How to Detail And Clean an Over Under Shotgun


Are you new to the shotgun shooting sports and just acquired an over under? Did you just inherit your grandfather’s over under? Have you been shooting your over under for the last 20 years without cleaning it because you did not know how? Don’t worry, in this article, I will discuss how I clean my over under shotguns and keep them ready for my next hunt, trap or sporting clays shoot!

A good gun cleaning and maintenance schedule will not only help keep your gun running smooth and help you diagnose any potential problems you may be having with your gun. The frequency you choose to clean your gun depends solely on your individual use. Only you know how often you shoot, the amount of rounds you put through your gun and the conditions you shoot in. 

A field gun that is carried often but shot very little can survive with an external wipe down and quick pass of a boresnake through the barrel. On the same subject, a field gun that was shot 4 times during a half day pheasant hunt, but was subjected to rain, mud, sweat, blood and debris from plants, should be thoroughly cleaned to remove the rust causing moisture and dirt which accumulated throughout the day. 

For sporting guns (any gun used while playing any of the clay sports) you also need to determine your own cleaning schedule. A trap gun that sees 50 rounds a week during a dry hot summer, may only be exposed to light dust and maybe some hand sweat. A quick clean of the exterior of the gun and a slither of a boresnake through the barrels may be enough to keep that gun ready for next week’s shoot. 

On the other hand, a sporting clays gun that is shot during the spring, where weather can fluctuate from a hot sunny morning to a cloudy drizzle or rain filled afternoon and it is cycling 100 rounds in a few hours, maybe a little more attention should be shown when cleaning this particular piece. The moisture from rain and sweat, the dirt from the trail, the carbon buildup in the barrel and the charred plastic in the choke tubes should be removed thoroughly before the next match.   

Now, let’s discuss this cleaning process and get your gun stripped, detailed, lubricated (or greased up) and put together for your next adventure!

Safety First

Please ensure you are following the four firearms safety rules at all times. Make sure your firearm is unloaded and that you are working in a well-ventilated environment!

The next thing you need is a dirty shotgun. Go out and shoot a couple rounds of sporting clays, maybe join a midweek trap league, or better yet go hunt your favorite bird and dirty up those guns while filling your freezer

The Gear You Will Need

  • Shotgun cleaning rod or a shotgun caliber bore snake
  • Shotgun caliber rod bush, mop and barrel squeeg-e
  • Cleaning Patches
  • Silicone soaked cloth
  • Gun oil (I prefer the ease of spray gun oils for faster delivery)
  • Gun grease
  • Old toothbrush or gun brush
  • Small painting brush
  • Old rag or towel

Gun Cleaning Procedure

Step 1: Break open your action and ensure the gun is empty

Step 2: Follow your instruction manual and take the gun apart into the three major parts (barrels, forend, rear stock)

Step 3: With your old rag or towel, wipe down all of the areas near the action. Remove any dirt, dust, oil or grease you may have.

Step 4: Follow the steps in your instruction manual and remove the extractor, ejectors, springs and pins in your action. 

Step 5: With the choke tubes installed, make sure that your cleaning rod is long enough to completely exit the barrels when pushed all the way through. Attach a rod brush to your cleaning rod and push it through both barrels a few times without the use of any chemicals or oils.

Ensure that the entire brush exits the barrels before pulling it back through. If you try to change the direction of the brush mid barrel, you may get the brush stuck.

Step 6: With the choke tubes installed, make sure that your rod with the squeeg-e attached will clear the entire length of the barrel before proceeding. Add a heavy coat of oil to a cleaning patch and saturate the inside of the barrels using the squeeg-e attachment. 

Step 7: Use your rod brush and scrub the oiled barrels back and forth several times.

Step 8: Use your squeeg-e attachment and pass a lightly oiled patch through the barrels. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until your barrel reflects light like a mirror and you do not see any debris, carbon residue or other contaminants on your patches.

Step 9: Remove your choke tubes. Wipe the outside of the chokes with a rag until all buildup is removed. This step becomes easier once you follow step 12 below in the future. If this is your first time cleaning the chokes, you may need the assistance of a brush to get the stubborn carbon buildup off of it.. For the inside of the chokes, you can use a barrel rod brush on a drill and carefully “drill” the inside of the chokes while holding them firmly.  Once they are cleaned to your satisfaction, use your squeeg-e attachment and run a lightly oiled patch through the chokes to clean up any debris left behind.

Step 10: Using a rag, clean the inside part of the action attached to the stock. You can use a q-tip to get into the hard to reach places.

Step 11: Clean all of your smaller parts. Spray a little bit of gun oil on the small parts and use the rag to wipe them down. If you have any stubborn carbon deposits, use a q-tip or a brush on those parts

Step 12: This next part may be a little controversial, but I find it makes future cleanings a little easier. Using gun grease and the painting brush, coat the exterior of the choke tubes (including the threads), and the ejector/extractors of your gun. When you are done, there should be a light coat of grease and no big clumpy grease areas.

Step 13: Grab your barrels and add a small dot of grease and coat it evenly with your paint brush. Do that for both sides of the barrels that make contact with the action.

Step 14: Follow your gun’s instruction manual and put the action of your gun back together. Then add your barrel to your stock and use the silicone cloth to wipe down the parts of the barrel that are covered by the forend. Then affix your forend and wipe the entire gun with the silicone cloth. 

This cleaning process works for me and it has kept my O/U guns running flawlessly. I follow the same procedure for my sporting gun as well as my hunting gun. O/U shotguns are extremely reliable, but I find that this method keeps the finish intact and keeps a well-used gun looking great. 

Greasing the choke tubes and action is my preferred method. I have used several kinds of gun oils on the chokes and the action and find that after a long day of shooting the gun oil tends to wear away and leaves a gritty action. Once you see how easy it is to clean the gun after it has been greased and shot, I have confidence you will also use this technique.

Gun Maintenance Schedule

How often you clean your gun depends on how often you shoot and the number of fired rounds. I shoot my sporting gun during my weekly trap league (50 targets a week) which runs 10 weeks for a total of 500 rounds every 10 weeks. In addition I shoot a variety of practice rounds on weekends and the occasional sporting clays course here and there.

 In the last 24 weeks I have put over 2000 rounds through my sporting clays gun. Keep in mind, that is not a high volume of shooting, that is a recreational level shooter just having fun. I perform the cleaning process described above right around 500 rounds. In between, I do a quick clean of the barrels and action. I will describe the quick cleaning process in a future article. 

On the contrary, in the last 24 weeks, I have not put a single round through my hunting shotgun. However, once the first day of September is upon us, I plan on chasing blue grouse, doves, pheasants, and prairie chickens until waterfowl season when I switch to a camo coated semi-auto. I estimate I will put 500-1000 rounds through my field O/U throughout the season. 

This gun will receive a quick cleaning after each hunt and a full detailed cleaning after every 250 rounds or so. The reason for my constant cleaning is to remove the moisture from rain, sweat, dog slobber, water and blood. Field guns get laid down in wet pastures, moist grass and oftentimes are subjected to snowy conditions. Cleaning your field gun should happen based on weather conditions and not on round counts


I hope that this article gave you a little bit of insight on how I clean my guns and maybe you can pick up a new technique to try for your gun. You will not be able to clean a clean gun so make sure you get out, shoot and dirty up your shotgun out in the field or the range.

Stay outside!

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