How Often Guns Should Be Cleaned

Published by the Author on November 8, 2008 at 12:28 am > How-To Guides and Other Info > How Often Guns Should Be Cleaned

Following up on the article in which I addressed the fact that sometimes it is not wise to clean a gun, this article addresses my recommendations as to how frequently a gun should be cleaned.

The Short Answer
A good rule of thumb is to clean a gun between each firing session.  Generally speaking, I can’t really think of a good reason not clean guns that frequently, however the information below is included for the sake of completeness.  At best, a dirty gun won’t function reliably and will wear out prematurely.  At worst, it may explode if the barrel becomes so clogged that the bullet can’t exit.

The Long Answer
1. Purpose of the gun:
First, there are special considerations when it comes to cleaning self defense guns.  This is because a gun that has been disassembled for cleaning may have been accidentally reassembled improperly in a way that would prevent it from functioning.  A failure to fire or failure to feed might be a minor annoyance when target shooting, but could prove fatal when using the gun for self defense against a home invading criminal.
2. Type of gun:
Next, the type of gun needs affects how often the gun needs cleaning.  Gas operated shotguns, such as the Remington 11-87 and Mossberg 930, have a gas piston system that needs to be relatively clean in order to function reliably.  The same is true for gas operated rifles, such as the AR-15, and gas operated pistols such as the Desert Eagle.  On the other hand, pump action firearms such as the Remington 870, Remington 7600, or Mossberg 500, will tend to function even when quite dirty (although it is obviously better to keep them clean).
3. Type of ammunition used:
The type of ammunition used will all also determine how often a gun needs to be cleaned.  For example, Wolf brand ammunition has a reputation of being “dirty”, and guns that fire it may need to be cleaned more frequently.  Also, non-jacketed ammunition will tend to cause more lead build-up in the barrel, compared to ammo that is copper jacketed.  Specific to shotguns, I’ve found that sabot slugs (which have a plastic “shoe” surrounding the projectile) leave the barrel much cleaner than ordinary rifled slugs or shot.

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  • Danny

    I clean my gun every time I shoot at the local range since I use range reloads. They’re cheap compared to commercial cartridges but are very dirty. Sometimes I clean the gun myself but other times I have it cleaned by the R.O. for a fee.

  • Rene Cabrera

    I just found this website and it is great! I wanted to make a comment about Wolf ammo. I have a Weatherby .308 and a Marlin MXLR .308 Lever. I bought about 400 rounds of Wolf and took both to the range. As you know my Marlin uses only one brand of bullet. After the range, I cleaned both rifles and the Marlin was dirtier than the Weatherby using the Wolf ammo, in spite of fired more than the MXLR. In fact, there was not too much dirt on the patch. Just thought I’d share.

  • BasinBictory

    I've heard incredible stories of people who claim to have never cleaned some of their guns (usually .22LR rifles), and they still work fine. That may be so, but you'll never catch me leaving one of my guns dirty for no good reason.

  • SoIL_XD

    I am a new owner of a Springfield XD .40. Does this gun (or any new semi-automatic for that matter) need to be cleaned out of the box?

    • Lloyd Booth

      When I purchase a new gun, the first thing done is a thorough cleaning with a complete grease job. Tetra gun grease keeps all my gun slides operating very, very slippery.