How Often Should a Firearm Be Cleaned? | Best Practices and Actionable Tips

We are all aware that weapons need regular cleaning and maintenance, but how frequently should they be cleaned? Some argue that guns should be cleaned after each usage, and every few months - regardless of whether you have used them or not.

Others maintain that it is okay to leave your handgun - see legendary 1911 handguns - or rifle uncleaned after several ranges of use. Who is correct? The answer is specific to the type of firearm, the primary purpose as to why you use it, and the ammunition or elements to which it has been exposed. This article focuses on how often should a firearm be cleaned.

How Often Should You Clean a Gun in Storage? | Best Practices

2 guns on the black pad ready for cleaning

To understand how often your carry guns or pocket pistols should be cleaned, it's an imperative to understand why cleaning is actually necessary. However, there are some indicators and aspects to be cautious of which might need you to alter your cleaning practice, which we will discuss in further detail below:

Prevent Rust and Corrosion

Metal is the most common material in gun making. However, plastic is also becoming more popular. Rust or corrosion caused by oxidation, occurs on all metals. While oxidation on steel is more commonly referred to as rust, even "rust-resistant" metals such as aluminum and titanium may oxidize and corrode.

Metal rust is unsightly and may destroy an otherwise beautiful metal polish, but that is not the worst yet. Corrosion exposes a greater surface area to oxidize. Metals can be worn away to the point of becoming pitted and brittle. If you utilize corrosive ammo, including military surplus ammunition or ammunition intended for use in antique rifles, you must clean it after each use.

Numerous possible corrosion sources can come into contact with firearms - open air, water, perspiration, and skin oil, humidity & moisture, cleaning solvents, and priming chemicals, to name a few. Oiling and cleaning routine can help protect your gun from moisture and potential corrosion, extending the life of your firearm.

Maintain the Mechanical Operation of the Firearm

Grime and grit interfere with the normal operation of mechanical components. Foreign material can cause problems in the feeding, ejecting, and even firing of a machine by clogging up the working parts. Using a dirty firearm can pose a serious safety risk since it can cause circumstances such as bore blockages and out-of-battery discharges, which are fatal.

Cleaning and maintaining a firearm on a regular basis, whether it's a pistol or a revolver, is vital to maintaining it in peak operating condition – especially those we rely on to protect our lives or provide care for our families.

Cleaning After the Trip to the Shooting Range

Most gun owners are aware and knowledgeable about cleaning and maintaining their handguns after every shooting session. However, few owners are aware of what might happen if they don't follow the rules. Every time you fire your pistol (see 9mm caliber guns), you're contaminating it with a variety of contaminants such as perspiration, carbon, oil, powder residue, and so forth.

a brush and a gun in the cleaning process

If these are kept in place for an extended period of time, they can be damaging to the gun's performance and should be avoided at all costs. If you shoot your carry gun every time, you should at the very least give it a minimal wipe-down after. No harm will come of it, and it will leave the pistol clean and oiled until the next cleaning procedure takes place.

Surplus Shooting Corrosive Ammunition

Military surplus ammunition is incredible. It's inexpensive, it's strong, and it's enjoyable. Regrettably, it may also be filthy. Certain types of vintage military ammunition include caustic primers. The residue left behind by these primers might attract moisture, which is the adversary of metal.

Failure to clean your firearm after firing corrosive ammunition can lead to severe corrosion, pitting, and mechanical damage to critical components. If you fire corrosive ammunition, always clean it immediately – and use a cleaning agent approved for corrosive salt removal.

a person with rubber gloves cleaning the firearm

When the Rifle Barrel is Full of Mud

If you drop your rifle and it becomes lodged in heavy dirt, mud, sand, or any other debris, immediately stop and clean it; even when you're on your hunt of a lifetime. Obstruction of the bore is a very serious condition. Pounds of pressure passing through a tiny passage propels the ammunition you load into your firearms.

If the bullet gets blocked in the barrel by silt, the pressure has nowhere to go except up. Eventually, it will grow much more than the gun could handle, transforming it into a grenade aimed directly at your face or hands. If you do not have a cleaning kit at hand and are unable to guarantee that your barrel is clear of impediments, do not risk it.

How Long Can a Gun Go Without Cleaning?

a female person checking the gun with barrel

Your gun may normally last up to 6 months without needing cleaning. However, if you're using it on a regular basis, you will have to make a decision based on your own preferences. It goes without saying that if there is a possibility of moisture getting in touch with the gun, it should be thoroughly cleaned before you store it away.

The pace at which you can clean your rifle will be determined mostly by how frequently you will be using it. If you use your handgun on a regular basis, you'll need to clean it frequently in order to maintain its longevity and safety.

