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cleaning shotguns

Like rifles, shotguns are often used in hunting, but you will also find them in sporting, law enforcement, military, or home defense situations. Shotguns were originally designed to shoot “shot” (a multitude of small pellets) or slugs (a solid bullet). Because of the type of ammunition used in shotguns, their barrel walls are much thinner than a rifle.

Additionally, a shotgun differs from a rifle in that the walls of the barrel are smooth. This somewhat helps the cleaner, for there are no crevices in the bore to clean. However, shotguns come with different sized bores depending on the size of shot-shell they were designed to shoot. This makes having the correct sized bore brush extremely important for cleaning shotguns correctly.

Field Stripping a Shotgun

field stripping a shotgun

As with all firearms, field stripping will likely be all that’s needed to provide a decent cleaning. We recommend consulting your owner’s manual to learn how to field strip your exact shotgun model. Here a just a few basic things to keep in mind in cleaning shotguns.

–        Make sure that the shotgun is unloaded. We cannot mention this step enough. You should never clean a loaded gun.

–        Most modern shotguns—such as the Remington 870—can be field stripped by opening the action. On that popular model, the shotgun is field stripped by then unscrewing any hardware holding the magazine in place. Then remove the barrel, the bolt and bolt carrier, the trigger assembly, and finally the magazine spring and follower. Visit here for a complete description of how to break down this model.

How to Clean a Shotgun

cleaning a shotgun

You will want to follow the basic steps for cleaning any gun outlined in our larger gun cleaning article. When cleaning a shotgun, there are a couple specific issues to keep in mind.

–        Just because you clean out the barrel does not mean that you are properly cleaning the shotgun’s choke—the tapered end of the muzzle. Most shotguns allow you to remove this piece, which can then be thoroughly cleaned.[1] If you do not regularly clean this piece, rust could permanently affix it to your shotgun, which no one wants.

–        Make sure to put a small amount of lubrication on the firing pins and clean the action.


If you use your shotgun for hunting, it is likely that you will not be firing it often. This makes it even more important that you are cleaning it before it goes into storage. You will also likely want to check it for lubrication once you get it ready to shoot.[2] You may sometimes hear stories from shotgun owners who never clean their guns. But really, a shotgun is an important tool, which you do not want misfiring when you have that perfect bird in your sights or when you need the weapon for self or home defense.


[1] Administrator, “Cleaning Your Shotgun (Or Not),” Shotgun Life (August 30, 2008), http://www.shotgunlife.com/Shotguns/cleaning-your-shotgun.html (accessed 3/23/18).

[2] Greg PC, “How to Properly Clean a Shotgun,” Game Bird Hunts, http://www.gamebirdhunts.com/Resources/FeaturedArticles/HowtoProperlyCleanaShotgun/tabid/585/Default.aspx (accessed 3/23/18).