Some people advocate making the switch to/from daylight savings a trigger event for checking the batteries in your smoke detectors. That’s a good idea, even though probably all smoke detectors these days have low battery alarms that make annoying chirping sounds when the batteries get low.
It is barely conceivable that the low battery alarm might have failed, or that the battery died while you were out of town, so a formal test every six months is a good routine to get into.
But I’m not writing today about smoke alarms, as important as they are. Let’s think about some other things you should do maybe every six months, maybe every year. And if you’ve additional items to add to this list, share your thoughts with us in the comments, below.
1. Check, Clean and Oil all Guns
This isn’t essential, but it is a good thing to do – to renew your familiarity with your weapons, to give them a bit of tender loving care, and to check, clean and oil them.
Depending on how and where you store them, maybe they’ve got some dust on them, maybe even mildew/mold (I find that even with a heater bar ‘dehumidifier’ in my gun safe, I still have problems), and maybe you might have forgotten to clean them after the last time you used them, or maybe someone else has touched/tampered with them, or who knows what else.
I’d put this on a six monthly cycle.
2. Replace Critical Ammo
By ‘critical’ ammo I mean the ammo you keep loaded in your self defense and carry guns, and potentially in the spare magazines you keep loaded with them.
Sure, ammunition can last decades if stored properly, but the ammunition in a carry gun is stored anything but properly. It is is a warm humid environment, and when there isn’t sweat seeping in through the seals and into the propellant, there’s gun oil or who knows what else.
Plus, if you ever find yourself needing to pull the trigger ‘for real’ on a carry gun, you’re in a critical situation where you have to be 110% guaranteed that you’ll hear a ‘bang’ rather than a ‘click’.
So – and I put this on the six monthly cycle too – go to the range once every six months, and shoot off the ammo in the guns that you keep loaded 24/7 and replace it with fresh out of the box ammo. This also gives you ongoing feedback that your ammo is good and feeding reliably. Which leads to my next point.
3. Range Time
No matter how much you have practiced in the past, the skills you’ve mastered at handling your weapons erode quickly, and need to be freshened up from time to time. The good news is that if you’ve been formally trained to a high level, you’ll find it easier to quickly do a self-administered refresher course.
So once every six months, do some dry firing practice at home (rapid presentation from concealment using the actual holsters you carry in, trigger control, and malfunction clearances), and then go to your local range and shoot some rounds through each of your primary self defense guns (yes, I am using the plural, because you do have multiple self defense guns, don’t you?).
Doing this helps you combine the preceding point about replacing critical ammo, and then encourages you to do the first point, about checking and cleaning your weapons, too.
I don’t know about you, but I never keep any magazine fully loaded to its capacity with ammo, except when I’m on the range and about to use it, or temporarily in an ultimately hostile environment.
All my carry weapons have at least one (single stack magazines) or two (double stack magazines) unfilled position, so the springs are never compressed to their maximum.
I also rotate magazines on a regular basis so that some are always kept empty and some are kept nearly full, to further reduce spring fatigue.
This is important. Make no mistake – good men have lost their lives because they’ve been relying on a magazine that has sat, passively, with the spring fully compressed, perhaps for a year or more at a time.
I swap full and empty magazines over much more often than once every six months, but if you only do it twice a year, you’re still much better off than never doing it.
Now, let me tell you what I do do every six months. I disassemble my magazines and check the springs to see if they still have enough tension in them. This is easily done by simply seeing how far the spring extends out of the magazine once you remove its end cap.
Most gun manufacturers will tell you their specification for the minimum amount of additional spring extension outside of the magazine (usually expressed in so many zigs and zags of spring, or perhaps more simply in how many inches stick out). If you can’t get this information, buy a new magazine and immediately disassemble it. Take a picture of the spring sticking out the end of the magazine with a ruler alongside so you can see how many inches out it sticks. Print out a copy and keep it in your gun safe with your spare magazines, and use that as a reference point.
You can allow springs to lose a small amount of tension compared to a new magazine’s spring, but if you see any magazine spring losing more tension than the others, you know it is time to replace the spring, and when they all have significantly deviated from the new magazine spring, it is again time to replace their springs.
What do you have in your ‘kit’ that uses batteries? Several tactical flashlights, for sure. Maybe a laser sight. Goodness only knows what else.
Make the daylight saving switches a time to check batteries, and also to inventory your reserve of spare batteries.
Open up the battery compartment of everything that has batteries, and make sure the batteries haven’t swollen or started to leak.
If you have devices that use non-standard sized batteries, make sure you have spares, and make sure they are where you expect them to be.
And for all the things you have that use AA and AAA batteries, consider replacing the batteries ‘whether they need replacing or not’ in items that you occasionally use, and give a good test of the batteries in items you seldom or never use.
For batteries you’ve left in devices for some time, check their expiry dates. If you’re within a year of the expiry date, why not replace them anyway.