The Best Ways to Clean Your Guns

The Best Ways to Clean Your Guns

Cleaning your firearm is a distinctly un-fun, but very necessary part of gun ownership.

That’s why knowing how to effectively clean your firearm is so important, but there isn’t just one way to do it. So, let’s talk about what your options are.

Traditional Cleaning Rods & Bore Snakes

Hunting rifle and ammunition with brushes for cleaning weapons lying on a camouflage backround.
Image by Dejan Ilic from Getty

Let’s start with the traditional method of gun cleaning. This method has been used for decades and is a proven method that works well. It’s not too difficult and should be an easy thing for any gun owner to do.

The first step of cleaning a gun is always to unload and strip the firearm. The process for doing this is different for every gun. You should know or learn how to strip the weapon you’re using and be able to do so easily.

Bore Brushing with a Rod or Bore Snake

Then you’ll want to use a bore brush to clean along the inside of the barrel with a solvent to remove powder residue and fouling from the inside of the barrel.

If you only need a shallow clean, you can also use a good bore snake instead of a brush. A bore snake is usually easier to use than a cleaning rod, but the cheap ones don’t clean as well as cleaning rods. You should still use a bore brush or patch for deep-cleaning every so often.

If you can, only run the brush or bore snake in the direction from the breech end to the muzzle. This protects the crown of the muzzle from damage that can affect your gun’s accuracy and makes sure all buildup is pushed away from the more difficult to clean parts in the action and trigger group. It also keeps from damaging your barrel, which is only designed for one way travel.

Clean Other Parts of the Gun

Gloved hands using a cotton swab to clean the inside of a 22 gun chamber
Image by wingedwolf from Getty

Now set the barrel aside for a minute to let the solvent sit and do some of the hard work for you. Meanwhile, it’s time for you to tackle the rest of the internal parts of your gun.

Start by using a soft, clean rag, like a cut-up old tee shirt or a microfiber cloth to rub the surface of the rest of the parts of your gun to remove any loose gunk. Use cotton swabs and a soft toothbrush to get into any nooks and crannies.

Once you’ve removed the surface build-up, apply a little bit of solvent to areas that are still dirty and wipe again with clean rags and cotton swabs.

Now that all the gunk has been loosened up, run the brush through the barrel about two to four more times to make sure you get everything. If you need to apply more solvent to get anything particularly stubborn, go ahead and do so, but avoid over-applying.

Too much solvent can cause corrosion, or just leave your gun more prone to holding on to carbon fouling in the long run, making your next cleaning that much more difficult.

Use Cleaning Patches to Remove Leftover Solvent and Add Protective Oil

Pistol disassembled for cleaning
Image by glxedwards from Getty

Put a clean patch onto your cleaning rod and run it through the barrel, then repeat this process with a fresh patch each time until the patch comes out clean.

Run one more patch, this time with a little bit of oil, through the barrel.

Use a bit of lubricant on a cotton swab to lightly oil any part of the gun where things move, including springs, slide rails, bolt lugs, etc. Avoid getting too much lube into the action of the gun, and wipe down anything that’s not on a wear surface very well.

Reassembly and Surface Treatment

Once everything is cleaned and oiled, you can reassemble the gun and do a safety check. If everything’s in working order, you can finish up your cleaning session with a quick external clean.

Use a solvent on a clean rag or patch and a cotton swab to wipe down the exterior metal parts of the gun, then use one last clean rag or patch to remove excess solvent. Avoid applying solvent to wood stocks and make sure to wipe them when finished to remove any stray solvent that made its way onto the stock.

Finish up with a little protectant on the exterior of your firearm to avoid corrosion. If you have a wood stock, maybe apply a light coat of wax.

This may seem like a lot, but once you’ve got it down, it only takes about five minutes or less from start to finish.

Ultrasonic Cleaner

Gun on a gray background.
Image by robertprzybysz from Getty

Ultrasonic cleaners offer a more high tech solution for gun cleaning. They require less work on your part, but they also take longer and are more expensive than traditional cleaning supplies.

For long guns, you also still need to clean the barrel by hand, since they won’t fit in the machine. They can also damage soft polymer or rubberized parts unless you have a cleaning solution specific to your material.

Each ultrasonic cleaner works a little differently and comes with unique instructions. In general, though, you’ll need to start by plugging the machine in, preparing the cleaning solution, and fill the tank. Most have heaters, so you can use the time while the solution heats to field strip your gun.

Once the solution is ready, just place the pieces that can go into the machine into the solution and wait for however long the manufacturer says, usually between 15 and 30 minutes.

Once time’s up, remove the parts. If they’re still dirty, you can spot clean by hand or run them through the machine again.

Once clean, you need to either hand lubricate the gun or use the machine with a lubricating solution according to the instructions. Finish up by reassembling the weapon and doing a safety check. The solution can’t be reused, so you’ll have to be ready to dispose of it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Parting Shots

Cleaning your guns is always a bit of a chore, but it doesn’t have to be one you dread. With a little knowledge and the right gear, cleaning and maintaining your firearms can be a breeze.

What do you think of these gun cleaning methods? Got any tips you want to share about the way you do things? Let us know in the comments!

The best ways to clean your guns


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