Gun Cleaning 101 – Clean Your Guns the Right Way

by Frank

Did you know that every time you fire your gun, a small amount of carbon, copper, lead and plastic residue is left in the chamber and barrel? If you don’t take the time to clean your gun after firing it, this residue (known as fouling) can build up over time and eventually have a devastating effect on your gun and effect its reliability.

There aren’t any rules for when to clean your gun. Each gun is different and each type of ammunition is different as well, making it impossible to make standard gun cleaning rules. However, over the years I’ve picked up a few tips from hunters, gunsmiths, retired law enforcement and military.

Gun Cleaning Kits and Solvents

Before you can begin cleaning your firearms, you’re going to need the right tools. Generally, the least expensive option for people with a few different guns is a simple universal gun cleaning kit and a good bottle of solvent. Purchasing all the tools separately will cost you a bit more money. Currently, many of the best gun cleaning kits on the market are very inexpensive.

Cleaning Rods:

The most important tool in your kit is going to be the gun cleaning rod. This tool is used to attach brushes, jags, and mops. You want your cleaning rod to be made of a soft material such as brass. A material that’s harder than the barrel of your gun can easily scratch the inside of the barrel.

 Cleaning Brushes:

Brushes come in a wide variety of different materials and sizes. The bronze brush is the best choice for a good deep cleaning. They will remove the majority of carbon buildup without damaging the inside of your gun. A nylon brush comes after the bronze brush to clean up anything left behind.

Jags & Loops:

After you’re done with the cleaning brushes it’s time to make everything shine. A cotton cleaning patch is placed on the tip of the jag and used in a similar manner as the brush. A drop of cleaning solvent on the patch will remove anything left behind by the brushes.

Cleaning Toothbrushes:

These brushes look just like a toothbrush, but the bristles are made of hardened steel, bronze, or nylon. Use these to get into all the nooks and crannies.

Gun Cleaning Solvent:

Without a good gun cleaning solvent you’ll have a tough time getting your gun clean. You can either opt to use an all one in CLP or use separate bore cleaners, lubricants, and protectors.

How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

The answer to this question is different for every person that you ask. A good friend of mine, who’s been in law enforcement for 20 years, told me that you should thoroughly clean your gun after every time you go to the range. This means disassembling it and breaking out the gun cleaning kit and cleaning solvents.  Carbon and copper buildup in the barrel of your gun will impact the velocity and accuracy of the bullet over time. If you’re in law enforcement, then your life depends on having a clean and reliable firearm.

The general consensus is that you should at least use a bore snake to do a quick clean after you fire your gun. You can take a bore snake to the range and use it there to clean your gun in only a couple of minutes.

What Happens if you Don’t Clean your Gun?

Many people can disagree about how often to clean their gun, but there’s no doubt that not cleaning your gun is a very bad idea. Everyone knows that rust can cause some serious damage and eat away the metal. If you plan to store your guns for longer periods of time, there are a few preventative measures you should take.

If you have guns in a safe they should be taken out at least once a year for a good deep clean, even if you haven’t used it. Over time, your firearms will gather dust and can accumulate moisture, which can lead to rust. Once a year, you should take them out to inspect them for any signs of this, as well as apply a good gun grease to prevent dust and moisture buildup from occurring.

Cleaning Your Guns Too Often?

Similar to not cleaning your gun enough, over cleaning your firearms can also damage them. For the most part it’s not easy to over clean your guns and I know people that do a deep clean after every time they fire with no adverse die effects. The only downside is that you will be spending a bit more money on cleaning solvents and broken brushes.

Most people agree that it’s a good idea to clean your gun after each visit to the range. Either with a bore snake or a cleaning kit depending on the type of firearm. Most people, including myself, find it very enjoyable and relaxing to take apart their guns are clean them.

gun cleaning kit

Cleaning a New Gun

If you just purchased a new gun you’ll want clean anything that might be on it. Often times the gun may have been sitting on a display shelf for a long time. Companies tend to put grease and a rust inhibitor on all their new guns. Most guns won’t function well if you leave this rust inhibitor on.

It’s a good idea to put these solvents on new guns because they may be sitting on the shelves for a long time, exposed to weathering. However, before you fire your gun for the first time, you need to make sure that all traces of grease and other solvents have been removed.

Gun Cleaning Tips

The first rule to gun cleaning is to always make sure the chamber is empty and there’s no magazine. Double or triple check this step! Visually inspect to make sure that there’s nothing inside your firearm before cleaning it. Keep your gun unloaded until you’re ready to fire it. If you’re storing it away then there’s no need for it to be loaded. If it’s for home protection then you should keep it loaded.

Before you begin, you should always clean your guns in a room where nobody’s going to bother you. Keep the door locked! The last thing you want is for a child to come in your room.  Always clean from the chamber to the muzzle to prevent damaging the barrel. Cleaning towards the end of the barrel protects the muzzle and will help to keep debris out of the chamber.

Using a gun vise is a great way to keep your firearm secure. A regular vise is not a good idea because it can scratch the sensitive components of your firearms. A gun vise has padded clamps and allows you to rotate your firearms. Most gun vises also include an accessory tray which is designed to hold all your cleaning supplies and gun parts.

Use a generous amount of gun cleaning solvent on your cleaning patches. Use your cleaning jag to push it down the barrel to remove anything left over from the brush. I like to let sit for about 5-10 minutes and let the cleaning solvent soak into everything, this makes it much easier to clean.

Take a bronze cleaning brush of the proper size and run up and down the inside of the barrel several times. You can then use a nylon brush and repeat this process, followed by a jag and cleaning patch. Be sure not to put CLP on your cleaning patch on your finishing pass. An excess amount of cleaning solvent inside the barrel is not desirable.

The action of the firearms is generally cleaned with a bronze toothbrush and cotton swabs with long handles. Spray a little CLP on the tip of the cotton swabs and target any fingerprints, which can cause excess oil which will lead to rust.  When your firearm is free of marks and you’re done cleaning it, it’s time to put it away for storage. A good gun safe if the best place to store your gun.

Always be sure to put a little bit of gun grease on your gun to prevent dust from building up. If you don’t have children, then you can store your guns in a closet or box but it’s still a good idea to use grease.

Regular Gun Maintenance

Properly taking the time to maintain and care for your firearms is very wise. They are a big investment and you want them to perform as they should. Often times I see many people neglecting their cleaning responsibilities and just throw them in s safe after firing and they say they’ll get around to it when they have the time.  Moisture and carbon buildup can easily lead to rust. If you’re not taking good care of your gun, then it’s not going to take care of you. You need to treat it like a machine. If a machine is not properly cleaned and maintained on a regular basis it will break down and stop functioning properly.


Whether you’ve just decided to purchase a firearm or have owned guns for years, it’s important to clean them properly. There’s no rulebook when it comes to gun cleaning. It’s up to you to learn from other with experience to avoid common mistakes and accidents.  Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two from this brief guide and have become inspired to take more time to care for your firearms.

There’s a wealth of knowledge out there, with great video guides on youtube that you can watch for free. Take the time to learn as much as you can about your firearms, care for them and if you’re good to your guns, they’ll be good to you.

About the Author  Frank is a firearms collector, gunsmith, and hunter. He runs the Gun Cleaning HQ along with his wife, where you can learn everything about properly cleaning and maintaining your firearms and read reviews on the latest gun maintenance products.

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