New Year New Gun: Care & Maintenance

The Elements Can Ruin a Neglected Gun

In our first post in this series we discussed new gun ownership basics. In this post we’ll talk about care and maintenance. Were you one of the lucky ones who got a new gun from Santa? Was it your first step into the firearms world? One of the most common questions we field about firearms involves the basic care and maintenance of whatever firearm is in question. Do I have to clean it every time I shoot it? Should I store it in a case? How much oil should I use? Luckily, for most of us modern firearms are fairly resilient. Leaving it a sock won’t ruin it, and you don’t have to store it in a bucket of oil to keep the rust away.

We have plenty of articles on the specifics of cleaning different types of firearms, but with the exception of black powder, you clean most of your firearms with basically the same method. I am rare breed in that I actually enjoy cleaning my firearms after a long day at the range. While I won’t say that it is feasible to spend a great deal of time doing this chore, it is important to keep your guns in a clean, safe working condition. Some gun owners almost never clean their weapons, and it shows.

If you are new to firearms, here are some gun cleaning terms that may help you along the way:

  • Muzzle: The part of a firearm at the end of the barrel from which the projectile exits.
  • Bore: The inside surface of a firearm’s barrel.
  • Rifling: Spiral grooves cut into the inside of a barrel that imparts a rapid spin to the single projectile, gyroscopically stabilizing it in flight for greatly improved accuracy over that of a smoothbore gun.
  • Chamber: An area at the breech end of a barrel, of about the diameter of the cartridge for which the gun was intended, and into which the cartridge is inserted.

The first step is to unload your gun. Once you’ve made sure your gun is unloaded, check again. Remove the magazine or open the action or cylinder and visually check to make sure there are no cartridges in your firearm. Make sure you don’t skip this step. Everyone says they are safe with their firearms, but many people are hurt or killed every year from mishandling their firearms while cleaning.

To protect the rifling in your barrel, it is usually a better idea to clean from the chamber end of your weapon toward the muzzle. Cleaning outward toward the end of your barrel protects the muzzle from the cleaning rod and keeps debris out of your chamber. This is especially important with semi-automatic firearms. You may have to remove the bolt or the action in order to accomplish this. Always follow all manufacturer procedures when field stripping your weapon.

Saturate a cleaning pad with gun solvent and push it down the barrel until you see the patch poke out the muzzle. Remove this first patch and toss it, since it contains much of the grime from the barrel. Run a second saturated patch through and let the solvent sit in the barrel for a few minutes. Grab a properly sized bore brush and run it up and down the inside of the barrel about 10-12 times. Once you finish, use a dry patch to dry out the bore. Continue drying with new patches, until one comes out clean. Put a small amount of oil on a patch and run it along the inside of the bore, but make sure to use a dry patch to remove any excess oil before you fire the weapon again.

A Gun Cleaning Brush or Old Toothbrush Can Help
A Gun Cleaning Brush or Old Toothbrush Can Help

You can clean the action of the firearm with an old toothbrush and cotton swabs. Use a gun cleaning spray for this step. Some guys will use carburetor or brake cleaner, but I would be cautious to not get any of that on your wooden or plastic stocks. Take a silicon cloth and wipe down the outside of your gun. Fingerprints can cause rust, therefore remove any prints along with any excess oil with your rag.

When your firearm is clean and free of marks, put them away for storage. A quality gun safe is always the best place for your weapons. What some forget however is to use some silica gel packs to keep moisture away from your firearms. If you don’t have children and keep guns in your closets or under your bed, the silica rule still applies.

Keeping your guns maintained is not difficult since manufacturers make these tools to last. There is no reason why a properly maintained firearm would not last many lifetimes. Just remember to teach your kids proper maintenance and safety that everyone should observe around all firearms.

Next, we’ll talk about your first day at the range.

How do you keep your gun cared for and maintained? Let us know in the comments section 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 (5)

  1. My dad was a firearms dealer so I was raised to keep all my guns clean and lightly oiled. I clean my firearms after every use, even if I’ve only fired a few rounds. I may also do a lite cleaning and oiling if a firearm has sit idle for a while. It’s much easier to remove a little dust and lightly oil a firearm then need to remove rust later. For me, cleaning my firearms is just as relaxing as gardening.

  2. I even have an almost brand new Thompson Center New Englander .50 cal rifle that was given to me by my Husband’nLaw, 25 years ago, along with a big box of Pyrodex, round and Maxi-balls, caps, pre-loaders, cleaning supplies, owners manual, everything you’d need or want. Never fired it. Not once. Man, I hate cleaning guns.

  3. A very good report on an important part of gun ownership. Cleaning. I would’ve liked to see something on what actually happens to the metal when you tell yourself, “Oh, it will be alright for awhile,” and later on it’s forgotten. How the acids from the powder and lead will eat pits in the barrel, etc. and making it even more difficult to clean. How you can physically check the barrel for deterioration by eyeballing the bore using a small mirror or thumbnail, and maybe how to revitalize a forgotten gun, in the case of purchasing a used gun or a classic someone else had forgotten to care for. What to look for when buying a used gun… Maybe enough here for a separate report? All considered, a good report. Thanks

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.