Basic Gun Maintenance: How to Clean a Rifle

Like any mechanical device, your rifle requires regular maintenance and cleaning. How much cleaning is determined by how much you shoot and the conditions in which you are shooting. While some may argue that rifles don’t need to be cleaned after each shooting session, I encourage it. This is especially true if this gun is a personal defense weapon. Cleaning your gun is not complicated and can be accomplished by following these easy steps. Get your cleaning supplies together in a well-ventilated area and make sure you have a mat or protective cloth for your table or counter. You will need:

  • A cleaning rag
  • Cleaning patches
  • A cleaning rod or cable
  • A toothbrush or gun cleaning brush
  • Cleaner and lubricant, many are combined into one formula now.

First remove the magazine and empty it. Place the loose ammo out of your work area. Clear the chamber and check it multiple times. Finally, verify that the mag well and chamber is empty and free of ammunition.

Break it down

For most cases a simple field stripping is sufficient for our needs. Your owner’s manual will have detailed instructions on this process. For general cleaning we will just remove the bolt carrier group and separate the upper and lower to allow easier access. We will also want to disassemble the bolt carrier group and the bolt.

Clean the chamber and barrel

While there are many ways to go about this, it is important to clean the chamber and barrel from rear to front. We want to make sure the debris comes out the front of the barrel and that our cleaning equipment is inserted from the rear and essentially go with the bullet. You can also finish cleaning the upper receiver once you are done.

Clean the Bolt Carrier Group

With the BCG and bolt taken apart it is easy to clean. Use a stiff brush and your cleaner to get all of the carbon and debris off of the parts. Take time to even clean the small crevices.

Clean the lower receiver

This area is filled with small and tough to reach areas so be patient. Old toothbrushes or gun brushes are very helpful here. 

Put it all back together

We can now put the rifle back together. Take your time and work backwards from our disassembly. Follow the manufacturer’s directions and function check it once complete. 

Lube it

Once the gun is clean we need to reapply the oil that we cleaned away. In summary, anything that moves on the gun needs to have at least a little lube on it. This is especially true for the bolt carrier group. The BCG should have a healthy sheen of oil on it in that it will see the most action in the gun.

Follow this plan and your rifle will serve you well for years to come!