Top 3 Pitfalls of Not Properly Cleaning Your Shotgun

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 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.