricant is not available. Many commercial products are poor lubricants and can interact badly with the lubricants already on the firearm if the first layer is not thoroughly removed. Graphite-bearing lubricants will damage aluminum parts… do not use.

Try to avoid loading a rifle immediately after cleaning the chamber with CLP. Let the solvent portion of the CLP evaporate away for 30 minutes so that no trace of solvent remains to cause a chambered cartridge to corrode firmly into the chamber. (This is normally a problem seen only with firearms that are left loaded for long periods with cartridge cases in contact with solvent.)

9. Overheating: Care should be taken that allowed rates of fire are not exceeded; they’re generally a waste of ammunition anyway. As firearms heat up, it gets harder for the breech mechanism to extract the hot cartridge case because a hot case tends to stick to the chamber walls, and hard extraction or failures to extract can result. In addition, the risk of the rapid cook-off of a chambered round increases with heat.

10. Firearm Protection: Keep ejection opening covers closed and get into the habit of periodically checking to assure that the cover has not flipped open inadvertently. Muzzle covers will prevent sand and dust or other debris getting into the bore. (Middle Eastern desert sand is different from beach sand. It is as fine as talcum powder and can infiltrate down the rifle bore and pack around the bullet so tightly that the bullet cannot even begin to move when the rifle is fired. The result can be failure of the rifle breech and destruction of the rifle.) Use plastic rifle covers if available.

11. Serviceability of Cleaning kits: Cleaning kits aren’t just nice to have; they’re critical to the successful use of any firearm. The contents of cleaning kits should be periodically checked for serviceability. Brushes for the bore and chamber and for general purpose use, and carbon removing abrasive pads are all subject to wear and tear and should be exchanged once they become ineffective. Use only approved cleaning materials and tools. Do not invent “improved” tools such as smashed clothes hangers or dental picks to remove harmless materials like the carbon on the muzzle or at the bottom of the bolt carrier.

The correct chamber cleaning brush is exceedingly important for successful cleaning and rifle function. No owner of an AR-180, M15, or AR-10 should be without a good supply of them.
Beleive the SA 80 is now more reliable then the M16 and it derivitives.
The advice makes one wonder just how US troops are taught to clean small arms.
I know its says not to experiment with other lubes but you cant tell me not to push the big red button. Just finishing my 3rd tour in a desert environment. My trusty M16 has yet to let me down.

<cough> TW 25B (from mil.com) Lubricant protection. NSN 9150-01-448-2298 <cough>

M16 fired every occasion I needed it to. Very low build up of sand in the reciever. Sprays on wet, dries instantly and stays lubed for days. Umm...well thats what a very close friend of mine told me.

TW 25 B has been used on Navy Phalanx CIWS and on the Apache 30mm gun.

TW 25 B is a non toxic, non flammable synthetic grease that is easy to spply. Thrives in heavy load bearing and extreme pressure conditions. -90 degrees to +450 degrees F. And for any tree hugging libbies out there it is environmentally safe.

Just my two cents...flame away.
I'm told the SPAMS are issued a liquid that's really good at removing carbon from gas parts.

Does anyone have details of it.

Clearly, I would never "experiment" with this on a weapon I was issued.
Oddbod said:
All this stuff about correct cleaning regimes reminded me of this:


10,000+ rounds without cleaning(except for the puddle bit :wink: ).

I have fond memories of the FN/SLR & its ability to shrug off maltreatment.
Yes,I liked the SLR,a schoolfriend of mine though, lost his eye,the rats tail and block flew out of the back;probably not locked properly.I wouldn´t like to fire this guys FAL in this condition.If he soaked the thing in vinegar,he might just get to save it,and his eye!

golfsierra said:
I'm told the SPAMS are issued a liquid that's really good at removing carbon from gas parts.

Does anyone have details of it.

Clearly, I would never "experiment" with this on a weapon I was issued.
I wouldn´t use anything that is corosive,if it´s on your fingers,it tends to get in your eyes.After ranges,on tanks,we put the gas plugs etc.in vinegar,it really softened the carbon.And you can put it on your chips,at least it´s non-poisonous!

Midnight 8)
Almost any commercial gun cleaning solvent is better at removing carbon from gas parts than the light weapons oil that the Brits are issued. I used to have one of the old cigarette tins (the small tubular ones that held seven cigarettes). I would half fill it with 009, put the gas plug and gas cylinder in it, put the lid on, shake, and then clean the rest of the weapon. Once I had done that, the carbon comes right off with minimal use of the various reaming tools on the multitool. Indeed, much of the fouling from the inside of the gas plug comes off with the judicious application of a cotton bud.

What the Spams are issued is called Breakfree CLP and is really excellent stuff. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to find any over here, so I tend to use Ballistol or Rem-Oil (in a can) for cleaning, and Rem-oil (the thicker stuff in a bottle) or Ballistol Klever for lubrication.
stoatman said:
What the Spams are issued is called Breakfree CLP and is really excellent stuff. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to find any over here
I keep forgetting that you're in Clogland. Anyway, for those wanting to try CLP (on their own firearms, obviously), you can pick it up at Bisley from the NSRA shop. In spraycans, even!

...The NSRA is that big building with the long concrete wall on the left as you drive on to camp. Front door is on the opposite side to the camp gate, just follow the (very small) signs...
Gun_Nut said:
Oddbod said:
If you think "Ol Dirty" is weapon abuse, then have a look at this one:

Abuse is right. A very dodgy practice, especially as the large calibre Glocks have a tendency towards catastrophic case failure: Glock kB! FAQ
Look at the reason for the case failures - the vast majority have come from hand loaders, using cast lead bullets. ANY firearm that does not fully support the case will have problems with overpressure if the bbl is lead fouled, or the propellant charge exceeds a certain point.

IMO, most problems with firearms reliability are down to the manufacturers failing to thoroughly test their prototype weapon in "real world" conditions.
The L85A1 was a lovely piece of minimalist engineering which failed to make the grade once mass production tolerances & the rough & tumble of operational use were added into the equation.
Military firearms shouldn't NEED to be cleaned at every possible opportunity, as this demands too much from soldiers often who have more pressing demands to deal with.

I would rather have a rifle that is reliable, than one that weighs a couple of pounds less but needs TLC three or four times a firefight.


Kit Reviewer
Oddbod said:

I would rather have a rifle that is reliable, than one that weighs a couple of pounds less but needs TLC three or four times a firefight.
Which on the SLR/SA80 debate the latter doesn't even have the weight advantage !

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