The argument of shotgun cleaning took place in bird camp. In one corner was my buddy who cleans his shotgun like clockwork… which is once a decade whether it needs it or not (it needs it). In the other corner was a pal who meticulously cleans his shotgun at the end of each day. On some days I wonder if he’d like to clean his shotgun after every shot. I’m in the middle and wipe my guns after each hunt and clean them once a month or at the end of the season. My only exception is that I do a thorough cleaning after hunting in a heavy downpour or after use in a saltwater marsh.
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A clean shotgun is a happy shotgun, so if you want your bores to shine the way they did when they were new try these few easy steps.
Gather your tools
Shotgun cleaning kits carry similar tools. Cleaning rods are made of aluminum or an exotic wood such as rosewood. Copper bristle brushes screw on the threads at the end and come in a variety of gauges best matched to your shotgun. A split jag holds patches while a mop is used for the application of post-cleaning oil. Patches specific to your gauge are important as is a soft cloth or cleaning mat on which to clean your shotgun. While you’re at it, grab a paper towel or two.
Fluids for specific purposes
Two common fluids are used for cleaning the barrel of a shotgun: powder solvent and lubricants. Powder solvents remove plastic residue, metal fouling and of course powder. Hoppe’s Number 9 and Birchwood Casey Bore Scrubber are two of my favorites. For most situations I use Hoppe’s (I also like the smell), but for stubborn, dirty barrels I’ll switch to Bore Scrubber. Lubricants are applied to the clean barrels to protect the metal from moisture which leads to rust. Try to find a lubricant for shotguns with a high pH, which neutralizes acids and can be used on receivers and the barrel exteriors, too. A good silicone spray protects metals from corrosion. Many of these products are hydrophobic, which means they displace moisture, the first step to keeping rust at bay. These sprays can be used on receivers and the barrel exteriors, too.
Stuck Choke Tubes
If you’re trying to remove stuck choke tubes try a few drops of Kroil Oil which is great for loosening rust. Wait 10-15 minutes after applying then reinsert your choke tube wrench. Even stubborn chokes come out easily. Add some Kroil Oil to the threads, buff with an old toothbrush, and oil. Kroil Oil is caustic which is why it works so well. That said, be careful getting it on the barrel’s blue or brown.
Create the mirror bore
1. Run a balled-up piece of a paper towel through the barrel from the breech to the muzzle. The paper towel will remove any loose debris and save cleaning time as well as patches. The towel should be dry as its purpose is to remove the heavy debris.
2. Assemble the cleaning rod with a bristle brush matched to the bore diameter. Coat the bristle brush in solvent and scrub the bore to loosen up the debris.
3. Soak a patch in powder solvent and wrap it around the bristle brush. Run it down the tube from breech to muzzle. Repeat as often as necessary until the patches are wet but not dirty. Note: I prefer the wrapped brush to the jag because there is more direct contact across the entire barrel walls. Jags can leave unclean streaks where the patch and solvent did not touch the wall.
4. Let the solvent soak for a while to soften the debris. For most dirty barrels, 10-15 minutes is usually enough. Wrap a clean patch around the bristle brush and run through the barrel. Repeat with new patches until they come out clean.
5. If you have stubborn spots full of residue then chuck the cleaning rod into a drill. Screw the bristle brush into the threads, coat with solvent, and run the drill at a slow speed. Un-chuck the rod from the drill and run a patch through the barrel to remove any loosened fouling.
6. When the barrel is clean, oil the mop and run it through the shiny bore. If you don’t have a mop then oil a patch, wrap it around the bristle brush and run it through the barrels.
Before I store my shotguns, I place a cotton cloth or rag at the bottom of my gun cabinet. I’ll store my shotgun in an inverted position with the muzzle on the cloth and the stock in the rack. I’ll leave it in this upside down position for a day or two before returning to its normal position. My strategy here is to allow any residual oil to drain onto the cloth and not into the lock and the stock.
It’s wonderful to look down a mirror bore. A little elbow grease removes all the powder and lead. Every shotgunner can have a mirror bore, and that is whether they clean their firearms after every use or seldom at all.