Cleaning your gun maintains its condition and performance, which can add many years of use.
Regular cleaning will minimize the chance that your gun will rust, which is a good thing because rust can cause dangerous misfires. Rust can also form on the inner mechanisms of the firearm without appearing on the outside. This is particularly concerning if you have a polymer frame pistol that is supposed to be rust-proof.
Let's get into how, and how often, to clean your gun to keep it free from rust and residue buildup.
- Clean your gun IMMEDIATELY after using corrosive ammunition
- Humid and moist conditions call for thorough cleaning
- It’s preferable to clean your gun immediately after use
- Proper storage protects your guns
Before we deal with “how often”, let’s recap "how to". There is no “one-size-fits-all solution” to cleaning guns. However, these basic principles apply to almost all firearms.
On the photo: D-Tap R2 pistol case
- Assemble your cleaning kit. These are available pre-packed from sporting and gun stores, or you can assemble one yourself. Ideal cleaning kits include a solvent, gun oil, a bore brush, a cleaning rod, a nylon cleaning brush, cotton swabs, a patch holder and patches, and a microfibre cloth for a polished finish.
- Make 100% sure that your gun is not loaded before you clean it.
- Disassemble the gun for easy access to all components.
- Clean the barrel with the cleaning rod and patches. Soak a patch with solvent and push it out the bore from front to back.
- Alternate cleaning with the bore brush by pushing the patches through the bore.
- Repeat until the patches are clean.
- Attach a cotton swab to the cleaning rod. Apply a few drops of gun oil and use to lubricate the bore of the gun.
- Clean all parts of the action with solvent and a gun brush. Wipe dry with a clean cloth and lubricate the moving parts of the action.
- Wipe your gun down with a luster cloth to remove the remaining gunk, excess oil, acid from fingerprints, etc. If you don’t have a luster cloth, material from old t-shirts works almost as well.
Field strip your gun whenever it's time to give it a deep cleaning. This involves the complete disassembly of your firearm so that you can clean its component parts.
Generally, it’s not important to field strip bolt, level, and pump-action guns. Semi-automatic guns and pistols, however, really benefit from field stripping.
The more you use your gun, the more you should clean it. You should also store your gun in safe conditions. If you’ve just come back from the range you don’t need to clean it immediately, but you do need to commit to cleaning it within five days after use.
Oil from your fingers can cause rust to form on the exterior, and the residue of firing can be a magnet for dust and micro debris.
How often should you clean your gun? It depends on a few factors, let's cover some of them now.
If you're using military surplus ammo, it's very important to understand that it is corrosive. The primer contains potassium chlorate that, when fired, deposits salt in the mechanism of your gun and in the bore. This is an accelerant for rust and a magnet for moisture.
A misfiring gun is a steep price to pay for a few cheap rounds of ammo.
Don't neglect your defensive firearms, even though they aren't used often. This is the firearm you may have to rely on to save your life someday. To ensure these guns are reliable and ready to fire at a moment's notice, you should inspect and clean them at least once a month.
A quick word on concealed carry - moisture from sweat makes the surface of your carry weapon more susceptible to rust. Depending on how much you sweat, what kind of holster you use, and a variety of other environmental factors the mechanisms of your concealed carry weapon may take more of a beating than you think. With or without being fired.
Rain, humidity, and the ocean - three reasons to be extra diligent about cleaning your gun frequently. And storing your guns after exposure to moisture, even in a water-resistant gun case, will only lock the moisture inside the case with the firearm.
As a rule, clean your guns before you store them and not after. Residue and moisture can set into the gun after a few days or weeks. Firearms are easiest to clean immediately after use. It's a good idea to leave the parts disassembled for them to air dry. Adding gun oil will also guard against rust.
There is no hard rule for how often to clean your competition gun. Almost every shooter will have their own preference based on experience (and sometimes even superstition). But almost all competitive shooters give their guns a thorough cleaning before match day.
Run a few hundred rounds through a competition firearm to test its limits as you break it in, and keep it well lubricated.
Apply wax to any wooden components of your gun. This prevents the intrusion of moisture into the wood, causing it to expand and eventually warp. Remove excess wax because this can leave behind a greasy residue that, if mishandled, can work its way into the other components of the gun.
The tiniest piece of rust, dust, or debris can mess with the accuracy of your rifle. A dirty barrel can cause the round to tumble in the air, affecting velocity, impact, and accuracy.
- Give your rifle barrel the eye test with a flashlight. Visually inspect it for any gunk or residue.
- Clean your BGC thoroughly. If you find any carbon buildup, use a scraping tool to get rid of this residue.
- Pay special attention to cleaning the muzzle brake, suppressor, or flash hider. A cleaning brush will prevent the build-up of residue. If you notice any blue or green discoloration it means that corrosion has started. For more info check out our guide on how to clean rust off your gun.
Cleaning your shotgun after a hunt, regardless of how often you shot and how long you were out, necessitates cleaning. Fingerprints, dirt, vegetation, fumes from the firing mechanism - everything wants to degrade your shotgun. Pay special attention to the area around the firing pins.
Cultivating good gun cleaning habits is part of responsible gun ownership. Once you have good gun cleaning habits, be sure to store your gun in a case or safe that keeps rust away.
Look for a case that is:
- Pressure locked
- O-ring sealed
- Contains desiccants
On the photo: D-Tap R2 pistol case
You can learn more about storage in our guide to preventing rust.
At UWK we're committed to helping gun owners get the most out of their firearms. We’re always happy to give you any advice, or hear your feedback. Get in touch and we’ll get back to you promptly.