If you want a treasured gun to perform well and last, you need to look after it. Here's an easy step-by-step guide, with pictures.

Neglect to clean your gun and you’ll accelerate its wear and tear. In addition, a gun can shoot loose faster unless it’s carefully maintained.

1. In most cases light gun oil is the best all-round lubricant. However grease can be used for specific purposes. Start by lubricating the extractors with oil.

Cleaning a shotgun

2. The knuckle is one area where a very light smear of grease works well. Apply it very sparingly to the knuckle of the fore-end iron using a finger.

Cleaning a shotgun

3. One part that is prone to wear is the cross-pin, which is sometimes called the hinge-pin. Apply grease to the barrel hook and bites.

Cleaning a shotgun

4. Another area of wear is the locking bolt. Apply a drop or two of oil to the bolt while operating the top lever and take care to not use too much oil.

Cleaning a shotgun

A few more questions about shotgun cleaning

Q: While cleaning my gun I have noticed it’s developed two or three dark looking rings down each barrel and no amount of oiling or cleaning will shift them. Is this the start of some kind of corrosion? If not, what’s caused the ring marks and how can I get rid of them?

A: Plastic fouling can show as ring marks, but it usually comes out with bore cleaning solvent and a bronze brush.

However, you should always be suspicious of ring-markings inside barrels. They might be nothing more than obstinate muck or mild corrosion, but dangerous bulges can also show as rings. A visit to a gunsmith is in order.

Q: I’ve lost my small tube of grease which I use when cleaning my gun. Can I use Vaseline instead?

A: Although Vaseline feels like a good quality grease, in engineering terms its lubricating qualities are pretty poor. There is also some evidence that, in the long term, it absorbs water.

I suggest that next time you are in a gun shop you buy a little tube of proper gun grease to use on knuckles and choke tube threads.

Otherwise, use the grade of mineral grease used for packing bearings.

Dirty shotgun

A not very clean gun

Q: I have an old side-by-side boxlock with a colour-hardened action. The action is very dirty, and I wonder how it can be cleaned?

A: That lovely brown and blue abstract pattern of colour hardening is of microscopic thickness, so you need to be very careful. Abrasives such as Brasso, which are good for cleaning bright polished steel, could well do damage.

I would be tempted to use nothing more than barrel cleaning solvent. You could use a very mild abrasive cleaner such as a very fine silver polish, but strictly at your own risk.