How to clean a shotgun
People often ask how often to clean a shotgun. The fact is, you should be doing it after every shoot. Cleaning stops rust, keeps the gun functioning as it should and protects it from wear and tear. At the end of the season, or if you're not going to be shooting for a while, extra special care should be taken to ensure it’s put away in great shape ready for next time.
Firstly, it’s essential to ensure your shotgun is unloaded before cleaning. Clear away all ammunition from around you, and give yourself plenty of space.
Breaking down the gun - Breaking down the gun into its primary parts is easy. With break action’s there are usually 3 parts; the forend, the stock and action (which are usually one piece), and the barrels. With semi autos, disassembly is very different and it depends on the make and model, the best thing to do is refer to the gun’s manual or talk to your local dealer.
Break action guns
The way shotguns disassemble varies slightly between makes and model but generally the principles are the same.
Check it’s unloaded and remove any snap caps if you use them.
Close the gun and put the safety on, don't squeeze the trigger- it’s important that it’s cocked.
With the gun upside down, looking at the forend, you should see a catch or button on the bottom side; this releases it. It may be a little bit stiff if new.
Once the forend is off, push across the top lever as if you were breaking the gun. This will release the barrels, that will then lift off when in the broken position.
You'll now have 3 parts ready for cleaning.
To reassemble, just do steps 1 to 4 in reverse order. Once back together, it's important to check everything is functioning properly. The important parts to check are;
The triggers (use snap caps)
Ejectors/extractors (use snap caps)
Shotgun Cleaning Process
Break action guns
Most shotgun cleaning kits include a cleaning rod and jag – which you will be pushing down the barrel to clean- as well as a soft brush and some cleaning cloths, oil and lubricant spray.
Using the shotgun cleaning rod, with the jag wrapped in special linen, cotton patches or tissue paper, thoroughly clean the inside of each barrel to remove any powder residues and grit. Pay particular attention to the area at the end of the chamber. Have a look through each barrel to make sure they are completely clear. The barrel should have a mirror finish when you’re finished.
Napier make some fantastic products that we highly recommend, one of which is their bore solvent this will chemically clean the barrel – you put a few drops down the barrel and leave the solution to do its job of softening any lead deposits. After a few minutes, you can run the rod and jag covered with a linen cloth through the barrel to remove any debris. You can also run a soft brush through to remove any lead fouling from the barrels.
The chambers themselves are usually fairly clean but it's always a good idea to give them a once over with a chamber brush, just to be sure. If you have a gun with removable chokes, we recommend you take them out and clean the threads on both the choke and the gun. It's also a good idea to screw them back in with a light coating of inert grease - this stops them seizing and makes changing them easier.
One of the best oils we have found is from Napier, all external metal areas should be oiled lightly and any dirt should be removed, don't over do it with the oil as it can make handling the gun a little unpleasant. Try to avoid getting oil on the stock as this can affect the finish on the wood and over time it can weaken it.
Furniture polish can be good for removing little scratches and smudges in the woodwork but there are also a number of products that are designed specifically for stocks. As well as hiding scratches, they will also help protect the wood in future.
It's always a good idea to oil any areas where metal moves against metal, if you don’t these areas can get worn or even worse, seize and ruin your days shooting! Not to mention incurring you some unwanted gunsmith costs.
You'll notice a lot of dirt build up where the action meets the barrels and around the ejectors or extractors, it's important you get rid of this too. The best tool for the job is an old toothbrush, although specialist brushes can be bought as well. Some people store the gun with the barrels pointing down in their cabinet, this stops oil running into the woodwork over time. If you decide to do this it’s important you check there is no oil in the barrels when you go shooting. Shooting with oil in the barrels can cause some serious damage to the bores.
The whole cleaning process should take about twenty minutes but if the gun is particularly dirty it may take longer, the more practice you have the quicker you’ll get!
Semi autos and pump actions
Once you’ve taken your semi auto apart, you'll no doubt see lots of dirt. As with break action guns, any metal on metal parts need to be cleaned and lubricated. There are a lot more moving parts in a semi auto and care should be taken to make sure they’re all moving as they should be and functioning properly whilst you have the gun apart. The barrels should be cleaned in the same way that you would with a break action gun. On some semi autos that are gas operated, you'll notice some holes part way down the barrel, it's important you ensure these are open and clear of debris, if they aren’t, the gun may not cycle properly.
Moderators and attachments
They’re fairly uncommon, but a couple of companies have made some shotguns with moderators. Because of how these work the moderators and baffles can pick up dirt fairly quickly. When cleaning these, it's important to take them apart fully and get all the caked on and burnt powder off, otherwise it’ll affect how the moderator functions.
Gunstar top tips!
Use a toothbrush to clean any awkward to reach parts.
When your brushes get dirty rinse them under a hot tap and then put them in the washing machine. Just make sure they are completely dry before you use them again.
Gun oil can dry out over time so if you're not shooting for a while it's worth cleaning them every couple of months.
Furniture polish is a cheap way to keep a stock in top shape.
Oils specifically manufactured for guns are best but WD40 is a good substitute if that's all you have.
Toilet paper is a great for oiling external areas, just spray some oil on to the metal work and wipe with the tissue.