How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Cleaning your gun is far less exciting than shooting for most of us. As such, it often happens that after a shooting session, you’re tired and pressed for time and end up postponing the chore to tomorrow. Sometimes tomorrow becomes soon, and before you know it, the cleaning exercise is forgotten, leading to a rusted and damaged gun.

A gun should be cleaned thoroughly after being handled or when shot. Even if only one shot is fired. How often you must clean your gun depends entirely on how often the gun is used and the conditions the firearm is stored. When in storage, clean the gun at least once every three months.

Finding a definitive answer on how often you must clean your gun is about tricky as finding a straight banana. Let’s see some clarity on this frequently asked question.

How Often Should You Clean Your Gun

How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

Rust is the leading cause of guns being damaged and results from the metal surface being exposed to moisture. Moisture can be present in the surrounding air in varying degrees, rain or snow, but the most significant cause of rust on guns is caused by sweaty hands touching the metal parts of the gun.

Handguns carried regularly are more prone to developing rust due to their constant proximity to the human body that gives off heat and moisture. Even the action of adjusting the weapon on your belt can lead to moisture being transferred to the gun.

If left untreated, the metal surface will start reacting with the moisture and oxygen in the air, causing rust. Regular handling of the weapon has some advantages as the rusting process is reduced as the micro rust particles that form are dislodged from the metal surface. But pack the uncleaned gun away for a few days, and you may be in for a surprise.

Daily carry guns should be lightly oiled externally with a good quality gun oil at least once a week, if not more often. Include the magazine in this exercise if it’s made from metal. Regularly carried guns often show signs of wear on the metal surfaces, caused by the gun’s surface rubbing against the holster and a myriad of other surfaces.

How Often Should Your Gun Be Oiled?

A gun carried daily should be given a light oiling and wiped down with a cotton cloth at least once a week. Exposure to moisture that is transferred either by the handling of the gun by moist hands or by atmospheric conditions takes a toll on the gun’s external finish.

Thorough cleaning of internal parts, including lightly oiling the inside and outside of the barrel, should be done once a month. Good quality gun oils penetrate the tiny openings in the metal’s surface and remain there to protect the weapon’s surface until worn off.

Even if it’s only one shot, guns that have been fired need to be thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible after use. Cleaning must include the bore. The cleaning process is always followed by lightly oiling all the surfaces, including the bore, with a cotton oil rag using a good quality gun oil.

What Can Happen If Your Gun Is Not Cleaned

What Can Happen If Your Gun Is Not Cleaned?

In the worst-case scenario, a gun left uncleaned can rust so severely that the weapon will no longer be able to shoot. A rusted gun action can become inoperable, making the weapon unusable.

Shooting a gun with a rusted or pitted bore is downright dangerous. As the rust layer inside the bore worsens, the bore diameter is reduced by the swelling rust, and the smooth finish of the bore is damaged and becomes rough.

When firing a bullet through a damaged bore or barrel, the pressure required to force the bullet down the barrel may exceed safe limits that the gun can handle. The increased pressure can damage the gun’s components or even the gun exploding, causing severe injury to the shooter and bystanders, or even death.

Can A Gun Be Cleaned Too Often?

A gun can theoretically not be cleaned too often, provided the cleaning process is not done with such vigor that it damages the weapon’s finish. A very lightly oiled rag that is almost dry to the touch can only help keep the finish of your gun looking good, even if you wipe your gun down daily.

Stripping the gun down into its many minor parts is not necessary when cleaning the gun. The risk of regularly stripping your weapon down to the last nut and bolt increases the odds of a crucial retaining pin or screw being lost, which can hamper the gun’s operation.

Deep cleaning of the major components of the gun only needs to happen after firing the weapon or once a month if you carry the gun daily. Firearms that are not being used and are in storage need only a light clean and oiling every three months.

How To Clean Your Handgun

How To Clean Your Handgun

Cleaning your gun is necessary to keep the gun in good condition and to ensure the firearm works flawlessly when you need it. The basic cleaning principles are relevant to revolvers so that the following steps can be applied too, except for the disassembly.

