How to Clean a 12 Gauge Shotgun

A shotgun is an effective tool, yet requires routine care to remain operational at its optimal levels. A few minutes spent cleaning and oiling will ensure it remains in top shape for years.

Assemble the necessary supplies: gun cleaning solvent, gun oil, cotton swabs and an appropriate work surface (consider investing in a gun vise for added ease of use).


Beginning your shotgun cleaning session by beginning with the barrel is key. Apply a generous amount of bore cleaner to a cleaning patch and using your cleaning rod equipped with either jag, brush or patch holder tips run it through your barrel in the direction that a shot would travel, loosening any carbon fouling and plastic wad fouling before continuing your swipe until your patch emerges from muzzle in roughly similar condition to when it entered.

Once your bore is clean, it’s time to move onto cleaning the action of your shotgun. If you have field stripped it, squirt some gun cleaner onto a cotton swab or toothbrush and apply it liberally to all metal surfaces that move, including the breech block, trigger assembly and magazine tube. Allow these parts to soak for 15 minutes in solvent before using a brush or other means to scrub them down.

Start by giving your fore-end and stock a wipe down with some gun oil, to protect its wooden components from water and other elements that could cause cracking, rotting or rusting of their wooden components. This can help ensure long term safety of your shotgun!

Before reassembling your shotgun, perform one final thorough visual inspection. Look for signs of damage or rust, particularly any unsightly dents and scratches which could compromise safety. If any serious damages occur don’t attempt to repair them yourself; rather take your shotgun to an experienced gunsmith who can make necessary repairs.

After your shotgun is clean and oiled, reassembling is the next step. Start with the barrel before moving on to stock and action assembly. As part of reassembling your shotgun, be sure to wipe down all metal components of its stock with wax-treated gun cloth to protect against finger prints marring its surface while maintaining a beautiful shine. Also consider wiping down wooden surfaces of your shotgun using a clean, lint-free cloth for optimal results.


Shotguns are more complex than pistols or rifles and require special care and attention in order to remain in top working order. Regular cleaning and lubrication will help your shotgun provide years of reliable service; properly maintained shotguns will function smoothly and accurately, enabling you to shoot more rounds with greater precision and accuracy. Each time a shotgun is fired, residue gathers in its moving parts which may compromise its reliability or even predictability, endangering safety and performance of the gun itself. In order to prevent these problems arising, shotguns should be cleaned after each use in an environment which won’t trap moisture that causes wood deterioration or blued metal corrosion over time – ideal conditions exist for storage environments like this if possible.

As part of its cleaning routine, shotgun owners must begin by carefully unlatching the barrel from its action. After doing so, use a lint-free cloth to wipe down every surface in the action – wiping down each carbon fouling site or powder buildup as well as any carbon fouling and powder deposits from carbon fouling on parts such as the ejector assembly may also help clean your shotgun thoroughly.

Once again, attach a phosphor bronze bore brush compatible with your shotgun’s gauge to a cleaning rod and dip it in an appropriate cleaning solvent before inserting the brush into its action, beginning from the breech end and moving toward the muzzle – repeat this process until all parts of your shotgun including breech block, trigger assembly and magazine tube are clean.

Once the action is clean, apply a light coating of gun oil to all external metal surfaces such as the bolt handle and fore-end of the stock. Too much gun oil could trap debris and cause malfunction. Also ensure to use an appropriate lubricant designed for hunting conditions since some forms may freeze up under colder temperatures.

Reassemble and test fire your shotgun in a safe direction to ensure that all parts are functioning as intended, and that its bore and chamber are free from obstructions. If necessary, repeat the cleaning process until your gun is completely clear of obstructions.


Modern shotguns are hardworking tools, requiring regular cleaning and routine maintenance in order to continue functioning as intended. A basic maintenance plan entails general cleaning, lubricating and storing procedures – the specific steps may differ slightly depending on whether it’s a pump shotgun, semiautomatic shotgun, side-by-side shotgun or over-under shotgun but the basics remain the same.

Launch into this process by providing yourself with an uncluttered work surface, free from clutter or items that might mar the finish on metal and wood sections of your shotgun. This will make it easier for you to locate and clean parts as you progress with this project, and should also provide ample ventilation since some cleaning solvents can be quite toxic.

Take your shooting mat or gun cleaning bench, lay out all your tools and accessories, and organize them properly in an ideal shotgun cleaning kit. An ideal shotgun cleaning kit includes a plastic tray to keep all the parts organized; plus it should include a brush (bronze phosphorous or nylon depending on your shotgun model) as well as an appropriate cleaning rod and cleaning rod to match.

At first, use a brush to remove carbon build-up in the breech end of the barrel – this is where extractors reside and you must be mindful not to damage them. Next step should be using the bore brush – attach one that matches your barrel diameter onto a cleaning rod dipped in cleaning solvent and insert this rod into its breech end before scrubbing until all cleaning patches have left it as they came.

Once the barrel and action have been cleaned, it is time to lubricate your shotgun. Keep in mind that less is always more when it comes to lubrication; too much grease or lubricant can trap debris, leading to malfunctions. Start by taking steps such as removing the bolt from its receiver, applying light coats of oil on its sliding mechanisms as well as on hinge pins connecting barrel to receiver.


Shotguns are subject to all manner of environmental influences, from salt, dirt and moisture that corrodes metal components to salt spray from sea air that damages wood surfaces. Therefore, keeping your shotgun clean is of utmost importance – deep cleaning should only occur every 3/4 times you use your gun, while during other uses wiping down all external sections using a clean rag can remove gun cleaner residue left behind and protect wood components from being stained or damaged over time.

As part of your preparations to clean your shotgun, the first step should be gathering all necessary tools. Some are specifically tailored for handguns or rifles while others are universal, suitable for any firearm. In addition, having an appropriate work surface with no clutter or obstructions that could mar or scratch its finish should also be paramount in cleaning it thoroughly.

First, disassemble your shotgun by dismantling its stock and fore-end. Most over-and-under shotguns can be disassembled easily by simply taking apart their barrel and receiver; semiautomatics like Benelli or Franchi models require pushing out a few pins in order to disassemble their trigger group from their receiver.

Once all of the small component parts have been cleared from view, shift your attention to the action and breech block. Wipe down barrel faces, breech lock screws, bolt faces and any moving parts with soft cloth dampened with solvent before applying a light coating of oil with cotton swabs to ensure smooth functioning when firing the shotgun – this will protect them from rusting or moving improperly during firing.

Once the shotgun has been thoroughly cleaned, it is advisable to conduct a test fire in order to make sure that all parts are functioning as designed and no obstructions were missed during its cleaning process. Before pulling the trigger and firing your shotgun, ensure it is pointed in a safe direction by first aiming it in that direction first.

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