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Cleaning a shotgun is important and can’t be overstated. When it comes to cleaning a shotgun, there are several important things you need to do. A clean gun not only ensures it works at peak performance but also maintains it and makes sure it last for a long time. In this article, we outline the main steps to cleaning a shotgun, from disassembling it to storing it properly.

Cleaning a Shotgun
Cleaning a Shotgun

Shotguns are versatile firearms known for their wide range of applications in hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. Characterized by a smoothbore barrel and the ability to fire a variety of ammunition types, shotguns are highly adaptable to different shooting scenarios.

They are commonly used for hunting game birds, waterfowl, and small game, as well as for shooting clay targets in sports like trap, skeet, and sporting clays. Shotguns are also favored for home defense due to their formidable stopping power and ability to deliver a spread of projectiles over a wide area.

Available in various configurations, including pump-action, semi-automatic, and break-action designs, shotguns offer options to suit the preferences and needs of shooters. With proper training and adherence to safety protocols, shotguns are reliable and effective tools for both recreational and practical shooting purposes.

Main Steps to Cleaning a Shotgun

1. Gathering Necessary Equipment and Supplies

When cleaning a shotgun, you’ll need a few essential tools and supplies. Be sure to gather the following:

  • Shotgun cleaning kit (including cleaning rods, brushes, patches, and cleaning solvent)
  • Protective gear (gloves and eye protection)
  • Gun oil or lubricant
  • Cleaning mat or surface
  • Cleaning solvent
  • Bore snake
  • Gun cleaning cloth
  • Q-tips
  • Brush set
  • Cleaning tray

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary tools and supplies, you can begin cleaning your shotgun. If you are interested in a gun cleaning kit, we reviewed the best gun cleaning kits that you can read here.

2. Disassembling the Shotgun

Disassembling the shotgun is a critical step in the cleaning process as it enables you to access all parts and clean them thoroughly. Before you start to disassemble the shotgun, ensure that it is unloaded. 

Begin by removing the barrel and stock to access the trigger assembly and internal parts. Be gentle and avoid using excessive force to prevent any damage. Remember to keep track of any small parts or screws that you remove.

Once disassembled, clean each part thoroughly, following the instructions on your cleaning kit. Disassembling the shotgun safely and properly is essential for keeping it in good condition and functioning properly.

3. Applying Cleaning Solvent

Applying cleaning solvent is a vital step in the shotgun cleaning process, as it helps to remove stubborn dirt, grime, and other debris from the shotgun’s internal and external components.

Before applying the solvent, ensure that the shotgun is disassembled and that all parts are accessible. It’s also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, as some cleaning solvents can be harmful if not used properly.

Apply the solvent to a cleaning patch or brush and then rub it onto the parts that need to be cleaned. Allow the solvent to sit for a few minutes to break down any buildup or debris. Once the solvent has had time to work, use a cleaning brush to scrub the parts thoroughly, removing any remaining dirt or debris.

After cleaning, use a clean patch or cloth to wipe down the parts, removing any excess solvent. Applying cleaning solvent is a critical step in the cleaning process that helps to make sure your shotgun remains in good condition and functions properly.

4. Scrubbing the Barrel

Scrubbing the barrel of the shotgun is a crucial step in the reassembly process, ensuring that the firearm is clean and free of any debris or fouling that could affect its performance. Start by disassembling the shotgun and removing the barrel from the receiver.

Using a bore brush and cleaning rod, carefully scrub the inside of the barrel to remove any buildup of powder residue, dirt, or rust. Pay close attention to the chamber and bore, ensuring they are thoroughly cleaned and free of obstructions.

After scrubbing, run clean patches through the barrel until they come out free of fouling. Once the barrel is clean, inspect it for any signs of damage or corrosion and address any issues before reassembling the shotgun. Scrubbing the barrel ensures optimal performance and longevity of the firearm, enhancing its safety and reliability for future use.

5. Lubricating Moving Parts

Lubricating moving parts is a vital step in the shotgun cleaning process as it helps to prevent corrosion, reduce friction, and ensure the shotgun functions smoothly. Moving parts, such as the action, bolt, and trigger, need proper lubrication to function correctly and efficiently.

Before applying any lubricant, guarantee that all parts are clean and free from any dirt or debris. Then, apply a small amount of lubricant to each moving part, spreading it evenly with a cloth or a clean brush.

It’s important not to over-lubricate the shotgun, as this can attract dirt and debris and cause problems in the long run. A light coat of lubricant should be sufficient to ensure that the shotgun functions smoothly.

After lubricating, cycle the shotgun a few times to help distribute the lubricant evenly. Lubricating moving parts is a simple but critical step in maintaining the performance and longevity of your shotgun. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the recommended lubricants for your shotgun.

6. Reassembling the Shotgun

Reassembling a shotgun involves carefully putting together all its components in the correct order to ensure safe and efficient operation. Begin by gathering all the parts and components needed for reassembly, ensuring they are clean and free of debris.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a detailed schematic to guide the reassembly process. Start by assembling the receiver, action, and trigger mechanism, ensuring all parts fit together snugly and securely. Next, attach the barrel to the receiver and tighten any mounting screws or bolts.

Continue by assembling the stock, ensuring it is properly aligned and securely attached to the receiver. Finally, perform a thorough inspection and function test to ensure all components are correctly assembled and the shotgun operates smoothly and safely. By following these steps meticulously, you can successfully reassemble your shotgun and ensure its reliability for future use.

