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NEWS | Oct. 21, 2020

Small Arms: Cleaning Tanks Do’s and Don’ts


This article initially appeared in PS 784 (Mar 18), p. 42. 

Units are better off never using cleaning tanks for their weapons, mainly because it’s too easy to mix up bolts when many weapons are run through the tanks. If a bolt is used with a weapon it wasn’t head-spaced for, the barrel can rupture during firing.
 
But cleaning tanks are a fact of life at many installations, so remember these do’s and don’ts:
 
There are two nevers on cleaning tanks: Never use an ultrasonic cleaning system. It can completely remove a weapon’s protective coating, which leaves the weapon defenseless against corrosion. And never use a water-based cleaning fluid. That can also lead to corrosion.
 
  • Do use only dry cleaning solvent Type II (81349), MIL-PRF-680. This is the only solvent authorized for small arms.
 Here’s what the NSNs bring: 
NSN 6850- Size
01-474-2316 55 gallons
01-474-2317 5 gallons
01-474-2319 1 gallon
 
  • Don’t clean small arms in the same cleaning tank you use for things like vehicle parts. They may have contaminants that could damage weapons.
     
  • Do protect yourself from solvent. It’s strong stuff. Wear goggles, rubber gloves and coveralls with the sleeves rolled down.
     
  • Do remember that some weapon parts should never be dunked in solvent. Examples are the M2 and M48 machine gun back plates, the MK 19 bolt assembly and anything plastic. Solvent will eat up these parts. Check the operator TMs for info on what parts to keep away from solvent.
     
  • Do use a metal basket in the tank to ensure no parts disappear during cleaning.
     
  • Do wipe clean and thoroughly dry all weapons that come out of the tank. But here’s the important part: The weapons must then be completely lubricated before storage. Solvent removes every bit of lubrication from weapons. If weapons are stored without being re-lubed, they will be ruined by corrosion. 
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