Gun maintenance is a vital part of being a responsible shooter.

  1. Never neglect gun maintenance. A little effort will keep your guns safe, reliable and rust-free
  2. Do not put a gun in a gun slip into a gun safe. You want air movement
  3. Do not put a heater or a lightbulb in your gun safe. Your stock will over-dry, warm and crack
  4. Avoid multi-use cleaning rods and ropes. These soon get filthy and full of corrosive acids
  5. Use a reputable gun oil – see our advice on the best gun oils. 
  6. Even chrome barrels need a good clean – harmful deposits can still build up on barrel walls
  7. Black powder cartridges are getting popular, but always spend extra time cleaning if you use these. Black powder leaves highly corrosive deposits that are hard to shift
  8. Always store guns barrel down, any excess oil will drain away from the walnut stock
  9. Be careful not to handle blued metal work with bloody hands, especially duck blood – unless you want to strip the blue off your barrels
  10. Regularly remove and clean chokes, lightly grease or oil thread before refitting and tightening. The same holds for rifle moderators
  11. Make all the above a regular part of your gun care routine
gun care kit

Shotgun cleaning kit

A few commonly asked questions about shotgun cleaning

Q: How should I clean plastic fouling from my shotgun barrel?

A: Plastic fouling usually shows up as a grey film over the bright metal of the barrel and, as it is acidic, it should be removed as soon as possible. It usually comes out with ordinary cleaning solvent on a bronze brush.

Q: When shotgun cleaning, should I strip down the action? 

A: It all depends on how many cartridges you fire in 12 months, but once a year is quite enough for most guns – providing you have a thorough normal cleaning routine after every use and you are particularly careful if the gun gets very wet or dusty.  As far as oil is concerned, pretty well anything sold as “gun oil” in your local gun shop should do the trick.  Remember guns need only a tiny amount of oil inside the action. Too much oil can gum up the inertia mechanism which transfers the trigger to the second barrel, and also soak into the wood and soften it.

Q: What’s best for the action when cleaning a shotgun? The silver action on my Browning has gone dull and dark in places. Is there any way I can get it cleaned up? 

A: A lot of this discolouration is caused by sweaty hands and any reasonably fine metal polish should do the trick – something like Brasso on a soft cloth, or the sort in which the polish is absorbed in cotton wool. Remember, however, that it is an abrasive, and it doesn’t do woodwork any good, so be careful when cleaning a shotgun. For these reasons remove the stock, and be very careful to see that the polish doesn’t get inside the action.

A useful gun maintenance cleaning routine

So what should you do at the end of each day out in the field? What is the basic cleaning routine to follow to protect your gun and keep it in better overall condition?

The step-by-step guide below is a helping hand to look after your gun on a day-to-day basis. But do not try to take apart the action or internals of your gun. If you have any concerns about damage or wear, seek professional advice as soon as possible.

Have a professional service annually too

Combine this cleaning routine with a professional service once a year, and a sound shotgun should last you a lifetime.

Tools for gun maintenance

tools for gun maintenance

  • Cleaning rod and attachment
  • Phosphor-bronze brush
  • Brass jag
  • Cotton mop
  • Chamber brush
  • Cleaning roll/patches and cloth
  • Toothbrush
  • Cotton buds
  • Gun oil for barrels, grease for hinges and bites, silicone oil for woodwork

Guide to cleaning your gun

Start by taking the gun apart, removing the fore-end and laying it down alongside the stock and barrels.

