6 Rules to Follow When Cleaning Guns

6 Rules to Follow When Cleaning Guns
6 Rules to Follow When Cleaning Guns
6 Rules to Follow When Cleaning Guns
6 Rules to Follow When Cleaning Guns

Earlier this month, I called my dad to wish him a happy 4th of July. As soon as the conversation began he said to me, “I’m going to visit John (name changed) today, he just had his leg amputated and he’s not dealing with it very well.”

John is a family friend of ours who we’ve known for over 30 years so obviously I asked my dad what in the world happened to him.

Well, John and his son had gone to the shooting range not too long ago. When John got back from the range he decided to clean his gun. While cleaning his gun he accidentally shot himself in the leg. The doctors tried to save the leg but it wasn’t possible. To save him from infection they had to amputate the leg just above the knee.

What I’m about to say next may sound too tough in this circumstance, but there is no excuse for these types of accidents. It’s horrible that John lost his leg, but he could have shot someone else too or even killed himself or another person because he wasn’t being safe while cleaning his gun.

These are the types of accidents that make people think guns are “evil” and that nobody but the government should have them.

The fact is, when cleaning a gun there are some simple rules that need to be followed, and if you follow them you will never have an accident:

1. Never clean your gun with anyone else in the room. Find a special place where only you’ll be while cleaning your gun. Tell your family members you’re about to clean your gun and not to interrupt you.

2. Never clean your gun with any ammunition in the same room. I don’t think I need to expand on this one.

3. Don’t listen to music or watch TV or have any distractions. I hear far too many stories of people who clean their guns in front of the TV and accidentally shoot themselves. Since a gun is a serious tool that needs to be respected, you shouldn’t be doing anything else while cleaning and handling it.

4. Wear eye protection while cleaning your gun. It only takes one spring to hit you in the eye or a splash of gun cleaner in the eye to make you a pirate.

5. Watch the muzzle of the gun at all times and never point the muzzle of the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy. (I always keep my muzzle pointed at my bulletproof panel I use when cleaning my gun.)

6. Unload your gun in a room other than where you’ll be cleaning it and then triple check that your gun is unloaded before you begin to clean it.

As I was finishing up this article, I read a local news story about a man who shot his girlfriend in the leg while cleaning his gun. I hate to hear these stories because it’s so easy to avoid these types of accidents.

The next time you clean your gun, remember the advice above. Also, one last thing: Don’t ever let someone clean their gun while you’re in the room with them as you don’t want to end up missing a leg or worse.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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I’ve had one negligent discharge and it’s a VERY humbling experience.


Me too, and it is. I am over 50 and had mine this past spring while racking a 1911 with an arm brace from surgery on and lost grip and touched trigger and bang into the basement floor in my home office where the safes are. Didn’t touch a gun until my arm got better.


Why is Rule #6 Not the FIRST RULE in cleaning your firearm.(AND PRINTED IN BOLD LETTERS) Alway unload your firearm before doing any work on it.


At the risk of sounding “picky” (because words do matter), what you’ve just described is not an “accident” — it is “negligence” — pure & simple.


You made one mistake in calling it an accident. It wasn’t, it was out and out negligence. It’s been said before and I hate to sound callous, but sometimes you just can’t fix stupid, although in his case he fixed it himself.


I hate to say it but, even the most experienced gun owners are prone to accidents (negligence IS more accurate). That’s because complacency sets in like been there done this how many times no problem and sometimes no concentration. That is EXCEPT the first time you shoot yourself or someone else and there may not be a second time. I’m guilty of it. Thanks for the reminder.


I speak from experience, I thought nobody was safer than me, until my pistol went bang and a round went through two walls.


