Five simple steps to a clean gun

by Linda K. Miller & Keith A. Cunningham | August 14, 2018

gun cleaningThere are lots of myths and misconceptions about gun cleaning, but the truth is it’s pretty simple. This program will take care of most situations.

Always be certain your gun is unloaded before handling.

gun cleaningUse the right stuff

Solvents: A regular solvent (such as Hoppe’s) will do for powder residue. We use an aggressive solvent (such as Sweets) to dissolve the metal fouling.

Brushes: We prefer synthetic over bronze brushes because synthetics don’t scratch the bore and don’t dissolve with metal fouling solvents.

Patches: We like old-style 1″x4″ patches wound around a jag, vs. small patches pulled through an eyelet, because they give good contact inside the bore.

Rods: We use a plastic-coated rod because it’s easy to wipe down and keep clean. We don’t like snakes because they are easy to get stuck, and difficult to pull straight enough to avoid wear.

Gun oil: We use Canadian-made and Canadian-tested Burke’s Gun Oil and any light grease on the locking lugs and other wear points.

Well, that’s abrasive

We prefer a gentle approach, synthetic brushes and not very many strokes, but we do use chemicals to clean out the carbon and the metal fouling. One barrel maker told us that more barrels are worn out through vigorous brush cleaning with hard bronze brushes than by shooting.

How it’s done

1 Remove carbon and powder residue from bore

• Dip the brush in regular solvent, run it through the bore about 4 times

• Dip again and repeat

• Run several dry patches to remove solvent

2 Remove metal fouling from bore (about every 200 rounds)

• Dip brush in strong solvent and run through the bore about 4 times; dip and repeat.

• Let sit for several hours; wipe with clean patch. If patch is blue, repeat until a fresh patch is not blue. (This can span several days if rifle is badly fouled.)

We use a thick wire, homemade lug recess tool to clean the receiver’s hard-to-reach spot.

• Wipe chamber and receiver — use three 4×1″ patches around a jag to dry up any residue from bore cleaning left in the chamber.

3 Take care of the details

• Wipe bolt and locking lugs, especially the backside of lugs. On the receiver, wipe the bolt raceway, and the locking lug recesses.

• Protect the trigger with a cleaning patch to keep cleaning compounds out.

Oil between firing pin, assembly, and bolt body; oil contact point between bolt and receiver; wipe down bolt body; wipe extractor; wipe down bolt lugs; oil the ejector plunger, wipe dry; wipe bolt face.

From the chamber
Always clean from the chamber end if the rifle allows it. Clean from the muzzle end only if you must (such as with pumps and most semis). When you clean from the muzzle end, take great care to prevent damage to the crown and the bore.

Special cleaning
Do this once a year and any time after your rifle gets wet:
• Disassemble bolt, wipe down, lube lightly.
• Remove rifle from stock, wipe it down, apply a thin oil, and reassemble

If you are storing your carbon-steel gun, lightly oil the bore before you put the gun away, and run a clean patch through the bore before next firing.

4 Lubricate

• Bolt-action rifles: Lube bolt by applying a light film of oil onto bolt body, and put a dab of light grease behind each locking lug surface, the primary extraction cam, and the cocking cam.

• Other actions: Consult your owner’s manual, and expect to put a light lube on wear marks (metal on metal) and locking lugs.

5 Assemble and test with empty chamber

A. Close chamber, pull trigger: gun should go “click.”

B. Re-cock, apply safety, pull trigger: gun should not go “click.” Take the safety off, pull trigger: gun should go “click.”

C. Slam-fire test Bolt-action, lever-action rifles: safety off, close rapidly, gun remains cocked, pull trigger: gun should go “click.” Semi-automatic, pump-action rifles: cycle action with trigger depressed, release trigger, pull trigger: gun should go “click.”

Scent control for hunters

We don’t fuss on scent control (we carefully monitor wind direction), but for those who do, here are some suggestions:

• Within safe storage rules, let your rifle air out until solvents have dried.

• If that’s not enough for you, consider using a pine-scented gun oil.

• For a DIY de-scent, try storing your rifle with pine or cedar boughs. Just be absolutely certain no sap or particles get into the gun.

For long-range hunting tips click here


  1. BRUCE FOSTER wrote: I have always used a pull through as this is what I learned when using an Enfield. I still use it on my rifles. I have never had an issue with my firearms although I have not had auto loading center-fire equipment. If I acquire an auto loader shall I be required to change my cleaning regime?
  2. Steve Heyder wrote: High there enjoy reading your articles. I have question regarding sighting in a new scope. I used federal power shock 180grain in .308. After getting dialed in I tried using Winchester deer season and power max 150 grain and they shot low and to the right 4”. Went back to the 180 grain and I was good. Confused and why would this happen? Thank you for any advise or info in advance. Steve Heyder.