Frank's Tips

   We've talked a lot in recent months about feeding our shotguns with the right ammo for the job at hand. What we haven't talked about, though, is how to care for them after we're done at the trap or the hunting field.

   A while back my fellow columnist Ted Kozloff wrote a really good article on various lubricants that can be used on firearms and some tips on how and when to use them.  I won't cover the same ground Ted did, but will defer you to his advice on lubricants that is linked above. In this tip we'll focus on cleaning your gun.

   Those of us who've been around guns for a while have at least some experience with cleaning them. My dad actually taught me how to clean and maintain firearms before I was even allowed to shoot them under his supervision. His guidance not only taught me good, safe habits to follow when handling and maintaining firearms, but also both the rights and the wrongs of how to get the job done.  A lot of shooters actually hate cleaning their guns. Some so much so that they will pay someone else to do it for them which I find mildly amusing, and the source of occasional remuneration. 

   If you are used to cleaning handguns or rifles the good news for you is that cleaning and maintaining a shotgun is nowhere near as complex or time intensive. You won't need tons of patches, smelly solvents and an assortment of tools and brushes.  In fact, I can have three or even four shotguns cleaned and back in the safe after a day of shooting within 15-20 minutes.   All you need is a cleaning rod with a brush and two mop heads, as shown below,  your oil of choice and a soft cloth.


 Shotguns, being smooth bored do not have rifling to trap carbon and metal fouling. Often times you don't even need solvent to clean them. After making sure your gun is unloaded and removing any and all ammunition from the work area, you are ready to begin. Remove the barrel and use the rod with brush attached, pushing it from the chamber end through the barrel. Push it through all the way until the brush exits the muzzle, then pull it back through. Repeat several times to loosen up powder fouling and plastic, from the wads, that has been deposited.  When the bore looks pretty clean, it pretty much is.

   Now replace the brush with a dry mop. Pass that back and forth through the bore a time or two and the inside of your barrel should be nice and shiny with no loose debris.  Then replace the dry mop with the second mop which you have lightly oiled with the oil of your choice.  I use Break Free CLP and have for many, many years as it cleans, lubes and protects. It's available just about anywhere gun stuff is sold.  I wipe out the inside of the gun's receiver with a cloth, and apply a drop of CLP on any bearing surfaces where metal will move against metal;  the operating rod raceways on a pump or semi-auto are an example.

   To finish up I wipe down the exterior surfaces of the gun with the cloth and then apply a very light coat of CLP overall , taking care to avoid the stock and fore end. I put the gun back together and into the safe it goes, ready for next time.  For those who have even less time than me I can also recommend the Tico Tool, made by Outers. This is a one stop shop for shotgun cleaning and I wouldn't be without mine. The long rod is the mop to knock the fouling out of the bore, and a smaller mop to use for oiling is stored in the handle.  Nothing could be more simple.

   Periodically we need to give our shotguns a deeper cleaning. This is particularly true with many semi-automatic guns as their actions can become clogged with powder fouling, carbon, and general ick of the previous two mixed with oil.  We'll cover that in a future tip.  And if you need help learning how to clean your gun, come see me or my fellow instructor Chester Parker on a public day at the club.

   If you'd like to learn more about cleaning a rifle, I can recommend this video from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.


​Frank Groth is an NRA Certified instructor in Shotgun, Rifle and Pistol as well as a certified Range Safety Officer.  Frank has been active in the shooting sports for over 40 years as a collector, target shooter, hunter, competitor, instructor and as a working law enforcement officer.  He has taught hundreds of shooters and has been writing on firearms and related topics for more than two decades.  Frank's articles on firearm safety and accuracy appear monthly.