How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

how often clean your gun

We all know that firearms require maintenance and cleaning, but how often should you clean your firearms?

Some insist that gun cleaning should occur every time one is fired, as well as every few months — whether they’ve been used or not.

Others insist that it is fine to leave your rifle or pistol uncleaned even after multiple trips to the range.

Who’s right? The answer depends on the type of firearm, what it is primarily used for, and what ammunition and/or elements it has been exposed to.

When Gun Cleaning Is a Good Idea

There are some times when you should clean your gun every time immediately after use.

If you are shooting corrosive ammunition, or if the firearm is exposed to water, moisture or other damaging elements, you should always clean your gun as soon as possible.

Corrosive ammunition, water, salts, dust and dirt can all lead to rust, corrosion, excess wear and tear and eventually the early failure of the rifle or pistol.

For example, last week I went out hunting with my trusty Remington 700 in 30-06. It’s not a fancy rifle; it has a synthetic stock and factory blued barrel topped with a Nikon ProStaff 4-12x40mm scope.

The weather was cold and damp, and I didn’t see any of the wild hogs I was hunting for, but it was rainy and drizzling lightly off and on so, even though I didn’t fire a shot, I still cleaned my rifle when I got home.

Why? Moisture in the barrel could lead to pitting and premature barrel wear. I also made sure to run a lightly oiled cloth between the barrel and the stock bed to clear out any trapped moisture or dirt and oil the barrel in that area as well.

“But,” you say, “I’ve got a stainless steel barrel and receiver. I don’t need to worry about moisture.” To a certain extent, that is true.

Stainless steel components do help slow down corrosion and the effects of the elements that cause it, but such parts are more susceptible to excess wear from dirt, dust and fouling.

Stainless steel is softer than other steel used in firearms and as such can experience faster wear.

gun cleaning kit leapers
The 8.6-ounce Leapers Cleaning Kit replaces conventional hefty weight cleaning gear.

Different Gun Cleaning Techniques for Different Guns

If you’ve got a gun that is only used for plinking, target clays, or punching holes in paper, it’s probably OK to let a few months and 3-4 trips to the range lapse before doing an in-depth cleaning.

You should still be aware that semi-automatics and rimfire firearms may begin to show performance and reliability issues with excessive fouling.

My Walther G22, my favorite semi-automatic plinker, tends to run fine for about 500 rounds before it begins to have problems cycling dirty .22 rimfire ammunition.

Because of this, I like to keep a bore snake, some CLP and a brush in my range bag to give the action a quick once-over should it start to hiccup.

Even so, it sometimes makes it through a couple of bricks of Federal .22 LR before it sees a good scrubbing.

On the other hand, if you’re shooting a match gun or a firearm that is relied upon for personal defense, you should always keep it clean, oiled, and ready to go.

As mentioned above, fouling, dirt and dust can cause reliability issues in semiautomatic firearms. Any primary defensive firearm should, in this writer’s opinion, be kept clean and well oiled at all times.

Revolvers are not immune to fouling either: carbon build up on the cylinder can make a double-action trigger nearly impossible to pull as the cylinder gap becomes clogged.

For match guns, most semiautomatics run more accurately and more reliably when clean. Bolt-action rifles, on the other hand, often require a fouling shot for the best consistency out of a cold bore.

For this reason, it is sometimes easier to clean these rifles at the range where you can then fire a fouling shot (from non-corrosive ammunition) so that the bore is ready to go.

Some ranges won’t allow you to clean a gun at the range, and that’s fine. You can clean it at home and store it without a fouling shot; just remember that your bore will need a fouling shot to prep the bore prior to competition.

gun cleaning gear remington cleaner
Keep your firearms in good working order with the Remington combo package.

The Big Gun Cleaning Question: How Often?

Depending on how often they are used, all firearms should periodically undergo a professional detailed cleaning where the firearm is torn down and thoroughly cleaned, oiled and reassembled.

How often this is necessary depends on the number of rounds fired through the gun and the role it typically is used for, but I like to detail strip and clean all of my firearms at least once a year regardless of whether or not they ever made it out of the gun safe at all.

On firearms that are just being stored in a safe, ambient moisture in the air and humidity can cause some small rust spots to show up.

Desiccants such as Hyskore drying silica gel will help reduce the humidity in your safe and cut down on rust caused by this moisture in the air.

An annual cleaning not only makes sure that all of your guns are clean and stored properly, but also gives you the chance to inspect each firearm for problems that you may not normally notice.

While you’ve got the gun broken down, look for cracks, rust and corrosion, erosion or other signs that a part may need replacing.

More than once while detail stripping my firearms I’ve found pins, springs, and other small parts that were wearing and could soon fail. By replacing them early, an unexpected failure was prevented.

Final note: always make sure to wear the proper safety gear when cleaning your firearms, and always clean in a well lit and well-ventilated area.

Some chemicals and solvents are dangerous and have fumes that can be unsafe to breathe. Proper eye protection, gloves and a respirator are always recommended when working with gun cleaning chemicals.

How often do you clean your gun? What do you use to clean it? Let us know in the comments below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. I clean my guns after every time I shoot them. And I do a rust inspiration every two weeks just to stay ahead of things. And I do a function test on them.

  2. Each week I clean my firearm carefully and every month I clean my arm either I use or not. Occasionally after every use I cleaned my Firearm.
    By the I enjoy the article. Thanks

  3. I just recently purchased an 9mm. I’ve taken it to the range once just to break it in. How often should I clean it?

  4. I have an S & W .40 handgun, and my hubby says NOT to run the wire brush through the barrell too often, as it will wear it out… this true?

    1. Yeah, it will wear out the brush. The hardness of the barrel is MUCH harder than the brush material. What you’d do is.. if you went SUPER crazy.. leave behind brass or aluminum fragments that will just get blasted out anyway.
      Don’t sweat it.

  5. How can I add to what Eloy said? Sometimes you read a comment that just nails it, and that was certainly done here. Bravo!!

  6. I’m really stunned, whenever just after looking for a entire although, I found the report. Thank you pertaining to revealing the feeling and make within the great work.

  7. I’ve come to the routine of cleaning actions after every use and making sure bolts, carriers, locking lugs and trigger groups are clean and well lubricated, but I’ve started holding off bore cleaning until a given round count. I’m getting better accuracy and better velocity following this program than ever before! Most of my rifle use is varmint/ predator and target shooting. Prior to ging this cleaning routine, my best groups were ~.75″ (from 100 yds in my .308) and now they are down to .5″ groups.

  8. I also clean my firearm after every use and once a month if it has not been used. The main reason that I do this is because I love my firearm and enjoy cleaning it!

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