The type of firearm used has an impact on how often you need to clean it. If you are using corrosive ammunition in your rifle, you will need to clean it after each and every usage. Guns that employ new non-corrosive ammunition, on the other hand, can last a little longer before they need cleaning. When it comes to firearms that aren't in use, the location where you store them will also influence how often you clean them. 

What Are the Benefits of Cleaning a Firearm?

Regular cleaning can keep your firearm functioning smoothly and eliminate many of the usual troubles connected with poorly kept weapons. Your gun will last longer if you disassemble it and clean the internal components (see also 'Why Do Guns Jam?').

a person assembling the gun

A Better Understanding of Your Firearm

Assembling and cleaning your pistol (see 380 pistols) will help you understand how it operates and how the inner components perform when you fire a shot. A firearm is a machine, and most of its parts work together to fire a bullet.

Guarantees Safety and Reliability

Regular maintenance maintains your gun in excellent shape. Even the most reliable and proven pistols like 22 caliber guns need regular TLC and service. Cleaning removes crud and buildup from usage, allowing your pistol to perform at its best. If you count on your handgun for home defense, it needs regular maintenance to ensure it will work properly when you need it.

Increased Lifespan

Handguns can last from years to generations, based on how well gun owners maintain them. A basic maintenance program can dramatically increase the weapon's lifespan. If you use it frequently, you should clean it regularly. Even doing the minimum will have a huge influence, which is even more important if you are new to firearms.

Avoid Significant Problems

A thorough cleaning habit will help you avoid various frequent problems. While they affect many gun owners, they may have an effect on anything from gunshot trajectory to the overall operation of your rifle. Rather than waiting for a breakdown or a minor issue to escalate, you can maintain your firearm healthily by doing routine cleaning.

What Materials Are Needed to Clean a Firearm?

Gun cleaning kits, such as the ones on Amazon, are the most important tools for any gun owner. The cleaning kit will include a variety of tools to clean the various components of your firearm. Despite the fact that it is not necessary to dismantle and clean the gun on a regular basis, we recommend that you do it every now and then.

There are many various types of gun cleaning kits, and each one may contain a distinct set of equipment. However, there are specific items that you should include in every kit, and they are as follows:


When cleaning the gun, it is critical to maintain the friction against it to a minimum. As a result, you should apply a pistol cleaning lubricant to dislodge the gun's grime accumulation. The lubricant aids in the elimination of frictions inside the hunting rifle, which may be noticeable during rechambering.

a person applying a pistol cleaning lubricant

Bore Snake

This equipment is beneficial for persons who shoot their firearms frequently and who do not have cleaning time for them after each use. The bore snake enables you to clean the barrel fast and easily without dismantling the complete rifle.

Bore Brushes 

Each carry gun's cleaning kit will include both bronze and nylon bore brushes. The bronze brush eliminates enormous amounts of carbon accumulation in the barrel. The silver brush is intended for use on the gun's most delicate components.

closeup of cleaning the gun with a brush

What Is the Best Way to Clean a Firearm?

The techniques for cleaning your handgun vary according to whether you're performing a field strip or a thorough disassembly. Due to the wide diversity of handguns, we will not cover the removal of the slides & frame in this article.

1. Completely deactivate the firearm

To safeguard your safety and those around you, remove the magazine and any loaded ammo from the rifle carefully. Do this with the handgun pointed to a safe position. Never rely on the safety of your firearm, accidents may occur.

2. Handgun Cleaning

Wipe any loose particles from the cylinder, slide, frame, and chamber using a cleaning instrument including a tool brush or cleaning swabs. Carefully check any fur and dirt inside the frame regions. Remove heavy clogging and use an application of a cleanser to clear foul away.

3. Lubricate Wherever Necessary

Lubricating your firearm varies depending on the firearm type you're cleaning and the manufacturer's suggested lubricant. Do not apply lubricants to the interior of the barrel unless for long-term storage.

4. Thoroughly Clean All Components

Wipe your rifle clean and dry with a towel to remove fingerprints of any residue or oils remaining. You may polish and preserve your pistol with wax-treated gun cloths.

5. Reassemble and Inspect for Any Inconsistencies

Check for damages when assembling each component. Dents and scrapes occur on occasion and may raise safety issues. If you discover anything suspicious, we strongly advise you to bring it to a reputable weapons store or skilled gunsmith.

The Bottom Line

Cleaning your rifle requires numerous crucial considerations especially for often used weapons. You need to realize that the frequency of in-depth cleaning your rifle varies based on the weapon type. Cleaning a pistol isn't as easy as some make it appear. Mistakes might cost you your weapon, so practice makes perfect. Adhere to the instructions given to help keep your handgun in top condition for years to come.

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