How to Clean a Shotgun Quickly and Efficiently | 9 Simple Steps

The shotgun is a shoulder firearm with a long barrel. They are mostly used for hunting. Aiming for targets with a shotgun is easier and more precise. As a hunter, nothing is more frustrating than missing your target due to a shooting error.

Some people like to collect firearms as a hobby and some keep them for home security reasons. If you own a shotgun for safety, you want it to work properly and save you in times of danger.

Gun malfunctions can cost you your life at danger. So, you must be careful about the proper care and maintenance of your shotgun. As a gun owner, it is your responsibility to prioritize the cleaning of your gun to avoid any accident. You should know how to clean a shotgun and how to correctly take care of it.

We have listed the steps to easily achieving it in this article. Follow along and learn how you can easily clean your shotgun.

Why You Should Clean Your Shotgun

Why You Should Clean Your Shotgun

It is mandatory to clean and lubricate your shotgun before and after every use. It is mainly important for two different reasons. One is to avoid any accident and the other is to increase the longevity of the firearm.

To Avoid Accidents

Usually, the fume from shooting causes gunk and residue to build up in the metallic body parts of the shotgun. Keeping the gun unused for a long time accumulates dirt too. Debris is formed from carbon build-up due to metal-to-metal friction. Misfiring is a common result of these problems.

Ungroomed shotguns can cause accidents. Most gun malfunctions happen due to user errors. Fortunately, these accidents can be avoided by cleaning the shotgun properly.

To Increase Your Shotgun Life Run

Routinely cleaning shotguns protect them against rust. Shotguns can be expensive to purchase. So, proper cleaning is very important to avoid metal oxidation. Timely deep cleaning keeps the shotguns new. It increases its longevity.

The urgency of cleaning also depends on the climate of your region. If you’re from a humid region, you need to clean your shotgun more frequently than someone from a drier region.

Nonetheless, it is advised that you clean your shotgun every few months. You must clean it at least once every six months.

A Guide on How to Clean a Shotgun Correctly

Clean a Shotgun Correctly

Shotguns need frequent cleaning. Taking it to gunsmiths every time can cost a good amount of money. Cleaning the shotgun by yourself will save you the money. You can follow these nine steps to clean your shotgun all by yourself.

Required Materials

The first necessary thing is that you have to get yourself a shotgun cleaning kit. Then you would have to gather these apparatus and chemicals to follow along the cleaning steps:

  • Multiple clean lint-free pieces of cotton cloth
  • Degreaser or Aerosol powder solvent
  • Correct size Boresnake for your gauge
  • Brass or Nylon bristled cleaning brush
  • Gun oil
  • Gun cleaning pick or Q-tips

Step 1- Unloading the Shotgun

Before getting to the details, you need to unload your shotgun. It is a safety measure. You can unload the shotgun in the following steps-

1) Point the Gun Away from Yourself

Always point the gun away from you. If possible, unload the gun alone in a room. You want to avoid any kind of accidents in case the gun misfires.

Also, make sure you’re not pointing the gun towards any metal object. Keep your fingers off and away from the trigger. It is to make sure you don’t accidentally pull the trigger and fire the gun.

2) Remove the Shells from the Chamber

The process is different depending on what kind of shotgun you use- 

For Pump-action Shotguns-

  • Press the bolt release on your shotgun. You should be able to find the bolt release behind or in front of your trigger guard.
  • Pull back on it and your shotgun will automatically empty one shell.
  •  Once it’s out, cycle the pump action.
  •  Repeat the process until all the shells are emptied out from the chamber.

Though most shotguns have one barrel, a magazine tube is an exception. It can hold multiple shells at once. If you own one of these then press the bolt release a few more times just to be careful.

For Auto-loading Shotgun

  • Pull back and release the bolt grip. This should empty one shell.
  • Continue repeating until the chamber is empty

For break-action Shotgun

  • Open the hinge located between the receiver and the stock.
  • Remove the shells manually from the chamber
  • Close the hinge

Put the shells away in a safe place.

