How Often Should You Clean Your Gun

Pelican Flyer  |  June 19, 2020

Firearms are complex pieces of machinery that require routine maintenance. Cleaning and the occasional tune-up helps keep your gun shooting accurately and safely while preserving it so it stays in good condition for years to come. But this begs the question: How often, exactly, should you clean your gun? The answer depends on a few factors, including what it is used for, how often you use it, what kind of ammo you’re using and if it has been exposed to any potentially damaging materials, like water or dust.

Clean Your Oft-Used Guns After Every Use

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to clean your gun after every trip to the shooting range. Defensive firearms that don’t get used very frequently should also be cleaned on occasion. Try to give them a deep clean and inspection about once a month. Hunting rifles don’t need to be cleaned as often, but make sure you clean them at the beginning and end of the season, at the very least.

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What Happens When You Don’t Clean Your Gun?

After a lengthy day at the range or out hunting, a few things can happen that can be detrimental to your weapon, including corrosion (rust) and residue buildup.

If you use corrosive ammo, such as military surplus ammo or ammo you might use in your historical firearms, you should clean it after every single use. The primers in your ammo may leave behind salts (potassium chloride or sodium chloride) when fired. When these salts mix with moisture in the air, they cause corrosion that can seriously damage the inside of your weapon. Proper cleaning and storing your weapon in a clean, dry pistol case is a good way to delay the corrosion process.

Another thing that can happen to a gun with routine use is residue buildup (fouling) on the inside. It doesn’t take that many rounds for a firearm to build up grime, gases and powder residue, which can damage the performance of your gun for the long-term. Every time you shoot, you risk leaving behind fouling caused by carbon, copper, lead, plastic and other materials. Not only will this residue cause corrosion — and, in turn, rust — but it will also prevent your gun from firing properly

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The last thing you’d want is for your gun to malfunction or be inconsistent during a self-defense scenario, so be sure to make cleaning and maintenance a big part of your routine.

Best Way to Clean Your Gun

The best way to clean a gun is to invest in a high-quality gun cleaning kit and use it after every trip to the range. Always clean in a safe, well-lit environment and triple-check that your gun is unloaded before beginning. Many firearm manufacturers offer detailed cleaning instructions in the owner’s manual, so be sure to check that before beginning.

  • Wipe it down and clean the barrel. Start by wiping down your gun thoroughly with a clean, dry rag and using a toothbrush to remove any gunk and grime. You’ll then want to use a bore cleaning brush (choose one that matches the caliber of your gun) to clean the barrel.
  • Use a solvent. Using a firearm solvent will help break up and dissolve the fouling that we discussed before. Be sure to choose the right kind of solvent, as there are styles for dissolving lead, copper and other kinds of fouling. Use dry patches to work in and remove the solvent.
  • Lubricate your gun. Gun lubrication is crucial to helping your gun, quite literally, move smoothly. And the last thing you’d want when you’re shooting is to deal with a jam. Always use lubricants designed for firearms — resist the urge to lubricate with motor oil, no matter how many shooters recommend it!
  • Store it in the proper case. Properly storing your weapon in a protective gun case is crucial to keeping it clean, dry and well-protected. Be sure to choose a pistol or rifle case that is air- and water-tight to prevent further damage while in storage.

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1120 Protector Case

Keeping your weapon clean is more important than you might think. A dirty weapon is more prone to malfunctioning and becoming permanently damaged over time, so routine firearm cleaning can help keep your arsenal safe and well-functioning for the long-run.

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