By Heather Madsen

One of the most important aspects of owning a firearm is making sure that it is properly cleaned and maintained. A clean and well oiled gun will be more accurate, less prone to misfire, and will last longer than a gun that is neglected. In this article we will cover the proper tools and procedure for cleaning a pump action shotgun. If you would like to learn how to clean additional firearm platforms, follow this link.

To start, you will need to assemble your cleaning products. You can get a kit that comes with everything or buy the individual products you need here. Either way, you’ll need a solvent or cleaner, gun oil, a clean rag or patches, bristle brushes, a cleaning rod with attachments, and a gun mat to work on. If you own multiple rifles or shotguns, investing in a gun vise might make this process easier for you. It will hold the receiver in place so that you are free to use both of your hands for cleaning. Cotton swabs are also a very useful and affordable tool you can use to help clean the hard to reach areas of your firearm. There are also a few alternative options for some of these items, and what you use will just depend on personal preference. For example, you can use a bore snake instead of a cleaning rod, or a clean cloth instead of a gun mat. Experiment with your options and pick the choice that works best for you. Once you’ve gathered all of these items, you’re almost ready to get started.

When handling any firearm, the most important thing to remember is safety. Before you start cleaning or disassembling your pistol, you’ll first need to make sure it’s unloaded. Always do a visual and a physical check to make sure there is nothing in the chamber. Once you’ve made sure that your gun is empty, you’ll want to move any ammunition away from you and the firearm you’re cleaning. Placing them in a drawer or a separate room is a great way to ensure your safety, and the safety of anyone nearby.

Now you can begin the cleaning process. You’ll want to start by taking apart the different components of your firearm. For most gun owners, you’ll only need to know how to “field strip” your gun. Field stripping a pump action shotgun is simple and only requires you to separate the barrel from the receiver. Dismantling your firearm further is called “detailed stripping,” and unless you are a trained professional, you should not attempt it, as it is very easy to damage the smaller and more delicate pieces of your firearm if they are removed incorrectly.

Use a nylon brush to clean the inside of the receiver.The first step in field stripping in a pump action shotgun is to remove the lug on the underside of the barrel. Set that aside, and then locate the pump release button, which is usually near the trigger. Press the button to release the pump and move the pump to about halfway up the slide. This will allow you to gently remove the barrel.

To begin cleaning, set the receiver in the gun vise, or simply to the side, and start with the barrel. Take your bore snake or cleaning bristles and liberally spray it with cleaning solvent. Pull or push it in the same direction a shot would travel (receiver to muzzle). Do this two or three times to ensure that you get all of the debris and carbon cleaned out. Now it’s time to move onto the chamber. Set the barrel aside and pick up the receiver. Since it’s a more difficult space to get into, you’ll need to use nylon brushes and picks for this part. Spray the solvent on your brush and cotton swabs and get into all of the nooks and crevices. Keep cleaning until your swabs or brushes come out clean.

Once you're finished with cleaning, you can move onto oiling. Remember that in this step, less is more. You just want to apply a very light, even coat of oil to prevent wear and tear. Use a microfiber cloth to apply the oil to the barrel of your shotgun, making sure to remove all fingerprints, as the oil on your hands can erode the finish on the metal. You’ll also want to use a cotton swab to apply a very light coat of oil to the channels in the action of your receiver. This is to help the metal-on-metal moving pieces operate more smoothly and to help slow down wear and tear.

Finally, you need to reassemble your shotgun. To do this, simply put your pump back into the center position, and slide the barrel back into place. Replace the lug and you’re done. It’s also a good idea to perform a function check, by sliding the pump a few times, to make sure you’ve reassembled your shotgun properly and that it’s safe and ready to fire. It may also be beneficial to give your reassembled gun one more wipe-down with a microfiber cloth. This will help preserve any woodwork on your gun (if it has it) and remove any lingering fingerprints. Once you’re done with that your shotgun should be clean, oiled, and ready to be taken out to the range or hunting grounds.

If you have any questions regarding your pump action rifle or what was discussed in this article, please reach out to a Sportsman’s representative at, or visit your local Sportsman’s Warehouse and speak to an associate at the gun counter.

If you’d like to learn more about the care, cleaning, and usage of firearms, check out our other videos and articles.