How To Clean A Gun

lady cleaning gun

Cleaning your gun is an essential part of gun maintenance and safety.

If you don’t clean your gun regularly, you risk it becoming damaged or even accidentally misfiring.

Can dirty guns fail you?

Yes, the accumulation of dirt in your gun could cause the gun to fail you when you need it most, such as during a home invasion. 

That’s a nightmare situation that you can completely prevent. But, how do you clean different types of guns? Read on to find out how to clean handguns, revolvers, and rifles. 

How To Clean A Handgun 

cleaning handgun

The good thing about cleaning handguns is that you usually don’t have to take them apart completely.

Semi-automatic pistols will have to be taken apart down to their main components, such as the frame, magazine, and barrel, but these usually have different configurations so it’s important to read the gun’s user manual.

As for double-action revolvers, you just need to push the cylinder into the open position. For these types of guns, you might have to remove the grip.

Basically, the inside of the gun barrel is regarded as the most essential handgun component to clean. This is because material can be left behind after you’ve fired the gun and this can corrode the gun as well as reduce its accuracy the next time you use it.

What you’ll need to clean a handgun barrel:

  • Bore brush 
  • Cleaning rod
  • Solvent
  • Patch holder 
  • Torch 
  • Gun lubricant

Here’s how to clean the handgun barrel:

  1. Take a bore brush and attach it to the cleaning rod. 
  2. With a bit of solvent applied to the brush, push it back and forth through the gun’s bore. 
  3. After you’ve gently scrubbed the bore, replace the bore that’s on the cleaning rod with a patch holder and put it through the bore again. You might need a few patches because the first one or two will be quite dirty. 
  4. Take a torch and flash it into the barrel bore so you can see if there’s any debris that’s stuck to the barrel. If you see anything, you’ll have to put solvent on the brush again and repeat the process. 
  5. Once you’re happy with the result, you should take a clean patch that has some gun lubricant on it and put this through the bore. Oiling the gun will protect it against corrosion and moisture, but never put too much oil as that can cause the gun to gum up! You should only apply a light coating of oil. 

How To Clean A Revolver

tips for cleaning revolver

Since a revolver has a rear cycling opening into which cleaning brushes can be inserted and damage the gun, before you clean your revolver you need to cover the rear cycling opening with a clean sock.

Simply wrap a long sock around the opening so your brushes won’t be able to enter the opening. Then, you can proceed with following the steps on how to clean your revolver.

What you’ll need: 

  • Bore brush 
  • Cleaning solvent 
  • Solvent for copper and/or lead (optional)
  • Clean patches 
  • Cleaning rod
  • Rag/old toothbrush
  • Gun oil

How to clean your revolver:

  1. Dip a bore brush into cleaning solvent. You can choose from bronze, steel, or nylon brushes. FYI, nylon brushes are best for light cleaning, while bronze and steel are more suitable for stubborn dirt. 
  2. If you’ve been shooting jacketed bullets with your revolver, the gun’s bore might have some copper-colored metal inside. To remove this, you will need to purchase a solvent that will remove copper specifically, so consult with a gun dealer for advice. You can also use a product such as Bore Tech Eliminator that’s ammonia-free and will remove copper fouling from your barrel. 
  3. If you’ve been using non-jacketed bullets, you might find lead in the bore. You will need a specific product to remove lead, such as Hoppes No. 9 that’s great for a variety of fouling, including lead.
  4. When putting the bore brush into the bore, you need to gently follow the grooves that are inside the bore so that you can clean them properly. 
  5. Once that’s done, you should put a clean patch on the patch tip of your cleaning rod. Dip it in solvent and push it through the bore. You will have to do this a few times, each time with a clean patch, to eliminate all the dirt that’s inside the bore. 
  6. Now you can move on to cleaning the muzzle and rear cylinder. You will have to remove the sock you used to cover up the back cylinder earlier. A clean rag or old toothbrush can work well to clean these gun parts. Put some cleaning solvent on the rag or brush and then gently scrub the revolver on the outside. You want to reach the outside and inside of the cylinders, the muzzle, the rear cylinder, as well as the trigger. 
  7. Finally, you should also use your rag or toothbrush to clean the extractor rod – you’ll have to pull this out of the cylinder’s center. 
  8. Once you’ve done that, you should use clean patches to clean the cylinders in the same way that you cleaned the gun’s barrel. The first patch should have some solvent on it, and the others will be dry. When the patches are coming out clean, then you know your work is done. 
  9. Finish off by applying a bit of gun oil. This will protect the metal surfaces of the gun, so you should apply some to the exterior of the gun. However, never use this oil on the hand grips or inside the cylinders or barrels. 
  10. If there’s still excess oil on the gun, you should use a clean cloth to remove it so that the gun’s lubricated but not oily.

How To Clean A Shotgun

cleaning tips for shotgun

If you own a shotgun, you’ll be pleased to know that you just have to follow nine easy steps to give it a good clean.

