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cleaning rifles

Rifles differ from handguns and shotguns in their thick barrel walls and spiral grooves in the bore (called rifling).[1] When a barrel is rifled, it can shoot a bullet much more accurately at great distances. Greater accuracy and distance shooting makes this type of firearm extremely popular with hunters.

When you are out hunting with your rifle, it is likely that you will occasionally encounter inclement weather. Additionally, dirt and other grime will likely get into the barrel and among the parts. Because you want the rifle to perform its best every time you shoot it—especially when hunting—most people recommend cleaning rifles after every use.[2] Keep in mind that if you use the rifle to hunt, you will likely only be using it during specific times—i.e. hunting season. So, cleaning after every use will not mean cleaning every day.

Field Strip a Rifle

field stripping a rifle

Field stripping implies breaking the firearm into enough components so that you can clean and lubricate all of the important components. Each type of firearm will require a slightly different field stripping technique before cleaning rifles.

When field stripping a rifle, you will want to

–        Ensure that the rifle is unloaded.

–        Be aware of the disassembly procedure for your gun as mentioned in the owner’s manual.

–        For bolt action rifles, removing the bolt should begin the field stripping process. To do this you may have to squeeze the trigger and push the bolt back at the same time—do not stand in front of the muzzle while performing this step. Or, there may be a lever on one side of the gun that will allow the bolt to be released.

–        For auto-loading rifles, field stripping will be a little harder but may involve removing the trigger cover or some other part of the gun. Consult your owner’s manual before field stripping these rifles.

Cleaning Specifics for a Rifle

For the most part, cleaning any type of firearm will following the same steps. See our main article about gun cleaning to learn more about the cleaning procedure we recommend. There are a few specific issues that apply specifically to cleaning rifles.

–        If your rifle is bolt action, you will want to remove the bolt before beginning cleaning. On modern rifles removing the bolt is usually quite simple and can be learned from your owner’s manual.

–        Some people believe that rifles need to have a fouling shot before they will shoot correctly after cleaning rifles. A fouling shot is an initial shot that supposedly warms the barrel and provides enough debris to allow later rounds to fire accurately. This idea has been debated in the rifle community.[3] 


Rifles are an important part of any hunter’s arsenal. Even if you are not a hunter, these guns are popular in competitions and range shooting. Therefore, it is vital to keep them clean and properly maintained. Following our tips and tricks described above will go a long way towards helping you keep your rifle in the best shape possible.

For other reviews on types of firearms and holsters, click here.

[1] “Differences Between Rifles, Shotguns, and Handguns,” Hunter-ed.com, https://www.hunter-ed.com/michigan/studyGuide/Differences-Between-Rifles-Shotguns-and-Handguns/201023_700042719/ (accessed 3/23/18).

[2] “Tips on How to Clean Your Rifle and Debunking Common Misconceptions,” Rifle Shooter (December 12, 2016), http://www.rifleshootermagazine.co.uk/features/shoot-better/tips-on-how-to-clean-your-rifle-and-debunking-common-misconceptions-1-4813428 (accessed 3/23/18).

[3] David E. Petzal, “Rifles: The Mysteries of Fouling Shots,” Field & Stream (August 30, 2016), https://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/the-gun-nuts/rifles-the-mysteries-of-fouling-shots (accessed 3/23/18).