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Gun Cleaning Techniques to Keep Your Gun in Tip-Top Shape



A revolver and a handgun laying on a pad in preparation for cleaning | Effective Gun Cleaning Techniques For A Happy And Clean Gun | Featured

Maintain your gun's firing condition with these gun cleaning techniques and let it not fail you in times of defense.

RELATED: Gun Cleaning Tips And Tricks | How To Weatherproof Your Gun

In this article:

  1. A Clean Gun Is a Happy Gun
  2. 44 1/2 Magnum, Anyone?
  3. Break It on Down
  4. Scrub-a-Dub

Gun Cleaning Techniques to Keep Your Gun in Tip-Top Shape

A Clean Gun Is a Happy Gun


As a Prepper one of our greatest tools besides our mind is our firearms. It can defend our property and loved ones from bad guys.

It can put food on the table and just be all-around fun to use.

No matter what we use them for, if you need to depend on your gun it needs to be well kept and in good shape. One of the quickest ways for a gun to fail is if it becomes dirty.

If your gun fails, you instantly go from having a high powered, ranged weapon to a large club. You cannot afford to stake your life on a dirty gun!

So many people forget the simple act of cleaning a gun and think that it will fire every time, no matter what. This simply isn’t the case.

A clean gun runs smoother, shoots more accurately, and lasts longer. Cleaning your gun takes more time than effort but it is extremely important knowledge to have.

Let’s talk about the easiest and most thorough way to clean a gun and keep it in tip-top shape.

To get started you really don't need to spend a lot on supplies. Go to your local hardware, sporting goods, or department store (such as Wal-Mart) and pick up a cleaning rod and a hard brass barrel brush to attach to your cleaning rod.

The wire brush needs to be the right caliber (diameter or gauge) for your weapon. If you have a pistol, a small pistol cleaning kit has all the tools you need in it.

It is available in most places including here for not much money and fits in a very compact case you can slide into your pocket.

Outers 70084 25 - Piece Universal Wood Gun Cleaning Tool Chest (.22 Caliber and up), Multi, One Size
  • Attractive aged-oak finished wood construction
  • Universal components to cover cleaning duties for a Large variety of firearms
  • Strong, solid brass rods with high-quality tips, mops and brushes

You will also need a brush with nylon bristles to scrub your gun within those hard to reach places. No need to go buy the typical three brush set you find in the sporting goods department as an old toothbrush should do the job nicely.

If you own shotguns or rifles, it would be in your best interest to pick up a universal gun cleaning kit. A full kit should also give you cleaning patches, rifle cleaning rod, and some different cleaning tips as well.

Having access to one of those should give you all the brushes and cleaning rods for MOST common weapons out there.

Plano Shooters Case (X-Large),GREEN
  • Large field case offers deep storage, a lift-out tray, and a staggered yoke system to hold your rifle
  • Staggered yoke system holds your rifle securely for cleaning and maintenance
  • Equipped with a handle for comfortable carrying

44 1/2 Magnum, Anyone?

If you have something unusual, you might have to pick up a brush for that caliber. In my own personal cleaning supplies, I have an Outer's kit with cleaning rods, but instead of using the provided cleaners and lubricant I use others.

I also have a special brush I was given during my time serving in Law Enforcement called a “Tornado Brush.” It tends to clean a bit better than the plain bristle brush.

I also use Hoppes #9 Cleaning Solvent, Hoppes Gun Oil, and Winchester Gun Scrubber. These products are among the best I have used.

Lastly, I have a silicone gun & reel cloth I picked up at Gander Mountain.

RELATED: DIY Gun Cleaning Kit | 10 Essentials for Gun Cleaning

Break It on Down


Getting your gun clean is not very difficult. Once you have gathered the above supplies, you need a nice flat workspace away from pets and kids.

You don’t want to harm them with any harsh chemicals or lead particles. I usually put down a rubber mat but an old towel will work fine.

