Gun Cleaning Tips

Shotgun Cleaning Tools

Whether you love to clean your shotgun or not, at some point you’re going to have to do it.  I thought I would share with you the cleaners, tools and techniques I use to keep mine running smooth.  Whether you’re a beginner or serious clay shooting competitor it’s good to get into a routine of basic maintenance every time you shoot your gun.  If your shotgun is dirty it can malfunction at the worst possible time and this could cost you a target or two.  Trust me, I know from personal experience.  The following tips are good whether you own a 12 gauge shotgun or a .410 shotgun.  Just be sure to buy the correct gun cleaning supplies.

How to clean:

First a word on lubrication.  Gun oil migrates.  The smallest amount can move slowly to areas of the gun you don’t need it and gum up the action or get into the stock.  When we talk about lubricating a shotgun with oil we are talking about a very small amount of oil.  If there is one thing I see people doing wrong it’s using too much oil.  When I say small amount, I mean a VERY small amount!  You should apply it so thin as to be almost imperceptible.  Apply a very thin coat with a rag to see that the metal changed color slightly but if it looks WET, you’ve used too much. 

Gun Cleaning toolsThere are as many ways to clean a gun as there are kinds of guns.  For a good gun cleaner I personally use and recommend the all in one CLP type spray cleaner products.  CLP stands for Clean, Lubricate and Protect.  These products are good for 95% of sporting gun cleaning tasks.  The CLP’s also have the advantage of leaving behind just the right amount of lubricant for most applications avoiding the oil migration mentioned before.  Some good CLP’s are G-96, Ballistol, Break Free and Eezox.  A more in depth look at CLP cleaners can be found in the post Shotgun Cleaners: Some good choices for the clay target shooter.

Besides the CLP you’ll need something a little stronger for those times when you have thick stuck on plastic and powder fouling.  For choke tubes, gas piston parts and bores a good gun cleaning solvent is required.  I soak these parts in Slip2000 Gas Piston Parts and Choke Tube Cleaner or Brownells EZ-Soak.  For really fouled or leaded bores there is nothing like "Ed’s Red" Bore Cleaner.  These cleaners strip all oils from the surface of the parts.  Be sure to then coat the parts with the CLP and wipe dry.

Most surface areas and internals of your shotgun can be cleaned with the CLP and a lint free cloth.  I use old T-shirts, they’re perfect for the task.  Just coat the parts and let stand per the label then wipe or brush them clean. Get some good Wire Brushes to scrub heavily fouled areas, trigger groups or choke tube threads.  Use the nylon for general/delicate scrubbing, bronze for heavier fouling on surfaces you don’t want to mar and stainless steel for the heaviest crud but be careful as steel brushes will scratch finished surfaces.

For cleaning bores, use the best bore rod available, a Dewey one piece coated rod.  It’s the best built, strongest, longest lasting rod available and will transfer all of your scrubbing power to the bore and not rattle around.  It also comes in a two piece version.  The sequence is to use a Bore Mop with CLP or solvent on it to coat the bore.  Next run a Bronze Brush down a few times to scrape up the crud, then use a Tornado Brush to really push that crud out.  Then run the coated mop down again.  Then run a clean dry Patch down on a good jag.  I prefer the TCS O-Ring cleaning Jag, it’s the best made.  Keep pushing patches down until they come out clean.  Finish up with a RIG Bore Runner.  These are also great for periodically brushing light crud out of your bores.

For semi-auto gas ports you can use a drill bit of the appropriate size but Shotgun Port Brushes are a better way to go.  Much easier to reach and clean deep seated ports.

When cleaning trigger groups again the CLP’s are the perfect choice.  Spray down the group, use a nylon brush to gently loosen any crud then blast it out with the CLP again.  To finish, blast out the excess CLP with an air nozzle or a can of compressed air.  Be careful and wear some eye protection while doing this.  This is a good time to mention a few gunsmith tools you might want to have.  A set of  Roll Pin Punches or small Screw drivers might be needed to remove the trigger group or stock.

After soaking your gas piston and choke tubes use a wire brush to scrub out any remaining  crud.  If you get some rust in choke tube threads I’ve found nothing better than the Ballistol and a steel brush to get that stuff out for good.

For O/U hinge pins and breech parts it’s important to have a small amount of grease that will stay put and won’t get runny in high temps.  A good choice is Shooters Choice All-Weather.

What to clean:

By basic maintenance I mean cleaning and inspecting the parts of the gun that are critical to its operation, not an in-depth cleaning which you could do every month or so depending on how much you shoot.  In competition this can mean very basic cleaning after every day or even after every 100 or so rounds depending on the type of shotgun you shoot.   Shooting a semi-auto and under FITASC rules, I do basic maintenance on my gun in the field after every 50 birds or even 25 if I felt the action was moving slow.  I will usually clean the mag tube and piston with a CLP and wipe it dry.

Basic maintenance needs differ for the type of gun you shoot, a semi-auto, over/under or pump.  Further, you should follow any maintenance procedures recommended by the manufacturer of your particular firearm.  The basic maintenance needs can be broken down as follows.


  • Check, clean and lube the mating surfaces in the hinge area.
  • Check, clean and lube the parts of the ejector mechanism.
  • Check and lubricate the breech sides to prevent galling and seizing.
  • Check, clean and lube the choke threads if you change them a lot.
  • Check, clean and lube the barrels if needed.
  • Check, clean and lube the trigger assembly if it’s easily accessible.


  • Clean the outer magazine tube.
  • Check and clean the piston.
  • Check and clean the push rod and spring.
  • Clean the fore end cap.
  • Clean the gas ports and area around them.
  • Check and clean the bolt, firing pin and spring.
  • Clean the inside of the receiver and bolting running surfaces.
  • Check, clean and lube the the choke threads if you change them a lot.
  • Check, clean and lube the barrel if needed.


  • Same as the semi’s but minus the gas parts.
  • Check, clean and lube all of the sliding action parts.

In-depth cleaning would include all of the above plus further dis-assembly of the gun to clean all the parts of the trigger group, action springs, recoil tube and springs, magazine tube and springs and the stock/fore end.


The weather can affect your shotgun in several ways.  Extreme cold can make them unreliable, especially a semi-auto.  In cold weather, the drier the gun the better.  Extreme hot weather can make oils and grease runny and attract more dirt.  Taking your guns near salt water and humid air can cause a flash rust to form.

Shooting in the rain is another matter.  It’s quite safe to use a gun in the rain IF you clean it as soon as possible.  Many people swear by WD-40 after using a gun in the rain.  WD-40 is a Water Displacement chemical and works well at it.  Spray your gun down with WD-40 then clean with a CLP.  Be careful to keep it off of wood stocks though.  Besides WD-40 you could use Ballistol which will mix with the water and carry it off.  Clean guns thoroughly after use in heavy rain.  This includes removing the stock to get any water out of that area.  But be careful that the wood doesn’t swell when off the gun!  Clean it, dry it, put it back together.

WARNING: Before attempting to disassemble or reassemble a firearm, visually inspect the chamber, the magazine and firing mechanism to be absolutely certain that no ammunition remains. Disassembly and reassembly should follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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