Survival Shotgun Part 6: Cleaning and Maintenance

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By Mr. Smashy •  4 min read

Many shotguns, especially pump guns, can run well for long periods of time between cleanings. However, in a survival situation your life may depend on that gun and you need to know it’s in perfect working order every time.

Survival Maintenance

When you fire a shotgun, you are not only leaving primer and powder residue, but also plastic residue from wads or lead from slugs. There are many products available to clean the bore of all these residues using nylon coated rods, brass brushes, and cotton patches. For the prepper, this is largely unnecessary.


For a survival pump you really don’t need much more than a Hoppe’s BoreSnake. The boresnake is a long cloth tube that has brush bristles and cloth wipe that you slide through the bore of your gun.

That’s basically all you need to clean up a pump shotgun in one go and it’s around $20. The package is small, light and cheap enough to pack an extra in your But Out Bag.

To be honest, sometimes I don’t even clean my pump gun until I notice slug accuracy falling off.

Cleaning Kit

It may be a good idea to invest in a larger cleaning kit with rods and brushes once your setup and comfortable with the BoreSnake. You will get better slug accuracy if you can clean the barrel thoroughly, but you must decide if the cost, extra weight, and effort are worth this.

As a shooter who puts a large volume of buck and slugs through my shotgun, I have a dedicated shotgun rod with jags and brushes, but I typically use them for a 6 months- 1 year deep cleaning that a BoreSnake can not perform.


I have an autoloader that is gas operated and requires a full detail strip after each trip. It’s a solid design and well made, and I anticipate many years of service from it, as long as I keep up the preventative maintenance and watch a few parts for wear. If you have chosen to run an autoloader, expect to do the same.

Recoil operated guns do not require as much maintenance, but gas operated guns may have o-rings and springs that need to be watched. Find out which parts are prone to breaking down and keep backups, so that you do not have to engineer or rig a solution later. Keep a backup to the backup part if possible, and keep a paper and electronic copy of the manual so you know how to install the part.

Alternative Cleaners

In a survival situation you can use some dual-use products to clean and maintain your shotgun. WD-40, ATF, or kerosene will clean fouling from the barrel. If you can mix the ATF and kerosene, it will work even better; there is a recipe for a home brew gun cleaning solvent called “Ed’s Red” where ATF and kerosene are major components.

To apply the solvent a tampon with some fishing line will do nicely as an improvised bore snake. If you cannot get your hands on a tampon, pieces of worn out t-shirt tied to a line will work as well. The key is to saturate the barrel, let the solvent stand, and then wipe out the fouling.


You will then need to lubricate the inside of the barrel, moving parts, and lightly coat the outside metal. Too much lubrication is bad, concentrate on where metal moves against metal. Standard motor oil in a heavy viscosity or 3-in-1 oil can be used to lubricate moving parts and prevent surface rust.

If you have dropped your shotgun in some dirt, with no resources and a non-functional weapon, you can do a quick field strip, brush off the dirt, and lubricate the key points with the dipstick of an automobile. The shotgun is rugged and simple enough that you can be back in action that easily.

Mr. Smashy

Mr. Smashy has been shooting competitively for more than 15 years. Scouted from a junior club rifle team for the state team, he has won state championships in several events over his years. Mr. Smashy currently competes in NRA Highpower, USPSC, Action Pistol, among others. Mr. Smashy has excellent knowledge of US service rifles, reloading, and marksmanship. Read his full interview here.