How to Clean a Bolt Action Rifle




In this, my first, instructable you will learn how to clean a basic military (or civilian for that matter) bolt action rifle.

Cleaning is one of the most important parts of gun care and respect. The more you respect them, the better. I'm not going to give you a speech :).

Also, especially with a military relic like this, taking care of the rifle keeps its value high and makes it perform a heck of a lot better.

Major Materials:

-Cleaning Rod, at least as long as the barrel of the rifle you are cleaning. Check Wal-Mart.

-Cleaning Patches, for the caliber rifle you are using. Can be found at most sporting goods/ gun s tores, even Wal-Mart

-Solvent, whether it's Hoppes 9 or Gun Scrubber it doesn't matter. This can be found once again at sporting/gun stores and most of the time Wal-Mart.

-Rust Protector, like Barricade in the photo or others.

-Some way to hold the rifle in place, I used sandbags made for shooting and a regular vise with a towel draped over it keep it from marring the wooden stock. They do make gun vises just for this purpose and if you are doing a lot of cleaning, you should consider getting one. Last I checked they ran from about $50-$200.

-Disassembly Tools, you need the tools that are required to disassemble your rifle. Often this is none at all or just screwdrivers. Some rifles have special tools (ie. M1 Garand, Mosin Nagant, SKS/AK sights) that are made just for them. Most of the time they are not necessary and can be replaced by normal consumer tools, but help a lot.

-Disassembly Guide, how are you going to clean it if you cannot take it apart? Some rifles come with a manual from the company that imports them (mine was from Century Arms) and you can buy take-down guides at most gun stores. Also, you can find instructions on how to take-down military rifles at

-Place to store small parts, not really required but helps a lot. I found a small organizer in the sewing (I think?) department of Wal-Mart. I can't tell you how many times I have dropped a screw or something of the like and spent hours searching for it on my garage floor. It's nice to have them all in one place.

-Last but not least, a spacious place to work, I use the workbench in my garage, but most places will do. You need at least enough room to fit the cleaning rod down the barrel. Remember that most of the solvents and chemicals need to be used in a well ventilated area, so do so. Personally, my garage workbench is a little too small, but it will do.

WARNING: Guns by nature are dangerous, and I hope you would know that. Always make sure the gun is not loaded in any way. In addition, some of the chemicals or solvents used when cleaning are toxic to breath or touch. Where the proper safety equipment (gloves, respirator, etc.) And for God's sake don't get the stuff in your eyes, or you will be sorry (I know from experience!) Therefore, while cleaning a gun shouldn't be dangerous if you do it right, I am not liable for any injury or death sustained while doing this. Don't be stupid or careless, always use proper gun safety even when its not loaded, and while cleaning. PLEASE BE CAREFUL.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Make Sure the Rifle Is UNLOADED!

This is probably the most important step. Open the action of the rifle and visually check and make sure that there are no rounds loaded or in the magazine (if the rifle has one).

You wouldn't want to be killed (or kill someone else) by the unloaded gun would you? This takes all of 20 seconds but is a crucial safety step.

Well, you get the point, don't be stupid and careless!

Step 2: Partially Disassemble the Rifle.

Now, start to take your rifle apart. I was only doing a quick clean, so all I did was remove the bolt and scope. When doing a more elaborate check, take-down the whole rifle.

For the Mosin-Nagant taking out the bolt is simple. Just pull the bull to the rear, pull and hold back the trigger, and pull the bolt rearward out of the receiver. To take of the PU scope, I just unscrewed the bolt on the base and removed the mount and scope.

Step 3: Visual Check and Wipe-down

Alright, time to start cleaning. First I just look over the inners of the gun and make sure nothing is wrong, or shifted in the wrong place.

Next, I think it helps just to wipe-down the rifle with a paper-towel or the like. A lot of the dust and dirt on the stock (from the range) will come off and any grease applied last cleaning (to lubricate) probably has grime stuck in it to. Wipe it all off.

Also, while not necessary for this one, I would advise putting a towel over the wooden stock in areas that you might spill the solvent. That stuff will eat through the finish and can ruin the stock.

Step 4: Barrel Cleaning

Pull out the cleaning patches and cleaning rod. Thread the patch through the jib on the end of the rod. Soak the patch in solvent.

Insert the rod at the muzzle and push it towards the butt of the gun.

