As an instructor, I often get asked, “How often should I clean my gun?” Well, that depends on a few things. How often do you use it? What type of ammo do you shoot with it? Has it been stored in a safe for a few years? 

Love it or hate it, firearms maintenance is a necessary evil. Besides training and bringing the right range gear, it’s also probably the most important part of owning a gun. A properly functioning gun may just save your life one day. If it’s filthy and fouled from the range, will it function flawlessly when you need it to? It might, but it also might not. 

Why Clean a Gun in the First Place?

Each time you shoot, combustion propels carbon particles and microscopic metal fragments down your chamber with the bullet. Over time, these particles can build up and cause corrosion, which affects both your gun's accuracy and reliability. If you use cheap ammo – and who doesn’t these days – your gun will get dirty faster. 

Some brands of ammo are particularly known for being dirtier than others. Regularly taking down and cleaning/oiling your gun can also help you spot and prevent rust. It’s also a great time to inspect everything to make sure there are no visible issues that may require the assistance of a gunsmith.

How Often Do I Need to Clean My Gun?

A woman holds a bottle of Hoppe's gun oil
A little bit of gun oil can go a long way for protecting your guns. (Photo: Jacki Billings/

Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Ideally cleaning should occur after every time you shoot. It’s always good to at least give your gun a quick once-over and wipe down after you shoot. Although I said it was ideal to clean every time you shoot, we all know we’re not always going to do that. But you should. If you can’t do it immediately, commit to going over each of your guns once a month, even if you’ve cleaned them. It’s great to schedule a time each month to just take a look, clean them up, and make sure they’re in great working order. 

If you carry daily, like many of us do, you should also wipe down your gun after you take it off, especially during the summer months. Sweat, body oils, and dirt can wreak havoc on a gun if left to build up over a period of time. Plus, it’s just plain gross!

What if I Don’t Shoot the Gun Often?

You should still go over them, especially if they’ve been in the safe for years. Every six months or so, you should take them out, especially if they’ve been zippered up in a case that can trap moisture. Run a tack cloth over them, oil them if indicated, and just give them a quick inspection. The first day of hunting season shouldn’t be the first time you’ve touched your rifle since the last day of last season. 


A gun owner wipes down their pistol
A quick wipe down after carrying all day in hot weather is a great idea. (Photo: Jacki Billings/


Your gun owner’s manual is a great wealth of information that most of us never even look at until we have a problem. It’s also a good reference on how to maintain your gun. However, before you start, triple check that your gun is cleared and there’s no live ammunition nearby. Many negligent discharges occur when the owner is cleaning their gun. Don’t be that person. 

Proper maintenance ensures your gun is in good working order, and it’s the one thing that’s 100 percent in our control that can literally make or break our firearm. Grab your guns and cleaning kit, put on some music or whatever you’re currently binge-watching, and get cleaning. Your life and safety may depend on it.