Guns are like cars … poor maintenance causes poor performance.  Few events on a hunt are more heartbreaking than drawing down on a huge buck or bull and having the rifle jam or malfunction at the moment of truth.

“Fortunately, most modern rifles are made to high standards,” says Michael Faith, general manager at Hendershots, one of the East Coast’s top gun shops.  High-end rifles have an edge over inexpensive models, yet basic firearm maintenance will keep your rifle or shotgun at peak performance.”

Basic Gun Maintenance

“Fortunately, most modern rifles are made to high standards,” says Michael Faith, general manager at Hendershots.

Faith pulled a Savage Mark II chambered in a 22 long rifle from the rack and quickly pointed out its features such as a laminate stock with a spiral heavy barrel, sling swivels installed, and a thin recoil pad with the vented forend to help cool the barrel.

“Develop the habit of cleaning your gun after every range session,” Faith said. “It protects the gun and the next time you use it, you know that it will be clean and ready to shoot.”

Like with your car, if you clean it once a year (whether it needs it or not), it’s still filthy. If you clean your gun regularly, it will give you a lifetime of great service. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

First, always keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction and follow basic gun safety whenever you clean a firearm.  Look to see that the chamber is empty and then touch it to make sure.  You can’t be too careful.

Secondly, there is no reason to have any ammunition on the cleaning bench.  Put it away.  In addition to a safety hazard, you don’t want any solvents to contaminate your ammunition, which could affect its performance.

Once done, you need a basic cleaning kit with a three-piece rod that can be used for a handgun, rifle or a shotgun.  Use a pointed jag or one with an eye and push it down the muzzle, or remove the bolt and push it from the chamber.  If you have a vice or gun holder, doing the latter pushes fouling out the muzzle instead of into the chamber. Repeat until you get a clean patch.

Oils and Lubes

CLP (Cleans, Lubricates and Protects) is a basic lubricant that every gunowner should have.  It’s manufactured under many labels and is a favorite of gun maintenance because it performs three functions in a single application.

There are a lot of great products to protect the rifling in a barrel.  Put a drop or two on a patch and push through the bore.  If you fire your gun frequently, you may need to use a brush.  A metal brush can be used dry or with a bit of cleaning solution.  You want to run patches with small amounts of lubricate.  Use patches to clean the end of the bolt and the chamber area.


Once you have the action clean and the bore shining, use the same solution and wipe off the exterior of the barrel and stock.   As you handle a firearm, there is salt in human perspiration and salt in your fingerprints that can cause rust.  If you visit a friend who shares his gun collection, don’t be surprised if he wipes down each gun after it’s been handled.

Faith makes a habit of keeping those small silica gel packets often found in shipping containers.   “I throw them in gun cases to help keep the moisture down,” he says.  “You can also buy products for gun safes that reduce humidity.”

Cold weather

When hunting in snow cover, a small piece of electrical tape over the muzzle can be your best friend.

If you will be hunting below zero, reducing moisture is a top priority.  Don’t store guns where you have rapid temperature change like in your car. First, it’s not safe and changes in temperature cause condensation.  Before you travel to hunt in below-freezing temperatures, keep lubrication to a minimum.  Use CLP and then wipe down to reduce excess.

When hunting in snow cover, a small piece of electrical tape over the muzzle can be your best friend.  It only takes one stumble or moment of carelessness to plug the barrel and cause a potentially dangerous situation.  When the rifle fires, the air column ahead of the bullet blows the tape from the muzzle so that it won’t interfere with accuracy.

Rainy weather

Hunting big game in rainy weather is rarely fun, but often necessary.  Today’s modern finishes are very durable, and getting your rifle wet won’t ruin it. At the end of the day, use a cleaning solution or some very fine steel wool to remove rust without damaging the finish.  Stainless barrels handle inclement weather well yet may be attached with a metal screw that will rust.

Consider weather when choosing a hunting rifle.  A foul weather adventure may not be the ideal time to take your granddad’s ’06.  Water can penetrate the wood stock and affect accuracy.  Fortunately, Savage makes its savvy Model 110 with a host of synthetic stocks that easily adjust to your physical frame and will handles every curve nature can throw at it.  Learn more at