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How to Properly Clean Your Shotgun, Inside and Out

Go through the steps of how to properly clean your shotgun, and it'll pay off.

Shotguns have two natural enemies: politicians and rust. While there may not be a whole lot you can do about the first problem, the second is easily remedied.

Here are the basics to cleaning a shotgun.


Proper cleaning of a shotgun is essential to preserving it for long-term use. Lead, copper and powder fouling should be removed so that it does not accumulate and cause damage to the moving parts or the bore.

Start by cleaning from the chamber to the muzzle. It is not as important on shotguns as it is on rifles (unless you have a rifled shotgun barrel in a slug gun), but it is a good practice to turn into a habit. Consider purchasing a cleaning kit with a rod that will allow you to attach a bore brush to it for better cleaning.


Most shotguns can be cleaned in this manner after a hunting trip or a few range sessions in as little as 10 minutes.


The exterior of a shotgun will also need to be cleaned after a hunting trip. Start by using a soft bristle brush to remove mud, sand, dirt, etc., from the shotgun's furniture, particularly if it accumulates in the checkering of the stock.

Once the firearm is properly cleaned, it should be lubricated to protect the metal surfaces from rust or corrosion. Some experts advocate storing firearms liberally coated with oil or another lubricant, however, this can be detrimental in many instances, particularly if the firearm's stocks are made of wood. Some oils can penetrate the wood and an overabundance will cause the wood to soften.

Likewise, inexpensive oils can get into the metal parts of the gun and attract dirt, causing actions to gum up or parts to stick. This can lead to failure the next time you fire your shotgun.

The best recommendation for lubrication is to coat a towel or rag with a light coating of gun cleaner. The damp rag can then be used to lightly coat the metal surfaces to protect them from corrosion.

If the shotgun is equipped with an optic, the lenses will need to be cleaned with a lens cloth. Before storing, cover the lenses with caps or a scope cover to protect them from dust.

A cleaned and well maintained shotgun can turn itself into a family heirloom that can be passed down from generation to generation. Hundreds of thousands of shotguns made in the early 20th century still go afield today because their owners took proper care of them.


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How to Properly Clean Your Shotgun, Inside and Out