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[Guide] How to Clean & Lubricate a Gun

Owning a gun also means learning how to maintain it and keep it in tip-top condition.

But what if you’re a first-timer and aren’t really sure how to go about it or what tools to use?

clean patch

No worries! We have you covered.

In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the tools you need to clean, how often you should be cleaning, and we’ll even through in a video from Brownells to help out too!

So, if you’re staring at a dirty gun and need a jump start on cleaning…read on.

Table of Contents

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Best Way to Clean Your Gun

Everyone and their mom have their preferred way to clean and lube a gun.

Find a forum on the subject and you’ll hear dozens of preferences of the “best” solvent/oil/grease combination.

So is our way the best?

Maybe, or maybe not, but it’s worked for tens of thousands of rounds through pistols, rifles, and shotguns. But don’t worry, we’ll also list several other popular options.

Necessities

M-Pro 7 Cleaning Kit
M-Pro 7 Cleaning Kit

The best way to start off is to buy a simple cleaning kit that has everything you need. 

Our recommendation is to get the M-Pro 7 Tactical Universal Cleaning Kit. It has bore brushes for almost all calibers, a cleaning rod that works for pistols and long guns, as well as cleaning patches and all the necessary fluids.

Or just buy the necessary solvents and create patches out of whatever you have handy.

Check out more of our picks in Best Gun Cleaning Kits.

All Gun Cleaning Kits
All Gun Cleaning Kits

You’ll also want a lot of Q-tips, an old but cleaned toothbrush, and a rag (I use old t-shirts or microfiber towels).

Once you run out of patches, you can get additional ones from Hoppe’s.

Why M-Pro 7?

Gun Cleaner

M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner
M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner

The two main reasons are that it works well and does not smell.

I originally started with the OG of all gun solvents, Hoppe’s #9. Hoppes has been used for decades and really does the job of getting all the gunk out. 

It also smells really awesome in a gasoline kind of way. So you want full ventilation outside and be careful of getting it on your hands. 

A couple of headaches and a damaged (to this day) fingernail taught me my lesson.

Hoppes #9
Hoppes #9

M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner gets rid of carbon buildup just about as good as Hoppes but is non-smelly (I mostly clean indoors) and doesn’t destroy my hands. 

But I’ll admit, I still spray some Hoppes #9 on my gun for the smell and wipe it off as a finishing touch.

Oil

M-Pro 7 Gun Oil
M-Pro 7 Gun Oil

I’ve found gun oils to be essentially the same. 

As long as you keep your gun clean and oiled you’ll be fine at the range and for home defense.  M-Pro 7 Oil keeps my guns running fine even with 500+ rounds a day in the desert with small sand particles flying around.

Alternatives

Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it. Here are a couple of others that you’ll find have huge followings:

Gun Cleaners

Gun Oil

Oil vs Grease

Super Lube
Super Lube

You’ll also see much argument about using grease on some areas. The standard saying is to use grease where things slide, and oil where things turn. 

For me, I use grease on rails since when you put it on there, it stays. My preferred grease is Super Lube

Remember to use sparingly since it does seem to attract contaminants more easily than oil; that tube should last long enough to become an heirloom item.

Cleaning & Lubricating Procedure

Here’s a general procedure for cleaning your gun, whether it’s a handgun, rifle, or shotgun:

  • Unload and strip your firearm
  • Run solvent through your barrel with appropriate brush
  • Wipe everything off you can with towel + Q-tips
  • Spray solvent on dirty areas and wipe off
  • Run bore brush through a couple times
  • Run clean patch through barrel, repeat until happy
  • Lightly oil rails, springs, and bearing surfaces
  • Run an oily patch through the barrel
  • Reassemble and safety check

Brownells Daily Defense runs through the process, so be sure to check that out.

How Often Do I Need to Clean?

In the beginning, I cleaned after every trip to the range — even if I only shot 50 rounds in some of my guns.

I like cleaning as much as the next guy, but it got really boring really quickly.

Now, I field strip and clean about every few hundred rounds for my pistol and semi-auto rifles, and every 100 or so rounds for my precision rifle.

I’ll still wipe down the rails and add some lube before I head to the range just in case.

Many guns will probably run fine for thousands of rounds with very little maintenance, but a great analogy I heard is relating gun cleaning to showering.

Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15 Shooting
Aero Precision Thunder Ranch TR15

Sure, you don’t really have to shower all the time, but many people would appreciate it if you did. 

I would rather depend on a gun that has been cleaned and oiled regularly.

Conclusion

A clean, oiled gun is a happy one. And really the process isn’t terribly difficult, so make sure you set aside time to maintain and clean your firearms.

frame rails

Trust us, you want your guns running at peak performance.

How often do you clean your guns? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to check out our guide on the Best Gun Cleaning Kits that make maintenance easy.

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10 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    DesertRatR

    I used to be fanatical about cleaning, virtually every range trip. Maybe I am getting lazy but I've settled on field strip and a good cleaning every 500 rounds or so on. I've also learned I used too much lube (Break-Free CLP), now I use a minimal amount, but frequently add a drop here or there.
    I have a Tactical Solutions X-Ring and a couple of their uppers on 22/45 lowers. I don't know why but I develop feeding problems if the guns get even slightly dirty, irrespective of expensive or cheap ammo. I carry a bore snake and a small bottle of Hoppe's or Ballistol every match. More than once that resolved the feeding problems. I clean those after a couple hundred rounds or so and those guns stay in good working order.

    January 17, 2022 12:48 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    WP Simonsen

    There are Handgun manufacturers who warn never use ammonia based solvents like Hoppes #9 on their guns (Walther for example). Hoppes is great if you are shooting WW2 surplus ammo. However, modern ammo isn’t nearly as caustic. Let’s move into the 21st Century.

    December 21, 2021 7:07 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Zeke2A

    Ballistol for all minor cleaning and lube . Shooters Choice MC7 for tough dirty bores , EWG Grease for parts that need greasing , also the only grease I use on my Garand .

    Surprised Ballistol wasn’t mentioned .

    December 21, 2021 4:41 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John

    I still use Hopps for cleaning mostly. For lube I use Weapon Shield from Steel Shield Technologies.

    December 21, 2021 3:59 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robb

    I like to throwm in a bucket a bleach…

    Kidding. Salt bath. Also kidding.

    Lucas oil is my go to lube for pistols. but I also use tw25b on my ARs and pistol rails. Clp works too.

    December 20, 2021 10:16 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chris

    Only one thing I can recommend: Break Free CLP is a wonderful LP but not a very good cleaner. I used it for a while, was never able to pull out a clean patch even after an hour of cleaning. Then I switched to Hoppes and MPro7 and they picked up a lot of leftover gunk. and my patches are clean.

    February 18, 2018 3:47 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ray Fleitz

    I agree with Smith's comment. Can you recommend an AR-15 cleaning kit?
    Ray

    May 4, 2017 8:52 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Brown Smith

    Well-written post and very informative too. Just so glad to have read something like this. As far I as remember, this is the first article that I've read which is about cleaning a gun. And you did a great job on this. Thanks for sharing.

    March 24, 2017 3:03 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      You're so welcome, Brown!

      April 5, 2017 4:26 pm
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