There are few things we will ever own that will last a lifetime, let alone
last past the time when we are no longer here. A good firearm, however,
unlike most investments, will last a lifetime and beyond if properly cared for.
When hunting season is finally over, it is a good time to
clean and maintain your firearms. The first step is to find a warm, quiet, and well
ventilated place to clean the guns. The solvents and cleaning products used
for cleaning firearms have an odor to them that other members of the household
might object to, thus the kitchen table is not an option.
Professional gunsmiths recommend cleaning a shotgun or a rifle from the
breech for a couple of reasons, the most important of which is to avoid any
damage to the end of the barrel that might affect accuracy.
With a double barrel shotgun or bolt action rifle, breech cleaning is easy,
but pumps and autoloaders will require disassembly to get the barrel off so it
can be cleaned from the breech. There are some firearms where cleaning from the
breech will be impossible without a flexible cleaning device like the Otis
After the barrel is at the point where it can safely be cleaned, it is time
to go to work. The first step is a good brushing with a brass brush sized to
fit the barrel. This removes any residue left behind from plastic shotgun wads or any copper or lead from bullets that has come into contact with the
barrel creating fouling.
One slick trick is to clean off the brush with some gun cleaning solvent
after brushing the barrel by holding it over a scrap piece of cloth and
spraying it. The brushes will last longer and are more effective at removing
the fouling when they are cleaned each time.
Clean Powder Residue
After the wire brush has done its thing, it is time to
clean the powder residue from the bore. Continued swabbings
with cleaning patches soaked in solvent are required until the patches come out
clean. The bore should then be lightly oiled with a few swipes of a patch with
some lubricant added. Don't over do it, though, guns should be lightly oiled,
not heavily oiled.
I have become quite fond of the Bore Snake, which really cleans my shotgun
barrels all in one step. Just add a little solvent and run the thing through
the barrel a couple of times and the bore is perfectly clean in half the time
it would take to run patches.
Most of us are good with these steps, but we don't pay enough attention to
the rest of the gun. The receiver and action should be cleaned, because it too
ends up getting fouled with burnt powder, causing jamming in pumps and
autoloaders. There are a couple of companies, which have simplified this
whole process with cleaning sprays, which can be used to spray the crud off the
receiver and then wiped off with a soft cloth.
A quality gun grease should be used on the parts of
the gun subject to wear, for example, the hinge section of a double barrel
where the metal parts rub against each other.
The metal parts and outside of the barrel need to be carefully oiled, and
the whole gun can then be reassembled.
Rifle shooters have a few more considerations. With a rifle, cleaning from
the breech becomes even more important. If you damage the crown of the barrel
with a cleaning rod, it can severely impact the accuracy of a fine rifle.
If the rifle can not be broken down to the point where it can be cleaned
from the breech, there are companies that offer cleaning rods with special
crown protectors built in, to protect the crown of the bore from damage while
Wire Brush The Bore
Rifles also get much more fouling in the bore than shotguns, making the wire
brushing even more important.
When I clean any of my guns, I am paranoid about leaving a patch in the
bore. I always inspect the bore to make sure it is free of any obstruction
before the gun goes back into the cabinet for future use.
It is important to look the gun over carefully during cleaning. Take note of
any parts with severe wear, and when in doubt, always take the firearm to a
competent professional gunsmith for evaluation. One of the tenants of firearms
safety is that the firearm be in good condition.
Folks who live in damp climates should think about how they store their
firearms. There are devices for gun cabinets that absorb humidity and protect
guns from rusting. They are a good idea for anyone who wants to keep their guns
in top condition.
Gun owners have a significant amount of money invested in their firearms.
Fortunately, gun accessory manufacturers have developed new solvents and
accessories that make gun cleaning far less of a chore than it used to be. We
now have foaming bore cleaners, better solvents, which take less time and
effort, and better lubricants to protect firearms from rusting. The new
products make it much easier to clean and protect your investment, and today there
is no excuse for not taking the time to maintain your valuable guns.
For a fine selection of Gun Cleaning Supplies, click here.