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.
Tips to Store Your Gun
If you don’t use your guns regularly, you must store them properly, both for extending their life and for the sake of safety. Corrosion can quickly eat up your gun and reduce its life. To keep your gun safe, follow the steps mentioned below.
Humidity means moisture, and where there’s moisture, there’s rust. You cannot store your gun in a humid place and expect it to have a long shelf life. Try to avoid storing your guns in basements, attics, or similar humid places. Not all guns come with finishing that’s resistant to weather, and the safer choice is to avoid moisture altogether.
Remove All Fingerprints
Fingerprints can not only leave lasting marks on the finish of your gun, but they can also contain some levels of acid. This might cause rust and other forms of damage to the finish of your gun. Wipe off all fingerprints before you store your gun to ensure that your gun not only performs well, but also looks its best.
Clean Before Storage
While it might seem like cleaning a gun should be carried out before use, it’s advised to clean your gun after use and before you store it. Residue can quickly build up when guns are used, and that can, in turn, attract moisture. Your gun will be a lot easier to clean immediately after use than after spending a few weeks or months in storage.
Do Not Block the Barrel
There’s an old method that claims to prevent gun depreciation if you put a cork down the barrel. However, by blocking the airflow from one side, you would actually be promoting the buildup of moisture and rust. Your gun needs to breathe, and blocking the barrel is not the way to do it.
Get a Case For Your Guns
Most people don’t receive a case with their gun when they buy it. Guns come in foam or cardboard boxes, and these aren’t replacements for a proper gun storage case. Buy a new case that will keep your gun protected from not just moisture, but also accidental impact during storage.
Use The Right Cleaning Products
You might find an overwhelming number of options when you try to look for a cleaning kit for your guns. Keep in mind that not all of these products will be the right fit for your gun, nor will they give you the best cleaning experience. You can check out our articles about the best gun cleaning kits on Gun Cleaning HQ.
Apply Wax to Wooden Parts
While metal is more susceptible to drying out and rusting, wooden parts of your guns can expand when they come in contact with water. This may also cause them to crack. Applying wax on wood helps keep it healthy and immune to moisture. However, make sure you don’t leave any excess wax on, and this might lead to greasy residue.
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.