Gun Cleaning and Maintenance

At the request of a reader and also a close friend of mine, we will be covering the topic of cleaning a gun and what you need to know. Cleaning and maintaining a firearm is one of those methods that transcend time by being passed down through generations. Everyone has their own method and everyone else’s is wrong.

I learned from my father who learned from his and that is how it works. However, you don’t have to follow one certain guideline to cleaning. You can tweak it to what works for you. You can try different oils, cleaners, brushes, etc. Most work well and accomplish the same goal.

Gun Cleaning and Maintenance
Photo by Cameron Schaefer

I will lay out what I do when it comes to cleaning my firearms.

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Cleaning Schedule


Gun CleaningAs I general rule, I briefly clean and oil my guns after every range trip. This will get the grit and grime out to keep them functioning.

After several range trips I will completely field strip and thoroughly clean my guns. This all depends on the firearms that you have and what you use it for. For instance, if you have a Glock or AK47 variant you don’t really need to clean them that often. It’s always a good practice to clean firearms, but some like these will fire while buried in sand after being dragged through the mud.

But if you have more “delicate” gun, you should keep up on maintenance, just like you would on a car. If you recreationally shoot for fun, then you can loosen up on the schedule, but if your gun is for home/self-defense, then you should be keeping that thing in tip-top condition. Proper cleaning and oiling will help prevent your gun from getting damaged and corroded, and will keep it functioning when you need it to for tens of thousands of rounds.

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Review the Manual


Now, before you start cleaning, it is important to review the owner’s manual that came with your gun. If you don’t have it, you can always find it online. This is important because every firearm is different with how they need to be maintained. They all have different oiling points and parts.

I can’t tell you where your gun needs to be oiled because it is different than mine. Once you know this, you can start cleaning! I will lay out the general cleaning steps. They will be applicable to most firearms.

Make sure you have all the supplies.

To properly maintain a gun, you will need the following:

1. Cleaner/solvent

Be careful with this. Some people use brake cleaner, which is ok, but it can take necessary oils out of the metal. I never use it on my old guns and I would not recommend that. When I use it on my newer ones, I will put extra oil to make sure the metal absorbs it. I would recommend using brake cleaner sparingly a few times a year for very deep cleans. All the other times, I just use Hoppes #9. It is a great solvent.

Gun Cleaning Oil
Photo by Cameron Schaefer

2. Lubricating oil

There are hundreds of gun oils on the market. They all pretty much do the same thing. Try them all. I use Corrosion X (the same stuff in our store). It is cheap and the bottles are pretty big.

3. Brass brushes of different sizes

I would recommend getting a cleaning kit. It will come with all different size brushes, rods, and cleaning patches.

4. Bore snack or rod

5. Cleaning patches

Recommended, but not required

  • Cotton Swabs
  • Toothbrush
  • Old T-shirt – I cut these up to make my own patches for free
  • Old rag
  • Towel or mat – Something to lay everything on

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Steps to cleaning your gun


  1. Unload, clear, and lock back the action.

This should speak for itself. Make sure the firearm is completely clear with the action locked back. Triple check it, just in case. Now, take the ammo and magazines and leave the room with them. Find a spot and leave them there and return your cleaning station. I NEVER keep ammunition in the same room when I clean firearms. Call me paranoid, but you’ll thank me later. Once you ensure that the firearm is clear, you may proceed.

  1. Remove and clean the bolt
Gun Cleaning 1
Photo by Cameron Schaefer

The first step is to take out the bolt. Once you have removed it, take your tooth brush or brass brush and apply the solvent to it. Scrub the bolt completely. Now rub the bolt with a patch or rag until there is no more black grit coming off of it. Wipe it dry.

Once it has dried of the solvent, you can take your lubricating oil and apply a couple drops to the bolt. Take a clean patch and cover the bolt with the oil. You want a nice thin layer of oil covering everything. No drips, just a nice even layer. Your bolt is clean and you can set it aside.

  1. Soaking the bore

Now that your bolt is clean and out of the firearm, you can clean the bore and barrel. Take your rod with a patch or bore snake and soak it in solvent. Insert it into the barrel from the breech side, not from the muzzle side. You want it to go with the rifling and not against it. Extended cleaning like that can wear down the rifling and hurt the accuracy of your firearm. Once you have coated the inside of the barrel and breech with solvent, let it sit for 10 minutes or so. This will let the solvent work into the fouling, lead, and other grit.

  1. Clean everything else

While you are waiting for the barrel to soak, you can go ahead and clean anything else that you feel needs to be cleaned. Take your brush with solvent and try to get in the crevasses and other places where stuff builds up like the chamber, magazine well, etc. Wipe everything down with a clean patch. If your gun manual calls for oil in any of these places, go ahead and do that as well.

  1. Cleaning the bore
gun cleaning steps
Photo by Cameron Schaefer

Now that the solvent has worked into the barrel, it is time to clean it out. Take your rod and brass brush and apply more solvent. Scrub the barrel with the brush. If you are paranoid, you can pull it through the muzzle side and re-insert it into the breach after every stroke. This is a judgment call for you to make. If you use your gun for protection or competitive shooting you should do this. If it is a plinker, then it’s up to you if you want to go against the rifling.

After you have scrubbed the barrel with the brass brush, take a patch soaked in solvent and run it through the barrel. Use a new one every time until the patch comes out clean and dry. This means that the barrel is completely clean. Let the barrel sit and dry for a minute.

  1. Apply the lubricating oil.

Now that everything is clean, take a patch and put a couple drops of oil on it. Run it through the barrel once or twice. All you need is a small thin layer to protect from corrosion. You can also go ahead and put oil on everything else that you haven’t already. Make sure that you oil all of the parts that the manual calls for as well. Guns don’t do well being drowned in oil because it starts to gum up and gets everything messy. Make sure all of the oil is wiped to a nice thin layer with no drips. If your gun has a lot of wooden furniture, you can put a layer over all of it to protect the finish. Wipe everything down and your gun is cleaned and ready to be stored or shot again!

Gun cleaning and maintenance is kind of an art. You won’t get it perfect the first time. You’ll miss some dirty areas and probably apply too much oil. That’s ok! It’s not going to hurt your gun and you will get better once you do it several times. Take this guide and tweak it if you want. Make it work for you and your guns. If you shoot them often, you will be able to tell which methods impact your gun’s performance, both positively and negatively.

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