Nothing sticks to their guns: South Portland cleaning business uses proprietary formula on firearms

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SOUTH PORTLAND — If you own a gun and need it cleaned, James Chatmas believes he’s your guy.

Chatmas, 29, opened The Gun Cleaners of Maine last year, specializing in a cleaning method that employs an ultrasonic deep cleaning and a unique synthetic lubricant that he says prevents rust and retention of moisture.

The idea to use a synthetic lubricant in conjunction with sound waves was developed by Chatmas’ cousin, who started an identical business in Waco, Texas. 

At that time, Chatmas, a graduate of Cape Elizabeth High School, was working in software development at IDEXX.

Sensing a need for this type of service in Maine, and as a firearms advocate, Chatmas quit his job and decided to use his cousin’s model and open his own business, at 85 Western Ave. 

“No one else is doing gun cleaning as their primary business and with this particular method,” Chatmas said Tuesday at the store.

Possession of firearms is on the rise in Maine, he said, so “based on the number of hunters and gun owners in Maine, I knew this would be a viable business.”

Maine requires no registration and comparably light background checks with the purchase or possession of a firearm (discounting the purchase from other vendors who are not licensed dealers), and, through application and receipt of a permit, allows the concealed carrying of firearms.

A bill submitted in the Legislature by Auburn Republican Sen. Erick Brackey, LD 652, would soften the regulations even further to allow carrying a concealed handgun without a permit. 

Regardless of how one feels about guns, Chatmas said he wanted to make his store “clean and comfortable” to anyone who comes in.

Behind a well-lit, window-lined front is an uncluttered, concrete-floored space. A few leather chairs sit in the corner for patrons who come to have a small gun cleaned and want to wait in the store during the process that Chatmas said takes about 20 minutes.

Display cases holding handguns and cleaning supplies sit in front of a wall lined with Gun Cleaner apparel. An American flag hangs above a selection of six larger guns for sale.

In the back, Chatmas employs Marcus Zavala as the armorist and sole cleaner of guns.

The ultrasonic method of cleaning is similar to how jewelry is professionally cleaned. The dismantled gun is lowered into a vat of pH-neutral solvent, and essentially vibrated clean with bubbles created by the dull hum of sound waves. 

The pieces are then rinsed, dried, and immersed into the lubricant, where they are exposed to ultrasonic waves again for about 60 seconds. 

“Most people tell us, when they get their guns back, that they look better than new,” Chatmas said. 

Since he opened the business seven months ago, Chatmas said he has cleaned about 700 guns. 

He said he has been “in talks” with several police departments, including South Portland and Biddeford, about contracting with them for his services. 

“I tell people, you go to the dentist once a year to get your teeth cleaned, you get your car detailed once a year,” Chatmas said. “That’s what we do, but with firearms.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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James Chatmas, 29, at his business, The Gun Cleaners of Maine, on Western Avenue in South Portland.

Marcus Zavala, armorist at The Gun Cleaners of Maine, scrubs part of a rifle after it has been exposed to ultrasonic waves. 

James Chatmas, owner of The Gun Cleaners of Maine in South Portland, lifts a piece of a firearm from an ultrasonic tank filled with lubricant. 

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.