How to Clean a Shotgun

The end of the shooting season sees many guns retiring their shooting equipment and accessories until it all begins again in early August. While you should be cleaning and caring for your shotgun after every shoot, at the end of the season, special care should be taken to ensure your gun is ready to pick up and be put into action again.

Are you that person who simply sticks your gun in its case after a day’s shooting? That person who leaves it in rest until the next shooting season? Or are you thinking ahead of the game and giving your shotgun the end of season care it requires to maintain high accuracy and operate efficiently, not to mention preserve its ‘as new’ appearance?

While some people like to give their guns to a proficient gunsmith to clean, others may wish to have a go themselves. If you are one of these people, these brief end-of-season tips on how to clean a shotgun should help you on your way.

Gun Cleaning Safety Check List

  1. Ensure that your shotgun is unloaded before cleaning.
  2. ​Clear away all ammunition from around you; accidents can happen so take extra care.
  3. Open the chamber for safety.
  4. ​Keep your choke inserts in place! Choke inserts ensure that no dirt, grime or other substance can make its way into the barrel threads, which would cause issues when trying to correctly install chokes in the future and cause misfiring amongst other issues.
  5. The last day of the season is often wet and is invariably cold. Changes in temperature can cause condensation to form on the inside of your barrels and that, combined with any rain can be a gun’s worst enemy. Thus before you start, it is critical to let your gun dry naturally away from a direct source of heat.​

Complete Shotgun Cleaning Guide

If it’s time to clean your shotgun, browse our easy-to-follow guide:

  1. Take your firearm apart. For those unaware of how to take your firearm apart, it would be beneficial to have someone ‘in the know’ working with you to show you how to complete this step.
      1. Check the shotgun is unloaded
      2. Close the shotgun and remove the forend (release the forend latch and pull the forend away from the barrel)
      3. Hold the stock in one hand and the barrels in the other and open the gun, this will allow you to seperate the barrels from the stock.
      4. Your shotgun should now be in three parts and you are now able to start cleaning it.
  2. Most shotgun cleaning kits come with a wire brush and a soft brush plus some cleaning patches. If you don’t have patches then some loo roll acts as a good substitute. An old toothbrush, a cloth and some gun oil are also required.
  3. If you have patches, use the cleaning rod to push one through each barrel first to remove the worst of the debris. If you don’t have any patches then feed two sections of loo roll into each barrel of a 12 bore (one per barrel for a 20 bore) and push them through with your rod (wooden end first).Whilst this gets the worst of any debris out it also helps to wipe away any residual moisture or condensation that could be lying in your barrels after a wet day.
  4. Using the shotgun cleaning rod and wire brush, thoroughly clean each barrel to remove any powder residues. Pay particular attention to the area at the end of the chamber. Check each barrel to make sure they are completely clear.
  5. Using a cleaning rod and a cotton patch or the soft brush, clean the barrels again. This acts as a duster to remove any microscopic residue left by the wire brush.
  6. Change the patch or use a second soft brush and apply a small amount of gun oil and push through each barrel to leave a very thin layer of oil on the inside to keep rust at bay.
  7. For the end of season clean, an old toothbrush is a handy piece of kit. Use it to clean either side of the rib between the barrels getting rid of any debris that may have accumulated. Better still to use a toothbrush and a piece of loo roll as that helps to absorb any moisture that might be lurking. Run some gun oil down either side as this is an area where dirt can accumulate and rust can form.
  8. Next up is the action body. Again, with a similar process of lightly oiled cotton patch, clean the face of the action body. Using a toothbrush clean around the barrel release mechanism and triggers as these are areas where powder residues and general dirt can build up. Tip – don’t forget to take special care around the firing pin holes. Over lubricating this can cause gun malfunctions.
  9. In this next step you must again take special care to avoid over lubricating. Lightly and gently apply lubrication to the forend iron of the barrel and relative hooks.
  10. If storing your gun assembled in a cabinet then reassemble it and wipe it all over with a lightly oiled cloth and hold the gun with the cloth whilst putting it away to ensure the whole gun retains it’s lightly oiled finish. We would always recommend storing your gun barrels down as this ensures that any excess gun oil runs down the barrels and away from the mechanism rather than pooling around the timber of your stock or around the firing pins etc. If storing it in a case in your cabinet then wipe each piece individually and put them in the case with the cloth. Tip – oil naturally dries out over time so it is worth reapplying the light oil finish every three months or so to keep your gun protected.
  11. When the next game season arrives, clean your gun again to remove any excess oil before use and you’ll be ready to head out into action. With proper cleaning and storage, your shotgun will look like new.

With the close of shooting season, there is always clay shooting to be done to keep your eye in and your muscle memory fresh. Check out your local clay shooting ground.

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