2021 On The Cheap

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Kitty litter, teabags, motor oil and a Corning tempered glass Tactical Banana—a good start to a New Year!

Pinchin’ Pennies In The New Year

(This was originally published in the January 2012 issue of GUNS Magazine. Some of the products mentioned may not be currently available)

I’m not really a cheapskate—not in my heart, anyway. It’s just that I decided to have kids rather than cash, y’know? But I admit, when I look at some price tags, I hear bagpipes wailin’ and the Scottish blood runs in me like the Rogue River at spring thaw. The way the economy is going—or not goin’—2021 is lookin’ like a great year for penny-pinching, ain’t it?

Recently, I barely dodged the bullet on some serious flooding damage. I had to rescue and repack enough ammo to make Hillary faint dead away and Eric Holder issue a fatwa on me. They’d call it an “arsenal.” I call it “a good start.” Anyway, it was so wet you coulda wrung out the air into a bucket. I bought new airtight containers, but if I packed that ammo without desiccant it would be destroyed anyway. I needed powerful desiccant and lots of it, preferably cheap! Have you ever tried to buy desiccant packs in bulk? And as a chemical-savvy friend cautioned, often they’ve lost considerable effectiveness by the time you get them.

“Follow me, pal,” my buddy said, and led the way to a grocery store. There he grabbed an 8-pound bag of kitty litter, two boxes of store-brand teabags without strings and tags, and a cheap roll of 2-inch wide packing tape. The primary ingredient in Fresh Step kitty litter is silica gel—desiccant!—and no fillers which would break down and fail. Regular kitty litter won’t cut it. The teabags were 200 for 2 bucks.

We slit the teabags, poured the tea into a canister, filled the bags with silica gel, then sealed the ends with tape strips. Voilà! Cheap, highly effective desiccant. And yes, they can be refreshed on a baking sheet in the oven at 170 degrees F for an hour or so. If you don’t mind the mess, you can pour it in loose, but since I was discarding damp paperboard boxes and packing loose rounds, the teabags were a great choice. Note: Do not let Fluffy use the litter before you bag it.


Penny Squeezin’ ‘Til Honest Abe Squeaks

A quick survey of some premium synthetic gun lubes show retails of $2.50 to $7 per ounce. At about $8 per quart, Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil runs 25¢ per ounce. I recently joined a 1/2-dozen shooters I know and more I’m acquainted with who service their lube-thirsty ARs with Mobil 1. Most also very selectively apply dabs of light synthetic grease on the hardest wear points.

Will it stand up to an AR’s heat and friction? Oh, yeah. Those I’ve spoken with have had outstanding results. Now, whether you’re using high-end gun-goop or Mobil 1, you want to avoid wastage by excessive lubing and greasing. A Try Pak of six syringes in 10, 30 and 50cc sizes costs $14.99 from Brownells, and they’ll put just the right amount exactly where you need it. They’re cleanable and reusable almost indefinitely, saving both time and money.

If you shoot a DGI—Direct Gas Impingement—AR, consider purchasing a FailZero or NP3-Plus treated bolt and carrier group. You’ll virtually eliminate wear, and save countless hours of carbon-scraping and cleaning. Several shooters I know lube their receivers with Mobil 1 and run FailZero or NP3-Plus BCG’s lubeless for thousands of rounds between easy, wipe-off cleanings.

If you’re devoting way too much time to soakin’ and scrapin’ carbon fouling and too much money on goop, try a home-brewed batch of “Ed’s Red.” It’s sold commercially, but like its inventor, C.E. “Ed” Harris, you can mix some yourself. Ed’s updated formula calls for equal amounts of Dexron automatic transmission fluid, K1 (deodorized) kerosene, aliphatic mineral spirits, and acetone, with an optional dollop of anhydrous lanolin. Ed wrote that the acetone was also optional, resulting in a less volatile though somewhat slower-working mixture.

It’s not very effective on copper fouling, but kicks butt on lead fouling and caked carbon deposits—and the better you eliminate the latter two in rifle bores, the less copper fouling you’ll get. A widely-used simpler variation of the mix calls for equal amounts of diesel fuel, ATF and mineral spirits, and it’s said to work very well. Just be very careful to take proper ventilation, flammability and handling precautions with these potions.

Snakes, Swabs & Cents

I’ve kept a couple of Boresnakes in my range bags for years, erratically using them to make a quick solvent pass through still-warm barrels before heading home to bust out my expensive, eclectic collection of rods, brushes, patches and gizmos—to do a “real cleaning,” y’know?

When Hoppe’s introduced their Viper Boresnake, claiming 50-percent greater efficiency, I decided to do a semi-scientific test. I found first, it’s true!, and second, it took far less time to do an equal or better job of bore-cleaning with far fewer materials than the rods-widgets-an’-gizmos process.

They’re not cheap. I figure it will take over a year to recoup my purchase costs, but I plan to be shooting much longer than that, and the time saved is significant too. You can use both solvent and lube in the same snake, but I use solvent in one and a twin for lube-and-dry runs, keeping them in separate plastic bags. When they’re thoroughly dirtied, I wash mine with a little dish detergent, but they can be placed in a “lingerie bag” (not with your spouse’s lingerie!) and machine-washed too. Air dry ’em, and you’re good to go!

If you use cotton swabs, like Q-Tips, for cleaning and lubing, they’re inexpensive, but you deal with shreds and lint, and they’re only good for one session. Check industrial supply houses for foam-tipped swabs on polypropylene shafts, used for cleaning electrical contacts or spot applications of lacquer. No lint, more precision, and when dirty you can wash ’em in dish detergent and keep re-using them. Prices run $4.50 to $9 for 50, so shop around and save.

Well, dang… outta space and I haven’t talked about super-saver lights, slings, puppy puddle-pads and—wait! The Tactical Banana? Oh, geez! It’s deadlier than any gun, but I forgot—that’s classified! Just forget you saw it, OK? And if you ever see anybody with one, don’t ask him who he is or what he does. He’d prob’ly tell you, but then he’d have to kill ya.

Connor OUT