How to Clean a Bolt Action Rifle – what You Need to Know

How to Clean a Bolt Action Rifle
Alfred Mendoza

Having your firearm fail during important hunts is a nightmare for hunters; that is why keeping your bolt action rifle squeaky clean is important. 

In this article, you will find out how to clean a bolt action rifle thoroughly and properly. Get ready to learn how to keep your rifles in mint firing condition!

1. Collect Cleaning Supplies

Most bolt action rifles will require the following materials for deep cleaning:

  • Cleaning rods, bore snakes, and/or bore brush
  • Fabrics like a cotton swab, q tip, and cleaning patches
  • Cleaning solvents available from sporting goods stores
  • Rust Protector enamel
  • Disassembly guide 
  • A gun vise/gun vice to hold your firearm
  • Bore guide

Guns are easy to work with, but they can be dangerous. Make sure to employ proper gun safety procedures when cleaning your rifle.

2. Unload Your Rifle

The first thing you should visually check is if your bolt action rifle is loaded.

In doing this, make sure to point the muzzle end to a safe direction. Next, remove the magazine if your rifle has a detachable magazine with it. Then, pull the action and visually inspect the content for any cartridge in the rifle barrel.

The bolt slides out swiftly when you pull the action. You will need the bolt action out of the way when you start the gun cleaning process inside your bore. Use a bore guide to protect your rifle’s chamber from unwanted damages.

Unloading a rifle

3. Clean Your Rifle Bore

Attach a cleaning patch to the tip of your cleaning rod. Then, soak the clean cloth to your copper solvent. Run the patch soaked in solution through the bore, from the breech end. 

This process will help remove copper fouling, and powder residue stuck in the barrel as they adhere to the wet patch. Instead of a cleaning rod, you may also opt to use a bore snake to clean the bore. Just insert the nylon from the breech and pull it from the muzzle.

Repeat this step 5-10 times to remove all the fouling. Use dry patches to dry the internals thoroughly. A clean bore means that the bullet travels more swiftly.

4. Clean Your Stock & Barrel

The next step on how to clean a bolt action rifle is to wipe clean the body.

You may use paper towels or a clean rag for this. Wipe it all over the body of your bolt action rifle. It is essential to capture the dirt and dust stuck from the oil used to lubricate the metal parts.

You may also use a cotton patch to clean the bolt face, magazine chamber, firing pin, and other areas where grime can build up. Afterward, apply a light coating of wood oil to make your stock shiny. The light coat will also protect it from moisture build-up.

Clean your stock and barrel

5. Spray the Metals with Rust Protection

Rust along the body of your bolt action rifle is not at all appealing. Spray some anti-corrosion enamel to supplement your rifle cleaning with some protection.

You may spray the same to a clean patch and spread it evenly. Finish off with some paper towel to remove excess solvent from your action rifle because this can attract dirt.

Spray some gun scrubber to other metal components like the bolt and areas of the barrel. You may use a nylon brush (not a bronze brush) to clean it thoroughly. Top it off by wiping it with dry patches.

6. Lubricate

The next step to clean a bolt action rifle is lubrication.

Take out some gun oil and a brush (or cue tip) as you will need both of them for this process.

Rub some of the oil onto metallic parts that slide in your bolt action rifle. This oil will keep things running smoothly in your gun.

What’s great about this greasing oil is that you can use it with your other firearms as well. From your short-action and long-action to your semi-automatic and full-auto bolt rifles, you can be confident that corrosion will not build up within the rifle, even after long-term storage.


7. Reassemble & Store in a Dry Safe Place

This is the final step on how to clean a bolt action rifle. Use your guide to assemble your rifle to its original form. 

Store your rifle in a dry, dark place where humidity has no access to keep your barrel corrosion-free. Take all your powder solvent and other cleaning materials and store them safely as well.

What’s in a Gun Cleaning Kit?

What’s in a Gun Cleaning Kit?

Your gun cleaning kit will be the main artillery used to clean a bolt action rifle. Here are its contents: 

Bore Snakes

This equipment is an all-around tool to clean your bore easier. It has a nylon string that passes through the barrel smoothly. You may add the solvent after the bore guide to clean your barrel. The metal brush along its body will aid in removing fouling from your barrel.

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Cleaning Patches

The best kinds are the ones made from cotton. The size used will vary depending on the caliber of your rifle. Patches are used alongside your cleaning rod and solvent to rub through the inside of your bore.


These liquid cleaners enhance the cleansing capacity of your patches using proprietary chemicals. There are various cleaning solvents used depending on which area you are to clean. Powder solvent is one of the best cleaners as it removes gunpowder, lead, fouling and prevents corrosion.

We have a list of the best AR-15 cleaning kits here


It is advisable to clean your bolt action rifle at least every 50 shots or after every session, primarily if you use black powder and surplus ammunition. This corrosive ammo leaves salt residue along the barrel, which may develop into corrosion if it comes into contact with moisture.

Yes. We recommend that you clean a new bolt action rifle before shooting. Some factory guns do not treat the bore with an anti-corrosion substance. In this case, running a dry patch inside the bore will ensure that there are no obstructions that may affect your bullet travel.

Parting Shots on Cleaning a Bolt Action Rifle

Maintaining your firearms clean is not a tedious task. It is easier to thoroughly clean it from time to time than to have to cancel hunting season because your bolt action rifle is not functioning as it should.

Your hunting will only be as efficient as the physical integrity of your equipment; that’s why it is crucial to learn how to clean a bolt action rifle. Knowing this process will not only help you prevent problems from developing along your rifle’s body but will also help your hunting run smoothly when you keep your rifle in peak firing conditions.

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