The Right Way to Clean and Store Your Hunting Rifle

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Properly caring for your deer gun’s barrel and action ensures it’ll be ready to go again next fall

A complete gun cleaning kit is a must-have for those who want to keep their firearms in good working order. Image by Bill Konway

Deer season is over, and now is the perfect time to give your rifle a thorough annual cleaning. Store your gun in a secure and rust-free environment and it will be in good working order when you break it out for a range session in a few months.

Gun-Cleaning Gear

To do the job right, you need to secure your rifle horizontally in a vise. A vise attached to a workbench at your house will work fine. Or you can purchase a portable gun vise from a company that specializes in firearms-cleaning accessories.

Spend $40 or more for a universal gun-cleaning kit, which will include a three-piece bore rod and an assortment of jags, brushes, patches, and other accessories for cleaning not only your bolt-action, but also other handguns and long guns that you own.

Also, and this is important, purchase a bore guide, which will protect the bore and action of your rifle by properly aligning the cleaning rod as you work.

You’ll need a quality solvent like Hoppe’s No. 9 for swabbing the bore, and a gun oil like Break Free CLP (best I’ve used for preventing rust) for wiping down the exterior of your rifle.

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Holding the gun in a vice frees up hands to properly clean your rifle. Image by Vista Outdoor

5 Steps to a Shiny Bore

  1. Fit the cleaning rod with a jag of the proper caliber, and insert a clean patch into the jag’s slot. Soak the patch in bore solvent. Run the rod and wet patch through the bore guide and down the barrel, always working from breech to muzzle, the same way a bullet travels.
  2. Run a dry patch through the bore and look to see how dirty it is when the patch comes out the muzzle. I’m going out on a limb and saying that patch will be pretty black with carbon because you probably haven’t done a deep bore clean in a while.
  3. Run one or two more soaked patches through the bore. Remove the jag, screw on a bronze brush of the correct caliber and soak it in solvent. Push the brush through the bore and out the muzzle, then pull it back until it exits the chamber. Repeat brushing 10 times.
  4. Remove brush, go back to the jag and run two or three more soaked patches through the bore. Loosen the rifle in the vise, tilt the muzzle slightly down to keep solvent from running back into the action and re-tighten. Allow the bore to soak for 30 minutes to an hour.
  5. After the soak, run dry patches through the bore until the last patch out is pure white, and the bore is shiny.

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Always run bore cleaners the same way a bullet travels (out the barrel, not back into the breech). Image by Vista Outdoor

Rifle Storage

Wipe down the action, trigger guard, scope, barrel, and all exterior metalwork of the rifle with a light coat of gun oil. When I plan to store a rifle for two months or more, I run one last patch dabbed with a light coat of oil into the bore to prevent rust.

To further avoid rust, firearms should be stored in an environment that stays around 70 degrees F year-round with humidity of 50 to 55 percent. It is best to lock all your guns and ammunition in a gun safe. At the very least, secure firearms and ammo in a closet or room that you lock tight. Affix trigger or cable locks to all guns for added security and peace of mind.

When you break out your rifle for a practice session before next deer season, run a dry patch through the bore to remove trace oil. Then get to shooting. I think you’ll be impressed at how much tighter your groups are from the squeaky-clean barrel.

Get your hunting and fishing gear at the Realtree Store.