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How to Properly Clean a Shotgun

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For bird hunters the shotgun is the most essential tool.

You might have a particular gun you prefer for bird hunting, but we all agree that having a gun that we love is something we can treasure for a lifetime. There is nothing like that feeling of hitting the field or woods for the first time each year and hitting the mark on a flushed bird.

To make sure that perfect shot occurs each time there is a little maintenance work to be done. Shotguns can become worn over time without proper. In today’s busy world it’s easy to come home and forget about the cleaning process after a hunt. 

We’re all busy with life and all the requirements of each day, but taking just a few minutes after every hunt and every shoot to clean your shotgun will ensure that your favorite gun will last a lifetime.

You won’t want to miss out on those birds this season and you don’t want your favorite gun to rust or corrode. 

Here are the basic steps for cleaning your shotgun.

Basic Overview

Cleaning a shotgun is a very basic process. There are different variations of cleaning a gun and also different techniques for cleaning particular guns.

Some people have slightly different ways to clean shotguns, rifles and pistols. There are different requirements for cleaning different actions of shotguns. For the most part there are only a few slight variations and for this article we’re going to focus on the basic steps for cleaning any type of shotgun you might have at you ready for use on your bird hunts.

Required Materials

There are different materials you can get for cleaning your gun. The basics include these items listed here:

  • Gun oil
  • Dry rag for moisture
  • Dry rag for oil application
  • Bore snake or similar barrel cleaning device
  • Chamber brush
  • Bore brush
A few notes.

First, oil is important. The oil you use will clean dirt and moisture off your gun. A common oil to apply is basic gun oil. Many people call this Rem Oil because Remington has created some of the most popular gun oil for decades.

There is also lubricant oil, which you’ll likely want to get, but don’t necessarily need to purchase. The lubricant can keep your action working and it does help over time to keep your gun operating well.

Remove Moisture

The first step in the process is to remove any moisture from the shotgun. When we’re out in the field or in the woods there is almost always the chance of getting some kind of moisture on your gun. You will find it inside the barrel, outside the barrel, in the action and in all the other little nooks and crevices on your shotgun. 

Take a dry rag or paper towel and give your gun a good once over and check it twice to make sure you get off all the moisture. There is nothing more harmful to a gun over time than overexposure to moisture. If you leave moisture on your gun for a period of time you risk having your gun rust and corrode.

It’s best to give your gun a good wipe while it’s intact, but at this point you’ll want to take off the various sections of the gun including the barrel, stock and action. Now you can really dig into those crevices to get out all the moisture. This will also help you with the remaining steps.

Wipe All Parts with a Cleaning Oil

Once the shotgun is free of moisture it’s time to apply basic cleaning oil to the visible areas. Take a new, dry rag or paper towel. Apply your oil to the rag and start wiping down every area of the shotgun. You want to make sure you rub every area you can with your hands. Spend a little time on each area. You want to make sure you’re removing any remaining dirt and grime from the gun.

For this step you can use the basic cleaning oil or the Rem Oil that is popular.

Rub Chamber and Bore with Caliber Brushes

Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into the shotgun.

The basic way to clean the chamber and the bore of the shotgun is to take cleaning rod from any cleaning kit. It’s good to have an all encompassing kit for all your guns. You should have all the different caliber brushes to make sure your guns are all taken care of when you’re cleaning.

Grab the proper brush for your shotgun add some oil to a cloth and run it through a few times. Make sure you get the bore and the bore. They should be slightly different sizes.

At this stage you’re looking to remove the surface dust and grime.

Once you have done this it’s time to get the really difficult residue. Grab the brass brush from your kit and spray it with a little oil. Then run the brush through the barrel a few times. If you have threads on the barrel for the choke make sure to spend a little extra time on those to make sure it’s clean.

Next you’ll want to take off the brush from your rod and attach a holder for a cleaning pad or a paper towel. Basically you just want to spray the rag down with some cleaning oil and run it through the barrel a couple times to clean out the residue that the brush knocked loose.

Check inside the barrel best you can to make sure it’s looking clean.

Another way to do this is with a bore snake. Some prefer the bore snake because it can save some time. It’s a really good tool and if using it makes you clean your guns more often then by all means get one and start using it.

Basically a bore snake is all the tools above in one. You don’t have your rods and all the other items are connected to a rope-like device. You have your brush that goes through first followed by the pads and cleaning rag. All are wiped down with oil and even a little lubricant. You just run the snake through once or a couple times and you’re all set.

How Often to Clean Your Gun

This question comes up sometimes and it really does vary. A good gun owner will clean their gun after every use and before using if the gun has been sitting for a long time. Most people look at guns as a lifetime investment. The only way to make sure your gun is ready for hunting each year is to clean it when you put it away and clean it after it’s been sitting for a long time.

Remember, moisture is the number one enemy of a shotgun. Even if the gun is sitting in the case in your closet or cabinet at home it can still get moisture on it. If you’re haven’t used the gun since last season make sure to give it a good look over and cleaning so it’s ready for use.

Those are the basic rules to follow when cleaning your gun.

A couple last tips.

Don’t go overboard with the oil on the stock. You can use some oil on the stock to keep it looking good and in most cases the oil can protect the stock, but don’t use too much. A quick spray on a rag and a quick wipe will do you just fine. Most people just leave the stock alone with the oil. It’s made for metal so it can be good to avoid using it on the wood stock.

Make sure to check every area of your gun. The barrel is the most common area for grime and residue, but also check the action and the trigger system. You want to make sure everything is operating effectively and smoothly. You don’t want any surprises out in the field.

Finally, teach your kids how to clean their guns properly. It’s all part of the hunting experience. There is the enjoyment of being out in the field chasing birds, but it can be just as enjoyable to clean the guns with your fellow hunters when the day is done.

Hopefully this helps. 

Happy hunting!

Image Credit: GregPC