Jacqueline implied I’m taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month
on the computer . see post C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­


Clean/ Handle one gun at a time along with all the other good advise here . one gun safety check handle safety check put away … gun two Safety check and so on

Ed J

Check and clear the gun immediately. Keep the ammo in a different room? If you’re smart/disciplined enough to do that, why aren’t you smart enough to not load your gun before you’re finished cleaning it? Or are we afraid the ammo will jump into the gun on it’s own if it’s too close? While these are good rules I think they might be a bit much. Like telling someone not to take the hair dryer into the bathtub with them. Like having to wait for a green arrow because I’m not smart enough to judge the traffic coming at 45 mph when I can only see 500 yards up the road. What about the “muzzle”? When the barrel is apart from the rest of the gun, do you still keep it pointed at the bullet proof panel? Overkill?


Jason must have worked for OSHA at one time. Safety, however, is of prime importance.


I tend to agree with Ed. The rules above sound like they’re for someone who is SCARED of firearms rather than having a healthy RESPECT for them. I always have music on or am watching tv with someone. The one rule I always follow is to maintain absolute accountability of all loose rounds and never handle the ammunition until cleaning is complete. Once the firearm is reassembled, all the basic safety rules apply. Without ammunition, a gun is about as *dangerous* as a mag light so as long as you know and verify where every round is, you won’t have a ND.


The point of not cleaning your guns around ammo is to be as safe as possible. There is no reason to have the ammo there with you. No matter how small, it is an unecessary risk that numerous people have overlooked and shot themselves as a result. It just removes a necessary component for a shooting accident to occur. You may not think it would happen to you but neither did the others. If that doesn’t make enough sense to you than the damage that solvents and lubricants can do to ammo should. That damage can very easily result in a failure to fire when you need it the most or worse. It is simply good safety practice. The same way that many people, myself included, clear a gun everytime we pick it up. Even if we just cleared it 30 seconds ago, set it down, and picked it up again. Is it likely that ammo jumped into the gun? No. It is simply good safety practice.


Complacency can be our worst enemy. That pretty much sums up the ammo rule.

Sir TuberKopf

Many striker fired pistols must have the trigger pulled to In order to drop the hammer before they can be disassembled. Pistols must be double safety checked before pulling that trigger. Negligent discharges are epidemic in police stations across the US since Glocks became standard. It’s so bad most stations have installed super expensive traps for officers to point the weapon into when dropping the hammer or dry fire testing after reassembly.

In my work area I have a crate with several sacks of rubber landscaping mulch from the big box hardware store stuffed into it. Eight to ten inches of this rubber mulch will stop even a shotgun slug. I always point my weapons into it when dry fire testing etc. Any discharge is then contained.

Never had a negligent discharge, but stuff happens and I want to control the outcome and I want myself and my family safe.

I may not be able to justify a small fortune for the bullet traps that LEO can afford on a gov grant, but I can afford five sacks of rubber mulch. I also use it as a backstop for my air guns and 22 CB’s. I prefer it to a metal trap that tends to pulverize pellets to toxic dust.


I have heard that statistically in any sport that might involve danger, that around 20 years of participation is the time in which a mishap can happen, no doubt due to becoming too relaxed with the process. The specific sport cited was kayaking where a person was most likely to drown after those years of experience. The same applies to firearms where complacency or distraction has no room. The first thing I always do is drop the magazine, and open the action, or open the bolt on a rifle, and the muscle memory training to keep your finger OFF of the trigger at all times.

Big Al

“6 Rules to Follow When Cleaning Guns if you are brain-dead or other-wise mentally deficient”. There, I fixed the title. You forgot to add not chewing gum

Frosty J. Hammer

SO wrong… on so many levels. You already have FOUR rules; you don’t need any more!

If somebody breaks his first rule and his second rule and his third rule (the gun was loaded AND the muzzle was covering his leg AND his booger borer was on the bang button) in a NEGLIGENT discharge then do you think a bunch more rules are needed?


He probably just needs filler for his 400+ word committment every so often

Riceburner Ray

Sorry I don’t agree with rule number 1. My wife and I both shoot. I want her to know how to shoot and clear jams or unspent ammo. She is also responsible for cleaning her own gun. Whether it a auto pistol or a rifle. She is responsible to break it down and clean. With that said, I help her and explain every working part. I guide her thru the whole process. When the weapon is clean, then we get ammunition and reload the weapons we will have loaded, in case of need. 2-6 is always a safe practice.


