Last month I got my hands on an old revolver my uncle had back when he was a cop some 40 years ago. I was, as always, excited to get a new gun in my hands, even if it was 40 years old. It was clear that the pistol, a snub nose .38 S&W, had not been fired for a long time. It was not dirty on the frame and the cylinder spun freely. The trigger pull was smooth and gave no sign of dangerous wear that could cause a failure. I ran a cleaning cloth across the pistol and was excited to add it to my collection.
Later that week I grabbed a box of paper punching .38s and headed to the range. The first rounds down the barrel were smooth and surprisingly accurate for a snubby. Both double action trigger and single action trigger pulls were smooth and broke crisply and I was pleased with the gun. After 50 rounds I put it away and headed home, planning to give it a good cleaning later.
The next day I pulled it out of my safe to clean it, opened it up and discovered the cylinder would barely rotate. Closing the cylinder, both the trigger and the hammer would barely budge. I couldn’t believe 50 rounds of 38s would foul a gun so much. I set to cleaning and oiling the pistol using M-Pro 7 foaming gun cleaner and Kleen Bore gun oil. When I was done the cylinder spun freely and the trigger and hammer moved smoothly.
Satisfied I had fixed the problem and cleaned the pistol well, it went back into my safe. Looking at it the next day the same problems returned! It seems that the built up carbon from 40 years past was loosened and heated in the process of firing it and when cooled it gummed up the pistol. My original cleaning would have been adequate for a pistol that was well maintained. This pistol needed a much deeper cleaning.
I set to taking apart the revolver and removing the cylinder from the arm. Bingo! 40 years of carbon fouling smeared off the cylinder arm. This gun was dirty!
After a complete and thorough cleaning and oiling I’m pleased to report that the gun functions like new and there is no evidence of any old dirty carbon on the gun! The lesson learned even if it looks clean, when you get your hands on a new (to you) gun, your first order of business is a thorough cleaning!