Step 2- A Complete Wipe-Down

It is a fast and simple process. You cannot follow an entire 9 step guide cleaning process after every use. Sometimes, it is not possible to deep clean your shotgun. Sometimes you may not have the energy to deep clean.

A Complete Wipe-Down

A 5-minutes complete wipe-down comes in handy in times of rush. It can help prevent corrosion in the long run. You will need your lint-free cloth and some oil. After a shooting session, wipe the exterior body of your shotgun with a lightly oiled cloth. Give special attention while cleaning the barrel and vent rib. Wipe the trigger, the receiver, and the bolt.

For a more deep and thorough cleaning follow step 3 and onwards.

Step 3- Partial Break-down

This step also depends on the kind of shotgun you use. Basically, you need to break down the shotgun to its primary parts.

If you own a pump-action shotgun or semi-automatic shotgun, follow these steps-

  • Unscrew the magazine tube.
  • Remove the spring. Be gentle as the spring holds a lot of tension.
  • Remove the plug
  • Remove the barrel, it will pull out easily from the receiver
  • Pull out the bolt handle and remove the bolt
  • Pull out the trigger assembly and hammer. You can do that by pushing through the pins that hold the trigger group in place, with a screwdriver

Step 4- Wiping Down All the Parts

There is usually thick carbon build-up in the metal parts due to friction of use. Wipe down all the broken-down parts as well as the primary body. Remove the old oil grease with a lint-free lightly oiled cloth.

Wiping Down All the Parts

The sticky grease will not completely come out this way. But it will help you wipe off the excess dark unburned powder build-up. Make sure you wipe the ejector and the area around the chamber.

Step 5- Degrease Your Shotgun

You can use degreaser, a special kind of oil used to clean firearms in this step. The aerosol powder solvent can be a good alternative too. Spray the solvent liberally in the areas that move and have metal-to-metal friction.

Focus on the barrel, gas chamber, choke tubes, and any other place that may corrode because of rusting. Do not use too much solvent unnecessarily as it can attract dirt.

Let the degreaser solvent sit in areas of heavy gunk and carbon build-up for 15 minutes. The solvent will soften the hard build-up.

Step 6- Scrub Your Shotgun

Scrub the places where you have put the solvent, with nylon or brass bristled brush. Be thorough with the scrubbing, working in the solvent.

Try to reach the build-up in small areas too. Scrubbing will break down the build-up.

Step 7- Wipe with a Dry Lint-free Cloth

Wipe down the entire surface of the shotgun with a clean cloth. Wipe the segmented pieces. Keep wiping until you clean off the solvent and the dirt.

You should concentrate on heavy build-up areas. If the cloth turns entirely black, get another piece of cloth and continue to wipe. Spray more solvent if needed.

Step 8- Cleaning Remote areas with a gun cleaning pick

You will see carbon mostly depositing in the chamber. You should use a gun cleaning pick to clean this area in the most effective way. These tools are made up of high-strength polymer. Hence, they do not scratch the body. They are also designed to fit in all the nooks and crannies of a shotgun. Due to its pointed tip, it reaches smaller areas.

If you do not have a gun cleaning pick, you can use a Q-tip. It is not half as efficient but can work as an alternative.

Step 9- Swab the Barrel Clean

For this step, you need to do a couple of things. At first, oil a bore snake lightly and run it through the entire length of the barrel. You need to make sure all the debris is removed. Then remove the choke and run the bore snake through the barrel again.

Swab the Barrel Clean

The threads of the choke can be gritty. In that case, you need to press your thumb on a cloth and run it along the direction of the threads to work out the waste. Debris might get left behind if you wipe up and not around. Use some degreaser solvent, wrap another cloth around the choke threads and spin it in your hand.

If you do not have a bore snake, you can swab the barrel in other ways too. An alternative way would be to-

  • Swab a solvent soaked cloth into the bore with the help of a cleaning rod
  • Repeat the action until the cloth comes out clean without any residue.

Oftentimes, the magazine tube is forgotten. Pay special attention here. If it is still dirty after all the cleaning, run a bore snake through it.

Warning! Warning! Warning!

Firearms are very delicate to handle. One wrong move can be detrimental to you and the people around you. Here are some precautionary instructions. You need to follow these while cleaning your shotgun.