You’ll need the following:

  • Good quality Gun Oil (Aerosol)
  • A cotton rag
  • Bore cleaning rod
  • Small multipurpose nylon brush or toothbrush
  • Cotton bore cleaning patches
  • Bore Cleaning Solvent (Aerosol Foam)
  • Bore cleaning copper brush of the correct diameter (caliber)
  • Newspaper or a towel

10 Steps To Clean A Handgun

Let’s look at the ten steps to follow when cleaning your handgun.

  1. Place the newspaper or towel on a table to ensure a clean, padded and tidy workspace.
  2. Make sure that the handgun is unloaded and safe. Magazine removed. Remove the bullets from the magazine for a pistol and place the bullets aside to ensure they don’t get oil-coated inadvertently. For a revolver, remove the ammo from the cylinder.
  3. Remove the slide and the barrel from the pistol if not permanently attached to the frame. You should now have the slide, frame, magazine, and barrel with its mainspring as the main disassembled components.
  4. Give the barrel a decent squirt of the bore cleaning solvent and set it aside without drying.
  5. Next, taking the nylon brush, give the internal crevices and recesses of the slide, frame, and mainspring a once over to remove lint and grime that has found its way onto these crevices.
  6. Take the barrel and run the bore brush through the barrel a few times working from the chamber end. Give the brush a few twists inside the chamber mouth area to ensure any grime is dislodged. The brush should come out pretty dirty if the gun has recently fired. Squirt some more solvent into the barrel and set it aside.
  7. Taking the cotton rag, apply a light coating of gun oil onto the rag and give the slide and frame a good rub down. Try and get into the hard-to-reach areas inside the frame like the magazine well. Once clean, set these components aside.
  8. Going back to the barrel, use the cotton bore cleaning patches attached to the bore cleaning rod to run a few lightly oiled rags through the barrel. The initial patched may be dirty, black, or blue-green color when they pass through the barrel. Keep going with clean rags until they come out clean. Ensure the last patch that passed through the barrel had a slight oil coating applied.
  9. Now give the outside of the barrel and magazine a wipe down with gun oil and the cotton rag.
  10. Now all the components are clean, and the gun can be reassembled. Keep the magazine out of the gun and check that the action works as meant. Give the gun one last wipe down with the lightly oiled cotton rag to remove any fingerprints. The final step is to return the ammo to the magazine and replace the magazine in the pistol, and you’re ready to go. 

Great Handgun Cleaning Products

Listed below are eight popular gun oils that have proven themselves over time to ensure your gun remains in tip-top condition. All are available from your leading gun accessory store.

  • Hoppes No. 9 Gun Cleaner
  • Safariland CLP Break-Free Gun Cleaner Spray
  • CLP by Sage & Baker Spray Bottle
  • Ballistol Aerosol Multi-Purpose Gun Spray
  • EWL Slip 2000 Gun Cleaner and Lubricant
  • M-Pro 7 Gun Oil
  • Tetra Best Gun Grease
  • Lucas Gun Oil

Should You Clean An Unused Gun?

Guns in storage should be given a wipe down with a lightly oiled rag at least once every three months. Cleaning must include giving the gun’s bore a pass-through with an oily patch. Guns that are in storage can also rust due to atmospheric conditions.

Should you live in a very humid environment or close to the ocean, your guns are exposed to some degree of moisture that lurks in the air, which is a major cause of rust. Storing your gun in a gun case or bag is not advised as moisture can be trapped in these, promoting the formation of corrosion.

When handling the gun before packing it away, be conscious not to touch metal parts with your hands if at all possible. Fingerprints are prime causes of rust and can be avoided with a bit of care. Also, don’t forget to oil the bore and trigger face before storing the gun, as this component is often overlooked.

How Regularly Should You Deep Clean Your Gun?

Deep cleaning your gun is only necessary after firing the gun or at least once a month for your carry gun. In cleaning your carry gun, a deep clean is required to remove grit, grime, and lint that builds up in the various hard to get to parts of your gun.

These areas can include the barrel, the rails between the slide and frame, the gun’s sights, behind the trigger, around the firing pin should your gun have an exposed hammer, and around the slide and safety levers. In addition, grit and grime can find their way into the gun’s internal working parts.


Your gun should always be in the best possible condition to ensure it works when you need it. A deep clean of the gun is required whenever the gun is fired.

Carry guns, a light wipe down with an oil rag once a month is all that’s needed, followed by a deep clean once a month. Guns that are not used and are in storage need only be lightly oiled once every three months under normal conditions.

Related Articles