Ed, I totally agree with your safety guidelines for cleaning firearms. Clearing the firearm three or more times is a must do. I always clean my firearms by myself, and my wife knows to let me do this job alone. You are so right to mention not listening to music, etc. Distractions should be minimalized. Just safely get the cleaning job done and put the firearms in their proper storage location. Too many shooters have been injured or killed unnecessarily from unsafe cleaning habits.


I think a number of these unintentional discharge events are reported as happening during ‘cleaning’, when they actually occur during the general handling (mishandling) of a loaded firearm. The ‘I was cleaning it’ story makes it sound better than the truth.


this type event happened where I used to work, a guy in the lab was a competitive shooter this is just what happened, altho he didn’t lose his leg it is about 2″ shorter than the other one lol.

James Acerra

After you follow that basic rule the rest is easy. I have never had an AD and pray God I never do. I am a home based Gunsmith it truly scares me how some folks treat their there firearms or carry them. I try to keep the barrel sweeps to a minimum when asking a client what seems to be the problem with their firearm. The the dirt, crud, misuse, lack of care or maintenance that shows it face is rather appalling in a few folks(not as many now as before). A lot of the change is from the headlines about the anti-firearms folks just looking for a reason or story to use (there is a small itty-bitty silver lining to those folks). But the fashion in some cases on how they either did not or really badly try to clean their firearms. I keep all shells/hulls/cartridges that are in the chamber that show up in unloaded firearms (makes good dummy rounds for function tests). Even though I inform folks before they arrive to check over the firearm to insure it is unloaded! An a few have it in their head “Of course it’s unloaded it’s in the case/sleeve/container/holster whatever they transport it in. We are an Constitutional Carry State so Open Carry/Concealed Carry is allowed without permit (still in the Courts), though why someone would strap on a non operating firearm has me confused.
But the work keeps me busy, the occurrence of an AD would really offend the Wife, probably shut down the At Home part of the business(wink).
Just remember Safety First Last and Always!!!
Yours in service
James Acerra
I have a sign of this behind the counter.


You only need three rules to be sure to always follow.
Check and clear the gun.
Move away, far away, from all ammo,
Wear safety glasses.
If everyone did this there would be far fewer, if any, accidents while cleaning guns. I often clean my guns with a friend or family member. I also listen to music while doing so. If you make sure to follow the no ammo rule and to check and clear your gun then that is all you truly need to avoid life or limb threatening injuries.


Ya can’t fix stupid, I guess.

Seriously. How can such a thing happen? Lemme offer a thought: alcohol??

People don’t let drunk people clean their guns.

Art M.

Never had a negligent discharge while cleaning a firearm but, 30yrs ago I had an negligent discharge at the range: using a new revolver 357 mag 4″ barrel & a new shoulder holster. I was practicing drawing, firing & re-holstering the revolver. While putting the gun back into the holster I heard the hammer cock as it caught on the leather strap, so I wasn’t thinking right & pulled the gun partly out of the holster put my thumb on the hammer & the trigger finger on the trigger trying to lower the hammer! Well you know happened: I lowered the hammer too fast the gun fired the bullet went through the bottom of the holster down along the side of my left leg hitting the seam of my jeans mid calf never going into the jean material then going into the ground next to my foot! The only wound I got was a blood blister where the bullet hit the seam of my jeans. GOD was watching over me that day and have been very careful at all times while doing any thing with firearms and I’m 65 Yrs. old now with not another close calls ever again.
PS: sold that holster the next day “no more shoulder holsters again for me!

Joshua Gargalione

Always clear weapon and put it on safe!
Treat it as though it were still loaded until you disassemble. Once disassembled, ie bolt removed, danger is over. Once reassembled, its time to treat it as though locked and loaded.
Also there is no reason to have your finger on the trigger at any time unless you intend to fire. Your finger is the true “safety”.