  1. Firstly look at the barrels. Start by cleaning the breech area and ejectors, pushing them out and, using the toothbrush, sweeping away any dirt and unburnt powder. A cotton bud can be useful here, if used very gently, to clean in those small, hard to reach places. gun barrel cleaning
  2. Look at the inside of the barrels and spray a small amount of gun cleaner down each tube. Starting with the chambers, use the chamber brush to scrub away any powder or plastic residue from where the cartridges would sit. cleaning rod for a shotgun
  3. Pick up the cleaning rod with the phosphor bronze brush attachment and run it up and down inside of each barrel, making sure to get right up to the chokes and back down to the chambers. Be quite thorough, going up and down several times to dislodge any deposits. The solvent in the gun cleaner will help to break down the stubborn dirt. gun maintenance
  4. Swap the rod attachment over to the brass jag, adding a piece of cleaning roll. Top tip – kitchen roll is a very good alternative to cleaning roll and will cost a fraction of the price. The roll should fit snugly down the barrels, small enough that you can push the rod all the way to the end but big enough that it forces the dirt out, rather than just moving it up and down. Repeat the movements to remove the loosened deposits. The cleaning roll should come out covered in dirt and grime. It’s rather a shock to see, as at first glance the barrels look reasonably clean. Add  a fresh piece of roll and repeat until it comes out clean.gun cleaning
  5. To finish off the inside of the barrels use a cotton mop with a small squeeze of gun oil. Attaching this to the rod and running it through the barrels ensures the insides are completely clean and adds a thin, even coat of oil. A final wipe of the ejectors again to remove any dirt that has come out while cleaning, and the barrels are ready to be set back down as you turn our attention to the action. Use a toothbrush to brush over the exposed metalwork. The bristles are perfect for dislodging any build-up of grease but are soft enough that they won’t harm the action even if you apply reasonable force. As with the barrels, a cotton bud can be used to reach into the small fiddly areas, but be very gentle here as they can get stuck or snap off if used too harshly.gun cleaning
  6. Turning  attention to the stock, start by running a toothbrush through the chequering to dislodge any hidden mud. Make sure you use a clean toothbrush and not the same one you have used on the action. Wipe the stock over with a clean cloth to remove any surface dirt before adding a little oil. A silicone cloth and silicone oil are fantastic products to keep in your cleaning kit as they can be used on both the stock and barrels. Don’t use too much oil, though — a little goes a long way. Repeat with the fore-end, trying to avoid getting any oil into the chequering.reassembling a cleaned gun
  7. Once the gun has been thoroughly cleaned, it’s time to reassemble. Add a small amount of grease to the parts of the metalwork – the knuckle, barrel lumps and fore-end loop. Then put the barrels back onto the action and attach the fore-end. A final wipe over with our cloth and the gun is well cleaned and ready to be put away until next season.
  8. This process is a great way of cleaning a day’s dirt from your gun and will help to keep it in good condition and free of rust.

Some more advice for gun maintenance

Never  leave your gun in a wet slip, even if it’s just for a few hours. The water and warmth within a slip create the perfect environment for rust to form in only a very short space of time.

If you are shooting in particularly wet weather, try to dry your gun after every drive. A cleaning cloth and small bottle of silicone oil is a great addition to your in-field shooting kit, and always leave your gun to dry naturally away from direct heat at the end of the day.

What should I do if my gun gets soaked?

  • Don’t try to speed things up by putting your gun next to a radiator, fire or the AGA because this could crack or warp the fore-end wood and stock.
  • Instead, remove the stock and fore-end and wipe them down with a wad of loo roll to remove the dampness before leaving them in a warmish room to dry naturally, and slowly.
  • All metal parts such as the action and barrels should be carefully wiped dry with loo roll. Then put them in the airing cupboard for two or three hours to get rid of moisture in those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.
  • The barrels should then be thoroughly cleaned and oiled and the action body and trigger mechanism given a light spray of oil. Don’t use too much oil.

What about your gun slip?

  • Dry out every inch of it after a wet day in the field or otherwise it will grow mould and your gun will go rusty.
black powder cartridges

Testing out some black powder

Any tips for cleaning black powder from a gun?

Some users recommend  WD40 as being particularly useful for blackpowder fouling if it is sprayed down the barrel immediately after use.

It seems to form a barrier between the corrosive fouling and the metal.

The fouling then comes out very easily in the form of a powdery grey residue rather than the usual sticky, sooty mess.


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