Cleaning Your Firearm: Why, When, and How Often You Should Do It

As a responsible gun owner, you know that regular maintenance is crucial for your firearm’s longevity and reliability. Not taking care of your firearm is like putting 87-grade gas into your Ferrari. However, one key question that often comes up is, “How often should you clean your gun?” While some say you should clean your gun after every use, others suggest a different timeline. So, which one is it? Well, it depends on how frequently you use the gun. For example, if you have a pistol you bring the shooting range a lot, it may be best to clean it after every use.

Understanding how often you should clean your gun and the right cleaning techniques not only ensure that your gun functions correctly when you need it but also contributes significantly to your safety and that of others around you. In this blog, we’ll discuss the reasons why cleaning your gun is so important, guide you through a step-by-step process for cleaning various types of firearms, and discuss crucial safety measures to adopt during the cleaning process.


Why Cleaning Your Gun is Important

Just like any mechanical device, a firearm requires regular cleaning and maintenance to function optimally. Regular cleaning and how often you clean your gun should be followed diligently, but why is it so essential?


Over time, the residue from burnt gunpowder—a lot of people call it fouling—can accumulate in the barrel, negatively impacting the accuracy and reliability of your firearm through corrosion. This buildup can cause the bullet to deviate from its intended path, which is especially problematic for activities that require precision, such as hunting or target shooting.


An unclean firearm can be a safety risk. Accumulated residues and debris can cause the gun to jam or misfire, potentially leading to dangerous situations, especially in critical moments. Moreover, a build-up of rust can weaken the firearm’s structure, creating a possibility of failure or explosion under the pressure of a fired round. Cleaning your gun regularly helps you maintain its safe operation.


You want your gun to last, right? Corrosive elements in the gunpowder and primers, along with environmental factors such as moisture can cause permanent damage over time. Depending on how often you clean your gun, you can prevent this damage and ensure that your gun lasts longer, providing the best return on your investment. 


How to Properly Clean Your Firearm

If you’re a first-time gun owner, it can seem a little intimidating to clean your firearm for the first time. The most important thing to keep an eye on is your owner’s manual, as some models may require specific cleaning methods. Additionally, you may want to wear protective gear like gloves and safety glasses to make sure you remain safe while cleaning.


If you have a handgun, such as a Glock or Sig Sauer, remember to always start with a safety check to make sure the gun is unloaded—no matter how often you clean your gun. After you’ve confirmed the gun is unloaded, follow your owner’s guide to safely disassemble the gun. Usually, this involves field stripping the gun into its main components: the frame, slide, barrel, and spring.

When cleaning the barrel, use a cleaning rod with a patch holder and patch soaked in bore solvent. Push it through the barrel, starting from the back and moving towards the muzzle. Let the solvent sit for a few minutes but not long enough to dry. After this, use a bore brush attached to the cleaning rod to scrub the interior of the barrel. Finally, use clean patches to remove loosened debris and leftover solvent. 

To clean other parts, including the slide and frame, you can use (believe it or not) a common toothbrush. After all parts are cleaned and dry, apply lubricant if required and reassemble.


Rifles are a little different, but no matter how often you clean your gun, the process can be fairly similar. Like with pistols, though, it is crucial that you first ensure the gun is unloaded before beginning to disassemble. The cleaning process for the barrel is very similar to pistols. Remember, always clean from the breech towards the muzzle, if possible, to prevent damaging the muzzle’s crown which could affect accuracy.

With a nylon brush or solvent, you can clean the other parts of the rifle, including the bolt and action. Make sure you pay special attention to the bolt face and any other areas where fouling is typically seen. After all parts have been cleaned, apply lubricant and reassemble.


Unlike rifles and handguns, shotguns have smooth bores. Still, the cleaning process is similar. Use a bore brush and solvent to scrub the interior of the barrel, followed by clean patches to remove the loosened debris and leftover solvent.

For the action, bolt, and other components, solvent and a nylon brush should do the trick. This is especially important for semi-automatic shotguns, which can accumulate a lot of fouling due to their gas operation system. To finish the job, apply lubricant sparingly to moving parts and areas that can rust. Then, reassemble your shotgun.


Additional Tips for Maintaining Your Firearm

Apart from how often you clean your gun, there are a number of other easy maintenance steps you can take to prevent your firearm from regressing from its peak working condition.

Regular Inspection

To better catch signs of wear and tear before they become irreparable, you’ll want to keep a close eye out for rust, cracks in the frame or handle, worn springs, or any parts that seem loose or out of place.

Proper Storage

Always store firearms in a cool, dry place to prevent moisture buildup. Using a dehumidifier or silica gel packs in gun safes or storage cases can help this as well. Also, consider using gun socks or cases that offer protection against scratches and dings.

Regular Practice

Your firearms aren’t meant to simply sit around and never be fired. Regular use of your firearm helps keep the parts moving freely and can indicate if there are any functional issues. See you at the shooting range?

Use Higher Quality Ammunition

The quality of ammunition you use can affect your gun’s performance and how dirty it gets. Cheaper ammunition often leaves more residue, meaning you’ll need to clean your gun more often.

Apply a Layer of Cerakote

On top of regular cleaning, H-Series Cerakote can also help improve the look and durability of your firearm. If you’re looking to stand out against all-black firearms, check out our color gallery to learn more about how we provide unparalleled levels of corrosion and wear resistance!


How often you clean your gun is entirely up to you. However, it is best practice to regularly clean your firearm, especially if you use it frequently.

Although firearms can function without proper cleaning, the longer you wait, the more wear and tear you risk building up.

For the most part, no. Should you clean your gun after every use? Not necessarily. However, if you use your firearm frequently at the shooting range or for hunting, cleaning it often can help increase its longevity.