How to Clean Antique Guns

••• Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Explore America's Campgrounds

Antique guns can offer a fascinating glimpse into another period of time. The history and stories oftentimes associated with old guns add to the enjoyment and excitement of owning and collecting. Taking the proper care of antique guns is vitally important. Without careful maintenance and cleaning practices the guns may be damaged by corrosion and rust. Special steps should be taken to make sure the gun is not damaged by modern cleaning chemicals.

Items you will need

  • Antique gun

  • Cleaning rod with patch tip

  • Cleaning patches

  • Hot water

  • Powder solvent (Hoppes No. 9)

  • Plastic bucket

  • Gun oil

  • Clean cloth

  • Stiff bristle brush

  • Soapy water

  • Clean water

Step 1

Make sure the gun is unloaded. Check the barrel to ensure that a charge, bullet, shell or primer is not loaded. Remove any magazines and clips from the gun and set aside.

Step 2

Attach a cleaning patch to the patch holder on the cleaning rod. Saturate the patch with powder solvent such as Hoppes No. 9 and run down the barrel of the gun. Pull the patch out and inspect for residue and rust. Repeat the process with a new patch. Remove and discard the used patches. Repeat with new patches until a patch is removed without residue.

Step 3

Use hot water on old firearms such as muzzle loaders which modern chemicals may potentially damage. Remove the barrel from the stock. This will require loosening retaining straps or screws.

Step 4

Position the barrel in a bucket and pour hot water down the barrel. Place a clean patch on the cleaning rod and run in and out of the barrel. Empty the hot water and pour more hot water into the barrel. Run a new patch in and out of the barrel. Pour the water out and dry the barrel with patches. Several patches may be required.

Step 5

Apply a thin coat of gun oil following a cleaning with either water or solvent. Use a clean patch with oil applied and run into and out of the barrel several times.

Step 6

Wipe down the breech of the gun, if applicable, and use a brush to aid in the removal of any stubborn deposits. Apply a thin coat of gun oil to all exposed and moving parts including bolts, levers and firing pin mechanisms.

Step 7

Wipe down all exposed metal parts of the gun with gun oil. This will help remove any corrosion and provide a barrier against fingerprints and moisture. Use a clean soft cloth.

Step 8

Remove any residue, grease and dirt carefully from the wood stock of the gun. Use a mild soapy water solution and wipe thoroughly with clean water and a soft cloth. Resist the temptation to refinish or perform extensive repairs to the wood stock of a gun as this may affect its value. The age, coloring, pits and other surface irregularities all add character and indicate the age of the gun.


  • Wear safety glasses when cleaning guns. Wash hands thoroughly when done.


  • Revolvers and automatic antique guns, for example, may require more extensive cleaning. In this case, cleaning information including proper method of disassembly may be obtained from the manufacturer.