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Tips for Effortless Cleaning of a Shotgun – Maintenance 101

Last Updated: 10 June 2022

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Some people may find this funny, but what excites me the most when thinking about hunting or going for shooting range competitions is cleaning my shotgun. Personally, I find it therapeutic.

It’s an opportunity for me to connect with my gun to help me improve my shooting range. Well, it’s not just down to the emotional connection that I have with my rifle, but, it will also provide reassurance the following day that there will be no gunky oil, powdery residue or wad build-up that may lead to severe malfunctioning.

Not only is cleaning all about superior performance but also for safety as you don’t want unpredictability.

It will ensure complete reliability and steadiness when you need it the most. I have a simple and efficient system, especially when on the road.

P.S. Never perform a complete teardown while on the road unless it’s essential, as the chance of losing spare parts, incorrect assembly or breakage are high, and this may hamper the next day’s activities.

To get the most out of your gun, here is a simple tutorial on how you can clean your shotgun, enabling it to last longer while maintaining its overall quality and reliability just as you bought it. Don’t go anywhere; it’s going to be quite a ride!

Step #1: Safety First

Safety First

Safety is paramount, which is why we are kicking off with learning how you can safely unload your gun, minimizing the chances of hurting you or those around you. Here are a few simple steps:

  • The first step is always to keep your finger off the trigger, ensure that it’s facing the opposite or a safe direction that’s away from your body position or those around you.
  • Proceed by pressing the bolt action on your gun; you can quickly locate it as it’s usually found close to the trigger guard. With the muzzle facing the opposite direction, unload your shotgun through pumping; continue pumping until all shells appear on the magazine compartment.
  • Next, remove all the ammunition and ensure all the shells in the magazine tube/chamber have been removed. This is crucial as you do not want unexpected firing when cleaning your shotgun. Remember, safety always comes first.
  • Put the bolt action back in its original place and thoroughly check to see if there is still ammunition left.

Step #2: Partial Tear Down

This is dependent on the type or brand of shotgun you are going to use. Begin by breaking the gun into its primary parts. When it comes to over-under, leave everything intact.

For automatic guns; you can tear down to the last part and clean all the moving parts or areas where there is gas emittance that forms a build-up. As for pumps, you can dismantle them entirely, but ensure you don’t remove any small pieces from the interior of the action.

Step #3: Degrease

In areas where there is the heavy build-up, I recommend using degreaser or aerosol powder solvent. Always note; don’t spray smaller gun parts, as they will have smaller pieces or springs. When spraying aerosol, pay close attention, spraying trigger units may hamper its performance or insert crud into unwanted places.

These are the main areas which you should always prioritize: gas chamber, barrel (if your gun has one), choke tubes, and other vital parts, which have metal-on-metal friction.

Step #4: Swab the Barrel

One of my favorite tools for cleaning the barrel is Hoppe’s BoreSnake. Always ensure that your snake is clean, be extra careful when you are pulling the cord so as not to catch any smaller parts as you are pulling through the barrel.

Let me teach you another trick; you can drop the cord directly down the barrel to the ground, put your feet on the barrel as you slowly pull it up as you draw the BoreSnake through it.

Step #5: Scrubbing the Chokes

Scrubbing the Chokes

Soaking the choke tubes is a tedious process. Alternatively, use a brass brush that is attached to the handle of the three-piece cleaning rod, use the same solvent spray onto the tube and begin scrubbing. It should be brief.

When scrapping out crud from the thread, I use a worn-out rifle brush which does the trick. In case the brush is dirty, you can always clean it with a few blasts from the aerosol solvent.

When cleaning the thread of the barrel, use a straw to remove crud. Using a brush is vital as it will loosen stubborn materials or particles. Remove all the debris as much as you can, using an old rug that fits on the muzzle, and squeeze it onto the thread.

Finally, when you are done, reinstall all the chokes using grease to reduce friction or seizing; then pass one final swab through it using BoreSnake.

Step #6: Cleaning and Lube the Action

Cleaning and Lube the Action

I always avoid cleaning the action because cleaning or oiling will attract dust and powder, which causes problems in the future. Instead, I use a brush, rag, or cotton swab that will remove all the filth or dust.

For those shooting with an autoloader, this is the perfect time to clean the spring assembly near gas ports and the pistons.

P.S: There are different types of guns that require different lubricants.

Step #7: Tightening and Spot Cleaning

This is the last part as you visually inspect the gun, clean where you see fit, and apply a thin oil coating on the exterior parts.

For safety, tighten up all the hardware or screws, and last but not least, reassemble the gun. After a few minutes, open and close the action, shoulder it, and take a few practice swings to feel your new hardware.

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