Follow this simple step-by-step cleaning process to get your guns sparkling clean.
There is an old saying in the gun world, “Firearms have only two enemies – Rust and Politicians.” Be kind to your guns and they will be kind to you. Politicians? Perhaps not so much.
Guns are an investment and just as you wouldn’t abuse a new truck you just bought, keeping your firearms cleans will guarantee you years of shooting enjoyment. Like most things in life, however, there is a right way and a wrong way to clean firearms. Learning to clean your guns the right way is something every shooter should know and it’s easy to do once you get a routine down.
The following are some of the tricks I’ve learned over the years to keep my firearms super clean and the gun-cleaning regimen I use to keep them operating to perfection.
Before we start, this is so obvious that I wish it didn’t need to be said, but always check to make sure your gun is unloaded and that the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction whenever you pick it up.
Now, onto the good stuff. Keeping your guns clean requires both internal and external attention. Let’s start with the outside.
All guns can rust, even those made of stainless steel. Simply handling the gun is enough to cause rust because your fingerprints will leave salt and other corrosive substances behind. You must prevent that by using a product that provides a barrier of protection on the metal.
I just returned from the Old Hemlock Setter annual reunion where the bird shooters were often using shotguns that cost more than my first house. After hunting they tended to their dogs first, their guns second and then to themselves. Every gun was wiped down before casing it for the night.
The market is full of protective products. My current preference is Clenzoil, because it works and because I like the smell. I usually spray down the metal (protecting any optics from the spray) and then wipe with a cloth impregnated with the oil. Spraying ensures that the protection gets into all the nooks and crannies that are missed with a simple wipe down.
If I have an old gun with a wood stock with a beat up finish, or any oil finish, I wipe the wood down with boiled linseed oil. This will often restore, at least temporarily, a rough looking stock. Brownell’s is a good source for this and many of the other cleaning products mentioned here.
Quick tip: Quick Tip: To clean a scope, use optical-quality cleaning pads and cleaning liquid. These can be found at any camera shop. Blow off all dust, wet a pad and gently wipe the glass to clean it.
The larger issue, though, is the internals of the gun. The bore being the most important. Many “Bore Cleaners” are formulated to remove powder fouling, but they do not effectively remove metal fouling. If you are shooting a centerfire rifle, you must periodically remove all of the copper fouling in the bore. For that you need a strong copper-cutting solvent like, Montana Copper Killer, or Barnes CR-10.
Always use a high-quality, one-piece, coated, cleaning rod and, if possible, clean from the breech end of the barrel with a bore guide. Use a jag that’s slightly small for the bore and double the patches so they will get down into the grooves of the rifling.
The process to clean a bore properly is a bit complicated. I go into this in great detail in my book, Gunsmithing Made Easy, but this video covers the basics for rifle shooters.
Handguns (or rifles) that have been used with lead bullets require a lead-removing solvent in addition to a powder solvent. Shotguns often need a plastic-removing solvent to clean out the fouling left behind by the wads. Work the bore with the solvent and a brass brush.
It’s important after any cleaning that you remove all traces of the cleaning solvents and then treat the metal with rust protection. Before shooting the gun, wipe out the bore with a clean patch to remove the oil.
Quick tip: Quick Tip: One old trick to get the trigger mechanism super clean is to flush it with lighter fluid. This washes out the gunk and leaves a light lubrication coating behind when it dries.
While wiping off the metal and cleaning the bore will cover the day-to-day maintenance of your firearms, they should be field stripped and cleaned on a regular basis. If you shoot a lot, the carbon and crud will build up inside the gun and must be removed. (If you are not comfortable doing this, bring the gun to a qualified gunsmith who will deep clean it for a reasonable price.)
Here is the gun-cleaning regimen I like to follow:
Fast and Not-So-Furious Protection
Often, after a day of shooting or hunting, you may not have the time or energy to do a full cleaning job. It’s still important to protect the gun from rust, however. Here are three quick steps you can take to protect your firearms without a lot of fuss.
• Spray and wipe the outside.
• For the bore, a pull-through bore-snake that has some protectant on the last part of it will protect the bore until you can get to a full cleaning. Make sure you buy one that is the correct diameter for your firearm.
• For shotguns, fuzzy sticks work great. They remove much of the carbon and grime. Mine have a small extension stored in the cap. This has a hook to attach to the eye at the end of the stick. After running the stick in and out a few times, I wet this extension with a protectant and hook it on the end of the fuzzy stick that is protruding from the end of the barrel. When I pull the stick out, the extension leaves a nice film of protection.
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About The Author: Bryce M. Towsley has been writing about guns for 36 years and has published thousands of articles in most of the major firearms magazines. He has hunted all over the world and is a competition shooter in several disciplines. Towsley has several books available on guns, shooting and hunting as well as an adventure novel, The 14th Reinstated. Signed books are available on his website.