Like anything mechanical, firearms require a modicum of maintenance. Now, asking opinions on the "right" way to clean a gun will vary as much as asking someone what the "best" car is. There are a lot of answers, and many of them have merit, but what fits you best is really up to you.
Rather than try be an encyclopedia, this post is going to reference and link to a variety of methods to clean your guns.
First, guns need cleaning. The oil and sweat from your hands, dust and particles from the environment, water, chemicals left over from powder and primers, and residue from bullets all dirty up your gun. If these are left to soil your firearm, you are likely reducing it's useful life and the pretty, pretty finish. (well, unless it's an AK.....
Some people will admonish you not to clean your guns too often. This has merit, within reason. Two things to avoid are:
Scrubbing your barrel unnecessarily
- This can prematurely wear out your barrel rifling, the chamber throat or the crown of the muzzle.
- This can attract dirt and grime, and cause your gun to get dirtier faster.
What is too much oil or too much barrel scrubbing? That depends on the type of firearm, how it's used, and what your expectation of it is. A 600 meter benchrest shooter will have different cleaning thresholds than a hunter. A .22 semi-auto rimfire gets the gun dirty in different ways than a bolt action .308, or a single shot .50 BMG. A carry gun requires different considerations than a safe queen. Check out the internet, there are lots of opinions on how to best clean your particular gun.
When you clean your gun, look at the directions of the product you are using. Many call for ventilation and other safety precautions. Follow them! Many of these substances are toxic and/or caustic. I have a friend who lost some of his sense of smell by taking a big whiff of some super scrubber when he first opening it.
Outers, who makes gun cleaning products, recommends the following:
: How Do You Clean A Gun?
: Cleaning a gun is a seven-step process:
1. Make Sure Firearm is Unloaded.
2. Run a solvent soaked brush through the barrel a few times.
To start the rod & brush through the barrel, grasp the rod near the rod tip section to get it started. Then push with the rod handle making sure to keep the rod at a straight angle with the gun barrel. Keeping the rod at a straight angle is especially important when using the Universal Kit rod (a .22 cal. rod) and when cleaning a .22 cal. rifle. Because of the small diameter of the .22 cal. aluminum rod.
3. Remove brush and attach a tip. Add the patch and saturate it with solvent and work back and forth through the barrel. Make sure patch is snug in the barrel.
Some customers prefer using the swab or mop instead of a patch.
Check the bore with an Outers Bore Checker. If traces of metal fouling or lead flaking are visible, repeat steps 2 & 3.
4. Use a dry patch to remove solvent.
5. Clean action, slide mechanism or bolt with patches and solvent and wipe dry. For revolvers, clean each cylinder chamber from the rear with solvent, brush and patches. Pay special attention to forward ends of the cylinder chambers where fouling collects.
6. After all parts have been thoroughly cleaned, run clean patch saturated with either gun oil or Tri-Lube through the barrel making sure all surfaces are lightly coated. (Tri-Lube is a lubricant and protects against rust as well as cleans and degreases.) Oil the revolver cylinders very sparingly. Apply gun oil or Metal Seal to all exterior metal surfaces. Wipe of excess.
7. Before firing the gun after cleaning, run enough patches through the bore and chamber to remove any grease or oil present.
Here are some different thoughts on gun cleaning in general:
Chuck Hawks thoughts on gun cleaning
The Otis Company thoughts on how to clean different types of guns
How to clean a Glock
Of course, this topic has come up a number of times on these forums. Here are some recent related links:
What's a good cleaning kit?
Should I clean my gun before I use it the first time?
Some thoughts on cleaning AR-15 style rifles can be found here
Black powder cleaning thoughts
What are my thoughts? I know I clean barrels a lot less than I used to, which was every shooting session. How often I clean the barrel depends on my accuracy expectation. What I do do is wipe down guns after every firing session. For .22's I like BreakFree CLP and Q-tips. I wipe down the gunk from the action. I do the same with ARs and semi auto pistols. For revolvers I use Hoppe's #9 (love that smell!) to wipe down the black gas marks. AK and SKS rifles get a shot of RemOil sprayed in the action if only to prevent rust. Bolt, lever and single shot rifles just get wiped down with a patch or rag with a bit of oil (RemOil or whatever I have around) before I put 'em back in the safe. Same with shotguns.
As mentioned, everybody has different thoughts on cleaning. Feel free to reply to this thread if you'd like to share yours, or would like to highlight a place on the internet that has good tips.