Gun Cleaning and Routine Home Gun Maintenance

Prolong the life and performance of your guns, and save yourself some money, by keeping up with gun cleaning and routine gun maintenance.

  • Whether it’s a handgun for protecting livestock or a shotgun for hunting pheasant, maintenance is a must.
    Photo by Ron McKibban
  • Quarter-inch hex drive screwdriver bits. These are from Brownells.
    Photo courtesy American Gunsmithing Institute
  • The Otis Technology "3 Gun Competition" pull-through cleaning system.
    Photo courtesy American Gunsmithing Institute
  • Dewey Brass Muzzle Guard, available for .22 caliber and .27 and up cleaning rods. Protects that all important muzzle crown.
    Photo courtesy American Gunsmithing Institute
  • Tools of the gun cleaning trade include various lubricants and cleaners, as well as specific cleaning devices that suit various gun types. Make sure you have the correct equipment before digging in.
    Photo by Fotolia/Willee Cole
  • Lube, degreaser and bore cleaner combo from Slip 2000.
    Photo courtesy American Gunsmithing Institute
  • Gritty is no stranger to the old Hoppe's No. 9.
    Photo by Brad Anderson
  • Whether shotgun or rifle, knowing how to correctly disassemble your gun is one step toward thorough cleaning.
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • Single shot models may kick like a mule, but they are easy to clean and teach a lesson in accuracy.
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • When pushing a cleaning cloth through the barrel, a typical mistake is to push it back and forth, bringing dirt and gunpowder back through the barrel.
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • When cleaning rifles and shotguns, protect your firearm’s accuracy by cleaning from the breech to the muzzle whenever possible.
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • With plenty of oil involved, your workspace needs to be well-ventilated. Newspapers spread on the workbench work well for gun cleaning.
    Photo by Ron McKibban
  • Take the time beforehand to know the parts of your gun. Figuring out how to reassemble a spring that popped out can be a frustrating and scary task.
    Photo by Ron McKibban

The phrase “home gunsmithing” conjures up pictures of a guy in knee breeches tending a forge and hammering out a rifle barrel from white hot strips of steel. What it actually entails more often is simply the task of maintaining existing firearms and keeping them up and running safely. Though the concept may sound daunting to many, if you possess average do-it-yourself skills and have an eye for detail, there’s really nothing to hold you back. 

Gun-cleaning supplies

For any basic gun maintenance, you are going to need some basic gun-cleaning items. You can go to your local hardware or sporting goods seller and buy a gun cleaning kit, which will come with some copper and/or bronze bore brushes for the heavy duty removal of fouling from the barrel, a small container of bore cleaner, lubricating oil of some kind, a jag or loop to push the cloth patches through the bore, an inexpensive aluminum cleaning rod with multiple sections, grease of some sort, and maybe a toothbrush-style cleaning brush.

The rods, bore brushes, loops, jags and patches come in sizes that match the caliber of your barrel; make sure what you buy matches your firearm. One-piece rods are preferred because they don’t have misaligned joints that will scratch and damage the bore of your barrels. I prefer the plastic-coated ones, although there is a school of thought that says uncoated steel is better.

Always clean the bore from the breech (chamber) end whenever possible. Cleaning from the muzzle will damage the crown and is one of the fastest ways to ruin accuracy. If you must clean from the muzzle because you can’t clean from the breech due to the design of the firearm (pumps and semiautomatics mainly), you can use a pull-through cleaning kit like those from Otis Technologies, or a muzzle protector such as the Pro Shot Muzzle Guards from Brownells.

Stop by your local discount tool seller and get a package of three toothbrush style cleaning brushes in nylon, brass/copper, and stainless steel. Generally avoid using the steel bristle ones, as they will scratch the metal and take the finish off your gun.

You will occasionally need to tighten or remove a screw from your gun. DO NOT grab your handy Stanley mechanics screwdriver and have at it. Gun screws have narrow slots and nothing screams mistreatment by a gun butcher like marred screw heads and stripped slots.

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