Proper shotgun maintenance is extremely important to help keep your gun in top condition. This in turn can extend its longevity, and ensure that it aids you to perform to the best of your abilities. It will also give you more familiarity with your weapon, thus allowing you to better recognize potential issues. After all, prevention is better than cure, so wouldn’t you rather locate a damaged component early enough when performing regular maintenance and replace it, then have your firearm fail you when you need it most?
As such, we’ve put together a quick and simple guide to maintaining and cleaning your shotgun that will hamper most potential performance problems.
Make Sure There Aren’t Any Bullets In The Chamber
Before beginning any form of cleaning or maintenance on your shotgun, it is imperative that you confirm that your shotgun is 100% unloaded. Do not begin the cleaning process until you are confident there isn’t anything left in the chamber. After all, maintaining your shotgun doesn’t mean much, if you accidentally end up shooting yourself in the process, now does it? Once you are 100% sure that there isn’t any ammo left in the barrel, you can proceed to clean out your shotgun.
Utilize A ‘Bore Snake’
If you already have one, then you can proceed to conduct a quick and thorough cleaning of your shotgun’s barrel using a bore snake, which doesn’t even need you to disassemble the shotgun yet. However, if you are unfamiliar with what a bore snake is, it’s basically a long cloth tube with brush-like bristles. In this regard, you can buy one from Hoppe’s, which is the most popular choice.
This cleaning tool actually offers the bare minimum form of shotgun maintenance and is the easiest thing to do, as all you have to do is pull the cleaning tool through the gun’s barrel. This will remove any unburned powder from the barrel, as well as any visible pieces of debris from the barrel. More experienced shotgun owners tend to see the use of a bore snake as an intermediate and quick maintenance step and not one that can really be considered “cleaning” on its own, but it’s still an important part of the process. After all, your slug accuracy will be significantly affected if your barrel isn’t consistently kept clean.
Depending on the type of shotgun you own, you will eventually have to properly ‘field-strip’ the firearm to conduct thorough and expert maintenance of your weapon. For instance, when stripping certain shotguns like a side by side shotgun, disassembling typically means splitting it into three parts which are; the barrels, the forend & buttstock.
Meanwhile, if you own a semi-automatic or pump-action shotgun, it will normally require a bit more deep cleaning into the mechanism, with some owners also removing the trigger group as well. You can also read your shotgun’s user’s manual for more details on how to effectively take your firearm apart.
Carrying Out Basic Maintenance
As you start to learn how to clean a shotgun, be aware that the most basic form of maintenance calls for most users to simply take the barrel and bolt down, as well as remove the forend of the self-loading action. Once you’ve field stripped your firearm, most owners carry out the following basic steps. However, you don’t have to follow these practices in this exact order:
- Place a bore snake through the barrel
- Clean out any shotgun chokes that have been in use. Surface rust is a common problem here, so take special care in doing a good job.
- Dry off any grease from the action and re-grease
- Wipe off any present carbon deposits. This most applies to your barrel’s vents and shotgun gas vents (this mostly applies to semi-automatic shotguns)
- Wipe all metal surfaces with a slightly lubricated cloth
- If you’ve taken apart the trigger group, then wash it off with a light solvent and then apply the lubricated cloth lightly.
Also, every now and then, replacing your firearm’s O-rings and springs are recommended. These are easy and cheap to replace so keeping a few on hand is a good idea.
Pay Special Care to The Trigger Group
Please keep in mind that if you are carrying out maintenance on the trigger group then you must not over-lubricate it. This is because doing so can lead to issues with your trigger such as doubling and fan-firing. Moreover, it can lead to premature wear and tear on the trigger. This happens because almost all lubricants tend to pull in dust, which inevitably leads to an increase in wear. If you want to effectively clean your trigger group you can follow these steps;
- Using a light solvent to clean off the trigger group.
- This normally only requires a light solvent application, which will dry out the trigger and remove any lingering oil and grease.
- After you’ve removed the solvent, you can apply some light gun oil to the trigger group. Products like RemOil, G-96, and Hoppe’s No. 9, are suitable choices for this purpose. Make sure not to use kerosene or brake cleaner, such chemicals can be damaging.
- Besides using a solvent, you can also utilize compressed air to dry it out. This process will remove any excess oil, leaving the right amount of lubrication on the trigger group.
Take Special Care Of The Working Parts
As you maintain your shotgun, take special care of the firearm’s working parts. This is important, as there can be a build-up of carbon deposits, which will inevitably end up damaging your shotgun. Prime examples of such working parts include the; extractors/ejectors that are common in double-barrel shotguns. These are very important as they leave any unfired bullets from the gun’s chamber and also release the spent rounds after shooting.
In normal cases, these pieces of steel are built to tolerate a lot of stress and tend to be extremely reliable. However, if carbon accumulates under the extractor’s face, then whenever your shotgun is closed, the extractor will end up flexing, which will start to seriously damage your shotgun.
Before you jump into any extensive shooting activities, it’s also a good idea to have your gun serviced by a gunsmith. This guarantees that your firearm will be in tip-top shape ahead of the rigorous activity ahead. Carrying one out a month or two before, eg. The hunting season or shooting competition; is best. However, keep in mind it can be an expensive service, so if you know your firearm is going to be taking some major punishment and would just like to be sure it won’t fail on you, it’s a worthwhile service to pay for.
Performing consistent shotgun maintenance and care is highly necessary. In the end, it helps keep your shotgun in working order and also helps prevent possible corrosion. Keep these recommended practices to mind and we guarantee your shotgun will never let you down, especially when you need it to work most. Also, investing in a professional shotgun cleaning kit is a good idea that is if you haven’t already purchased one yet.