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How to Clean Your Hunting Rifle

Your hunting rifle is an investment and will last for many lifetimes with proper cleaning. Your biggest challenges are moisture that leads to rust. This means not only should you clean the rifle regularly, you must protect the firearm in the field and store it properly in your vehicle and home. Cleaning, storing and protecting your rifle is a simple process that requires a little bit of time and love before and after each hunt.



How often should you clean your rifle? Or shotgun for that matter? This question comes up often and the answer is different for everyone. It really depends on how often you use the firearm and the environment in which you store the rifle.

If you hunt very frequently or even daily for a week or longer during your season, cleaning daily is not really required. The only exception here is when the rifle makes contact with water and/or salt. Moisture and any salt content are the most damaging elements your rifle will ever experience. Conduct a thorough cleaning each day you make contact with these elements.

Otherwise, a weekly cleaning during hunting season is normal. Do a thorough cleaning after the rifle has been stored during the off-season before you take it out for use. Also, do a cleaning before you store it for a long period of time. Use your best judgment on cleaning during active use periods. 

If you put the rifle through a hard hike and you fall in the mud, climb up scree slopes, and make contact with the ground—go ahead and give it a good cleaning. If the rifle takes an easy walk through the woods and spends most of the day in your truck, it can wait. 

Cleaning is also more frequent when shooting. Many hunting trips do not put rounds through the rifle. When you hit the range and fire off a bunch of rounds, plan on cleaning the rifle to remove any residue.


What You Need

Cleaning a bolt action rifle or any other hunting rifle for that matter only requires a few items. You can buy them individually or pick up a standard kit. The kits are typically very nice and have everything you need. A bore snake, cleaning brushes, cleaning rod, lubricant, solvent, patches, picks, and brushes are all normal. Patches and wipes are also nice for quick cleaning needs in the field.


Prep the Work Station

Before you begin cleaning, find a safe place with a flat working surface. If you have a vice on a bench, that makes for the perfect cleaning space. You can effectively clean a rifle on a steady table, however. Add a table cloth if needed to protect the table from oils and solvents as they may stain. A workbench where aesthetic damage is not import is ideal.

Set the rifle on your bench and make sure the firearm is unloaded. It should be unloaded at all times except when in use at the range or when you are loading to prepare for a hunt. Always unchamber every round when you leave the range or the field. Double check and triple check to ensure the rifle is clear before beginning your cleaning, and remove the magazine if you have one attached.


Basic Cleaning

Cleaning after a light use with little to no contact from the elements calls for a basic cleaning. This means little disassembly is required and you are simply polishing off any residue from the latest use. A basic cleaning involves pushing a patch through the barrel to remove carbon residue and polishing the barrel. 

Also, remove the bolt and brush the bolt and the exposed chamber to break all residue loose. Wipe the bolt and chamber down with a solvent patch. You can do this without fully removing the bolt, but pulling the entire piece makes it easy to access all the difficult nooks.

Lastly, wipe down the barrel and metal components with an oil patch. The oil prevents corrosion and protects the metal parts. After doing a thorough wipe down, your basic cleaning is finished. Slide the bolt back into place and store the rifle in a safe or case.


Deep Cleaning

A deep cleaning is a more thorough process that is not often completed by many rifle owners. This cleaning requires disassembly of the rifle to expose every part for a thorough cleaning. Remove the barrel and run a nylon brush through the barrel to scrape away residue. Run a solvent patch through to wipe away all of this loose residue. Next, push a stiff bristle copper brush through really scrub the interior. Run another solvent patch through to finish up the process.

Next, remove and clean the bolt, action, trigger, and magazine insert. Use picks and fine brushes to really break loose any debris and residue. You can also utilize an air compressor to clean these components effectively. Numerous gun scrubbing solvent products are also useful for spraying these metal components. Brush and wipe everything down thoroughly with solvent then use a clean rag to wipe up any excess liquid.

Lastly, oil all of the metal components with an oil patch. Make sure to hit every piece with oil to add a thin layer of protection. After the oil attaches, you will likely have too much oil on the metal. A quick wipe down with a dry rag to remove any excess is normal. A thin layer is all you need to prevent corrosion. 

Reassemble the firearm and store the gun in a safe, dry space. A gun safe is ideal for storage but you can also keep the gun in a case.

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