All for cleaning the shotgungun

How To Clean Your Shotgun


Mathew R Reed
January 17, 2022

A trusty shotgun is an excellent choice for hunting, gun sports, or even for self-defense.

It is a versatile tool utilized in many disciplines, but it is not perfect.

A shotgun requires regular maintenance because it is susceptible to rust, corrosion, and dust build-up. A consistent cleaning routine is needed to make sure that the gun will continue to function well for years to come.

Many shotgun owners assume that they never need to clean their weapons. Still, experts say otherwise.

Whether it’s a break action, semi-automatic, or a pump action, cleaning all its parts will keep your gun safe, reliable, and ready to use in emergencies.

If you’re unsure how to clean your gun manually or with a cleaning kit, then this comprehensive guide is just what you need to learn how to clean your shotgun.

How Are Shotguns Different From Rifles or Pistols?

How Are Shotguns Different From Rifles or Pistols?

A shotgun is a long-barrelled, shoulder-fired long gun that shoots small projectiles through one or two unrifled barrels.

Shoulder placement helps the shooter absorb the force of the shot and provides more stability and accuracy, much needed for recoil-heavy shotguns.

A rifle is also a shoulder-fired gun; however, the structure of its barrel is different. Rifles have grooves within their long barrels that provide spin, making them perfect for accurate, long-distance use. In fact, the word “rifle” comes from the word “rifling,” which is what these grooves are called.

Pistols differ from rifles and shotguns as they are handheld and not shoulder-fired. They are smaller, easier to carry, and the lack of significant recoil means they can be controlled with just the hands as anchors.

Structurally, the pistol’s barrel is part of its chamber, often loaded through a detachable magazine, whereas a rifle could have a detachable or integral magazine.

Why Do Shotguns Need Cleaning?


Neglecting any type of weapon makes it prone to misfires and malfunctions, which can endanger both the shooter and those around them.

Each time you fire a shotgun, it loses essential lubrication and can become prone to rusting due to the natural elements it has been exposed to. For example, when a shotgun is used for hunting, it is exposed to fumes, mud, blood, and moisture in the air. It can also be susceptible to the acidity of a shooter’s sweat.

When you’re not using a shotgun, it also collects dust, which can affect its functionality in the long run.

Cleaning your gun also gives you a chance to take it apart and see whether or not some elements need a repair or replacement.

Aside from increased longevity, you’ll be making your shooting experience a safer one by regularly cleaning and maintaining your weapon.

How Often To Clean Your Shotgun

shotgun for hunting

Responsible shotgun owners must ensure that the mechanical structures of their weapon are well-lubricated and that no portions of the gun need repairing.

A standard pistol requires cleaning every 300 rounds. For shotguns, deep cleaning is recommended every 200 rounds to ensure that all parts are functioning correctly.

Regular maintenance also includes wiping your shotgun down after every use to ensure no traces of dirt, moisture, or other contaminants can interfere with its function and aesthetic.

Make sure that the barrel is clean, the choke is tightened, and that no components have come loose.

If you use a shotgun for hunting, then wipe it down after every use and deep clean it after every season. The same rules apply if you’re a casual shooter at the range.

It’s also essential to deep clean your gun before being put away, especially if you only shoot a couple of months in a year.

How To Clean Your Shotgun

Here is our comprehensive guide on how to clean your shotgun thoroughly:

Tools You Need

prepare to clean shotgun

A shotgun cleaning kit includes these essential tools:

  • Bore cleaner
  • Lubricating oil
  • Cleaning rod
  • Cleaning patches or cloth
  • Wire brush

Read Also: Best Shotgun Cleaning Kits

Step 1: Inspecting Your Shotgun

The first step is the most important one: make sure that the gun is not loaded.

Needless to say, there is nothing more dangerous than cleaning a live shotgun. Inspect the chamber at least twice to ensure that it is empty.

Step 2: Disassembling the Shotgun

shotgun parts

There are three different types of shotguns: pump-action, break-away, and semi-automatic. For all three, you’ll need to remove the forend, the barrel, and the stock.

For a pump-action shotgun, press the bolt release in the front or behind the trigger guard. Remove the barrel by twisting the end cap.

A single-shot shotgun may need to have the forearm removed before the barrel can follow.

A semi-automatic shotgun would need the action to be pulled, so make sure the gun is pointed away from you when you slide the forearm off to unscrew the forearm cap.

Step 3: Wiping Down Every Component

A preliminary wipe down of the gun using a cloth makes sure that all dust and other foreign material that may have dried up on your gun is removed. Wipe down each of the main components to ensure a smooth process.

Step 4: Brushing the Barrel and the Breech


Focus on the barrel first. Insert the wire brush into the breech end of the barrel and push into the muzzle. This is done to not damage the end of the muzzle, known as the crown, which controls the gun’s accuracy and consistency.

Don’t forget to brush the ejectors to clear lingering dirt or residue.

Repeat this process until the wire brush does not throw up any more dust from pushing and pulling into the barrel.

Step 5: Cleaning the Barrel and the Breech

Attach a piece of cloth or a patch to the cleaning rod. Apply the bore cleaner on the patch, then insert the rod into the breech end to the muzzle.

After each slide into the barrel, replace the patch and reapply the bore cleaner. Repeat this process until no more grime or dirt is collected on the patch.

Step 6: Lubricating the Barrels and Other Components

lubricating barrel

Apply lubricant to a fresh patch and insert the rod into the breech end. This layer of protective oil protects the muzzle from corrosion and grease buildup.

Step 7: Cleaning the Action and the Grip

Use a utility brush and bore cleaner to clean the action, grip, and other hard-to-reach areas. You may also use brushes with smaller bristles to reach narrow areas of the gun to clean other important metalwork.

Step 8: Brushing and Cleaning the Stock

Use a clean, soft bristle brush to clean the stock. Do not use the same brush or cloth that you used on the barrel, as this will make your stock dirtier.

With another piece of fresh cloth, apply a light coating of lubricating oil to the stock.

Step 9: Reassembling the Shotgun and Finishing Touches

cleaning mat and tools

After you’ve cleaned all the parts of the shotgun, it’s time to reassemble. Attach the barrel to the action with the fore-end of the gun, then apply a light coating of oil to all the moving mechanisms.

To give it a polished finish, apply lubricating oil to a clean cloth and wipe the entire shotgun down so that you can finish up spick and span!

With break-action shotguns, it’s also common practice to lubricate the hinges with lithium or graphite grease.


A well-maintained shotgun is a safe and accurate weapon to use for your casual shooting, hunting, and personal protection.

Make sure to follow this comprehensive guide on how to clean your shotgun and ensure its continued functionality.

Lastly, take your shotgun to a licensed professional now and then to have it checked for repairs.


Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.