CLP by Sage & Braker. Our Gun Cleaning Formula is an Oil, Lubricant, Solvent and Protectant All in One. Clean + Lube + Protect Your Guns with The Best in Firearm Cleaning Supplies. 4oz.
  • UNBEATABLE GUN CLEANING // Other CLPs leave an oily coating, don’t clean properly and use harsh toxic chemicals, but NOT at Sage & Braker. We use a highly penetrating solvent to will infiltrate every surface on a micro level to provide a deeper and cleaner solution to carbon, lead and copper fouling. The aggressive cleaning of our Clean, Lube and Protect will remove crud from your firearms after years of neglect, all while NOT using harsh chemicals that can poison those that use it
  • PROTECT YOUR FIREARMS FROM FAILURE // Feel confident that your firearms will be well protected from corrosion and rust. Even more important, our formula provides carbon and contamination management during the use of your weapon. Our formula greatly reduces static (which promotes the attachment of carbon and contaminants). You depend on your firearms and need them to work when you need them most. Don’t allow second rate CLPs to compromise the integrity of your guns.
  • SMOOTH ACTION FOR RELIABLE PERFORMANCE // Our CLP coats and protects the bore and all moving parts on your firearm. It also provides working components of the firearm improved heat dissipation resulting in cooler weapon operation temperatures. Our formula enhances a complete burn of the powder in your cartridge, creating a more consistent FPS and therefore a more accurate shot.

Lay your weapon on the mat or towel and break it down by field stripping it. If you are not familiar with exactly how to do that it is OK.

Consult your owner’s manual or just do an internet search on “your weapon” field stripping replacing the part in quotes with the name or model you are trying to break down. You should come up with numerous articles and/or videos of how to do it.

Once you have broken your weapon down, it is good to inspect it for wear and see if there is anything unusual. If everything appears normal you want to open up your cleaning solvent and dip the nylon brush into it.

Start scrubbing all your metal parts with the solvent to remove lead and powder buildup from firing the weapon.

FIREGEAR Gun Cleaning Kit Universal Supplies for Hunting Rifle Handgun Shot Gun Cleaning Kit for All Guns with Case
  • All brass. Tips and Cleaning jags are made of high quality brass. Sets from other brands use cheap plastic tips that can easily break after use. With this set you will not experience the frustration of having a broken Jag/tip inside your gun barrel.
  • Resistant Cleaning rods. Rods and extension are made of brass, strong enough to avoid excessive bending or breaking. Just be sure to apply the proper amount of force and you will swipe through the barrel without problems.
  • Universal kit. 6 brass rods, 9 bronze brushes: 17Cal, 22Cal, 270Cal, 30Cal, 9mm/38Cal, 40-45cal/10mm, 410ga, 20/28ga, 10/12ga. 5 mops: . 22-25cal, . 38-357cal, 410ga, 20/28ga, 10/12ga. 6 brass jags: 17Cal, 22Cal, . 270/7mm Cal, . 30-32cal, 35Cal/9mm, . 40-45cal/10mm.

If I am cleaning polymer or all metal weapons I usually clean the stock or grip too as residue can build up in there also. Be very careful about using the solvent on wooden stocks and grips as it can wear or mar the finish.

I found that out the hard way, but more about that later. Once you have cleaned the gun completely as possible, attach your hard bristle barrel brush to the cleaning rod.

Do you know how to clean a gun barrel? Dip that into the cleaning solvent and scrub, scrub, scrub the barrel until the bristles run clean and smooth.

You can dip the brush into the solvent again through the process if needed, but usually, one dip will get it. Now if you bought a kit that came with patches and plastic tip attach the plastic tip and insert a patch into it.

Run this patch through the barrel and repeat the process with a clean patch until it comes out clean (no black residue). Inspect your gun and all of its parts for any spots you might have missed cleaning and touch up as needed.



Once you are ready to move on you want to get your can of gun scrubber which will remove all of the solvents. Be careful using the gun scrubber on any wooden parts.

