You’re either obsessed with keeping your guns spotless, or you avoid the tedium of cleaning and lubing your guns at all costs. How much gun maintenance is really necessary? As always, “it depends…”

Details are in the video below, or keep scrolling to read the full transcript.

Hey everybody, I am Chris Baker from I took a little break, but I’m back now with a quick video for today. I frequently get requests to make some kind of instructional video on gun cleaning and maintenance. That’s an important topic every gun owner should know about. But I can think of few things more tedious and dull than cleaning guns except for making a tutorial about it.

So this is not a tutorial. Instead, I just want to address the question of how much gun maintenance is really necessary. A lot of folks seem to have pretty extreme opinions on this. On one side, we have people who basically never clean or maintain their guns, either out of ignorance, laziness, or extreme optimism. And on the other end of the spectrum are those who religiously clean every gun every time they fire it, or if they accidentally look at it for too long in the gun safe.

If we had to pick a side here, technically, the obsessively clean gun people are right. A gun that’s kept clean and lubed will almost always work better and last longer than one that’s not. You can’t really clean a gun too much, as long as you do it properly and you’re not damaging it in the process. Some people actually enjoy cleaning guns. Good for them. For the rest of us, it’s kind of a chore. It’s time consuming and messy. If you’re like me, you’ll do it when you have to, but you generally would like to know how little gun maintenance you can get away with.

When is Gun Cleaning Necessary?

The answer to that depends on the gun and what you’re doing with it. That said, generally speaking, I think most gun owners probably worry too much about keeping their guns clean and too little about lubrication.

This is especially true in the case of quality modern defensive firearms – what I’ll loosely refer to as “duty-grade guns”. Decent quality ARs and similar rifles. Full size and compact pistols from the mid-tier and premium brands. They can often go many thousands of rounds between cleanings as long as they’re lubricated.

You can think of these guns kind of like the modern mid-priced sedans of the firearms world. You can get away with ignoring pretty much all the recommended maintenance on something like a Corolla or a Civic for tens of thousands of miles as long as you don’t drive like a maniac and you change the oil and tires every now and then. There’s other stuff you *should* do, and eventually you will have problems if you don’t address that stuff. But it doesn’t take much to keep the car running.

You don’t have to pop the hood every time you get gas. They are inherently low-maintenance machines. They need fuel and lube. Everything else is secondary. Modern guns need ammo and lube. You don’t have to scrub them clean after every range visit.

This doesn’t apply to all guns. Going back to the car analogy, you can’t treat every car like it’s a low-maintenance sedan. Super cheap or poorly made cars, old cars, and specialty vehicles like high-performance sports cars all require more attention to maintenance.

Same thing with guns: poor quality guns, old guns, and specialized high-end guns like precision rifles and competition race guns all have maintenance requirements that you really can’t ignore.

And that’s not an all-inclusive list. Let’s look at some other categories or situations where we might need to pay extra attention to gun maintenance.

1. Rimfire

Rimfire ammo is just inherently dirtier than centerfire. You can get a ton of build-up of carbon and unburned gunpowder with just a box or two of ammo. Sometimes these guns will continue to work fine. But even if you don’t get reliability issues, the longer you go without cleaning them, the tougher they are to get clean. That goes for any gun, really, but for some reason, the fouling from rimfire ammo always seems to be tougher to clean off.

2. Revolvers

Revolvers actually tend to work okay without much lubrication, but they do not like to run dirty. The most common problem is debris under the extractor star that prevents the cylinder from turning, but there are a host of other issues that can pop up if you don’t keep a revolver clean.

3. New Guns

When you first buy a gun, the oil or grease that’s on it is not necessarily there for lubrication. It’s there to preserve it for storage. A lot of guns will run just fine right out of the box, but it’s generally a good idea to clean off the factory stuff and add some proper gun lube.

By the way, picking the best gun lube is another issue shooters tend to obsess over way too much. Don’t over-think it. I like thicker lube that’s like the consistency of motor oil because it tends to stay where I put it. Slip 2000 is my go-to, but there are lots of other gun oils that work great. Just get something and oil your guns.

4. Shotguns

Shotgun shells leave behind a lot of junk in the bore. Not only do you have the normal lead and carbon build-up, the plastic wads and shot cups also leave behind a residue. By the time it gets bad enough that it affects your shot pattern, that usually means it’s going to be really difficult to scrub clean. Some preventative maintenance can save you from that headache.

5. Corrosive Ammo

We don’t see much of this anymore, but every now and then, a shipment of foreign military surplus ammo will make its way to the states and it’ll be made with corrosive primers. If you don’t clean your gun thoroughly immediately after shooting this stuff, it can start forming rust within hours. And you can’t necessarily use conventional gun solvents to get off the corrosive residue, so do a little research before shooting corrosive ammo.

6. Idle Firearms

This should probably go without saying, but if a gun’s been sitting unused in a closet or a gun safe for a while, the lube tends to dry up. So even if it looks perfectly clean, it may not work 100% until you add more lube. Also, humidity is the sworn enemy of firearms. If you live near water, or anywhere in the Southeast, keep a generous coat of oil on everything and look into some kind of humidity control device for your gun safe.

7. Carry Guns

This one should also be common sense, but we’ve all seen the photos of people’s carry guns completely coated in pocket lint and other detritus. Imagine going out of your way to carry a gun every day and do a bunch of training and practice only to get shot because your life saving self-defense tool was full of rust and dust bunnies. That would be an embarrassing way to go. Keep those carry guns clean, lubed, and do a quick function check every few weeks.

8. High Round Counts

Guns periodically need maintenance other than just cleaning and lubrication, especially if you shoot them a lot. If you put more than about 5000 rounds through any gun, be sure to check with the manufacturer to find out when you should replace certain springs and other parts.

I’m sure you can think of some other situations where gun maintenance should be a priority. Generally speaking, it’s not something to stress over too much. Your gun is not going to rust away if you don’t clean it every time you shoot it. Personally, I take extra care of any gun I might need without advance warning for something like self-defense or pest control. Everything else, I pretty much lube it before I use it, and clean it when it starts to misbehave.

Maybe you don’t worry at all about cleaning your guns. You might have another common problem I’ve heard about. Maybe your guns are *too* clean. The best remedy for that is to get out there and shoot them. And you’re going to need some ammo for that, so be sure to get it from us with lightning-fast shipping at


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