  • Keep the instructions manual for your shotgun in a safe place
  • Always remember certain actions are very specific to certain kinds of shotguns
  • Follow the process dedicated to the kind of shotgun you use
  • Point the bore of the shotgun away from yourself while unloading the shotgun.
  • You are strongly advised to be alone in the room around that time
  • The cloth you are using must be fine and lint-free
  • Use proper gun oil
  • Do not use excess oil while using it on the surface of the shotgun
  • Do proper market research in your region before buying the solvent. Some solvents have highly toxic ingredients. You need to wear gloves and face masks while using those.
  • Make sure the bore snake you are using fits the right size for your shotgun.
  • Carry out functionality test before reloading

How to Maintain Proper Care of Shotguns

The work does not stop at knowing how to clean a shotgun. It is also equally important to know how to take care of one. After cleaning, you have to assemble the taken apart parts. Now, see if any part needs to be fixed or replaced. If your shotgun parts look good, then get prepared for the next steps.

The next step is the reassembling of the shotgun body parts. But before reassembling the shotgun back together, take care of the next course of actions.

  • Lubricate the areas of the shotgun where it is needed. The areas vary depending on the types of shotguns.

Oil the bolt and the rails of the bolt. Do not use oil around the housing and the firing pin. It can cause firing malfunctions

  • Wipe down the shotgun surface to remove any excess oil, with a dry clean cloth

Too much oil attracts dust. Gun oil can soften the wood which can cause dents in the body.

Now, assemble the pieces together. Put the barrel in place. Wash your hands with soap to remove the oil. Quickly test the functionality before reloading. Aim at a target and fire to see if it works perfectly. As it is done strictly before reloading, the shotgun does not fire any shell.

How to Properly Store Shotguns

It is very important to put attention to the storage of your shotgun. Store in a humidity-controlled environment. Keep your gun away from anybody’s reach in a child-free safe area. Put the gun in a place where air can circulate.

How to Properly Store Shotguns

Do not keep your shotgun in a cloth case as it could absorb the moisture. This can cause rusting. Instead, you can store it in a well-ventilated locked cabinet.

You could also put in a shotgun carrying case. But in this case, make sure to put a moisture desiccant to avoid rusting.

What Happens When You Neglect Cleaning Your Shotgun

Negligence to gun care causes the carbon, copper, plastic, and lead residue to buildup. This causes fouling and rusting. You may wonder to yourself, why is rusting so bad? It is because rusting can cause different parts of the shotgun to stop working. The trigger may get jammed.

If you are hunting and come face to face with a wild animal, you would need to save yourself. A jammed trigger may get you killed. Same thing with home invasion for people who keep shotguns for safety reasons. Not only the trigger, but also other parts malfunction.

Remember, you do not want to put too much pressure on the trigger when it gets jammed. A lot of times accidents occur when people put too much pressure on the trigger. The pressure and impact often cause them to lose aim.

Certain Responsibilities as a Shotgun Owner

Almost every country has gun laws. Some are stricter than others about the laws. Learn about your country’s gun laws and abide by them. Owning a firearm comes with a lot of responsibilities. You should not use a gun if you are not licensed to use it.

Get your license or permit renewed when needed. Unlicensed friends and family members may be good shooters. But do not allow them to use your shotgun as a recreational activity. You will be held equally responsible for any accident caused by them.

Clean your shotgun by yourself. If not possible, take it to a gunsmith. You should not make inexperienced people do it for you. When you clean your shotgun, be careful of the precautionary instructions. Use your shotgun wisely.


We hope this article helps you clean your shotgun. The 9-step guide may look lengthy and time-consuming. But do not get intimidated.

Deep cleaning is not always necessary if you follow the step 1 regularly. If you are an avid hunter who hunts regularly then follow the cleaning process every ⅔ months. If you are an occasional hunter then do it every time before going shooting.

But to be safe you should at least deep clean your shotgun once every 6 months. In case of home security reasons, clean your shotgun every two months. Keep your shotgun clean and well maintained and get back the joy and satisfaction of hunting with a new shotgun!

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