Destructive Maintenance


TheDrive posted up a pretty cool article, that has photos of an Armory inside an Amphibious Assault Ship. More specifically the USS Wasp.

Link Here:

Looks like they left off the R in “Marines” when they wrote that title. Sadly, TheDrive must not be a site with perfect grammar and englishification like Still take a look at their article.

There are several cool photos, and I’ll post up a couple of them. But one of them really caught my eye.

On the left, we see M4 MWS Carbines (May well be M4A1s). Some of these have M203A2 Grenade Launchers. They have TA31RCO ACOGs on Larue mounts and AN/PEQ-16 lasers and lights.

Over on the right, we see some M27 IAR with the TA11 ACOGs with piggyback RMRs.

Now, to the topic of destructive maintenance. Destructive maintenance was SOP while I was in. Look at that M203 barrel closest to the photographers. Note how it is grey. The plastic handguard on it is nice clean and shiny with little to no visible wear on it. Now look at the M203 barrels behind the hard charging Marine handling the M4 in the photo. Note how they are black. A little finish wear at the muzzles of them, but otherwise black.

This is a perfect example of destructive maintenance. M203 barrels are black anodized aluminum tubes with a plastic hand guard. Someone either used an abrasive like a scotch bright pad, or a chemical stripper like oven cleaner to remove the finish on that barrel.

It was not uncommon when I was in for us to use sand and gravel to clean parts. Take a handful, put it on a rag, and rub it hard against the firearm components. You would think that our higher ups would discourage this, but instead it was them who were demanding it.

This was especially bad with the M249 SAW. It was not uncommon for some NCO to point at a small remnant of the original finish on the weapon, claim that it is carbon, and order a junior Marine to clean it off. By removing all the finish on the alumnium and steel, the weapon would rust and corrode faster, get scratched and gouged faster. These dents, scratches, and like would then trap carbon and rust, leading to even more abrasives used on these surfaces. There would be deep scratches and gouges into the rails on the receiver, the feed tray, etc. An example with the M16 would be the muzzle. A NCO wanting to fail a junior enlisted weapon cleaning check, would often say that the crown of the barrel is dirty. So, the junior Marine would use the end of a steel cleaning rod to scrape the hell out of the crown so it would all be shiny.

Water spot on an optics lens? Scrape it.

I’d heard that when the first muskets delivered to the U.S. Military with a rust preventive coating (browning a precursor to bluing), that the unit commanders had their men sand it off.

An article here, has a few quotes.

“..Such being the importance of his Arms, no wonder that a soldier should shew his attachment to his Firelock, by keeping it as bright as the Sun, and looking upon it with a kind of veneration. A glittering Firelock is a prime ornament of a Soldier and gives to every movement an appearance of double Life and Spirit.”

The most common substances used in the 18th century to clean the barrel was brick dust or emery powder mixed with sweet oil. After cleaning, the soldier then buffed the barrel to a high polished state by burnishing it with his ramrod or rubbing it with a wooden buffing stick. The obsession with maintaining a mirror finish on the barrel did have a negative impact on its state. For example, in 1775, the 62nd Regiment’s arms were reported as being “so Abus’d to keep them bright, that there is not the least appearance of the Kings mark”.
Other regiments during the Napoleonic wars reported weak and worn barrels.

I am proud to see that these traditions have continued after hundreds of years and we and feel safe in kn owning that they will not go away any time soon. We will continue to see young enlisted destroying equipment so it looks good.

But enough of that. Here are a few other cool pictures from that article about the Armory on the Wasp.

M45A1 pistols and nightvision
The Armory
Note the PVS14 night vision hanging loosely.


  1. Indeed, the Brown Bess was called such because the barrels were browned, by rusting them with salt water.

    Browning, like blueing, is a way to passivate the exposed steel/iron on a weapon. All weapon finishes that involve a chemical reaction of the iron/steel are passivating, as is anodizing on aluminum. Painting guns (ala Cerakote, etc) are not passivating, but simply painting/covering the metal.

    The difference between browning and blueing is the completeness of the oxidation. Browning is a uniform rusting to “red rust,” much like the rust you see form naturally on exposed steel left out in the weather. This is Fe2O3, and while not a complete oxidation, if it is done to a thick, uniform layer of rust, and then wiped down with oil or melted wax, can produce a surface that prevents “wild rust.” Browning, in the days of muskets and early rifles, was usually done with salt water and heat. Just keep applying salt water, or salt water+acid, with a bit of heat in the iron/steel to increase the reactivity. Eventually, you can’t get any more rust to form, and you card off the excess rust crystals (a process called “carding”) and you’re done.

    Blueing, on the other hand, is complete oxidation of the raw iron/steel. To get this level of oxidation, you need to use a corrosive solution and heat. The nature of the corrosive solution can be either acidic (as in rust blueing solutions, or “express” blueing solutions) or alkaline (as in hot blueing salts, which are typically lye and sodium nitrite). Heat is always required, at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Hot salt blueing takes place at about 286 degrees (and up), whereas rust or express blueing starts as red rust, and then a bath in boiling distilled water converts the red rust to blue rust, which is Fe3O4.

  2. Thanks DG, your comments are one of the reasons this site is a daily stop for me.
    Off topic.
    The low level Civil War Shawn has mentioned won’t stay low level for many more years, it’s going to be a god awful mess with no certain outcome.
    I won’t be around to witness it ( Health issues) but I pray for a restoration of the Bill of Rights and the Rule of Law.
    Keep the Faith, Tom

  3. Y’all think weapons maintenance is bad in the Marines, take a look at the Army.

    The Marines at least had the sense to maintain a dedicated unit-level armorer position with full-time purpose-trained MOS personnel in those positions. The Army decided that the unit armorer could just be a part-time additional duty for the unit supply clerk… The half-ass training those guys get is useless, and just about every unit actually winds up taking a guy out of hide from one of the line platoons, training him up at some half-ass post-level shake-and-bake course, and then Hey! Presto!, there’s your armorer.

    With the increasing sophistication of all the weapons and other elements around today’s small arms systems, it is far past time for them to start having dedicated fully-trained full time personnel in those jobs, and to begin having a small arms master gunner position that supervises and oversees their efforts.

    • And here’s something my service got right…mostly. Every base has a Combart Arms Training and Maintenance section. Depending on the mission of the base it might be quite large. They’re responsible for all of the small arms on the base. Inspections, maintenance, modifications (per whatever TCTO rolls down the pike like M4 extractor springs some years back). All maintenance is broken down into operator, sub-depot and depot levels. Basically as long as the frame or receiver or tube wasn’t broken we could plumb in replacement parts, re-gauge, test fire to validate and put it back in service fairly efficiently. I couldn’t count the number of times on deployment we’d link up with other service’s units by happenstance and fix a slew of their weapons. You’d fix one then word would spread. Good feeling though. My last trip was staging for and then pushing west for OIF. I know some of the goods we helped those teams with were put to good use out there.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here