Check All Parts

Checking all parts of a shotgun is a crucial step when reassembling the firearm to ensure safe and proper operation. This process involves inspecting each component, including the barrel, receiver, action, trigger mechanism, stock, and magazine tube, among others, for any signs of damage, wear, or debris.

Starting with the barrel, ensuring it is clean and free of obstructions is essential for safe firing. Next, inspecting the receiver and action for any loose screws, pins, or other parts is important to prevent malfunctions. Checking the trigger mechanism for proper functioning and smooth operation helps ensure reliable firing.

Additionally, examining the stock and magazine tube for cracks or damage ensures structural integrity. Finally, verifying that all parts are correctly aligned and securely assembled completes the process, providing confidence in the shotgun’s reliability and safety for use. Taking the time to meticulously check each part during reassembly contributes to safe and efficient firearm operation.

Assemble the Stock

Assembling the stock of a shotgun is a crucial step in the reassembly process, ensuring the firearm is properly configured for safe and comfortable use. Begin by aligning the stock with the receiver and ensuring that all mounting screws or bolts are securely fastened.

Next, carefully insert the recoil pad or buttplate onto the rear of the stock, ensuring it is correctly positioned and tightened to prevent any movement during use. If the shotgun features a stock bolt or nut, ensure it is properly inserted and tightened to securely hold the stock in place.

Once the stock is aligned and securely attached to the receiver, check for any gaps or misalignments to ensure a snug fit. Finally, function test the stock to ensure it is firmly in place and does not wobble or shift when handling the shotgun. Assembling the stock properly contributes to the overall safety, stability, and comfort of the firearm during use.

Assemble the Action and Trigger

Assembling the action and trigger of a shotgun is a critical step in the reassembly process, ensuring the firearm functions reliably and safely. Begin by carefully aligning the action components, including the bolt, slide, and action bars, with the receiver.

Insert the bolt into the receiver and slide it forward until it engages properly with the locking mechanism. Next, attach the trigger group to the receiver, ensuring that all pins or screws are securely fastened. Test the action to ensure smooth operation and proper alignment of all components.

Additionally, verify that the trigger functions correctly, with a crisp break and consistent reset. Finally, conduct a function test to ensure the action cycles smoothly and the trigger releases the firing pin safely and reliably. Assembling the action and trigger properly is essential for ensuring the shotgun operates safely and effectively during use.

Test the Shotgun

Testing the shotgun is a crucial final step in the reassembly process, ensuring that the firearm functions safely and reliably before use. Begin by visually inspecting all parts to ensure they are properly assembled and securely fastened. Next, conduct a function test by cycling the action multiple times to verify smooth operation and proper feeding, ejecting, and chambering of ammunition. Check the safety mechanism to ensure it engages and disengages correctly.

Additionally, dry-fire the shotgun to confirm that the trigger functions properly, with a crisp break and consistent reset. Finally, if possible, perform a test firing with dummy rounds or snap caps to verify that the shotgun fires, cycles, and ejects ammunition correctly.

Any abnormalities or malfunctions observed during testing should be addressed before using the shotgun for live-fire purposes. Conducting thorough testing ensures the shotgun is in proper working condition and ready for safe use in the field or on the range.

7. Storing Your Shotgun

After reassembling the shotgun, proper storage is essential to maintain its condition and ensure safety. Store the shotgun in a secure and dry location, away from moisture, extreme temperatures, and direct sunlight.

Consider using a gun safe or locking cabinet to prevent unauthorized access and protect the firearm from theft or damage. Before storing, ensure the shotgun is unloaded and the chamber is clear to prevent accidental discharge. Store ammunition separately from the firearm, preferably in a locked container.

It’s also advisable to periodically inspect the shotgun for any signs of corrosion, rust, or other damage, and address any issues promptly. By following these storage guidelines, you can help prolong the lifespan of your shotgun and maintain its safety and performance for years to come.

8. Cleaning a Shotgun Keeps It Safe

Cleaning a shotgun is essential to keep it in top condition and ensure it’s safe to use. By following the main steps we outlined in this article, you can guarantee that your shotgun is clean, lubricated, and functioning correctly.

Remember to always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and use the recommended cleaning products. Proper cleaning and maintenance will not only improve your shotgun’s performance but also ensure that it’s ready to use when you need it.

How often should a shotgun be cleaned?
It is recommended that you thoroughly clean a shotgun every 200 rounds.
Can you clean a shotgun?
Yes, you can clean a shotgun. There are steps to clean a shotgun that we discussed in this article. Cleaning a shotgun help to make it work at peak performance and maintain it for the long term.
What materials are needed to clean a shotgun?
To clean a shotgun, you will need a cleaning rod, a bore brush, cleaning jags, swabs, patches, a cleaning cloth, bore cleaners, and lubricants.
What happens if you don't clean your shotgun?
When you don’t clean your shotgun, residue, and dirt will affect the integrity of the steel causing corrosion and affecting the performance of the shotgun and its durability long term.
Do you lubricate a shotgun?
Yes, always lubricate a shotgun for smooth performance and to prevent corrosion.

The Bottom Line

Cleaning a shotgun ensures it works at peak performance and maintains it for the long term. There will always be residue and dirt that will accumulate over time in the shotgun. This accumulation can adversely affect the performance and durability of the shotgun if it is not cleaned regularly.

In this article, we outlined and discussed the main steps to cleaning a shotgun. You can also read these articles on the best range bags, how to clean your hunting rifle, and how to clean binoculars.