5 Gun Cleaning Tips for Proper Care & Maintenance

As every gun owner knows, it’s a whole lot of fun to go to the local range or out on your property and do some target practice. However, not everyone enjoys what comes after: cleaning.

In fact, it’s speculated that the majority of people in fact do not enjoy cleaning their firearms. They will even limit how many guns they take to the range with the reason being that they don’t want to have to clean up a bunch of guns later.

However, there are a select few people out there that love cleaning guns and actually find it downright therapeutic. Depending on where you fall into which group of people, your guns may not have the best care that will help them last for decades in the future.

My personal speculation is that the like or dislike of cleaning may stem from people not knowing how to properly clean their weapons, what equipment to use, and the most efficient ways to do so. For those that do know, I can see why cleaning could actually be fun.

I know that growing up, my father didn’t know the best ways, and so we were left using either WD-40 or regular cheap gun oil to clean our weapons. We also didn’t have the proper brushes, swabs, and materials. While we were still able to clean our weapons, it was a long and tedious process. Many of us get our cleaning practices carried down from our family, whether the methods are good or bad.

It wasn’t until I grew older and revisited gun cleaning that I learned about the proper way on how to do it and the best things to use. Also, just for the record, WD-40 is not good to use on your firearms for many reasons. People have done it for decades, but there’s lots of evidence out there that suggests it’s not a good choice for firearms.

With that in mind, this article is going to cover the top 5 tips when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your firearms. Perhaps after reading this article and if you get the right items, gun cleaning will become a fun filled hobby for you.

Important Note: It’s critical that you practice proper gun safety whenever handling a firearm, especially when you are cleaning your guns. Always treat a gun as if it’s loaded, even when you “know” it’s not. Always have the barrel pointed away from people, including while cleaning.

1. When To Clean?

There is a lot of controversy over when you should clean your firearms. While a lot of the discussion may come down to personal preference and orderliness, we have to keep the main purpose in mind.

You want to prevent metal degradation in your firearm, like rust. Also, your guns will perform much better when they are well cleaned and oiled.

I go into great detail about each of the different scenarios you might find yourself in and when you need to clean your firearms over at Trek Warrior. For now, let me cover a few key situations.

The best way to know when to clean them is to discuss the times that you must do so. Other times, it may come down to your personal preference.

Whenever you fire any ammo with corrosive loads, it’s definitely time to clean afterwards. Most modern ammunition doesn’t fall into this category, but older military surplus ammo most likely does. Corrosive loads leave behind chemicals that will eat away at the metal in your guns, which is not good.

Another situation is if you choose to shoot cheap ammo. This type of ammo usually has dirty loads that leave behind a lot more residue in your barrel when fired. Medium to more expensive ammo will usually shoot more clean these days. The more gunk you have in your barrel over time can begin to eat away at the metal.

Of course, any time you put a lot of rounds of any sort through your firearm, you will definitely be due for a cleaning. Even if its high quality ammo, over many rounds there’s no way to avoid collecting gunk in the firearm.

Some people claim they can put 5,000 rounds through their well designed gun and it still fires great. That’s amazing, but what happens after 10 years of doing that? I like keeping my firearms in good shape so that I can hand them down to future generations.

2. Effective Cleaners

One main problem that I used to have is that I was using the wrong chemicals to clean my firearms. Because of this, the process would take a long time and be a lot of work. That’s when I discovered that there are much better cleaners out there.

The higher performing cleaners are designed to efficiently and effectively break down the residue and gunk in your firearm. That way you can easily remove it with your brushes and swabs. If you have a crappy cleaner, then you can expect to have to brush and swab many times over and over again. With the right cleaner, the run-throughs drastically decrease.

From my research and personal testing, the top 3 cleaners on the market in order of performance are: Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner, Ballistol Multi-Purpose Cleaner, and Break-Free CLP. The Hoppe’s No. 9 and Ballistol can often be found in your local general goods store or on Amazon, so they are mighty convenient to use.

3. The Right Kit

Another area where you can end up struggling with cleaning your weapon is not having the right set of brushes, swabs, and rods for your guns.

For the folks that have one firearm, usually you can just get a small kit that is adapted for your specific caliber and whether it’s a pistol or long gun. You want a brush that is the right size to clean appropriately, a swab that gets cloth material in the right shape, and rods that are the right length.

For the people that have a collection of firearms, it doesn’t make financial sense to buy a single kit for each gun. That’s where universal kits are a big help. For a little more, you can grab a kit that has brushes, swabs, and rods that will cover a whole swath of calibers and work on pistols, rifles, and shotguns.\

After doing a ton of research, I put together an article on the best gun cleaning kits out there that give you the most coverage of calibers and weapon selection. You can read more about these kits at Trek Warrior. In summary, my favorite kit is the Hoppe’s Universal Gun Cleaning Accessory Kit.

Another amazing time saver for you to try if you haven’t already is a bore snake. A bore snake is a long piece of cloth that usually has a brush attached to the end of it. You drop in a weighted guide down the barrel of your gun and pull the snake through.

If you use the right cleaner like we discussed, then typically a single pull through of the snake is enough to make your barrel squeaky clean. Talk about time savings! The Sage & Braker Bore Snake is an excellent recommendation here. You do have to get one for each caliber though. A great idea is to get bore snakes for your most frequently fired weapons.

