Two firearms placed on a black mat with gun cleaning accessories surrounding them

How to Clean a Gun: Best Practices to Maintain Your Firearm

Knowing how to clean a gun helps you protect your investment in the new gun you found at a Midwest Arms Collector Gun Show or get your firearm ready for sale or trade when your local gun show returns. Gun maintenance is an important part of gun ownership that keeps your firearm clean, lubricated, and ready for action, but too many gun owners neglect this important part of firearms training. Let’s take a look at setting up a proper gun care routine, our top cleaning tips, and how to keep gun safety a focus throughout.

Take Aim at Accidents

The first step in how to clean a gun is the exact same as visiting a range, taking a hunting trip, or encountering a firearm in any other location: always assume a gun is loaded and ready to fire until you’ve verified it’s not. This means visually inspecting it and making it safe anytime you’re out of sight of the weapon while it’s assembled. Take the time to ensure you don’t become part of a tragic statistic with this basic gun safety tenet.

Prepare Yourself and Your Workspace

Before you begin gun maintenance, be sure you’re ready. Refer to your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to clean your gun, including the extent of disassembly, any needed tools, and recommendations for cleaning equipment and materials. The owner’s manual may also have important gun safety information, and their parts diagrams can be useful for helping you understand your firearm’s components if you’re a newer gun owner.

Man cleaning a disassembled firearm - all components of the firearm on a black cloth

You should also prepare your workspace before you take your gun out of storage. Create a clutter-free space on a workbench or table. You may want to put down flat cardboard to give the surface some padding and additional protection from cleaning chemicals that can easily strip paint, stain, or varnish from wood or metal surfaces. Gather your gun cleaning kit, any tools, and your cleaning chemicals together, and make sure you have enough time to work on your gun without interruptions.

Top Tips For How to Clean a Gun

Once you’ve studied your manual and prepared your space, it’s time to get started. The basic process will take you an hour or less under most circumstances, even after heavy range days. Remember that the manufacturer’s information trumps any general gun maintenance guide or shooting-bench sage’s advice anytime there’s a disagreement. They know what’s best for the specific firearm they made.

  1. Unload and Disassemble Your Firearm

Always start by verifying the weapon is unloaded by removing the magazine or opening the cylinder and visually clearing the chamber. Violating this basic gun safety tenet is how most gun-cleaning accidents occur. Every gun is loaded until you verify it isn’t, even if you’re about to clean it. Once you’ve verified an empty chamber, follow your manufacturer’s recommended takedown instructions. Usually, that will include removing the slide for pistols, an upper receiver for AR-type rifles, and the barrel and magazine cap for shotguns, at a minimum. Other parts, like bolt carrier groups, barrels, and guide rods, may also be removed depending on the model of your firearm.

  1. Work Wet

Even with nylon bristles, dry brushing may loosen carbon and metallic residue, but those deposits are then drug along the metal and polymer parts of your firearm. Use a light spray of CLP (Clean, Lubricate, Protect) from your favorite manufacturer for your “dry” brushing before settling in with solvents that will do the heavy cleansing. 

  1. Clean Barrels One Way at a Time
Bore brush cleaning the barrel of a gun

Your barrel’s health is vital to your gun’s accuracy. When performing gun maintenance, do everything possible to avoid damaging your barrel or the rifling inside it. Those shallow grooves apply spin to the bullet to help stabilize its flight path so you can hit what you’re aiming at. Always use plenty of solvent or CLP when cleaning the barrel. Bore brushes should be pushed all the way through the barrel before changing directions to pull the brush all the way back out. Patches should only go on a one-way, single-time trip through the barrel–push it through, change it out, pull it back, change again, and repeat.

  1. Be Methodical

If you want to ensure that your regular gun cleaning is thorough and efficient, work from barrel/chamber to action and do it the same way every time. Repetition breeds muscle memory. It helps you identify when something seems different or “off” about a component so you can order a replacement for worn or broken parts. Make your routine gun maintenance routine a…well, routine.

  1. But Don’t Be Afraid to Change It Up

That being said, new products, parts, and firearm accessories are released all the time, and you’ll be able to find most of them at your local gun show. From new cleaning gadgets to aftermarket barrels and precision optics, once you lock down how to clean a gun and become more familiar with its existing parts, figuring out how to customize your gun for a better shooting experience follows pretty fast.     

  1. Store It Safely

Once Your gun is reassembled, don’t leave it unattended on your workspace. Assembled guns should be returned to their secure storage or carrying locations. This means giving it a final wipe-down as you put it back in the safe, your rapid-response lockbox, or into your carry holster. Then, you can focus on breaking down your workstation and cleaning up your mess without worrying about a child or other adult happening on a weapon that’s ready to be loaded or fired.

Get a Great Deal on Gun Maintenance Tools and Accessories

Your local gun show is your go-to source for everything firearms-related. Our vendors have a wider selection of guns, parts, and accessories than any single brick-and-mortar shooting store can offer, and they’re ready to make a deal with you. Find the date of your next Midwest Arms Collector event on our gun show calendar, and get ready for a family-friendly weekend of fun. Make your plans to visit a MAC Shows Gun Show near you today.

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