Your shooting skills are directly connected to your gun cleaning skills; learn to do it the right way.
Hunting gear is a sizable investment, and one of the cornerstones of that investment is the hunting gun itself. The hunting rifle or shotgun is the core of your hunting success: it's what will land you trophy kills and fill your tags; it's what will earn you notoriety and envy among hunting friends and colleagues; and it's the item that most beginning hunters will want to spend the most time practicing with.
With all of that in mind, it's important for you to make sure that you are always giving your rifle the utmost level of care that it deserves. Not only will a broken or malfunctioning rifle incur you a sizable cost in purchasing a replacement, it will also likely force you to learn how to use a new weapon, which may in turn cause you to lose a few kills that you would have scored easily with your older rifle.
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Quite simply, you have a vested interest in making sure that your firearm functions well hunt after hunt and year after year.
The best way to ensure that your gun remains dependable for the long term is to clean it on a regular basis. Hunters generally come from different schools of thought on whether or not a gun should be thoroughly cleaned after every single use.
However, unanimous belief dictates that, if you are ready to put your gun into storage for a long period of time - as many hunters do come the end of deer season - you had better make sure you are giving it the most thorough cleaning you can.
Before you start actually cleaning your gun, there are a few pre-cleaning steps that are essential to the safety of the operation. First of all, make sure that the gun is actually unloaded. This may seem like it goes without saying, but hunting lore tells of plenty of individuals who shot off their own fingers because they tried to clean a loaded gun.
Even if you think you fired off your last round in the field, take a moment to make sure the gun is completely empty.
Secondly, set up camp in a ventilated space. A thorough gun cleaning uses pungent solvents that are safe enough in limited doses, but harmful if allowed to cloud in a house or some other enclosed space.
If the weather is nice enough in your area, you might consider cleaning your gun outside. If it's cold and snowy outside, the garage is probably your best bet. You will need to have the door open - and probably have a fan in place to propel the fumes into the great outdoors - but it sure beats sitting in the cold and snow.
Once you make it past the pre-cleaning steps, your cleaning processes will likely vary depending on the gun you have. If in doubt, try searching online for cleaning processes that work well for your specific gun, or check the manual if you still have it.
Most guns are cleaned by stripping the action and taking the gun apart, and then cleaning the parts individually with a solvent soaked rag. The bore can be cleaned using a brush, also soaked in solvent (make sure you get a brush that matches the caliber of your weapon).
Once the gun is cleaned, start putting it back together, taking care to make sure everything has been thoroughly dried before you put it away, so as to prevent rust.
In addition, make sure to lubricate the bore so that the gun is ready to be used again.
For a more thorough look at how to clean your gun, go here.