How to Properly Clean a Gun and Keep It useful

Most people don’t clean their guns properly. They buy too many products, clean too often, and over clean when they do clean.

If you’re one of those people, it’s time to set your rifle down and pay attention. Unless your daughter is walking in with her boyfriend, then, by all means, keep cleaning.

It really depends on how often you shoot as to how often you need to clean. It may not be as often as you think.

Unless you carry concealed, you only have to clean a gun every 1000-5000 rounds. The more often you clean your gun, the more likely you are to mess something up. And if you don’t seat the bushing correctly or do something similarly stupid, you’ll negate any benefit you had to cleaning the gun.

Since you understand how often to clean a gun, let’s move on to how to actually clean a gun.


1. Gather Your Tools

You don’t need a complicated cleaning kit. Just keep it simple.

What should you look for in a good yet simple cleaning kit?

A simple effective kit should have a bore brush, a cleaning rod, a cleaning brush, a patch holder with cleaning patches, and a polishing cloth. That and some lubricant and solvent will work just fine for most handguns and rifles.

Unless you don’t care about the surface you’re working on, it’s wise to use either some newspaper or an old towel as a workspace. But if you want to put down a little bit extra cash, you can buy an anti-slip anti-solvent mat that will help keep all your parts in one place.


2. Never Clean a Loaded Weapon

This may sound like common sense, but there are people out there stupid enough to do this. Always remove the magazine and clear the chamber before cleaning your weapon.

It’s a simple task and it will save you either your life or a grave injury.

Safe gun handling is the number one thing any gun-owner needs to learn. Simple rules get overlooked if you haven’t taken a basic safety course.

Cleaning a gun requires that you look down the barrel of your gun. And one of the first things you learn in a safety class is never look down the barrel of a loaded gun even if the safety is on. You don’t want to play with your life like that.

When you do remove ammunition from your weapon, be sure you do not place it in any solvents. Solvents can damage ammunition and cause it to fail.


3. It’s Time to Disassemble Your Weapon

Only disassemble as much as the manufacturer recommends. Most new guns come with a manual. You can find the manufacturer recommendations in your gun’s manual.

If you bought a used gun or from a surplus supplier, you won’t receive a manual. This is absolutely ok as plenty of online forums will have information about your weapons. You can also check the manufacturer’s website for a particular manual.

Guns are actually quite simple to tear down. But it certainly depends on the type of weapon you’re cleaning. While a Glock 9MM is pretty easy to take apart and reassemble, others are more complicated.

You don’t usually need to fully tear apart a gun to clean it. Know your gun inside and out before attempting to disassemble it.


4. Now It’s Time to Look Down the Barrel

Once your gun is empty of ammunition and you’ve torn down what you need, you can safely look down the barrel. You should see the barrel’s rifling unless, you’re looking down a shotgun barrel. These are the spiral grooves that cause the bullet to spin and maintain its trajectory.

This is the most important part of the gun to clean. Once you’re done cleaning it, you should be able to look down the barrel and see virtually no bits of debris or flecks along the inside of the barrel.

If you don’t clean this part of your gun well, your accuracy will take a hit and the gun might eventually cease to function.

Take your bore brush and attach it to your cleaning rod. You can add a small amount of solvent to the brush before pushing the brush through the barrel.

You should run it through the barrel several times while adding solvent every few passes. Once you’ve completed this step, replace the brush with your patch holder. Add a swab in the holder and run it through the barrel as well.

You should come out with a fairly dirty patch if you’ve been using your gun.

Replace the patch and repeat. Do this until the patch comes back fairly clean and the inside of the barrel is free of debris or particles. Make sure you use a flashlight for this. Shine the flashlight into the chamber from the other end and look down the barrel.

The last thing you need to do to the barrel is protect it from corrosion. Put a few drops of oil on a patch and run it through your barrel.

If you are cleaning a revolver, be sure to clean each of the chambers as well. Treat them just like you would a barrel.


5. The Rest of Your Gun

The rest of the gun may not need to be cleaned as often. But when you do clean it, use a very small amount of solvent to remove debris. A little goes a very long way.

After you’ve wiped down the gun with a solvent laden patch, you can then add some oil over all the metallic parts of your gun. Just like the inside of your barrel, this will preserve the gun and keep it from corroding.

And lastly, make sure you lubricate the moving parts in your gun as well. But not too much. If you apply too much lubrication to things like your firing pin, it could gum up in the small amount of space there is between the pin and its housing. Plus, too much lubricant attracts unwanted debris and dirt.

A double-action gun will need some lubrication on the cylinder ratchet and the ejector rod. A single-action requires oil on the cylinder, ratchet, and pin.


A Clean Gun Could Save Your Life

Make cleaning your gun a habit. A well maintained firearm could save your life. A poorly maintained firearm might fail you.

It’s fairly simple to clean a gun. And once you have a clean gun, get to the range and practice with it. Stay sharp out there, it’s a dangerous world.

Ben Mattice is an avid outdoorsman, backpacker, snowboarder, and wordsmith. He loves to sneak out into the woods by himself and not come out for days. If you want to contact him, check out his Twitter here:


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