Gun Maintenance

One of the most important keys to hunting success doesn’t happen out in the field. In fact, it should be taken care of way before you venture out on any expedition.

You’ve got to ensure your gun is properly maintained and that means disassembling it and cleaning it out thoroughly so that there are no bits of dirt, gunk or residue with the potential to cause it to jam or misfire.

For some the process can be a chore but for the more dedicated and careful, it is a pleasure to keep your equipment in top working order.

Stripping and cleaning your rifle shouldn’t necessarily be a time consuming chore, and it won’t be if it is a task that is undertaken regularly. But it still should be something that you take the time to perform to some degree, at least.

On a day to day basis you might find that it will be enough to clean the barrel with a solvent/lube soaked patch. This will ensure that the worst of the debris and grime is removed without having to go through a full strip and clean.

Safety When Cleaning

Although it will quickly become part of a regular routine, you should always be aware that things can go wrong when handling guns and this definitely includes the cleaning process.

Check that the gun is unloaded. The gun’s action should be open and ready to be disassembled before taking any step towards going through a cleaning process.

You should also make sure that you protect yourself and your surroundings. This might mean putting on a pair of nitrile gloves in case you spill solvent on your hands. Set yourself up in a well ventilated area because the chemicals that you use are likely to be strong and the fumes can affect breathing or cause you to feel ill.

It is also advisable to place a cleaning mat where you’re working to catch and absorb any spills.

Cleaning Solvents

A gun that has been fired numerous times will quickly begin to experience a build-up of debris that will start to affect the performance and accuracy of your weapon.​

It is necessary to keep the gun in good working order and the most effective way to achieve this is to give the entire surface a thorough clean using a quality gun cleaning solvent.​

Possibly the best known and most trusted cleaning solvent available is Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaning Solvent. It has been around for many years and continues to provide a reliable and effective means of cleaning out a dirty gun barrel.​

​But there are many other brands available in a range of different strengths and special features. We have examined the most popular cleaning solvents for you and you can see the results on the cleaning solvents page.

Rods and Patches

A thorough clean of your gun’s barrel can take some time but can also be a very satisfying activity. There are a couple of basic tools that you need to get started and will help you to do a good cleaning job and they are cleaning rods and patches.​

It is important that you use a cleaning rod made of material that is softer than the steel of the barrel. Brass or carbon are two of the more commonly available materials that make up popular cleaning rods.​

The ideal type of cleaning rod is coated so that the bore of the barrel is not damaged.​ The coating is essentially a protective layer that will help the rod slide smoothly. If you can, look for cleaning rods that have spinning handles because this will allow the rod to turn with the barrel’s rifling.

The cleaning rod is used to pass patches through the bore of the rifle. These patches are simply squares of cotton that have been coated with solvent and pushed through the barrel to pick up and clean out the debris.​

They should be pushed through to loosen the powder and metal fragments that could be fouling the inside surface.​

As each patch becomes dirty it should be replaced with a new one so you aren’t simply spreading the dirt along the inside of the barrel.​

Bore Guides

This is an essential piece of gun cleaning equipment because it will help to keep the rod true and straight and will also prevent cleaning products from dripping down into the action.​

It is possible to either buy a universal bore guide that will come with adapters that will allow it to fit on the majority of firearm bores. Alternatively you can buy bore guides for specific bore sizes.

Although it might be cheaper to buy the single sized bore guide, in the long run, should you use more rifles, it may be wiser to buy the universal model.​


​Use a nylon, bronze, stainless steel or brass brush should be used to loosen the powder residue, an important step in properly completing the cleaning process.

Getting the right selection of different brushes in a kit form is possible and this will give you the flexibility of using them on different firearms and will also allow you to get into every nook and cranny to perform a thorough clean.

An alternative may be to pass a bore snake through the barrel a couple of times because they also contain a built-in brush.

Bore Snakes

The bore snake is a product that was designed by Hoppe’s and provides a fast and effective way of cleaning out the gun barrel. It comprises a long rope with a brush embedded in it that can be coated with solvent and pulled through from the breech to the muzzle.​

This method of bore cleaning has proven to be a very quick and easy cleaning process that shooters like to use when out in the field.​

You can find out more about bore snakes and other similar bore cleaners on this page.​

Rifle Cleaning Kits

Although it is possible to buy individual gun cleaning equipment (as has been described above) it may be far more economical to simply buy a complete rifle cleaning kit.​

These kits are comprised of all of the components necessary to complete a thorough cleaning job. You should be looking for kits that contain cleaning solvents, rods, patches, mops, brushes and perhaps a bore snake.​

A nice bonus when buying a good quality cleaning kit is that they usually come in a case that helps you stay organized. These cases have spots allocated to each cleaning piece and will allow you to pack everything away and store the items together for the next use.​

Gun Cleaning Mats​

There is no need to ruin your furniture for the sake of a clean gun. The process is going to use chemicals and cleaning devices that will damage the surfaces of tables or desks. That’s why gun cleaning mats have been designed and made available as a sensible work space to use when cleaning a weapon.​

These gun cleaning mats have been designed to handle a variety of different sized guns.​

Some are quite small for use with handguns while larger mats have been created for rifles and shotguns. It is possible to buy mats that also provide additional features such as accessory trays that will hold the smaller components of the gun or magnetic trays that will ensure that these smaller pieces don’t become lost.​

A popular line of cleaning mats feature exploded views of certain types of guns such as the AR-15. Some people find these mats useful when they are used as a reference guide that explains how the gun can be reassembled.​

Look for a cleaning mat that is, firstly, large enough to accommodate the largest of your rifles or shotguns. The next requirement should be one that provides a reasonable thickness to protect both the work surface and the weapon.​

Finally, you want to be sure that the mat you choose is capable of absorbing any chemical spills that may occur without soaking straight through to the table underneath.​

Read our more complete guide to gun cleaning mats here.​

Gun Cleaning Cradles​

Rather than simple sitting the rifle on the surface of a table and attempting to manoeuvre it around as you clean it, you can sit it firmly in place by using a gun cleaning cradle.

Gun Cleaning

Once the rifle is seated in the cradle it is accessible from all angles and will allow you to complete a complete cleaning job.

They may not be considered an essential part of your cleaning arsenal but they certainly make the task a lot easier to perform.

Adding Components

One of the less frequent tasks that may be undertaken on your rifle, but certainly a job that can require a high level of care and precision is the addition of components such as Picatinny rails, scope mounts or other items that require screws to be tightened.

Due to the forces that are at play when the gun is fired, it is important that any screws that have been tightened remain firmly in place. It is also just as important that the screws aren't overtightened. For this reason having a good quality torque wrench in your toolbox is extremely important.​

There are many more pieces of equipment that will be useful in the cleaning process but they may be specific items for certain types of weapons. What we have here is a starting point that will help to put together the basic components of your cleaning arsenal.

It is important to remember that simply buying the correct equipment isn’t enough if you want to ensure you are properly protecting your guns. Following the correct cleaning principles also means following a cleaning process that will not damage the inner surfaces of your rifle’s barrel and moving parts. Here is a page that provides a step by step guide through the process of properly cleaning your guns.