Like any tool of the trade, your shotgun requires a little tender loving care (TLC) from time to time. Your shotgun is more than just an assembly of wood and metal designed to break targets, it’s a precision machined tool that needs to be cleaned, oiled, and properly maintained on a consistent basis. The last thing any athlete wants is a mechanical failure during competition, so let’s take a look at a few simple things you can do to reduce mechanical failures.

Each athlete should have a working knowledge of their shotgun. You should know what type of shotgun you’re using and how the action works.
The best way to get to know your shotgun is by reading and understanding
the owner’s manual. The manual will clearly explain the parts of your shotgun and include instructions for maintaining them. The manual will also often provide a detailed breakout of your shotgun with steps to properly disassemble and reassemble key maintenance areas.
Since no two shotguns are the same, I always recommend following the
manufacturer’s specifications when it comes to cleaning your shotgun.

I frequently get the question, “How often should I clean my shotgun?” The answer is simple: clean it as often as necessary, taking into account how much you shoot, and the weather conditions in which you’re shooting.
Here are a few guidelines to help you determine when you should clean
your firearm: Shooting Frequency: How much do you shoot? An athlete that shoots only a couple rounds a week will have dirt build up more slowly than an athlete that shoots more often. A general rule of thumb is to clean your shotgun after every 100 shots. Weather: Moisture and metal don’t go well together, and steel is particularly susceptible to rain, fog, or even your sweat. Whether it’s rainy, foggy, or hot and humid, make sure to spend just a couple minutes wiping down your shotgun’s metal parts with a lightly oiled cloth to remove moisture and protect its finish. Operation: If your shotgun isn’t performing correctly, nine times out of ten it’s because it is dirty. Firing pins can get fouled with dirt and soot, mechanical parts in your action can get sticky or even stuck. If your shotgun isn’t working as smoothly as it did when you bought it, the first thing to do is clean it properly. Manufacturer Recommendations: Engineers spent years designing and testing your
shotgun, who else would know your shotgun better? The owner’s manual for your shotgun will have instructions and advice on the maintenance of your firearm, make sure you follow their recommendations.

You should never use a product on your shotgun without first reviewing your owner’s manual. Items like steel and copper brushes may be used on certain metal parts like your barrel, but may not be ideal on your trigger or any fine engravings. The same goes for cleaners and solvents that may not agree with the protective finish on your shotgun. If you have questions that the owner’s manual doesn’t cover, I recommend speaking with a qualified gunsmith regarding best practices for maintaining your shotgun. An expert gunsmith will be able to guide you as to what products you should be using as well as how often to use them. Gunsmiths are an outstanding resource and may even spot issues before they become problems, or recommend adjustments that will help your shooting style. Taking the time to take care of your shotgun will yield high dividends, especially when you need it the most!