Do I Have To Clean My Gun After Every Use?

Gun owners like to have a reputation as responsible and proactive citizens. Part of that is learning how to properly maintain their firearms, including cleaning them regularly.

However, do guns have to be cleaned after every use?

Guns should be cleaned after every use. This means after returning home from the range, the gun should be cleaned. Additionally, defensive guns that are not in use should be cleaned and thoroughly inspected every month, and hunting rifles should be cleaned at the beginning of the hunting season.

Guns are an investment and should be treated as such. Keep reading for more information on how and why guns need to be properly maintained.

Why Do You Need to Clean Your Gun After Every Use?

As an opening disclaimer, don’t try to clean your gun alone the first few times. Ask someone more experienced to teach you how to do so.

They will have some hands-on tips, both on how to clean your gun and why it needs to be cleaned so often. There’s nothing embarrassing about good safety practices!

You need to clean your gun after every use for a few reasons.

It needs to have corrosive and damaging materials removed to avoid rusting, it needs to have other residues removed to ensure good function, you need to inspect it to make sure all parts are in good working order, and it makes it easy for you to remember when your gun needs to be cleaned.

This way, even a forgetful gun owner will remember to schedule a good cleaning.

Avoiding Rust and Corrosion

Handguns and rust are like bathrooms and mildew. By the time it’s easily visible, it’s probably been present and hiding for a while. Both will mess up your plans for the day.

A lot of cheap ammunition has a corrosive effect on the barrel of your gun, making it vulnerable to rusting.

The salts left behind after firing can eat away at the metal and cause problems. Besides being expensive to fix or replace, corrosion in your gun can be dangerous.

Improperly applying solvents can also cause corrosion. This is something that can easily happen if you clean your gun halfhearted or are uneducated about gun cleaning.

Removing Residue

As much fun as it is to go shooting, every bullet is going to leave a little bit of residue in your barrel. This residue, called Fouling, can negatively affect your gun, even if it isn’t corrosive.

Fouling is made of lead, copper, and carbon from gunpowder. It won’t rust the gun as the salts will, but it does build-up to the point where it can influence your shot.

If it gets bad enough, it can really throw off your precision and the reliability of your weapon. Nobody wants to be around an unpredictable gun.

Finally, you want to look for pocket lint. Concealed carry can leave you with a surprising amount of pocket lint in your gun, and that can negatively affect the firing capabilities.

Inspecting Your Gun

do i have to clean my gun after every use

Inspecting your gun is a vital part of the post-shooting routine.

You need to look for corrosion, damage, rust, cracks in the frame, chips, bent parts, make certain that the springs are all in good shape, and ensure that the gun is in good working order.

If anything feels off, get it inspected by a professional.

With that in mind, you should have your firearm checked out by a quality gunsmith or armorer from time to time if you have doubts about anything.

Just like you have your car checked out by a reliable mechanic, you want your gun to be inspected by a trained professional if needed.

Your gun is a lifelong investment. The worst-case scenario for your gun is that it won’t work when you need it, it can harm someone, or you’ll ruin your investment.

Regular Maintenance Schedules

Everything listed above should be done regularly. However, people are often forgetful and it can be hard to keep track of time.

If you are someone who struggles to remember to regularly inspect and do maintenance on your guns, it should be easier to remember that your gun needs to be cleaned after discharging it.

Why Does it Need to be Cleaned When Not in Use?

The main reason your gun needs to be cleaned regularly is consistency.

A dirty gun shoots differently than a clean gun, and your gun doesn’t care if the cause is pocket lint or fouling.

Guns can get dirty when they’re in storage, too!

Rust Happens, Especially in Humidity

Guns can rust and corrode surprisingly quickly. If you live in a humid environment, or if your gun safe is in an area it shouldn’t be in and is exposed to humidity, you are risking rusting your gun.

Regular cleanings can help you find problems before they get expensive and extremely problematic.

Lint and Daily Dust

When you are conceal carrying, lint can get into your gun. It falls off of your clothing and into annoying places in your gun.

Besides being unsightly, lint can also take a surprising toll on your gun’s performance.

If you clean and maintain your gun regularly, lint shouldn’t be an issue when you go to discharge your gun.

However, if you don’t clean it regularly, you risk a lot more. If anything, those regular cleanings allow you to catch issues before they become a problem.


No matter how much fun you have while shooting, you should never forget that guns, by nature, have the potential to be deadly weapons.

I like to say that a clean gun is your cheapest form of life insurance. As corny as it may sound, I think you get the point.

The best-case scenario with a badly maintained gun is wasted money. A worst-case scenario is a tool that doesn’t work when you need it.

What Do I Risk By Not Correctly Cleaning My Gun?

By not cleaning a gun, you’re risking its reliability. It won’t perform consistently if it isn’t maintained consistently.

After all, a dirty gun has an increased, even if it’s slight, chance of malfunction.

Some other things risked by not correctly cleaning your gun are as follows:

  • Damaging the gun beyond repair
  • Expensive repairs or replacement parts
  • Failure to Fire (potential of the bullet exploding in the chamber)
  • Failure to Feed
  • Failure to Extract
  • Safety can fail and the gun can go off unexpectedly
  • Mediocre training

Keep in mind, that some of the issues above are things you would hopefully catch during a cleaning.

If you bought a gun for protection, cleaning your gun will ensure it is ready to work at all times. Respect your gun and your investment and keep it clean.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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