I don’t put any of my guns back in the safe until they’ve been cleaned. The process of firing a gun is very dirty and even after firing one shot you can see noticeable debris in the barrel. If it’s a blow-back operated gun then you also get gas pressure entering the action, which also spreads debris on the internal components.
Some people clean their guns very little and others (like myself) can’t sleep well if their guns are dirty. One of the main things that will determine how often you need to clean your gun is the type of ammunition you’re using. If the ammo has a corrosive priming the iron based metals will start to rust as soon as your done firing. This is especially true for the bore if the weather is hot.
Using Corrosive Ammunition
If you’re using corrosive priming then you’re going to want to clean your gun right away!
First, you should know that there is no such thing as a slightly corrosive primer. It’s either corrosive, or it’s not!
Second, the cost of the cheaper surplus ammo isn’t really worth the time it takes to clean your guns. Cleaning your gun only once after firing corrosive ammo is generally not enough and that’s why it should be avoided.
Boxer Primed Ammo
These are the most popular primers used today and almost all military and civilian ammo use them. They came out in the late 1800’s and become even more popular.
Not all Berden primers are corrosive BUT just about all surplus ammo that you find will be corrosive.
Most indoor shooting ranged prefer Boxer primer with brass casings. If you’re not getting surplus ammo then you won’t need to worry about this and you should be fine.
Berden Primed Ammo
This is generally Non-USA ammunition but ironically was designed in the USA. Since it’s pretty hard to come by Boxer primer ammo in the USA, I won’t go in to too much detail since it’s not corrosive.
A chlorate type salt is the corrosive element that will make you have to clean your gun a lot more often. Many of the best gun cleaning solvents won’t remove this salt and you will need to use a machine to remove it in most cases.
Today, most primers that are available to the public are Lead Styphnate based. This type does not leave much residue in or on your firearms. Therefore, it’s not really necessary to clean right after firing if you’re using this kind of ammo. However, it’s always a good idea to run a cleaning patch with some gun cleaning solvent on it through the bore and over the exterior of your gun as well to protect from rust.
When to Field Strip Your Guns?
If you’ve never fired a gun that’s been properly stripped and cleaned, then you’ve never fired a gun! The gunk and grime can get everywhere and in every nook and cranny. Personally, I field strip after every type I shoot and I do this because the mess made from not cleaning can be a BIG headache..
Generally you’ll want to field strip semi-auto guns with a lot of blow back MUCH more often than bolt-action. For the most part I don’t field strip bolt, lever and pump-action firearms after each use.
Pistols should get a FULL field strip and clean after each time you fire them.
The reason you want to field strip as often as possible is to avoid carbon buildup, which can be very tough to remove.
Field Strip Often
When I first started shooting I never imagined field stropping and cleaning my gun after firing it. After years of experience, I couldn’t see it any other way. If you don’t have the time to do this then at least you should be using a bore snake to clean your gun. I use my bore snake at the range all the time.
The general advice is to clean your gun barrels at the very least after each time you fire. New guns are easier to clean and if you field strip clean often, you’ll find it’s MUCH easier to clean your guns.
You should ALWAYS clean your gun within a few days of shooting it. You don’t need to clean in 5 minutes after you fire but generally within one week will be fine.
Things you need to consider are the type of firearm, the age, and the type of ammo. Hopefully this article covered most of that and now you should know when and how often to clean your firearms.