How Often Should Firearms Be Cleaned?

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It seems that after the hunting seasons, when guns may not be used again for eight or ten months, is often the only time that hunters give much thought to gun maintenance. Thus, that is the time when Game, Fish and Parks officials are often asked, "how often should I clean my firearms?" Well, Game, Fish and Parks officials? answer is always the same; "it depends".

Hunting Safety Coordinator Bill Shattuck said firearms cleaning necessity depends on an almost endless number of factors, including how the gun is used, in what weather conditions, how many shots are fired, the make and model of gun, how thoroughly it was last cleaned and when will it likely be used again. "In a nutshell, firearms require a certain level of maintenance and cleaning to keep them functioning the way they are designed to function," he said.

Based on gun type and use, Shattuck give a few suggestions on how often to clean your firearm:

  • For a muzzleloader, the best answer is probably every time you use it and as thoroughly as time and equipment permits.
  • If you hunted upland game for a few hours on a nice day and fired your modern shotgun two or three times, a quick wipe down with an oily cloth is probably enough.
  • A waterfowl hunter who spends the day on a snowy or rainy marsh, or worse yet, in a dusty goose pit, had better plan on a thorough dismantling and extensive cleaning if the gun is to function properly the next day or next year.
  • Shotgun barrels don?t need much cleaning, although chambers can build up deposits of plastic, wax or assorted muck and cause malfunctions.
  • Centerfire rifle barrels need to be thoroughly cleaned now and again or copper fouling can affect the firearm?s accuracy.
  • The gas systems of gas-operated autoloaders must be reasonably clean for good functioning, and the trigger groups of most pumps and autoloaders pick up a lot of dirt and debris, both from the act of firing and places we hunt.
  • Getting at trigger groups for cleaning and lubrication is quick and easy on most guns. Simply drift out a couple of pins with a punch or similar tool.

The tools and materials needed for cleaning and lubricating need not be expensive or exotic either.

  • Get the best cleaning rods you can afford. The cheap ones bend, break and otherwise cause problems you will be happy to avoid. A soft cloth for wiping, some cloth patches, a selection of bronze brushes for the cleaning rods, powder solvent, some good gun oil and gun grease, any of several copper fouling removers if you will be cleaning high power rifles, a screwdriver or two, and you have the basics covered. Most people add a few additional tools such as the aforementioned drift punches and a toothbrush and a few cotton swabs are mighty useful.
  • The brands of solvents and lubricants you use are up to you. There are lots of good ones. All of the name brand copper-fouling removers work fine if you follow the instructions. Some are easier or work quicker than others. A few require extra care to avoid damage to some stock finishes, so read the directions carefully.
  • If you bought your guns new and were wise enough to keep the maintenance and operation manual that came with it, then you have access to some of the best advice around, right from the people who built your gun. If you don?t have the manual for your gun, contact the company. If the company is still in business, you can probably buy the manual you need for little more than the cost of postage and handling.
  • Unless you have skills that most of us do not, do not attempt to adjust or repair your guns yourself. Nearly every community has a competent gunsmith who has the know-how and tools necessary to make adjustments and repairs properly and safely. At best, do-it-yourself repairs can void warranties or affect the value of the gun. At worst, the gun may be a hazard to you or to others.

All in all, it depends how often, where, and under what condition you use your hunting firearms that determines the steps and frequency for cleaning. With reasonable care, most firearms will last a lifetime and then some, and other than well-earned battle scars, they can still look pretty good.


hunter25's picture

This is a good short article

This is a good short article on proper gun maintenance. I am surprised at how many guys either rarely clean thier guns or don't clean them properly using tools that can do more damage than good. My muzzleloader needs to be cleaned every time it is used as they tend to corode much quicker due to the powders used. My handguns I clean after every range session but that is due to that they may need to be used for self defense purposes. My hunting rifle on the other hand I clean after about every box of shells has been fired. I never hunt with a completely clean rifle as I prefer to have at least a couple of shots down the barrell to remove any oils that may cause that frst shot to stray a little. Most importantly to me is to get a good one piece rod and clean from the rear and keep that thing out of the muzzle end to as to not damage the crown.