Safety 101: Tips for Cleaning a Gun Safely

cleaning a gun

Cleaning a gun can seem like an innocent maintenance activity. But when not done with proper precautions, cleaning a weapon can be deadly. To keep yourself and your family safe while cleaning your guns, be sure to follow this guide.

Be in an Empty Room While Cleaning a Gun

Should your gun accidentally fire, you want to limit the number of people who could get hurt. Always clean alone in an empty room. Tell your family you’re cleaning a gun and do not enter. Remove any pets as well.

Avoid Distractions

Distractions when cleaning guns cause extra danger. Do not clean while watching TV or listening to music. Concentrate on the task at hand.

Unload the Gun

The most important part of safely cleaning a gun is to make sure it’s unloaded. First, remove the magazine. Then open the chamber and observe front and back to assure no rounds are left chambered or in the barrel.

Double and triple check to make sure the gun is completely ammo-free before cleaning. For added assurance, never clean in the same room you store your ammunition or reloading press.

Disassemble the Gun

Some guns will require disassembly to clean. Every gun has a different assembly, so check your owner’s manual for the best way to take it apart.

Wipe the Barrel with Solvent

With the gun disassembled, you can now begin to clean the individual parts, starting with the barrel. Soak a cleaning patch with a gun cleaning solvent. Use a cleaning rod to push the patch through the barrel, starting from the end of the bore working toward the muzzle.

Once you push the patch out the other side of the barrel, remove the patch. Do not push and pull the patch inside the barrel as this will only move the grime around. Let the barrel sit and let the solvent work while you clean the rest of the gun.

Brush the Frame, Slide, and Recoil Spring

Using a dry rag or a toothbrush, simply wipe any residue from the other parts of the gun. Use a Q-tip to scrape corners and grooves that the rag and toothbrush can’t get to. After this, go back in for a final wipe down with a dry cleaning patch.

Do not use a solvent or cleaning liquid during this step, as it can smear the grime and cause more work.

Clean Out the Barrel

While you’ve been brushing down the rest of the gun, the solvent has started to break down any fouling inside of the bore. Using a wire brush, go back and forth through the barrel to bristle away the buildup.

Then, push a dry patch through the barrel. The patch should come out the other side dirty, having picked up the loose carbon and other fouling. Continue to repeat this step until the patches come out clean.

Wipe the Outside of the Barrel

Using a patch with a small amount of solvent, lightly wipe the outside of the barrel. Put a special focus on the back end by the opening of the firing chamber which will be one of the dirtiest parts of the gun. After wiping with the wet patch, follow up with a few dry patches.


Once you’ve cleaned out the dirt, you’ll need to oil up the gun. Use a Q-tip and wipe down the barrel and slide rails with gun lubricant. You will only need a few drops of oil. Use a dry patch and wipe off any excess oil.

You can now reassemble the gun and store it in a safe location.

More Activities for Gun Hobbyists

Cleaning a gun can be a labor of love for gun owners. For those who love to work with and shoot guns, reloading might be a new hobby for you. Click here to learn more about reloading.