How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

A clean gun is essential. But how often do you need to clean it?


Certain questions in the gun world get asked all the time, especially by new gun owners. For example, what gun should I get? Should I carry with one in the chamber? What is the best holster? (This one is easy since we sell the best holsters, but you get the idea.) I get asked all these questions and more, especially in my Basic Pistol classes, because the students tend to be new to guns and have heard a lot of conflicting answers.

One of the most common is “How often should I clean my gun?” My standard answer is, “Ask ten experienced gun owners, and you’ll get ten different answers.” And it’s true. My boss, for example, is notorious for never cleaning his guns. It’s become a running joke among the training staff. When he comes to work, someone else will take his gun and clean it for him because he doesn’t like to do it. He’s not being negligent, just rather silly about it. He wants his gun to run correctly.

On the other hand, I clean my gun every time I shoot it. If I go to the range and blow through a 50-round box of ammo, I will likely give my gun at least a basic cleaning when I get home. I won’t dismantle it completely, but the slide comes off, the barrel gets a run through with a bore snake, all the gun powder residue is wiped off, and some drops of lube oil are added where needed.

Is this a hard and fast rule? Absolutely not. That’s just me. Some folks won’t clean their guns nearly as often.

Clean When?

Guns, especially high-quality guns, are designed to run for a long time without cleaning. You can shoot thousands of rounds through them, not touch them with a single drop of cleaning solution, and they’ll run just fine. Not so much for cheaper guns, the ones you’re likely not carrying every day because you got them as budget guns. These should be kept pristine because they might fail at the slightest bit of dirt. There’s a reason those guns are a bargain. The bargain is between low price vs. good quality. You picked the former.

I’m a firm believer that any gun you rely on – especially your everyday carry, the one your life depends upon – should be in top working order all the time. But, of course, a big part of that is making sure it’s clean. The last thing I want in a real-life gunfight is for my gun to malfunction because it was full of grime that I should have cleaned out long ago — shame on me for not taking better care of my essential gear.

With What?

While Dawn takes grease out of your way, it does horrible things to guns. I’m not picking on Dawn in particular. Household cleaners, in general, should never get anywhere close to your gun. They are not formulated for the unique needs of firearms.

Instead, choose gun-friendly cleaners, solvents, and lubricants. There are several good brands, including Breakthrough Clean, Lucas Oil Outdoors, Hoppe’s, Prolix, Otis, and lots of others. Find the one you like to use and stick with it. Each one works a little differently, so do your homework.

Cleaning Up

However and whenever you clean your firearms, be sure to keep them fully operational. If you’re going to store your guns for a while, be sure they are cleaned before you put them away, especially if you won’t see them for several months. The harsh chemicals in ammunition can cause metal and polymer decay and damage if left unattended for a long time. Keep your guns clean and operational, and they’ll give you years, and in some cases generations, of service.


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David Workman is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. As an NRA-certified instructor, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as possible. “Real-life shootouts don’t happen at a box range.”




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