How to Clean Your Double-Barreled Shotgun

It is great fun to introduce new folks to the shotgun shooting sports and many of these new shooters want to know how to properly clean their shotgun. What follows is the procedure that I have religiously followed for as long as I can remember.  This was written with side by side shotguns in mind but it applies to any single or double-barreled break down shotgun. The objective is to clean away all traces of gun powder, plastic wadding residue and fingerprints.


How to clean a shotgun.

Clean your guns as soon after you use them as practical. Wipe them down with an oily cloth at the end of each hunting or shooting day. Your sweaty hands will rust a finish. Remove any bird blood from the blued areas of the gun immediately! Blood can take bluing off like magic.

Step One.

Gather your cleaning stuff. Hoppe’s #9 powder solvent, Birchwood Casey gun scrubber, a good gun oil like FP-10, Clenzoil, Breakfree, or Hoppe’s Elite, cleaning patches made from cut up cotton white bed sheets (every now and then I buy a cheap set of twin cotton bed sheets from Target or Wal-mart and rip them up into 1 foot squares) bronze bushes (12 gauge and 10 gauge (for the chamber) to clean a 12 gauge shotgun), cleaning rod, and a gun cleaning brush (looks like a tooth brush).


Step Two.

Be sure your dirty shotgun is unloaded. Go outside, unless you are not married then you will probably do this on the breakfast table. Disassemble the gun as far as you can without using a screwdriver or hammer – take the forearm off and then remove the barrels from the action.

Step Three.

Take a piece of the bed sheet patch, big enough to fit in the barrel, but not so big that you must force it through. That is about 6 inches by 12 inches for a 12 gauge shotgun. Pull it through the slotted tip on the cleaning rod and soak it in the powder solvent. Run it through the bores a few times to soak them with solvent.

Now, dip the gun cleaning brush in the solvent and clean the ejectors. Scrub them good and flush them with the gun scrubber.

Step Three is the main reason to do this outdoors. Some will say Hoppe’s #9 stinks up the house. I don’t think it stinks. It is a wonderful, outdoorsy smell, right up there with the smoke from the hunting camp fire or a whiff of a fine cigar.

TIP: put the solvent in a low, wide mouth jar so dipping the patch and brush is easy and you won’t spill it as much. You will spill it though, so be sure to do this over newspaper.

Step four.

Put the 12 gauge bronze brush on the rod and dip it in the solvent. Run it through each barrel, give them a decent scrubbing. Flush the barrels with gun scrubber. Repeat until the powder and plastic wadding residue is gone. In the forcing cone in front of the chamber, where the load of shot and wad enter the barrel, there can be some stubborn crud. Use the 10 gauge brush to get it out. I put that brush on a short 12” rod and scrub it good. Finish by a quick flush of the inside and outside of the barrels and ejectors with the gun scrubber. A drop of oil into the ejectors is a good idea after de-greasing with the gun scrubber.

TIP: Even if you are cleaning your gun indoors, go outside to use the gun scrubber. It should be used liberally and flushes gunk onto the ground. Do this over dirt or rock or something like that. It will kill plants and stains concrete.



Step Five.

Put a clean patch on the rod and run it through the bore a few times. This time use a full 1 foot square patch so it is snug as it goes through. The bore, from chamber to muzzle should be mirror bright and the white patch should come out clean. If not then repeat Step Four. When the bores are sparking, run a patch through with a good gun oil to lightly coat the bore.

Step Six (This is only for side by side shotguns, not necessary for over/under guns)

Set the barrels in your lap, rib up, and clean the junction of the rib and the barrel along the entire length. I do this by laying a lightly oiled cloth over the barrels and use a small brush to push the oiled cloth along each side of the rib. The small end of a gun cleaning brush is perfect for this. You will be surprised how mush rust and gunk you will get out.

Wipe down the barrels with an oily cloth. Wipe around the ejectors and put a very thin coat of oil on all metal. Now set the barrels aside and get the action.


Step Seven.

Dip the gun cleaning brush in solvent and scrub the face of the standing breech, the water table, the bolts, hinge-pin, cocking levers and the knuckle – all the parts of the action body. Hold the action with the stock up and the standing breech facing down. Quickly hit the standing breech and water table with a shot of gun scrubber to flush out the gunk. Don’t let the scrubber get into the action because it is a de-greaser and will remove oil from the action and things will start sticking. Lightly oil all the metal surfaces and maybe a dab of grease on the knuckle and hinge-pin if your gun is tight.

Step Eight.

Clean the area of the forearm where it connects with the knuckle of the action with the gun cleaning brush and lightly oil all the metal parts. Re-assemble the barrels to the action and install the forearm. Now wipe all the metal one last time to be sure there are no finger prints. Some like to put in snap caps and fire the action to take pressure off of the mainspring. Not sure if that matters but I do it sometimes. Put the gun in your safe and leave it alone.

TIP: Do not over-oil the gun. It should be a very light coating on all the metal parts. There should not be enough oil to see. Too much oil will soak the wood in the forearm and at the head of the stock.

Finally, clean your oily hands with Fast Orange cleaner.


Filed under Equipment

7 responses to “How to Clean Your Double-Barreled Shotgun

  1. Nothing says “End of a good day” like the smell of Hoppes in the garage workshop.

  2. ptkruger

    However, for that Model 870 Wingmaster, it is only necessary to knock of the big chunks of mud before you throw it back in the trunk, ready for the next hunt.

  3. Wallace Norwalt

    I recently acquired a Hollis & Sheath black powder, double barreled, 12 gauge shotgun. I am curious as to it’s value. It is in decent condition, but I won’t know for sure until I give it a thorough cleaning. Any help out there as to determining it’s value?

    • I would look at Guns International, Gun Broker, Proxibid, etc. With a quick google search, I found one for $1,350. Neat-looking percussion shotgun. Be careful with Damascus barrels.

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