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The Joys of Owning a Dental Pick

Mike Bobbitt

Staff member
Directing Staff
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by SpinDoc

The aim of this article is an attempt to illustrate some of the various military-related applications, specifically for the cleaning of weapons, of a dental pick. The dental pick is an extremely useful tool to have for removing carbon deposits after a day of firing at the range or on exercise. It can speed up the process and also improve the quality of a weapons cleaning session for recruits, junior leaders on course, and even hardened veterans.

The usages of this tool to be described below may not necessarily be an approved/recommended practice by the Canadian Forces.

To begin, the subject in question - the dental pick - is available in several varieties. The tool is generally available at larger local drug stores in the oral hygiene aisle. The type that is available at the drug stores is usually a metal hook attached to a plastic handle, which is adequate for our intended purposes. However, if you have contacts within the dental hygiene community, a professional-grade all-metal tool might be a better, sturdier investment. Professional-grade dental tools are available in various types of heads; for our purposes, the simple pick/hook would be best.

It is important to be cautious when using the dental pick to assist in cleaning your weapon. The tool should not be used on any part of the optical sight as it can permanently damage the optics. When cleaning the weapon, the amount of pressure used should not scratch the metal parts of the weapon.

The dental pick‘s usefulness is its ability to gently chip away heavy deposits of carbon in an efficient manner. It is true that the cleaning brushes included in the standard rifle-cleaning kit will do the job adequately, wire brushes tend to require multiple passes in order to dislodge carbon and often do not clean certain hard-to-reach spots.

When conducting a field strip of the bolt, the dental pick has several useful applications. Firstly, the pick can be used to safely remove the retaining pin. Next, the pick can be used on the bolt face area to remove any brass filings and carbon. Lastly, the pick could be used to remove larger carbon chunks inside the bolt carrier.

For detail stripping of the bolt, the pick can be used to remove the small pin by pushing the pin with the tip of the pick. Carbon deposits should then be scraped from the groves of the cartridge extractor. Large carbon deposits can also now be removed from the bolt.

Carbon build-up is prevalent in this part of the rifle usually when it has been used in conjunction with a blank-firing adaptor. The flash suppressor is one of the few parts of the rifle where there isn‘t a specialized tool designed to clean it in the rifle-cleaning kit, as it is not likely to drastically affect the performance of the weapon itself. Nevertheless, for weapons inspections -- especially on junior leadership courses -- the flash suppressor needs to be carbon-free. The flash suppressor should be cleaned before the bore because residue from this area will contaminate the bore. The dental pick is especially useful cleaning the inner ring inside the suppressor, using the edge of the pick to scrape away the build-up.

The order in which parts are cleaned depends on if you are doing a general cleaning after firing or a cleaning for inspection purposes. It is more important to follow a certain order when cleaning for inspection purposes because the cleaning process can contaminate other parts of the rifle. It is my preference to clean the chamber and the bore last, as this prevents debris from the cleaning process from contaminating the area after it has been cleaned.

A good cleaning order is as follows: Start with the rim of the ejection port and the grooves in front of the spring opening, both of which can be easily cleaned using the dental pick. Next, using the pick in conjunction with a cloth or swab, clean the trigger mechanism area by wiping the area lightly, using the pick as your leverage. Using a swab and the pick, inspect the internal area of the forward bolt assist and remove any dirt stuck there. The aforementioned areas are the less dirty areas of the rifle and can be done fairly quickly.

The parts of the rifle that come in regular contact with gases generated by firing will have the most carbon build-up. One of the most difficult places to clean is the area where the cocking handle and the top of the bolt connects with the rifle at the top of the inside of the weapon. Use the pick generously to dislodge carbon build-up - do it dry first before applying CLP - especially at the corner edges and in the areas in and around the tube. After thoroughly cleaning this area, we can then move on to cleaning the chamber of the weapon. Do not use the pick directly on this area; use it as a lever with a CLP-soaked swab to clean the corners of the chamber.

Dirt and sand can sometimes get lodged into the front sight. Inspect this area and remove any dirt stuck in the nooks of the front sight post with the pick. When doing a detailed stripping of the weapon, the pick is also useful in additional areas. After removing the hand guards, inspect the area of the slip ring, especially the parts that connect with the receiver. The pick is useful for removing any dirt or carbon build-up. Be careful around the slip ring area as the slip ring may damage your pick by clamping down on it.

Bringing a dental pick (or better, a bunch of them for your friends) can be one of the smartest thing a candidate going on course can do. In addition to cleaning the C7, it is also great for C9 and C6 gas plugs. The number of uses for the dental pick is not limited to just those described above... A creative and resourceful soldier will no doubt find other uses for it. So, spend a few bucks and get yourself one, you‘ll save yourself time and effort during weapons cleaning.