Clean as a whistle! Kristian Reilly lays out the best method of taking care of your firearm
The shooting season can be tough on any gun, whether it be clay or game, so regular maintenance is a must to prolong its life. While firearms vary in price from less than £100 to hundreds of thousands of pounds, one fact will always remain true – diligent cleaning can extend its longevity and it really doesn’t take very long.
The following is an outline of how to clean your treasured firearm. This, twinned with a full strip and clean once a year by a competent gunsmith, can identify any potential problems before they arise.
I would normally start with checking the inside and outside of the barrels by glancing an eye down for any obstructions. During the course of regular shooting you may come across deposits of plastic fouling forward of the chamber known as the forcing cone. It is vital that this is kept clean.
Start by removing the barrel assembly from the action and forend. Spray a little of a cleaning agent like WD40 into the bore, place the barrels on a towel on a flat surface such as a worktop and gently rod up and down with a bronze bore brush until you feel you have covered the entire length of the bore. Then take a bore swab and, using the same rod, gently push the swab down the tubes. Now take a look up the bore for any fouling or excess oil that remains. If you see something – for example, more plastic fouling – repeat until you are satisfied with the result.
Once you are happy that the bore is free from dirt, remove the chokes if interchangeable and concentrate your efforts around this area. Ensure that there are no chips or cracks in your chokes once they are out and use the bronze brush to remove dirt. Use a clean cloth for wiping out the choke threads – apply a small amount of gun grease or a similar product to the thread and reinsert the choke, but be careful not to overtighten them.
Now pay attention to the breech end where your ejector work is. It is best to remove the ejector work to achieve best results but if you are not confident, leave this for your gunsmith to do.
Using an old toothbrush and some paraffin, gently brush around the extractor beds and legs to remove dirt and dry off with a clean cloth. One you have done this, run the bore buffer down to remove excess liquids. Apply a small amount of gun grease to the barrel’s lumps and extractor legs and stand them aside.
Using a toothbrush or cotton buds, clean any excess oil and grease from inside the action body, paying close attention to the trunnions (the pivot point of the barrels). Check to see if the strikers are intact and not corroded.
If your stock is finished with a traditional oil finish, you should be very careful to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer – if you apply gun cleaning solution to a linseed-based oil finish, you will remove it rather than clean it.
There are a few oil finishing types on the market; the one most widely used by makers in the UK is called Trade Secrets. This is a linseed oil-based finish that contains dryers, waxes and conditioners. True oil is more widely used on the continent and has a more durable finish in the long term but it is less easy to apply due to the cellulose dryers.
Be sure to clean the working surfaces on your forend – for example, where the loop meets the forend and where the ejector work meets with the action. Only apply a small amount of grease on the surfaces as any excess that runs into the forend work will cause staining.
Once all of the steps above are carried out, you should take a microfibre cloth with residue of an oil such as three-in-one and rub down the outside of the barrels and action before putting it away. I recommend having a popper bag in your slip so that you can give the gun a quick wipe after shooting, removing any sweat, dirt or rain, before putting it in the slip.
For storing the gun for any length of time, make sure that the cabinet area is totally dry and don’t forget to check on the gun periodically. Where possible, take the firearm apart – for some models, the springs are compressed when the barrels are assembled.
If you have had a busy season, it’s definitely worth taking the gun to your gunsmith for a strip and clean. It should be stripped down to its component parts and they need to be cleaned individually before being reassembled and lubricated.
A shotgun is an investment that must be looked after so that it can perform to its full potential. With careful attention and maintenance, you shouldn’t be in for any surprises and you’ll be less likely to have a breakdown during general use.