When the rod comes out of the barrel and into the receiver, DO NOT pull it back through the barrel. Take the patch off and then pull the rod back out the way it came. Pulling the rod out with the dirty patch in it could get the dirt you just cleaned back in the barrel. I don't really know if this is true, but it is what most people tell me and it seems logical.

Continue to put solvent on and run them down the barrel until you get the bulk of the mess and break up the solids in there. You can check your barrel buy looking down it (duh).

After a while, you can just run dry patches until they come out white. It might take quite a few of them, so don't stop mid-way.

NOTE: If you have a copper brush, use it now too. They help a lot. I just don't have one for this rifle so I didn't use one.

Step 5: Clean Other Metal Parts

While cleaning the barrel, you may want to soak other metal parts (bolt, magazine, etc.) in solvent, or spray them down in solvent. Wipe them off after soaking them.

Be sure and check to make sure that the solvent will not take off the finish on the metal. Things that are painted (some civilian sporting rifles) may be affected by the powerful solvent.

Step 6: Stock Treatment

My Mosin Nagant didn't need any type of stock finish. Some choose to put oil or wood cleaner on the stock to make it shiny. Do this now.

Step 7: Rust Protection

The major metal parts should be sprayed with a rust protecter. I used the Barricade product. I sprayed it on the bolt and then wiped the excess off. It gives it a nice oily feel.

Spray it onto a paper towel and wipe it on other parts like the outside of the barrel, sights, receiver, etc.

In my opinion this also makes the metal shine a little bit too.

Step 8: Lubrication

Almost done, it's time for the best step. Take out some lubrication. Like I said before, I use the US Military Rifle Grease. It works very well. Use a Cue-Tip (is that how you spell it) or a paintbrush and apply a little at places where metal rubs or slides. Major places include where the bolt slides on the receiver and the trigger assembly.

Just be careful when using a Cue-Tip not to get the little fuzzy parts on the ends in the lube and then in turn in the rifle.

Step 9: Reassembly and Glamour!

Now, reassemble the rifle and look at it in glory, for it is now clean!

It helps to do that every time you fire about 50 or more rounds out of it. Now I know that a military rifle like this doesn't need it that often, but I hate to put it away dirty. Plus, doing it often makes it not as large of a job.

This may not be perfect, and feel free to post up your methods (comments, other instructables) and suggestions.

Happy shooting, and thanks for reading.

Be the First to Share


    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest

    96 Discussions


    1 year ago

    On steps 4 and 8: ALWAYS, ALWAYS clean a bolt action rifle from the breech. As others have noted, cleaning from the muzzle risks damaging the crown of the barrel and subsequent degradation of accuracy. Also, as others have noted, use a brass, aluminum or coated cleaning rod. This is another way to protect the rifling and crown of the barrel and the accuracy of the rifle. In step 8, the question is asked about the spelling of "cue tip". Just look at the box, if you are using the Johnson & Johnson product. They spell it "Q-Tip". Otherwise it is simply a cotton swab. I would recommend using a small stiff bristled brush instead. No "fuzzy parts" left behind. I use what I call an "acid brush" for this. It picks up and holds a small amount of grease and makes application of the proper amount easy. An acid brush is usually made with soft but fairly stiff bristles and a rolled sheet metal handle. Easy to find at most hardware stores where the soldering supplies are stocked.

    Phil in TX


    Tip 1 year ago on Step 4

    Note that in Step 4 (cleaning the barrel), the author has said to clean from the muzzle. A number of commenters have corrected this, as guns that can be cleaned from the breach (chamber) end should be. The author replied that he would change the text, but it still says to clean from the muzzle. Since some of those comments are over a decade old, it's possible that the author is MIA and the change will never be made. Still, if you can clean from the breach, that's best practice. Happy shooting!


    Tip 1 year ago on Introduction

    Make sure the cleaning rods are ones that are covered in a soft material that wont hurt the barrel. and if you don't have a copper or bronze brush you need to get one if you want to really clean your barrel.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    A cleaning rod covered in a soft material can get grit embedded in it and grind down the surface of the bore. A hard steel rod won't do that.

