Firearm Universe

Caring for Your Gun: Proper Gun Cleaning

Just like other technical gear you may own, guns need regular maintenance to keep them operating safely and correctly. Firearms are designed to be sturdy and high-performance items, but they still need cleaning to ensure that the components function smoothly and safely. Knowing how to use all of the components of a gun is an important part of firearm safety. You also need to know how to dismantle your firearm and put it back together again.

Familiarize yourself fully with the owner’s manual for your gun. Read about how to take it apart and how to clean it. Before you start cleaning your gun, prepare your work area. Take your gun and empty it completely by removing all ammunition and magazines from it. Box up any loose ammunition to clear your work surface. Gather the tools and equipment you will need, including a non-slip work surface, a cleaning cradle to hold the firearm so you can use both hands to clean it, two shallow containers for holding loose parts, and a flashlight.

Begin cleaning the bore first, working from breech to muzzle if possible. Your cleaning rod needs to be the correct diameter for your firearm: If it’s too large, it may become stuck in the muzzle, and if it’s too small, it may flex inside the bore. Thread a patch through the loop on the cleaning rod, and saturate it with bore solvent. Push the patch through the bore using one fluid motion. Don’t scrub it back and forth, and don’t pull the soiled patch back through the bore. Once the patch emerges through the other end, take it off and then pull out the rod. Repeat this process three times, using a fresh patch each time.

Move on to the bore brush. Your bore brush needs to match the bore diameter, and different bristles are available. Choose steel bristles for very tough jobs, bronze bristles for typical bore cleaning, and nylon bristles for light cleaning. Thread the brush into the cleaning rod, and moisten the bore brush with solvent. Push the rod through in a single fluid motion, and pull it back out, repeating this process ten times. Repeat the wet patch cleaning process three more times to remove debris loosened by the bore brush. Finish with dry patches until the final dry patch comes out completely clean. This may take up to seven passes with a dry patch. If you plan to shoot again on the same day as cleaning, you can proceed; if you plan to store your gun overnight or longer, saturate a patch with oil and pass it through to protect the bore from rust. Before you shoot the next time, run a dry patch down the bore to remove the oil.


Clean the remaining parts of the gun with cotton swabs, rags, and an old toothbrush. A carbon solvent will loosen powder in cracks and crevices so you can wipe all surfaces clean. Clean the action, the bolt, the trigger, and all other small parts. Compressed air can be helpful for removing dust and dirt from nooks and crannies. Once it’s cleaned, reassemble the gun immediately so you don’t lose any parts. Make sure all parts operate correctly after reassembling the gun. Check the safety and trigger to make sure they are functioning correctly. Check for rust, and if you find it, use super-fine steel wool to remove it. Oil the exterior metal surfaces lightly; leaving perspiration and body oil on these surfaces can lead to rust. Don’t allow oil to coat any wood surfaces, though, because this can soften the wood. Close the action and drop the firing pin to release tension in the gun before storing it.

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