4. Oil That Performs

After you get your firearm cleaned up nicely, it’s time to add some light oil. Oil not only keeps the moving parts of your weapon moving easily, but it also puts a coating over the metal, protecting it from moisture in the air.

Now, not all gun oils are created equal. It took me a while to learn this one. You want your gun oil to last a long time so that the lubrication continues to perform, and also protects your gun metal from moisture. Cheaper oils will tend to break down over time and not work well any more.

From research, personal experience, and talking to many gun owners, the top performing gun oils out there include in order of greatness: Hoppe’s No. 9 Lubricating Oil, M-Pro 7 LPX, and Slip 2000 EWL. You can often find the Hoppe’s No. 9 at your local hardware store or on Amazon, and the bottle with the long applicator needles works best.

5. How To Store

Last, but not least, we get to storage of your firearms. There are three main care abouts here: safety, security, and dryness.

You want your firearms stored in such a way that they are not a threat to anyone else living in your home. If you have children, that means proper training for them, and either a gun safe or gun lock to prevent unwanted use.

For security, you want to make sure that if your home is broken into, that your firearms are in a secure place where they can’t be stolen. However, you also want the ability to have your firearms handy if the case ever arises where you need to use them for self defense. There are many great gun safe options to consider here.

Like we discussed earlier, moisture is one of the biggest enemies to your guns. That’s why it’s important to keep them in a dry location after being cleaned and well oiled. You can get humidity control for your gun safe or if you live in a moderate climate, keeping them in a gun case works well too.

About the Author

Mark Wright is an avid gun owner enthusiast. He loves shooting at the range and discussing gun topics with his friends. Mark often writes about firearms and shares his knowledge at Trek Warrior.

Leave a Comment:

John Ferrell says June 8, 2018

Great info. I will send this to a new gun owner. At 76, I am in th clean every time camp. I was trained by my Dad, and discussions happened if I did not clean my 22. the same day i shot.I was happy to see your info on Hoppes.

Chaplain Dale Stearns says June 8, 2018

I really did enjoy the things you talked about. Hopper 9 is what my dad used all the time so I was brought up using it myself and my oldest son did also until he passed on, so him ,my dad is up in heaven now . God bless you Chaplain Dale Stearns.

Steve says June 10, 2018

Good basic advice, what do you recommend for cleaning/oiling magazines?

Ellen H. says October 25, 2018

I like that you suggested cleaning your gun if you find that it has corrosive loads that can eat away the metal in your guns. My husband and I wanted to shop for a pistol that we can use for our pistol training. It’ll be one of our investments, so we’d like to make sure that we’re aware of the time that we should clean it after our pistol training. Thanks for sharing this.

James Currie says October 27, 2018

Just read the cleaning tips. I was told that if you use Hoppies 9 or clp, you can use this as an lubricant/ oil. These are gun owners at the gun store that I shop.

Carl Zavorski says October 27, 2018

Real wake up information. Thanks

John Seawright says October 27, 2018

I’m 79. And have been using Hoppe’s products for
65 yrs or so. Have NEVER found a product equal to
Or superior to any of them.

Wayne says October 27, 2018

Good tips

Mark Adcock says October 28, 2018

I got my firearms training from the Department of Corrections officer training. The person who did the training class also ran the Prison Armory. We were tought to take care of our weapon and Cleaning was a Very Important part of it. As a result of that, Any time I Fire my Guns, I Clean them. I actually find it quite therapeutic.

James Barry says January 16, 2019

As I grew up on the Farm, I just hD the use of the small Cal. .22 but was (well I felt anyway) always felt chastised as having to clean the tool after it’s use (that practice has carried in through the years for tools in the Garage too!!) Regardless as a younger person I felt I was being hard pressed as the chief cook and bottle washer fit the firearms… Little did I know at the time I was being given life experience that I’m now grateful for learning.

jack koole says January 16, 2019

is dry slide still avail and is it good to use? It was highly touted during Vietnam

Calvin H. Easterling says January 16, 2019

Amsoil has an extremely well-performing set of gun oils and cleaners.

Kevin D Dubose says January 16, 2019

Great article I should add breakthrough cleaner and Wilson combat gun oil to the list of cleaners and protection. And whole heartedly agree with safe storage firearms without a safe is asking to let them out on the streets with some maniacs in control of high powered weapons and supplying them with the ammo also keep up the good work. Nickname Reddot.

PH (FRED) says January 16, 2019

Vèry good article. I don’t eat off a dirty plate or use a unclean fork. I don’t use a dirt a gun. Cleaning your gun mandatory. The list of cleaning supplies is two thumbs up. I’m very fond of the Slip 2000 Gun Lube. Thanks.

Tommy says January 16, 2019

I cannot remember when I did not use Break Free and Hopes #9 on every firearm I own. And I am two days older than dirt!

Sharon Wilson-Smith says February 26, 2019

You got me when you said that it’s best to use gun cleaners that are designed to effectively remove the dirt on your gun. My husband is planning to shop for rifles because he’s interested in collecting guns. Since he was a child, he has been dreaming of having a lot of guns. I’ll share this with him so he can keep his guns in good condition.

Henry Killingsworth says March 16, 2020

I found it interesting when you explained that oil keeps the the moving parts of a gun in good condition. I would imagine that it would be a good idea to keep the trigger of a gun moving easily so that it doesn’t create any friction. Friction in a trigger would probably lead to some serious problems when trying to use a firearm.

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