Knowing how to clean and oil your gun is an important part of gun ownership. After all, every firearm is an investment. Proper care and storage help keep your guns functioning and firing safely, in many cases for generations to come. Did you know that carbon fouling and residue remain on the outside of the gun as well as the inside every time you shoot it? In order to keep the action, safety, trigger, and other gun parts working smoothly, you need to know how to clean a gun.
Ideally, you’d clean your gun every time you are finished shooting it.
Gun Cleaning Supplies
It’s important to use the right materials when cleaning your gun to avoid doing any damage. For example, you should never clean a gun magazine with petroleum products or add lubricant to the magazine. Make sure you’re using the correct cleaners and tools for your gun.
Many manufacturers offer gun cleaning kits, which make it very easy to get everything you need for your gun’s caliber. Some gun cleaning items need to be specific to the caliber you’re cleaning, such as the cleaning rod and bore brush.
In general, you’ll need:
- Gun cleaning solvent
- Bore brush
- Gun lubricant or oil
- Cleaning rod
- Patch holder
- Nylon cleaning brush
- Polishing cloths
- Cotton swabs
If you shoot and clean your guns frequently, you might want to consider a bore snake. Other items that are helpful to have on hand include a flashlight, drip pan, and a rubber mat to protect your gun as well as the work surface. Old towels, newspapers, tarps, and other materials can also be used for this purpose. A gun vice can be helpful if you’re cleaning a long gun.
Wearing safety glasses and gloves is recommended to protect against eye injury and chemical contact. Be sure to clean your gun in a well-ventilated area such as a garage with the door open, outdoors on a clear day, or near an open window.
How to Clean a Gun
Make sure your gun is unloaded before you start cleaning it. Just because the magazine is removed does not mean the gun is not loaded! Be sure to open the action to visually and physically verify there is not a round in the chamber of the barrel.
You’ll need to disassemble your gun to clean it, but how much it needs to be disassembled depends on the type of gun and the manufacturer. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions to prepare your gun for cleaning. If you can’t find your manual, the NRA provides an official assembly guide for pistols and rifles. Depending on the model, you may also be able to find it on the manufacturer’s website.
Most guns, like shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, and pistols are often stripped into major components for cleaning: barrel, slide, magazine, etc. Revolvers don’t need to be stripped.
Once your gun is unloaded and disassembled, you’ll start by cleaning the barrel. Use a dry brush from the chamber to muzzle to start to loosen and remove debris. Then dip a cleaning patch in bore solvent and use it on the end of the cleaning rod to apply the solvent to the inside of the barrel. Let it work for 10-15 minutes, then use the bore brush and a new dry patch to scrub the barrel.
Never pull a patch back through the barrel. It will just undo your work and get the gun dirty again. Work from the breech end of the bore if you can. If not, use a muzzle guard to prevent the cleaning rod from hitting the muzzle.
Now you’ll want to lubricate the barrel. Attach a cotton mop to the cleaning rod and add a few drops of gun oil. Run it through the bore to oil the inside of the barrel.
If you have a semi-automatic gun, you’ll also need to clean the magazine. Be extra careful when breaking down and reassembling the gun since magazine followers are spring loaded. Always clean magazines with a solvent or cleaning agent and don’t use petroleum products or add lubricant to the magazine.
Clean and lubricate the gun’s action by using the nylon cleaning brush to apply solvent. After you brush all parts of the action, wipe them dry with a clean cloth and lightly lubricate the moving parts.
Wondering how to clean the outside of a gun? It’s simple. To finish up, wipe down the rest of the gun with a polishing cloth or an old t-shirt to remove any remaining dirt or debris. Reassemble the gun and do a safety check to make sure everything is functioning as it should. Check trigger functioning, safety operation, magazine retention, and ejection systems.
Now that you know the basics for how to clean a gun, you’ll find that it typically only takes about 15-30 minutes. If you’re looking to make gun cleaning more efficient, you might want to consider tools like bore snakes or ultrasonic cleaners.
How to Clean a Gun with Household Items
As we mentioned, most shooters find that it’s simplest to just purchase a gun cleaning kit, so they have everything they need in one place. Although you may be tempted to learn how to clean a gun with household items, you might just cause damage to your gun.
The best practice for keeping your gun clean is to use products that are specifically made for cleaning guns and backed by the manufacturer. That way if any damage does occur (although it’s extremely unlikely if you’re using the right products!) you can work with the manufacturer to resolve the issue. Don’t risk harming the finish by trying to save money, because using household items to clean your guns can be costly in the long run.
How to Clean Rust Off a Gun
You can use gun oil to clean rust off a gun. Apply a small amount of gun oil to the rusted surface and let it sit for several minutes to help loosen the rust. Then wipe the surface with a clean cotton cloth. If the rust is still there, keep cleaning. It might take some elbow grease! Then you can use a copper brush or soft steel wool to gently rub the rusted area in a circular manner. Clean the area again with a dry cotton cloth.
To prevent rust, you need to store your guns in a cool, dry place. Wipe down all gun surfaces with a dry cloth before storing. If you have a gun safe, you can add a desiccant to help keep the guns dry. Avoid storing guns in their cases if possible. With all their temperature fluctuations, attics and garages are not ideal locations for storing guns.
Cleaning your guns regularly and storing them properly can go a long way towards preventing rust. That’s how you keep your favorite firearms operating for decades and generations to come.
You’ll find everything you need to shoot, clean, and store your guns right here at Green Top Sporting Goods. See our best selling gun cleaning kits and supplies to find what you need.