If it has a finish on it, it could take it off and you don’t want that. I am going to have to pick up a different product that is less harsh on my weapons with wood finish than what I am using now.

I found out the hard way this can happen while cleaning the first gun. If you have a polymer or metal gun though this should not be an issue and you can spray the gun scrubber over the entire weapon with no adverse effects.

It is best to set the parts out your towel or mat to air dry for 10-15 minutes. Once the parts are completely dry you can get you lubrication/gun oil out.

I shake my oil bottle for about a minute to mix it well. Each weapon has its own specifications for lubrication and it's best you consult your owner’s manual.

You certainly don't want to over or under lubricate it as that could cause malfunctions and unexpected wear. Once you have lubed your weapon, you are ready to put it back together.

When everything is back in its right place, make sure and work the action to get the lubricant into the spots you may have missed.

You want to be careful about dry firing the weapon. Some manufacturers say not to do it as it can cause damage.

Once you have worked the lube in you can use your silicone reel cloth to wipe down all exterior surfaces of the weapon and make it like new!

Birchwood Casey 33304 Gun Scrubber Fishing Equipment (Pack of 2)
  • FAST-EVAPORATING CLEANER - Cleaning your gun just got a whole lot easier and faster thanks to Birchwood Casey’s gun scrubber gun cleaner. This cleaner is pressurized, fast evaporating and cleans internal metal gun parts effectively
  • EFFECTIVE CLEANING - Birchwood Casey Gun scrubber eliminates gun jams while improving accuracy and reliability. Always test in an inconspicuous area to ensure product will not harm surfaces!
  • NOTE - While safe for gun usage, the Birchwood Casey Gun scrubber solvent may harm finished surfaces, plastics, laminates, composites, rubber grips or other materials used in the construction of today’s guns

Check out this video from CaliGunNCar about basic gun cleaning tools and supplies:

Cleaning your guns is not difficult or expensive, but it is an essential part of gun ownership. By following these procedures you should be able to help make your weapons last a very long time and make sure that they are ready when you need them most.

Thanks for reading and happy prepping!

Do you have gun cleaning techniques to tell us about? Share them with us in the comments section below!


Effective Gun Cleaning Techniques For A Happy And Clean Gun |

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 16, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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  1. Ernest B Burdick

    February 5, 2018 at 11:27 AM

    Easier than a rod and brushes are Hoppe’s boresnakes in the proper caliber. I use CLP on the boresnake where the cord meets the thick material, just before you see the built-in brushes. Then 3 passes through the barrel and it’s clean.

  2. M. Hatch

    January 18, 2018 at 5:31 PM

    A lot of good comments & suggestions. A word about “dry firing” though. Most all CENTERFIRE firearms (especially newer ones) will alow the dry firing of a weapon, the exception generally is the .22 rimfire…

  3. Sheldon Fingerman

    January 9, 2018 at 9:14 PM

    Scrub, scrub, scrub is not a good description of how to use a bore brush. If the brush is not pushed all the way through the barrel before pulling it back it will get stuck and may damage the brush and the barrel. All the way through and all the way back out is the only way to use a bore brush. Also, as another poster said, the first thing you should do is clear the gun before doing anything — make sure it is unloaded INCLUDING the chamber and don’t use live ammo to function check your gun. Otherwise, good article.

  4. Bob M

    January 31, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Just a word of caution, after a field stripped cleaning and the gun is re-assembled make sure it will still go “Bang.” Especially if it is your CC weapon. After I finish practice at the range I clean my CC pistol at the range than I fire it to insure that it will go “Bang”. I don’t want any surprises if I have to use it..

