Cleaning your firearms equipment may not be at the top of your summer bucket list, but it is extremely important to do maintenance during the summer months. Depending on your firearms storage, humidity may cause gunmetal to rust.
Routine maintenance familiarizes you with your firearm so you have more confidence in its performance at the range or in the field, and preserves functionality and value. Cleaning your firearm is a simple, efficient process if you follow key steps from the NRA.
- Choose a work area that is well-ventilated, well-lit, organized and clean. Outdoors or in a garage is best. If you must work indoors, choose a large indoor room, and try to work near an open window.
- Remove all ammunition from the area. If the gun has extra magazines, ensure they’re empty as well.
- Locate the owner’s manual from the manufacturer. It should explain how to disassemble the firearm for cleaning.
There are a variety of specialized tools to ensure safe, efficient maintenance.
- Non-slip rubber mat
- Protect both the parts and the workbench from damage.
- Cleaning cradle
- Keep your firearm under control and leave hands free to control loose parts and cleaning equipment. A shooting rest for sighting-in or varmint shooting also works. Your bench vise may look tempting but leave it alone. Too much pressure from the vise can crack the stock or even crush the receiver.
- Old cookie tin or coffee can
- A container keeps loose parts in one place to avoid getting lost or separated. You might want two: one for dirty parts waiting to be cleaned, and a second for parts that have already been cleaned.
- Cleaning rod
- Bore brush
- These are sized to the diameter bore and will only thread onto a cleaning rod of the proper diameter. Choose from nylon, bronze or steel bristles. Steel brushes are more rigid and abrasive and should be reserved for the toughest jobs. Nylon is the gentlest material but requires more manual labor to clean a bore. In my experience, bronze brushes are the right choice for most cleaning jobs.
Note: Some barrels are permanently attached to the receiver, which leaves no choice but to clean the bore from the muzzle end. In that case, use a bore guide (a sleeve that protects the muzzle), or a bore snake, rather than a rigid cleaning rod.
Follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Loosen the fouling.
Use bore solvents, wet patches, and a cleaning rod to loosen the fouling.
When choosing the correct solvent for your firearm:
- Copper solvent: Jacketed or copper-plated bullets
- Lead solvent: Unjacketed lead
Spear a cotton or nylon patch on a jag or thread it through a loop before wetting with solvent. Push the patch all the way through the bore in one smooth motion.
Note: Don’t scrub, change direction, or pull the dirty patch back through the bore. Always remove the dirty patch from the rod when it exits the bore. Repeat three times before your next step.
Step 2: Clean with a bore brush.
Following the initial loosening of fouling, thread the bore brush to the cleaning rod and wet the bore brush with solvent. Push the rod through in one smooth stroke and remove the brush after it exits the bore. Repeat 10-12 times. Run three more wet patches through the bore to pick up the fouling loosened by the bore brush.
Step 3: Wipe down the cleaning rod and finish with dry patches.
Each successive dry patch should come out of the bore cleaner than the last. If you don’t see visible improvement after five to seven dry patches, repeat the process—starting with the wet patches—from the beginning.
Step 4: Dry or prepare the firearm for storage.
If you plan to shoot the same day, leave the bore out to air dry. However, if you plan to store the gun overnight or for a longer period of time, you will need to protect the bore from rust. Run a patch soaked with oil down the bore.
Note: Oil in the bore can create excessive pressure, a dangerous condition. Swab out before you shoot again, so get in the habit of running a dry patch down the bore before you take your gun to the range or the field.
Step 5: Clean the remaining parts of the firearm.
Old toothbrushes, rags, and cotton swabs are all useful aids for cleaning the rest of the gun. A general-purpose cleaner like Break Free or a carbon solvent will help loosen built-up powder fouling in the action.
Step 6: Reassemble the firearm as soon as possible.
The longer the gun is left disassembled, the greater chance parts will get lost or broken.
Step 7: Ensure all parts work properly.
Check the safety and trigger for proper function. Once everything is in working order, lightly coat exterior metal surfaces with oil. Be aware that gun oil can soften the wood, so don’t soak the joints between the action and the stock.
Note: Body oil from hands can contribute to rust, so be careful not to over-handle the firearm before storage.