1. Take the gun apart. How much you do this will depend on the type of gun you have. 

  • If you have an over-under, leave the action intact. 
  • If you have an automatic shotgun, you should disassemble it so that you can clean its moving parts. 
  • Pump shotguns can be completely stripped, but just make sure you don’t remove small parts from inside the action. If you have a pump-action shotgun you will remove the barrel by twisting the end cap that’s at the top of the pump next to the barrel. If you have a single-shot gun, remove the forearm and then remove the barrel. If you have a semi-automatic shotgun, pull the action back so that you can unscrew the forearm cap and slide off the forearm. 

2. Once you’ve disassembled the gun, start the cleaning process by using a clean cloth to remove the carbon buildup on these parts. 

3. Use a degreaser (such as Bore Tech Blast Degreaser) that’s meant for use on guns to clean any areas where you can see dirt has accumulated. This includes the choke tubes, barrel, and gas chamber (if your gun has one).

4. Avoid using the degreaser on any part that has small pieces or springs in it. You want to avoid spraying it on the action as that could damage it.

5. Spray some detergent gun oil into the gun’s barrel for quick and easy clean, or use a solvent if you want to give it a deeper clean.

6. Put some gun oil on a clean cloth and use this to scrub the surface of the receiver or action. Make sure you clean right into the grooves. You can do this successfully with an old toothbrush.

7. A lightly-oiled brush that’s about four centimeters in length can help you to clean recesses and small places where you can’t otherwise reach. Specifically, make sure you clean around the break action hinge pins as well as the seat of the recoil spring guide and bolt guides on automatic shotguns.

8. To clean the chamber of the gun, a gun cleaning pick is a good idea because it will prevent abrasions and it’s usually made of tough polymer. It comes in handy to remove carbon deposits that are inside the gun’s chamber. 

9. Use a cleaning rod so you can swab a cloth that’s been dipped in solvent to clean the gun’s bore. You should use cloths until they come out clean. 

How To Clean A Rifle 

cleaning rifle tips

If you own a rifle, the cleaning process is a little different. Here’s what you’ll need and how to clean your gun. 

What you’ll need:

  • Cleaning rods
  • CLP (Clean Lubricate Protect) product
  • Bore cleaner 
  • Solvent
  • Cloth patches 
  • Gun lubricant 
  • Clean, dry cloth
  • Q-tips  
  • Paper towels 

Instructions On Cleaning Your Rifle

  1. Disassemble your rifle. Put your rifle in a gun vise and remove the bolt. If you’ve experienced wet weather or your gun has taken some other sort of beating, you’ll have to take out the barrel and trigger assembly too.
  2. Check the gun for any loose screws or anything broken. Then, wipe it down with a paper towel to remove debris and dust.  
  3. Move on to cleaning your gun’s bolt. Apply a few drops of Clean Lubricate And Protect (CLP) on a patch and wipe the bolt. Dip a Q-tip in powder solvent and clean the bolt face and underneath its extractor. A good CLP product to try is the one by Sage & Baker.
  4. Put some solvent on a patch and put it on a cleaning rod, then move it through the bore. You should do this a few times and you’ll have to use a clean patch every time you do. 
  5. Soak a clean cloth with solvent so you can wipe down the bolt face, bolt, trigger guard, and any other metal parts on the rifle. If you’ve used your gun for a long shooting session, it’s good to spray solvent into the firing pin. You’ll need to use a can of compressed air to blow it out.
  6. Wipe metal parts of your rifle with a lubricant, but  never spray it directly onto the metal as that can damage it. Rather spray it onto a cloth and then use that to wipe the metal. This also prevents the lubricant from entering any small places in the rifle where it shouldn’t be applied. 
  7. Finally, reassemble your rifle. 

Should You Wear Protective Gear When Cleaning A Gun?

Before you go ahead and clean your gun, it’s important to ensure you wear the correct gear.

Gloves are a must to put on – these will not only protect you from making contact with chemical solvents, but it will also prevent you from coming into contact with lead in the shooting residue.

You should also ensure you protect your eyes with safety goggles whenever you clean, and disassemble or reassemble your firearms. This will protect your eyes from any small pieces and springs in the gun that can shoot out and hurt your eyes, while also ensuring solvent fumes or the solvents themselves can’t get into your eyes. 

Related Questions

What’s a good solvent to use on your gun?

cleaning solvent for rifle

A popular solvent is Hoppe’s No.9 which works well to remove powder, while Birchwood Casey Bore Scrubber is also great for removing barrel fouling. 

What’s a good gun oil to use when cleaning your firearm?

Ballistol Multi-Purpose Lubricant And Cleaner is a highly-rated gun oil to use. It’s also biodegradable and eco-friendly. You can find it on Amazon.


You need to clean your gun on a regular basis, especially if you use it regularly.

This will ensure that the gun stays in good condition and doesn’t fail you at the most inopportune times. In this guide, we’ve looked at how to clean a variety of firearms – handguns, revolvers, shotguns, and rifles.

Make sure you get into the healthy habit of cleaning your gun so it will continue to have your back when you need it!