You are only as good as your equipment—this is gun ownership 101. Not only do you need to know how to handle it safely, you must also keep it maintained and cleaned thoroughly and often. 90 percent of the time, a dirty gun is the cause of a mechanical malfunction. In many cases, it is because of improper cleaning.
An unclean gun is an unsafe one—it’s as simple as that.
Powder residue and dirt build up in the barrel of the gun every time you fire off a round. So cleaning your gun after every use is important as it can affect the accuracy and reliability of your shot. Crud can build up in the breech of the chamber and the chamber itself and the longer you put off any maintenance, the more likely your gun will malfunction. It can prevent the cartridge to fully load and may cause light firing on the pin strike or even a misfire. This buildup can cause movement between two surfaces that are suppose to be stable, which could cause critical errors in your long-range shot.
Many guns are easy to clean, yet many are not, thus it is never a bad idea to bring your gun to a professional gunsmith to have it cleaned if needed. If you want to learn on your own, take a hunter education course or join a shooting range club. These clubs and classes can provide you with assistance from experts and seasoned members.
Areas that are crucial to keep clean are the crown, locking lugs and recesses, bolt face and the barreled action or stock contact. The crown is vital, as any buildup or dirt on the muzzle of your gun throws off your accuracy and your shot. Buildup behind your locking lugs or recesses during ignition will weaken a stable lockup, which again will affect your accuracy. The same goes for your bolt face and barrel action and stock.
Step 1: The first step in cleaning your gun is making sure it is unloaded. Open the action to be sure it’s unloaded. Thoroughly reading through your owner’s manual is a good idea, as well. Next, remove the clips or magazines and take out the bolt (if it’s a rifle), or lock open the action of your shotgun, pistol or semi-auto rifle. Once that’s done, use solvent for brushing the bolt, then clean and dry it off. Be sure to brush the extractor and ejector, too.
Step 2: Using a cleaning rod with a bronze brush soaked in a cleaning solvent, work from the breech or chamber end and brush down the barrel and out the muzzle until it is clean. Let it dry for 15 minutes to let the solvent dissolve and soften the bullet jacket material, powder fowling and lead. After 15 minutes, run the bronze brush soaked with solvent down the barrel again, repeating several times until the gunk in the barrel is loosened. Once this is complete, take a cloth patch down the bore to clean up any remaining carbon out of the muzzle.
One bit of caution, however, is to not pull the patch back out. Instead, take it off the road and put a clean one on and then pull the road back out of the chamber end. Run the brush through at least 25 times.
Step 3: The next step is running a few solvent soaked patches down the barrel and out the muzzle end. Be sure to replace with a clean patch, pull back up and replace the patch again each time. If the patches are still really black, keep cleaning. If it continues, the barrel may need to be soaked and dried again.
Step 4: Coat your barrel and bolt with a bit of rust prevention oil. With a clean, soft cotton cloth, dabbed with oil, wipe down all the metal surfaces of your gun, making sure not to over-oil it. Wearing cotton gloves can prevent any fingerprints from getting on the surfaces while oiling your gun down.
Step 5: The final step is an important one. After cleaning be sure to store your firearms in a safe place. Always use a gun case or safe to store your weapons.