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
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,"
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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
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.