A Clean Gun Means a Clean & Safe Shot


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.

Here’s Why

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.

Here’s How

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.

Time of shot from gun

Cleaning and maintenance isn’t the most exciting part of owning a gun, but it’s essential. You should clean your gun after every hunting or shooting session, and then perform periodic basic maintenance routines. This will extend the lifespan, accuracy and functionality of the weapon. The work can be time-consuming, but it will improve your shooting experience and save you money in the long run. Even if you’re a seasoned gun owner, review the cleaning and maintenance basics outlines below:

Wipe It Down With a Silicone Cloth

Most gun owners know they need to wipe down their gun after it’s been used, but even veteran gun owners may not be using the right material. Perform these routine wipe-downs with a silicone-based cloth, not one made of cotton or other materials. Silicone will be more effective at removing moisture and residue. Bushnell sells a good silicone cloth for this purpose.

You don’t need to do a full tear-down to do this. Just wipe down the easily accessible interior parts to stave off rush. A patch cleaner is effective at clearing moisture from the gun’s barrel before rust develops, but if rust is already present, consider a bore brush to keep the shaft clean.

Change Out O-Rings to Combat Oxidation

O-rings play an important but undervalued role in the function and fitness of your gun. Because oxygen is one of the main contributors to rust formation, silicone o-rings are needed to provide a tight seal in the gun and keep oxygen out of those hard-to-reach places.

As silicone ages, it dries out and develops cracks that let oxygen seep into the interior of the gun. Most o-rings come with a recommended lifespan or warranty, so keep track of the age of these seals and swap them out before they break down. Apple Rubber makes quality silicone parts and seals in a variety of sizes to serve different gun types.

Scrub (Don’t Soak) the Chokes

Some gun owners soak their gun’s choke tubes before they clean them, but this usually isn’t necessary. Even at its best, soaking is a needless step that lengthens the choke cleaning process considerably. Skip the soaking and simply clean the tubes with a brass brush. Use a spray solvent to free up the accumulated grime—G96 Nitro Solvent gun cleaner is a popular choice—and then go in with the brush and sweep out the unwanted debris.

Once a Year, Do a Full Dismantle

No matter how well you keep on top of day-to-day maintenance, every shotgun needs to be fully dismantled for a once-a-year cleaning. You can do this yourself, but if you’re unsure of your skills or the process, take your gun to a gunsmith for a professional cleaning. An amateur dismantle could compromise the weapon’s proper functioning. Even if you get it back together the right way, the gun may not perform as well as it did before the cleaning.

Hunter loading shotgun

Unless you’re fond of shooting out someone’s eye, regularly cleaning your shotgun is a must. Granted, not every speck of dirt, gunk, rust or grime may have the power to mess up your gun badly enough to blind someone, but three major dangers can quickly evolve into hazardous situations.

The Repercussions of Rust

Rust on gun’s exterior is a massive eyesore, but rust on the moving parts or inside the barrel can do more than just hurt the eyes. Rusty parts and buildup inside the barrel can hurt the foot, arm, pet, neighbor or anything else you inadvertently shoot when the buildup creates an unwanted obstacle for the bullet. Attempting to fire a wholly rusted gun is akin to playing Russian Roulette with anything in your immediate area. It can also wear your gun parts down more quickly, making them undependable and prone to replacement.

Even if you go for bluing, passivation or micro-coatings of a rust-resistant material, rust can still attack any and all metal parts of your gun, from the trigger to the muzzle. In its simplest explanation, rust forms when iron meets certain elements, such as water and oxygen. Early stages of rust can be invisible, while later stages can morph into corrosion and full-blown disintegration.

Prevent rust from forming on your shotgun by wiping it clean after each use and adding a protective layer of gun oil or other sealant.

Cleaning rust off a shotgun can be a bit trickier, but you can typically have success with oil, fine steel wool, an old rag and a keen eye. Apply oil to the rusted area, rub the surface gently with the steel wool, wipe with the rag to inspect your progress, and repeat as necessary. Finish it off with a light coat of oil for prevention.

The Curse of Crumbling Parts

Cleaning time is the ideal time to inspect parts of your gun that may otherwise go unnoticed. This includes your gun’s collection of screws, bolts, levers, springs, pins and even smaller pieces like the oft-forgotten O-ring. Missing, loose or broken hardware can result in malfunctions, with damaged or incorrectly placed O-rings often responsible for problems cycling shells, according to TriStar Sporting Arms.

Going for high-quality replacement parts specifically designed to fit your shotgun is a must. You can find a wide array of accessories and parts online at standard gun part suppliers like GunBroker.com or specialty manufacturers such as Apple Rubber for your O-rings and other silicon parts and protective seals.

The Horrors of Gunk

Call it fouling, crud or good ole gunk, this residue left in the barrel after shooting can bring really bad tidings right along with it. Shotguns get the added bonus of gunk formed by shotgun powder mixed with plastic wad residue, and the gunk starts building up after a single shot and keeps on building from there, says The Gunman of Arkansas, Inc.

Fouling can be responsible for killing your shotgun’s accuracy and pattern, can ruin the barrel and put your gun out of commission altogether. Poor accuracy and misfiring can again lead to those hurt arms, legs and neighbors. Clean gunk out of the barrel by using a flexible brush you can slip into the barrel from breech to bore, dabbling the brush with a bit of commercial solvent such as Break-Free CLP.