10 Common Shotgun Maintenance Mistakes

(Image source: FreeImages.com/Kevin M)

A shotgun is an essential, but expensive, piece of equipment for hunters and recreational shooters.

Proper shotgun maintenance is extremely important, but it does not have to be complicated. Those who hunt on a regular basis or simply as a hobby need to learn about proper maintenance in order to prevent misfires or even accidents.

Luckily, there is a lot of information available that gun owners can access without the help of a professional. You can build a shooting range to practice and properly maintain the functional state of your gun, all by yourself. However, that does not mean you should throw caution to the wind. Avoid these 10 common maintenance mistakes to stay safe while keeping the weapon in a good, functional state.

1. Using Gasoline or Kerosene to Clean the Shotgun

Although urban legends claim that soldiers cleaned their guns with gasoline during World War II, this is a dangerous practice and not recommended by any shotgun manufacturer. Gasoline and kerosene are extremely flammable, and the risk for accidents increases for people who smoke while cleaning their guns. These may also damage the gun’s metal finishing or dissolve the stock furniture set.

2. Failing to Remove the Cosmoline

The cosmoline is a thin lubricant coating that protects the shotgun from rust and moisture. Use WD-40 or a heat gun set at 125 degrees Fahrenheit to soften the substance, and then wipe all metal and wood parts of the shotgun with rags.

3. Failing to Clean All Parts of The Gun

All shotgun manufacturers advise owners to disassemble, clean and properly reassemble all parts of their weapons. Each seller should provide detailed information on how to do this. If the information is missing, owners can contact the manufacturer directly. Review their information before disassembling the weapon to avoid inadvertently damaging it. Failing to clean the shotgun properly may cause it to malfunction, and buildup may cause it to explode in extreme cases. This is one of the most common shotgun maintenance mistakes.

4. Not Treating the Shotgun as If It Is Loaded

Accidental shooting deaths can occur, even when cleaning a shotgun. To avoid this, always treat it as if it is always loaded. Never point it at any living thing, even after the chamber is emptied and keep your fingers away from the trigger. As they say, “Never point a gun at something you’re not willing to destroy.” This is available even when you believe it to be empty. Position the muzzle towards a safe area while cleaning the trigger. These safety measures are not optional.

5. Rushing to Clean the Shotgun

The best time to clean a shotgun is when the process can have your full attention without rushing. Doing it quickly can cause mistakes. Proper cleaning is methodical and best done without interruptions or distractions. Take time to disassemble and reassemble the shotgun correctly.

6. Leaving the Shotgun Out of Its Case

Leaving a shotgun out of its case increases the risk of damage to the weapon or injuries to people. Always return it to its case after use and cleaning.

7. Forcing Parts Back Together When Reassembling

Forcing parts back together when reassembling the shotgun after cleaning can damage it or cause it to misfire, which can lead to injuries. If the parts do not fit together, the best practice is to disassemble and reassemble it again while looking for the proper fit. Consult the manufacturer’s information on the shotgun or contact the manufacturer directly if it will not reassemble correctly. If you have to force the parts back in, it’s likely you’re doing something wrong.

8. Failing to Use Proper Lubricant

The shotgun should be lubricated after every shooting session, even if the gun is not fully cleaned at that time. All internal and moving parts need lubricant. It prevents the metal-on- metal contact points from wearing excessively. It also keeps the shotgun from overheating or freezing up while shooting.

9. Using Improper Cleaning Tools

Screwdrivers, cleaning rods, patches and brushes are the necessary tools for properly cleaning a shotgun. A good cleaning rod has a secure handle, half-inch minimum threads and a variety of brass brushes and needle tips. It should also break down into sections for transport. Using an improper cleaning rod can damage or chip the end of the barrel. This makes weapon shoot inaccurately.

10. Disassembling the Shotgun Too Much

Disassembling the shotgun beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations may void the warranty and damage the gun. Always follow the instructions for removing parts for cleaning. If you believe your efforts are inadequate and it still needs further attention, take it to a professional. In fact, if you’re not sure, you can ask your firearms instructor about just how far you can take it. Accidents and deaths happen every year because of shotgun maintenance mistakes. Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions before attempting to disassemble it and contact the manufacturer with any questions or problems reassembling the gun. While they can provide many recreational opportunities, an improperly cleaned or assembled shotgun is hazardous for the shooter and others in the area.

Mike Jones is a Boston University graduate and professional writer who likes to share his knowledge about important issues like gun safety. 

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