According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 32% of Americans own a gun.
Gun ownership is a responsibility and an investment. Protecting yourself, your family, and your investment means taking proper care of your gun. This includes cleaning your gun regularly.
Find out how to properly clean a gun in this helpful guide.
Why Do Guns Need Cleaning?
Each time you fire a gun, you set off a tiny explosion in its chamber. This explosion produces sediment and residue, which remains in the gun’s barrel.
Cleaning the gun removes this debris and keeps the gun functioning properly. Cleaning the gun also provides an opportunity to inspect the weapon for wear and tear, defects, and malfunctions.
These precautions are essential to safe gun ownership and handling. Accidental gun deaths are relatively rare, but the fact that they are preventable makes them all the more tragic. In 2017, 486 people died in gun accidents, including those caused by gun malfunctions.
Proper firearm cleaning is a practical and essential step that you, as a responsible gun owner, can take to reduce this number.
Experts recommend cleaning your gun at least every time you fire it. If you own more than one gun, it’s wise to clean old, unused guns periodically, as well. Since you’ll already have the supplies out, it can be a good idea to do this when you’re working on a gun you’ve recently fired.
How to Properly Clean a Gun
The actual process of cleaning a gun involves several smaller steps, but you should think of the entire job as a three-part task. In fact, gun maintenance involves preparation, cleaning, and storage.
In total, you should anticipate spending 20 to 30 minutes to clean your weapon properly.
How to Clean a Gun, Part 1: Preparation
Preparing to clean your gun involves gathering the necessary supplies and finding a good work area. It also means unloading and disassembling your firearm.
Before you clean your gun, you need to gather your supplies. Some retailers sell pre-assembled gun cleaning sets. You can also gather the supplies yourself.
To clean a gun, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Gun cleaning solvent
- Gun oil or another lubricant
- Bore brush
- Nylon cleaning brush
- Patch holder
- Cotton patches
- Cleaning rod
- Cotton swabs
- A luster cloth or microfiber polishing cloth
Of all the necessary gun cleaning supplies, the solvent is among the most important. The solvent is responsible for removing powder residue, carbon, salts, acids, and other harmful debris.
It’s important, therefore, to choose your solvent carefully. Click to learn more about choosing a high-quality gun cleaning solvent.
Finding a Good Work Area
A good work area for gun maintenance is well-lit and well-ventilated. Fumes from gun solvents are noxious, and they can make you sick.
Gun cleaning products, like solvents and oils, can also damage your work surface and the floor beneath it. So it’s a good idea to cover the area with newspaper, plastic, or old towels.
Unload and Disassemble Your Gun
Cleaning a gun safely requires unloading the gun before you begin. First, remove the magazine. Even after this step, though, a round could remain ready to fire. So you also need to open the chamber and look through the entire length of the barrel for any loose rounds.
Once your gun is unloaded, it’s time to disassemble it. This means different things depending on the type of gun and its manufacturer.
Some guns, like shotguns and revolvers, won’t need to be disassembled at all. Rather, you’ll just open the chamber.
However, rifles and semi-automatic pistols usually need to be broken down, or stripped, into their main parts. One of these is the magazine, which you should have already removed. Other parts include the slide, barrel, frame, and guide rod.
The most important guidelines to follow when stripping a gun are the manufacturer’s. Consult the owner’s manual to find out how to disassemble your firearm properly. Don’t take your gun apart any further than these guidelines recommend.
How to Clean a Gun, Part 2: Cleaning
Now you’re ready to clean the gun. This involves several smaller steps.
Clean the Barrel
The inside of the barrel, or the bore, is the part of the gun that gathers much of the residue produced with each firing. You’ll use the cleaning rod, patches, and solvent to remove this residue. You’ll also use a bore brush to scrub the inside of the barrel clean.
Begin by attaching the right size cotton patch to the patch holder. Apply solvent to the patch, and use the cleaning rod to insert it into the bore. If possible, work from the back of the barrel. If you must work from the front, use a muzzle guard to protect the muzzle from contact with the rod.
Whether you work from front to back or back to front, push the patch all the way through the bore. Then remove the soiled patch at the opposite end. Do not pull it back through the barrel. Doing so would simply recontaminate the bore.
After soaking the bore, remove the patch holder and attach the bore brush. Run it back and forth along the bore a few times to loosen debris.
Then reattach the patch holder and run a solvent-soaked patch through the bore once more. Repeat this process—alternating patches and the bore brush—until the final patch comes out clean.
When you think you’ve achieved a clean barrel, run one last dry patch through the bore to check for any residue that you missed.
Lubricate the Barrel
Next, attach the cotton mop to the rod. Put a few drops of gun oil or another firearm lubricant on the mop. Then push it through the bore. This will leave a thin coating of oil on the inside of the barrel.
Clean the Action
The action is the part of the gun that loads and fires the ammunition. It also ejects the spent cartridge. This mechanism can become clogged with residue.
To remove this debris, use the gun brush and solvent to scrub the action. Then wipe the action with a clean and dry cloth.
Lubricate the Action
As you did with the barrel, you need to lubricate the action. Take care, in this process, to avoid applying too thick a layer of lubricant. A thick layer attracts more debris, making the gun more difficult to clean and vulnerable to malfunction.
Polish the Gun
The final step of cleaning a firearm involves polishing the gun. For this, you’ll use the luster cloth to wipe down the entire exterior.
A luster cloth is a special piece of flannel that’s been treated with silicon. If you don’t have a luster cloth, you can also use a microfiber cloth. In a pinch, even old t-shirts and socks can work.
How to Clean a Gun, Part 3: Storage
There’s little sense in learning how to clean a firearm properly if you’re not also going to store it properly. The last step of gun maintenance involves safe storage.
Safely storing a gun means protecting the gun and protecting the people who might come in contact with it.
First, this means keeping stored guns unloaded. It also means storing guns and ammunition in separate locked or otherwise inaccessible locations.
Locking gun cabinets and safes can keep firearms out of the wrong hands. The wrong hands could include children or any member of your household who is not educated on proper gun handling.
Trigger locks and locking cases provide an extra layer of protection against accidental shootings.
Where, though, should you put your gun cabinets or cases? How can you balance safety and access? And what is the best environment to store a gun?
If you own a gun for protection, you’ll need to keep the gun away from children, but you’ll also need to keep it within easy reach. In the event of a home invasion, seconds matter. Guns stored in hard-to-reach locations, like the top of a bookshelf, are inaccessible to children. For you and other trained adults, though, they are accessible within seconds.
As you look for hard-to-reach but convenient storage locations for your firearm, you’ll need to keep a final consideration in mind: the environment. When it comes to gun storage, temperature and humidity matter.
Preserving the life of your gun means storing it indoors, away from the elements and extreme temperatures. The best place to store a gun is always a cool and dry location.
Aiming for Safety with Proper Gun Maintenance
Almost a third of Americans exercise the right to own a gun. Maybe you’re among them. Or maybe you’re thinking about purchasing a firearm. Either way, you know that gun ownership is a right and a responsibility.
Responsible gun ownership involves maintaining your weapon. Proper gun maintenance, in turn, requires regular cleanings and safe storage.
Now that you know how to properly clean a gun, you can exercise your rights responsibly and safely.
The connection between rights, responsibility, and the right information is fundamentally American. Count on our blog to help you make this connection in all aspects of life.