    If anyone even makes copper brushes I wouldn't use one. Bronze being an alloy of copper and tin gets damaged by solvent slower than plain copper. If you wash copper solvent off your bronze brushes when you're done they will last longer too. Otherwise the solvent starts to dissolve the brush.

    if you want to take special care of your rifle make sure the cleaning rod is coated. otherwise it will mess up the rifling and it will become less accurate over time. Hoppes is a good choice, it's the only thing I use in my small bore. Although in cleaning solvents go for the good stuff, because some solvents are really harmful to the rifle.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    A soft aluminum or coated cleaning rod can get grit embedded in it and grind down the surface of the bore. A hard steel rod won't do that.


    Tip 1 year ago

    Additional tip: If your gun (anything but a muzzleloader) cannot be cleaned from the breach using a cleaning rod, try that great "new" invention (invented somewhere around 10 or 20 years ago) called a BORE SNAKE.They generally run around $10.00, and you can then clean from the breach end.


    Tip 1 year ago

    1. Get a "Bag of Rags" from the local hardware store, generally in the paint section. It make loads of cleaning patches and gun rags.

    2. NEVER clean from the muzzle end. Nor only canit create uneven wear on the crown of the muzzle, it also pushes a lot of the "gunk" you are trying to remove right into the action.

    3.ANY gun grease inside the gun should only be applied [IF AT ALL] for long-term storage, and then must be removed (with another cleaning) prior to shooting again. If grease gets into the action, it can cause undue high pressures which can exceed the safety limits of the gun. --- Grease in the action can also pick up dust, dirt and residues.


    1 year ago on Step 9

    Consider using plumber's grease or white lithium grease for lubrication. Great article!

    Panhandle Rancher

    1 year ago

    Almost all MN rifle other than that produced by commercial US manufacturers have corrosive elements. When shooting this ammo, cleaning immediately thereafter is necessary as is re-cleaning a few days later. The bore is always cleaned from the breech to muzzle, not the converse. Recommend a pull type cleaner such as OTIS, brass or graphite rod. Not steel, not aluminum. Clean the rod after every pass through in order to minimize scraping corrosion throughout the bore damaging the rifling.


    Tip 1 year ago on Step 4

    I was taught on the Navy team that you always clean from the chamber end on a bolt gun. Running a cleaning rod down from the muzzle risks the barrel crown or recess on the top of the barrel. A cleaning rod can hold dirt or hard carbon particles embedded in the material of the shaft of the cleaning rod. Running the rod down from the muzzle risks damaging the rifling, or wearing an uneven or indented place in the muzzle. If that happens, when the bullet exits the muzzle, the expanding gas acts on the base of the bullet unevenly and can cause inaccurate flight. Starting from the chamber end lessens the chance of damaging the muzzle crown and any irregularities created in the chamber are going to be slight and compensated for by the flowing brass of the case filling any irregularity you may have created.


    Tip 1 year ago on Step 9

    I think you can find some better information than this !! Please ask any Gun manufacture for correct cleaning information. They don't want there product fail and they have spent hours with there weapons and know the proper way to clean and maintain there products !!


    Its a important question, how often i have to clean my gun.? Its like with a good shave, how often you think you need a shave? If you like yourself you will say "often" and you see if you like your rifle or your gun. You will say the same, when we talk about the cleaning of rifles or guns. But to make it easy, transform the question "how often i have to clean my gun" to "how safe is my gun without cleaning" Thanks to the Author, fine work.

    6 replies

    clean it after every 20-25 rounds and lube and rust proof constantly, it's impossiible to overdo it but make sure you get excess as it will effect performance over time


    Reply 1 year ago

    You can differently over lube a gun. only wipe the components with a very light film of oil only to protect from rust. Over lubing will only attract dirt and in cold weather will possibly cause your weapon not to function correctly or not at all.
    If you ask a professional gun smith, they will tell you that about the only thing that wears out is the barrel.

    thats a bit much. bear in mind that the rifle he is demonstrating was used for 16+ hours between cleaning by the soviets in WWII.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It depends on your firearm, I just clean it after i'm done shooting and back home, short-term storage : light oiling after cleaning, long-term storage : heavy oiling after cleaning and a once-over with a silicone impregnated gun rag to get the acidic/corrosive finger prints. Though you should clean them of finger prints anyway before you put them into the gun case.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    beautiful rifle. i'm quite envious.

    great cleaning instructions, except you really shouldn't use hardened steel tools for cleaning any firearms. you should use tools made of brass; ones intended for use on firearms. i gave you 4.5 stars, but it would've been lower if you were handling something rarer, like a 1887 winchester lever action.... =)