At-Home Gun Cleaning Tips
Tips For Cleaning Your Gun At-Home
As a shooter and hunter, I have dearly missed feeling the heft of my favorite rifles as gun ranges and shooting clubs remain closed across most of the country. In fact, this is the longest I’ve gone without shooting since I was a kid. For me, the club where I practice is just like the golfer’s country club, except that they don’t get the pleasant smell of burned gunpowder included in their membership. While it’s been a tough hiatus from the shooting sports, there is a silver lining. This downtime gives us the opportunity to talk about at-home gun cleaning tips and optic care.
I can’t stress the importance of maintaining your firearm properly. And while there’s no one way to do it, this is what I use and my process. Please note that you can find a number of very reputable brands that sell do-it-yourself gun cleaning kits and solutions at affordable prices.
Last but certainly not least, optic care is also vital to overall accuracy. Properly cleaning your lenses using the correct tools such as a lens pen and fiber cloth will guarantee a clear field of view next time you sit down at the bench.
WHAT YOU NEED
Safety Above All Else
First thing, please put firearm safety above all else. Make sure the gun is unloaded. Remove the magazine and the bolt, assuming that we’re talking about a bolt-action rifle. You can always consult your firearm’s user manual to help you through this step. Always keep it pointed in a safe direction. And please leave your ammunition stowed away from the firearm.
A Borescope (Optional)
A borescope allows you to see down the barrel and determine exactly what’s going on in there. You can quickly and accurately assess where you need to concentrate your cleaning efforts. Today, borescopes are more affordable and better optimized to help you with the at-home gun cleaning process than they were 20 years ago. Using one will invariably help you maintain and even improve accuracy by allowing you to remove both powder and copper fouling from your rifle barrel.
Next, you’ll need cleaning rods, preferably nylon coated, to clean the barrels. There are options for virtually all caliber barrels that you can set up for patches and brushes. Find one of a sturdy build so that it won’t bend and chance scarring your barrel’s rifling. J. Dewey rods are one of my favorites.
Whether you shoot a shotgun, rifle, black powder, or some special application, J. Dewey has the right cleaning rod for your needs.
Always opt for phosphorous bronze or nylon. Anything else, especially steel, can wreck your barrel’s rifling. Again, J. Dewey products are my go to for brushes and jags.
Like many of us, you could probably identify Hoppe’s No.9 among a thousand other smells. Hoppe’s, among several other manufacturers, offer a range of great cleaning products. When it’s time to use it, just be sure you’re in a well-ventilated area. Other brands I have had success with are Shooters Choice and Montana X-treme.
After you’ve made sure the rifle is unloaded and have removed the bolt and magazine, lock it into a vice. It’s not required that you have one. However, it sure is helpful to lock your rifle into place and not have to worry about it moving throughout the cleaning process. I have been using a Tipton gun vise for years. I like that it is sturdy enough for cleaning or scope mounting but light enough to be portable so I can take it with me to the range or hunting camp.
The Tipton Best Gun Vise was designed to accommodate the widest array of firearms for cleaning, maintenance, or gunsmithing. Easily configurable to handle bolt-action rifles, break-open shotguns and AR-15’s.
Clean the Barrel
With a rifle that hasn’t been used much, running only a cloth patch down the barrel will suffice. But on your oft-used hunting and/or range rifle you need to clean much deeper with the use of brushes.
With your rifle in the vice and the bolt removed, dip a clean brush into powder solvent and, starting at the chamber and working your way outward - the same direction a bullet travels - use straight, even strokes so you don’t bend the rod and work it through until it pops out the other end of the barrel. Some folks like to use a bore guide to keep the rod centered, but if you take your time and push the rods slowly and evenly I have never found the need for one. I like to use 2 rods, one with a brush on it and one with a jag on it. I run the brush through then check to see if a patch comes out clean with the jag.
Note that you never want to “double dip” a brush into the bottle of powder solvent so as not to contaminate it. Pour a little solvent in another container and work from there. Run the brush through the barrel several times until all the powder and copper residue begins to break up. Be careful to follow the instructions on the solvent bottle as some work better if you run a wet patch through and let it sit a little while to help loosen things up. I like to brush the barrel 20 times before running a clean patch on a jag through to see if it comes out clean. If not, clean your brush again, wipe down the rod, and run the brush another 20 times through the barrel. I continue this process until I get a nice clean patch when running the jag through.
Next, take up your jag and wrap a patch around it. Use some copper solvent and push the patch through. Make sure you are using the proper caliber jag and patch. If the patch and jag are not tight you will not be able to push the copper out. The copper will show up blue in the patch. Continue this process until the patch no longer shows blue traces on it.
Wipe off the end of the barrel with a rag or paper towel to remove any excess grease. Finally, lightly oil one last patch and run it through the barrel.
A few things to note...some folks feel their rifle shoots better when it is “dirty." This certainly may be the case, but leaving powder or copper in the barrel may deteriorate accuracy over time and is never a good idea to leave in the barrel for prolonged periods of time.
Removing the copper fouling within the barrel is essential for long term accuracy.
Another thing is that your rifle may provide a different point of impact from a cold, clean bore. We recommend you always fire a few rounds from a clean barrel before hunting with it since your zero was most likely established from a fouled barrel.
Clean the Chamber
Though a lot of fouling grease will get removed from the chamber of your bolt-action rifle while you’re cleaning the barrel, it still needs specific attention. Using a short rod, lightly coat a patch in powder solvent and work it around the inside of the chamber. Do this until the patch comes out clean. Then, like the barrel, work a lightly oiled patch around the inside of the chamber.
Clean the Bolt
With the bolt removed, spray it with an action cleaner. Again, there are a host of great options to choose from. Wipe it thoroughly, removing all visible grime. Next, dip a Q-tip in some powder solvent and clean off the bolt’s face, including the extractor. You may want to dismantle the bolt from time to time to clean the firing pin and lubricate the appropriate parts. A little bit of grease where the lugs make contact is never a bad thing.
Now that your rifle is clean, it’s time to give your optics some love. For every TRACT riflescope, we recommend using a fiber cloth and lens pen to remove the dust from the eyepiece and objective lens. While the cloth is great to use in the field to quickly remove dust, the lens pen helps you clean those hard-to-get-to places on the optical lenses. We also recommend using scope covers both in the field and while your firearm is stored to reduce the amount of dust that reaches the lenses.
The LensPen is the ultimate tool for removing dirt and grime from those hard to get to places on your rifle scope lenses.
When you’re finished cleaning, replace the bolt in your rifle. Wipe down everything with a lightly oiled cloth rag, making sure you remove any excess oil or grease off the outside of the firearm. You can use that same rag to give your cleaning rods a once over. Discard all patches. Also, be sure to wash your hands because the likelihood of you touching something else in the house and leaving a handprint is pretty good. Trust us, your significant other will not appreciate it.
As always, if you have any specific questions, please reach out to us via email, chat with us on our website, or message us on social media. We look forward to helping you become a better shooter and hunter.