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Rifles are useful for several things – like self defense, chasing away predators, target shooting, and hunting. But, did you know that your rifle falls right into the survival gear category?

To keep your rifle ready for use, it needs to be well cleaned and maintained over the years.

Here’s how to clean a rifle.

What’s the First Step of Cleaning your Rifle?

When you decide on cleaning a rifle, first start by inspecting your gun. You want to make sure your bolt action firearm is unloaded. Handle your rifle in a safe area and ensure that the barrel is pointed towards a safe direction. Place your rifle down on a table or a bench and open the action. Remove the bolt and set it aside. I also like to keep my kit and supplies, like oil, laid out next to it.

What is a Bolt Action Rifle?

It’s the type of a firearm action where the manipulation of cartridges in and out of the rifle’s barrel chamber is manually operated by directly maneuvering the bolt through a handle. Often, the handle is placed on the rifle’s right-hand side.

Dismantle the Rifle

If you aren’t shooting your hunting rifle very often, it may only require minimal cleaning instead of a deep cleaning. This means that you won’t need to dismantle the metal parts of your rifle completely. If you own a semi-automatic rifle, dismantling your firearm with a magazine will be a more complex task.

How to Clean a Rifle

Cleaning a bolt action rifle involves the following steps. Before starting any of this, make sure your rifle is not loaded.

Start by making sure the barrel is pointed in a safe direction and then do a visual and tactile inspection (with your finger) after opening the action to make sure you don’t have a round in your firearm.

How To Video

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Step 1: Collect Cleaning Supplies

Make sure you get a single piece cleaning rod. While you can opt for the sectional screwed together cleaning rods, this type of cleaning rod can easily damage your bore. They may be cheaper, but you need to avoid them.

Single piece cleaning rods are usually coated with a polymer which is softer compared to your rifle bore’s steel. You can be sure that your rifle barrel won’t end up with scratches. If you are cleaning a gun for the first time, purchasing a rod guide will help you complete the bore cleaning process with ease.

If the cleaning rod doesn’t have a bore cleaning brush, you can get one that’s designed for your rifle made of nylon or bronze.

Bore Snakes

Bore snakes are also ideal. They are soft, and made using easy to wash materials. They won’t damage your bore, and come in handy for fast and general barrel cleaning. Bore snakes also feature an inbuilt brush and an extra pull through the brush.

Cleaning Patches

Cleaning patches come in handy when you’re using a cleaning rod. These can be made using absorbent cloth materials. Important tip: don’t use paper towels. A great, and cheap option you can use is to just cut patches from fabric, like old t-shirts.

Cleaning patches are available from online stores and sporting products stores. They are available in various sizes and you may want to trim them to fit seamlessly down the barrel. To remove bolt action rifle rust, you will also need to get some cotton swabs and a clean rag. These will help you wipe out dust and grime from the rifle’s action and chamber.


A solvent or cleaner will come in handy to remove any accumulated dirt inside the bolt action firearm. You can buy solvent product from your local gun retailer, online stores, or sporting goods stores. Be careful not to get solvent on your gun stock since it can disfigure it.

Step 2: Cleaning the Rifle Bore

First, you need to clean the barrel. According to Colin Cash, military surplus rifle collector, marksman, and gun aficionado, “The first and last inch of the barrel is the most important to avoid damaging. If damaged at all, accuracy will suffer.”

You need to clean your rifle’s bore towards the direction the bullet travels all the time. Remember, some rifles restrict straight access, but if your’s allows it, this is the ideal option. If your rifle doesn’t allow straight rear access, clean from the muzzle towards the chamber. Still, you can opt to use the bore snake.

Regardless of the option you choose, you want to soak a patch of the bore snake with solvent and take it through the bore of the barrel. If you experience resistance with your patch and rod, try removing them and trim your patch before you resume the process. It’s good to let the rifle rest for between five to ten minutes to allow the solvent enough time to dissolve the accumulated grime. Push a bore brush down the barrel to loosen any fouling.

