Shotgun Cleaning, Maintenance Is Important

Procrastination (or just plain neglect) is far too common when it comes to cleaning our firearms after the hunting season ends.

Let’s be honest, some of us will make up a million excuses to put off the dirty work.

Harmon Williams, trade show service coordinator and new firearms product task force contributor for Browning, has another take.

Babe Winkelman
Babe Winkelman

“Some hunters are just lazy when it comes to cleaning their firearms,” said Williams, who has cleaned more than his fair share of shotguns over the years for Browning’s competitive trap and skeet shooters. “After the season ends, some guys just keep their shotguns in their cases and don’t open them up again until the following hunting season.”

That, Williams says, is a bad habit to avoid.

Perform Regular Maintenance

“To keep their value and to keep their performance, you have to maintain your firearms,” he said. “Not only during the season, but after the season as well. You have to stay on top of your maintenance. You need to do it regularly.”

Good points all, and ones that we hunters should not forget. After all, dirty firearms can turn into inoperable firearms — and no one I know wants to be in the middle of a rising covey of bobwhite quail only to find out you can’t chamber a round because your shotgun is fouled with dirt and grime.

Look at it this way: For each day afield, there’s a reasonable chance your shotgun is going to get dirty and develop moisture in hard-to-reach places. The big question is how do you manage those potential problem areas — before, during and after the season?

There are, of course, some basic rules to follow to keep your firearms clean and working smoothly and efficiently throughout the year. According to Williams, during the season, hunters need to protect their firearms before they develop visual signs of rust and corrosion.

Wipe Down Interior/Exterior

After a day in the field, you should wipe down the interior and exterior of your firearm with a silicone-based cloth, as well as check the barrel for moisture and residue. Also, check your choke tube and make sure its threads are clean and moisture-free.

“It’s smart to run a patch through the barrel to get rid of any moisture,” Williams said. “Rust can develop fast. If it is really dirty, then run a bore brush through it.”

Williams recommends putting a “light” coat of gun oil on your firearms after daily maintenance.

“You don’t want it too thick because then it will attract dust, which can cause problems, too,” he said.

Another scenario: Suppose you accidentally drop your shotgun in, say, a duck slough. What do you do? At this point, your shotgun is most likely going to need a thorough cleaning. Make sure you always carry a simple gun cleaning kit with you. That may save your day’s hunt. According to Williams, be sure there are no obstructions in either your barrel or chamber. Remember, safety first.

“If you drop a firearm in a wetland, I’d rinse it out thoroughly with clean water as soon as possible,” Williams said. “That night, I’d break down the firearm as far as you’re comfortable and find an air compressor to dry it all out. Again, rust and corrosion can build-up fast. You have to get the moisture out.”

Storage Is Important

Firearm storage is also important. On hunting trips, never stick your firearm in its case at day’s end. Let it air dry overnight. Even tiny amounts of moisture you may have missed can cause damage in just a few hours. During the off-season, find a cool, dry place to store your firearms. Here again, they should be uncased. “They need to breathe,” Williams said.

Williams recommends storing firearms in a vault or gun cabinet, which should be locked after the firearms are stored.

Also, use a commercial drying agent with your firearms. Plano Molding Company makes a unique and highly effective line of rust preventative products called INHIBITOR. They emit a vapor that stops the oxidation process. For more information visit

Do A Thorough Cleaning

Lastly, Williams recommends completely dismantling your firearm and giving it a detailed and thorough cleaning at least once a year. Be sure to follow your instruction manual to the letter. If you don’t have the manual, order one from the manufacturer.

Also, if you don’t feel confident enough to disassemble your firearm on your own, hire a reputable gunsmith to do it for you.

“I know a lot of people who hire a gunsmith to thoroughly clean their firearms from time to time,” he said. “There’s no crime in that.”

It may cost a little money, but you and your firearm will be better for it.

Be sure to visit Sportsman’s Guide for a full assortment of gun cleaning kits.

Editor’s Note: Babe has shared his love of the outdoors with TV viewers for more than 25 years. Babe will share his tips and outdoor adventures weekly on In 1984, Babe’s “Good Fishing” program debuted and later his “Outdoor Secrets” show became popular with hunting enthusiasts. Babe’s programs appear on the Outdoor Life Network, WGN, Fox Sports Net, Fox College Sports, The Men’s Channel, Sportsman’s Channel, Great American Country, WILD TV, and Comcast. Babe also writes hunting, fishing and conservation columns that are carried by up to 350 newspapers each week. Winkelman sponsors include Chevrolet, Miller High Life, Johnsonville Brats, Crestliner Boats, St. Croix Rods, Browning, Hunter’s Specialties, Nikon, Minn Kota, Optima Batteries, Mathews, Honda, and many more.

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One Response to “Shotgun Cleaning, Maintenance Is Important”

  1. David

    Great article