How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

Every shooter knows that firearms require regular maintenance and cleaning. But what most folks don’t agree on is how often they should clean their gun. Some people say that you should clean your gun after every shooting session. Some shooters even go as far as saying that you should clean your gun every month at a minimum – even if it hasn’t been shot. The truth is that the answer depends on a variety of factors:

Frequency of Use

There are definitely some situations when you should clean your gun everyday. If you shoot a couple boxes through your gun everyday, then you will want to clean your gun everyday. This will improve your gun’s performance and lifespan. However, a shot here and there doesn’t necessarily call for a gun cleaning, unless you are using corrosive ammo (more on this below).

One exception to this is a gun that you carry around for personal defense. Even though you probably won’t be shooting this gun often, you will want to keep it clean and in top shape. This is because you need it to be 100% reliable and ready for sticky situations. For a personal defense weapon, you should clean it every month. This also gives you a chance to ensure that it is in proper working order so it will be ready when you need it.

A rifle on a table ready for cleaning

Gun Use Conditions

The conditions in which you use your gun have a huge impact on how dirty your gun gets. If you take your gun out hunting in the rain, then you will definitely want to clean it the minute you get back. This is because the moisture will cause your gun to rust and can lead to pitting.

I live in Hawaii, and we have great weather most of the time. However, we are constantly being hit with a salty, moist sea breeze. This humidity and salty air can accelerate the corrosion of metal. This means that I always clean my gun after taking it outside, even if I don’t fire a shot. I find it best to err on the side of caution in corrosive environments.

Hunting in a dusty or dirty area is similar to being hit with a sea breeze – you will probably want to clean your gun after you’re done. A layer of dust or dirt can corrode your gun, even if you haven’t shot it. You probably won’t need a deep clean if you haven’t shot your gun. But you should take some time to spray and wipe it down with some gun oil after you’re done hunting.

Type of Gun

Some guns are less tolerant to built-up carbon residue, dirt, and grime. Generally, the more moving parts a gun has, the more susceptible it is to malfunctioning due to the absence of cleaning. This means that semi-automatic rifles, revolvers, and semi-automatic pistols are more prone to malfunction if you don’t clean them regularly.

For example, ARs are notorious for jamming if they aren’t clean. ARs have lots of moving parts that can jam if they aren’t kept clean and free of residue. 

Even revolvers should be kept clean. The cylinder in double-action revolvers must be clean if you want to be able to pull the trigger without breaking your finger.

It should be noted that this is more of a general guideline, and the performance of a gun will be on a case-by-case basis. AK-47s are famous for performing well even in the harshest of conditions, even though they are semi-automatic rifles. 

On the other end of the spectrum, bolt-action rifles are generally more tolerant to less cleaning. This is because they are much simpler machines, and have less moving parts to gunk up.

Closeup shot of some gun ammo

Type of Ammunition

If you are shooting corrosive ammunition then you will definitely want to clean your gun after every shooting session. Corrosive ammunition uses a primer that leaves behind corrosive salts after being fired. These corrosive salts will rapidly accelerate corrosion on your precious firearm. 

How do you know if your ammo is corrosive? Most modern ammo is not corrosive. Old military surplus ammo is a different story. If you are shooting old military surplus ammo, then there is a chance that it is corrosive. Shooting corrosive ammo is fine, but you want to make sure that you don’t let your gun sit for too long with corrosive residue on it. So it is wise to clean your gun right away if you shoot corrosive ammo.

Conclusion

There is no set rule for how often you should clean your gun. However, there are many guidelines that you should follow, depending on the situation that you are using your gun in. Also, there are many resources available on the internet that are firearm-specific. No matter what kind of gun you own, there is a good chance that you will be able to find information on gun cleaning techniques and procedures that are specific to your gun.

In any case, it is always a good idea to clean your gun as often as you can. Cleaning your gun will never harm it, only keep it in good shape. While you’re at it, check out our article on the best gun cleaning solvents for reviews on what kind of gun cleaning solvent you should use for your gun.

Trey

Trey

Trey is an avid outdoorsman and curator of Code:Outdoors. He enjoys discovering new places and learning new skills. He is an Eagle Scout and can be found both car camping and on rugged extended adventures.