Where possible, and when the brush pops out through the other end, loosen it and take the cleaning rod out. Execute this step gently because the solvent will have done the difficult part of the task. Avoid scrubbing the bore. You don’t want to damage the grooves and lands of the bore. Take the brush through before proceeding to the next step.

Put another patch with solvent through the bore and allow your rifle to rest between one and three minutes. This patch will probably take out lots of carbon residue. Repeat the process until the patches finally come out clean and dry.

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Cleaning & Lubricating Basics Video

Step 3: Clean the Chamber and Action

The bolt action and chamber don’t need strenuous cleaning. All you need to do is wipe the areas down using a clean rag. You can get a cotton swab to pick any grime and dust from hard to reach areas. Exercise caution to make sure that the cotton swab doesn’t leave any strands behind. You can buy specially designed mops and chamber brushes for cleaning out your chamber. Dental picks can come in handy to help with a thorough cleaning process. I like to include these in my bolt action rifle kit along with supplies like oil.

Step 4: Clean the Stock and Barrel

Once you have mastered how to clean a gun and decide to store it, use a clean rag to lightly wipe the rifle barrel and metal parts down with a light coating of long term gun storage oil. The oil and rag helps eliminate any fingerprint or water that may have penetrated through the gun during cleaning.

Stocks don’t require much in the way of cleaning – especially if they have a waterproof finish. All you need to do is get a clean rag to wipe them and brush off any accumulated dirt. Wipe excess gun oil from the barrel before storing the firearm. Close down the action and drop the firing pin safely to release any tension within the firearm before storing it. And that’s how to clean a rifle! But, you’re not quite done…

Step 5: Store in a Dry Safe Place

Knowing how to clean a rifle is important, but storing your firearm correctly is also critical. Firearms are susceptible to rust and storing it properly will help you avoid rust on the bolt action. Select a gun safe that your firearm can fit in. Place a dehydrator inside the safe, and monitor it occasionally.

To make your dehydrator, collect silica packets, open them, and pour the beads in an aluminum can. To revive the beads, place them in an oven under 250 degrees Fahrenheit for three hours. You can then proceed to put the open can inside your gun safe. These can protect your firearm for up to a month depending on the size of the safe and your environment.

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How do you Clean a Rifle Stock?

Start by cleaning the carved areas around the stock. Spray cotton swabs with vinegar or Windex and use them to wipe through the crevices on the rifle’s stock. Dampen a clean cloth using vinegar or Windex and run it through the rifle’s stock.

This will remove any dirt or oils. If the stock is overly dirty, you want to repeat the process using another clean cloth until it’s clean. Spray some furniture polish on a clean cloth and polish the gun stock. Remember, guns are a huge investment and you want to keep them clean and well cared for.

Can you Clean a Rifle from the Muzzle End

Yes. Use a gun cleaning solvent that can remove the accumulation of copper and lead. Use a cleaning patch to apply some solvent on the bore and allow it to stand for a few minutes. Run the patches through until they come out dry.

How often should a rifle be cleaned?

Many times a gun can be used for up to three or four range trips without needing to be cleaned. However, this depends on the number of rounds you shoot. You may want to clean your rifle after every 250 rounds. Cleaning your firearm is still important whether you shoot or not.

Should you clean a new rifle before shooting?

A factory gun goes through testing before they are distributed for shipment. However, not all manufacturers treat or clean the bore with a rust-resistant substance before shipment.

To be on the safe side, you may want to run a dry patch through the bore before shooting the rifle for the first time. This helps dry the bore while ensuring that there are no barriers along the barrel.


Maintaining the cleanliness of your firearm is not a difficult task. All you need to do is clean it thoroughly occasionally. This will help eliminate carbon buildup as a result of moisture accumulation and prevent rust.

When it comes to cleaning your rifle, you need to use appropriate tools, oil, and supplies to protect your firearm from damage. The right tools also ease and accelerate the cleaning process. Store your rifle in a dry and safe place.

This way, it will be ready for use when you need to use it.

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