  5. Doug

    January 24, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    If you use “mom’s” table to clean, make sure to protect it with a thick covering of newspapers.
    If at all possible, clean fron the breech not the muzzle – protect the crown.
    Brushes should be pushed all the way through.
    Excessive use of a Tornado brush will harm the bore.
    Protect your optics when cleaning -scope caps or what ever.
    On revolvers with side plates NEVER PRY. Take the grips off . Remove the screws (using a hollow ground screwdriver that fits). After removing the cylinder, hold the gun in your off hand with the side plate down so it will fall into your hand and tap the opposite grip with a hard rubber or plastic hammer. Let gravity and your gentle tapping do the work. On a Smith you will get two things in your hand the hammer block and the side plate. Put the gun dpwn and examine the side plate, the hammer block fits into a narrow groove with the part that blocks the hammer sticking up. Now clean the internal parts. Lubricate and reassemble, Do not pry on the side plate or use the screws to force it back into position. Again hold the gun in your off hand with the side plate up gently tap the opposite side grip until the side place is in place. (Gentle finger pressure is okay.) Once the side plate is in place the cylinder should be replaced and the screws replaced. IF YOU PULL THE SIDE PLATE ON A COLT DO THE SAME THING, BUT, BE EXTRA GENTLE BECAUSE THE SIDE PLATE IS VERY THIN WHERE THE CYLINDER LATCH IS CUT IN!
    When you strip your 870 to clean it you may end up with a spring that comes out with the trigger group.
    It belongs on the left side in the receiver and is staked so it shouldn’t come out and its job is to hold your shells in the magazine, however guns get old too. I’ve had to resake mine a couple of times. Midway/Brownells will sell you a nifty tool to restake it or put the spring back in place, replace the pin that goes through it, and while holding it down strike the spot were it was origionally staked with a small hammer and small coal chisel’s corner edge.
    As one previous poster noted Eezox is good stuff.

  6. TJ Mac

    January 12, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Latest tests by major gun makers and hobbists; cheap and work great!
    Employ ATF as a small arms cleaning agent, and follow with 20 weight synthetic motor oil as a lubricant.
    Hopes No9 for copper cleaning if needed

  7. Craig L Johnson aka thenaturenurd

    January 8, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    Good comments all. Thanks for the suggestions.

  8. James

    January 7, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    The only thing I use to clean my guns (and man am I picky about my guns), is Rem Oil. After making the gun safe I break the gun down, spray the parts down and use soft cloths, Q-Tips and brass brushes to clean the parts and the barrel then put them back together.

    I have seen where some of the gun cleaning solvents destroy gun finishes. I have never seen or had problems cleaning all of the powder fouling or lead out of my guns with Rem Oil (yes I reload and shoot lead out of my pistols).

  9. ron

    January 4, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    thanks to all of you for some good idea’s and thoughts.

  10. Smilinjak

    January 3, 2013 at 11:54 PM

    A small amount of solvent should be poured into a container to dip brushes in. Dipping directly into the bottle contaminates the entire supply rendering it unusable in a short time. A patch saturated with bore cleaner will deposit more solvent in the bore than a dipped brush. Allow the solvent to soak in about as long as it takes to switch to a brush then scrub in one direction by pushing the brush out the muzzle unscrewing it then reattach for another pass from the chamber end. If you run the brush back and forth the wires break off very quickly. Prove that to yourself by taking a small wire and bend it back and forth to see how long it takes to breake it. If you want to scrub use a nylon brush.
    Just some observations from 60 years of cleaning guns.

