Gun maintenance tips: How to clean your gun at home

With shooting on hold, Richard Atkins explains all the best gun maintenance tips you can use to clean your gun at home, and get to know it better in the process.

Richard is using the Browning Citori, but don’t worry if you’re using a different gun – most modern clay gun components are the same these days

Today, we’re starting with the set up and then how to clean barrels, but check back tomorrow for the next part of the process – extractors and/or ejectors!

We have to stay positive during this lockdown, and something you can do at home is take a closer than usual look at your gun, give it a really thorough clean, and check that all is well. Most of us don’t do this as often as we should, so now is a good time for some DIY servicing and maintenance.

Over the next few days we’ll take a look at the various parts of a typical clay target over-and-under, what to look for and what you can usefully do – as well as what you shouldn’t!

That should fill an afternoon or two quite nicely. By the end of it you will certainly know a bit more about your gun, and it will be in better condition when this is all over and we can get back out shooting again.

The gun: 1985 Browning Citori

These notes are based around a typical over-and-under 12-bore clay shotgun – in this case a 1985 Browning Citori, for the simple reason that I have one to hand whilst writing this in lockdown!

It’s certainly true that a little care and maintenance will enhance the reliability and longevity of any gun. Begin by clearing a space where you can work without getting in everyone’s way, or having to pack up when it’s dinner time.

Ideally you want a reasonably large table so you can lay out the gun without it protruding over the ends where it might get knocked as someone passes by. Place something on the tabletop, partly to protect the surface but also to avoid damage to the stock and barrels from a hard surface. A gun cleaning mat is ideal, but you could use an old cloth or blanket.

Most guns can be used

Don’t worry if your gun is different; the principles and all the main components are very similar in all modern clay guns. Even the latest Browning B725 follows the same basic design format of the first B25, which was renowned for its strength and long service life, and other gun-makers have followed the same basic principles.

When setting up your cleaning station, be aware this will inevitably get marked with oil and dirt, which may not be conducive to domestic harmony in a lockdown situation – choose wisely!

Remember the conditions of your shotgun certificate and ensure you are fully ‘in possession’ of the gun at all times, and don’t leave it unattended even when dismantled.

Make quite sure it is unloaded, and we can begin. First, remove the fore-end and set it aside where it won’t get knocked – be careful how you place it as the fore-end can roll under its own weight.

Then detach the barrels from the receiver, using the top lever as if you were opening the gun normally, and continuing the movement until the barrels come away.

Lay them safely on a soft surface, and do the same with the stock and receiver assembly, sufficiently far apart that they won’t knock against one another.

Starting with cleaning the barrel

You should take an extra close look at the barrels, particularly the bores – not just for damage but also for fouling. Many shooters have far more lead and plastic fouling in their bores than they realise.

Blue or black touch up pastes are available

The build-up is often worst in the forcing cone area and sometimes the choke area too. Here are the points you should be checking:

Inspect all external surfaces for signs of wear or damage.

Is the external finish of the barrel tubes scratched, or wearing thin at the muzzles – perhaps from sliding it in and out of your gun slip? You might wish to touch up minor worn areas with a proprietary bluing or blacking paste kit such as Birchwood Casey or Phillips Gun Blue.

Inspect for dents

View the barrel exterior surfaces from the breech end, then the muzzles, looking at a shallow angle along the tubes. Look for any dents from possible knocks or rivelling – a series of annular rings which can be caused by firing with excess oil, grease or other obstruction in the bore.

If you do spot any dents, even minor ones, don’t be tempted to ignore them. This is not a job for the amateur, but any competent gunsmith will be able to deal with a minor barrel dent.

Check barrel finish and top rib

Check top rib closely

Inspect the top rib closely. It is fairly easy to put a ‘ding’ into the the top rib of raised and ventilated ribs, as most clay target type O/Us are. This can happen by barrels clashing with others, or by the gun being accidentally dropped onto a hard surface.

One common way is hitting the top crossbar on a Sporting cage stand, especially when taking incoming driven targets! If this has happened, any competent gunsmith will be able to straighten the top rib perfectly, making the repair unnoticeable.

Do not try to raise damaged ribs yourself unless you have the correct skills and tools – it’s easy to mark the barrels or make the damage worse.

Multichokes maintenance

Multichokes, if fitted, should be removed, cleaned, checked for damage especially around the gas sealing cone, lightly greased and re-inserted. Before doing this, however, clean the barrel bores with the choke tubes fitted, to avoid filling the choke threads with barrel fouling residues.

Cleaning choke tube threads

Choke tube threads and the barrel threads can be cleaned with a light spray of WD40 or light bore cleaner and a small toothbrush. Some guns come with a barrel thread cleaner which is better still. Lightly grease choke threads before re-inserting.

Cleaning and checking barrel bores

Barrel bores should be cleaned, closely inspected for fouling – especially build up of lead or plastic fouling – then lightly oiled. See the box for my suggested bore cleaning procedure. There are several different ways to clean barrels.

Many people use a quick push through with a patch, then with a bronze brush, or a bore snake, plus a quick spray with their favourite bore cleaner. This is fine, to a point, and much better than not cleaning – but a proper clean should be done from time to time.

Most modern guns have chrome-lined bores, which resist the fast corrosion that can occur with non-plated bores, so you can get away with less efficient and regular cleaning than is required with non chrome bored guns. How frequently that should be will depend to a large extent upon what gun you have and which cartridges you use.

Choke threads and gas seal after use

Standard bore size barrels (18.4-18.5mm) with standard short forcing cones (< 25mm) and plastic wad cartridges will usually accumulate the least fouling and be relatively easily cleaned. Over-bored and back-bored barrels (18.6-18.7mm +) with lengthened forcing cones (from 50mm to 480mm ) with fibre wad cartridges will accumulate the most lead fouling.

Standard Parker-Hale style phosphor bronze (PB) brushes will usually remove most light fouling in standard bores, but the large bore sizes require more cleaning ability. A Payne Galway brush, and a 10 gauge size in a very long forcing cone gun, may be required for heavy leading.

The difference is most readily recognised with the Magic Bore cleaning system. The drill powered model has oversized PB bushes, designed to fit oversized bores and cope with electric drill power to make the task fast and easy.

This model has a short rod because it is NOT intended to be used in any standard bore size, or the standard sized portion of bore in over bored / back bored guns.

So now you’re well on your way to giving your gun the kind of MOT you’ve been meaning to get around to for ages – we’ve all been there! Tomorrow we will be looking at extractors and/or ejectors so make sure to check back then!

And remember to stay safe and stay home!

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