    • Anonymous

      January 10, 2018 at 4:04 PM

      Good points about the solvent container and running the brush in one direction

    • Michael A Marquis

      January 18, 2018 at 10:11 AM

      Some points to consider regarding cleaning:
      Most cleaners remove copper fouling from bullet jackets sliding down the bore. The cleaners will also attack the brushes since they are made of similar material. Use nylon brushes for most cleaning, and the bronze brushes for stubborn spots – then rinse the metal bristle brush in alcohol to prevent the brush from deteriorating and bristles breaking during the next use.
      Gun Scrubber (carb cleaner, break shoe cleaner, starter spray, etc) works by dissolving oils that keep the dirt stuck to the metal. The spray “blasts” grime loose, but leaves the metal unprotected. (Rust will be more difficult to remove than dirt, so relubrication is important to do in the tight spots.)
      Since dirt sticks to oil, I like using Dry Slide. You apply it and let the fluid evaporate, leaving dry graphite to keep the parts friction free. It doesn’t freeze in winter and because it’s dry it can’t get dirt stuck in it. I have cleaned barrels and chambers with Break Free, but the heat from firing cartridges cooks it into a weird goo. Try to avoid using Break Free in these 2 areas – otherwise, its one of the best. NEVER USE WD-40 as it turns to gum during storage and jams up the workings.
      To protect the outer surfaces of your firearm, use Turtle Wax car polish or equivalent. 2 coats and buffed off will prevent water and air from starting rust. Also good for sealing the wood stocks to prevent the wood from “twisting” due to absorbing moisture from the environment, elevation, or atmosphere – which affects bullet impact.
      Hope my hard lessons will enlighten

  11. Irish-7

    January 3, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    I have only been using one solvent to clean, lubricate and protect my weapons for years: Breakfree. In fact, it is called CLP. I realize that you made mention of using the manual, which is good. But, I always emphasize CLEARING the weapon before disassembly. In magazine fed firearms, this includes: 1) Drop the magazine. 2)Pull the bolt to the rear, extracting any potential chambered round. 3) Visually inspect the chamber to make sure it is clear. 4) Ride the bolt/slide forward. 5) Squeeze the trigger with the gun pointed in a safe direction.

  12. wayne

    January 3, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    If you do not have gun scrubber, starting fluid is good and usually cheaper both are mostly compressed Either. i alway’s keep a can in my kit spraying the gun down will remove any oil and you should be sure to put a light coat on everything when you are done personally I use silicone. not the type you by at an auto store which really doe’s not have a high quality silicone putting a gun away for storage wiped down well with silicone oil and /or silicone high vacume grease will last year’s but it should be wiped OFF of all the heavy silicone again before use but it will store good for year’s without worring about any rust

  13. james fiske

    January 3, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    thanks for the good information!!!

  14. Garycw

    January 3, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    I agree with William. Gun scrubber is good, but seems like a lazymans way. I guess if you didn’t have time to break down & clean properly, it would be s good, quick temporary fix till cleaned properly. If you have broke down and have a unused away hard area to get too & don’t have gun scrubber, carb cleaner works good. (metal only). Q-tips work wonders too. I prefer synthetic EEZOX for cleaning & oiling with a very small amount of synthetic gun grease on slides & high friction areas.

  15. William

    January 3, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Solvent and Gun scrubber? That is like taking a bath before your shower. It doen nothing but waste time and money. Use one or the other they are the same thing. Bore snakes. Ok for a quich clean in the field but constant use destroys guns FAST. The rub of the cord riding on the muzzle can trash a crown in a few cleanings, After one pass the snake is a hazzard as it puts back and grinds in everything it just cleaned out on the first pass. So unless you are fully washing and drying it between each pass throught the bore you are causing damage, avoid snakes and any pull through. There is a reason the US military stopped using pull throughs 60 years ago. Except perhaps the otis system and it is just grossly over priced and a waste of time.

  16. Rex

    January 3, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    Keep all your worn out cloth, such as socks, bed sheets, etc. and cut them up for cleaning rags and bore patches.

  17. kevin

    January 3, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    I gave up all that for boresnakes and militech. Works great, much lighter to carry, more compact to store and can’t bend or scratch a muzzle crown. Add a rag, and your kit’s complete.

    Also, if you don’t know where or how much to lube, get an owners manual – they’re pretty knowledgeable about that!

    • Dean

      January 17, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Watch the Boresnakes! Especially for small caliber rifles. If the pull string breaks, you will NOT be able to get it out of the bore unless you can hook the end somehow and pull it out. Trying to push the boresnake through w/a cleaning rod will only compress it.

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