How to Clean a Lever-Action Rifle

A lever action rifle.

This Marlin 30-30 is the first and only lever-action rifle I have owned. My dad gave it to me when I was 13 years old. It was my second year of deer hunting, and since I had managed to bag a deer with the single-shot 20 gauge the year before, my dad decided I was ready for a real gun. I shot four times, if you can imagine it. One of them hit, though, and I bagged my first buck—a spike. It was good shot, too, right in the lungs. He was dead within minutes. The next deer I shot was a doe with my 30-30, this one here.

I have been using this gun for 15 years now, and it is still in great shape as you can see from the pictures. I don’t know if it’s just my gun, but these puppies are heavy. I got my first 30-06 this year and that thing is way lighter than this. I think it’s the weight of this gun that appeals to me. Its projectile will plow through brush, whereas it seems the 30-06 can be deflected by the tiniest things, like a leaf for example. But they are both tools, both with an intended purpose, and both must be clean in order to perform properly, so let’s get to it.

Steps to Cleaning a Lever-Action Rifle

  1. disassembled rifleRemove the receiver bolt, lever, and ejector. Unload the weapon. Cock the hammer with the safety on. Open the leaver halfway, and remove the lever screw and then the lever. Next, pull the receiver bolt out of the receiver. This will leave the ejector loose inside. Don’t lose it. The bore may now be cleaned from the non-business end of your rifle.
  2. using jag on barrellUse a jag and a patch to moisten the bore with solvent. Attach the appropriate-sized jag or bore mop to the ramrod. Moisten the patch or mop with bore solvent. Put the ramrod into the barrel and push it through the bore. Let the solvent soak on the bore for 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. wirebrush run through rifleNow use a wire brush to loosen the fouling. Remove the jag from the ramrod and attach the appropriate-sized wire brush according to your rifle’s caliber. If you have a bore guide put that in. That just keeps fouling from getting pulled back into the receiver. If you don’t have one, just remove the brush after you push it through, pull the ramrod out, reattach, and repeat 10 to 12 times.
  4. drying barrelDry the bore with a dry patch and jag. After sufficiently scrubbing the bore of the barrel, reattach the jag and begin pushing dry patches through. In my example, it took 10 patches before they came out clean. If you don’t have a jag, use the hoop tip to dry the bore. Some of the cleaner patches may be flipped around and used again in order to conserve patches.
  5. oiling bore with patchLightly oil the bore with a sparingly oiled patch and jag. The bore is now clean and dry, but it is vulnerable to rust. So, in order to help prevent that, we push a lightly oiled patch through with the jag. If you don’t have a jag, use the hoop tip instead. Be careful not to put too much oil in. Check the oil amount by holding the bore up to a light and looking through it.
  6. wiping down receiverWipe down the receiver and all its parts. The receiver of a lever-action rifle is not likely to get very dirty very quickly, but take a look inside and see if it needs to be cleaned. Your gun cleaning kit should come with a brush that you could use to clean the receiver if it needs it. Or just wipe it down a bit with a microfiber cloth. Do the same with the bolt and the lever. Put a little gun grease onto the bolt to aid its movement.
  7. reassembled gunReassemble the receiver and lever. Put the ejector back in its place, and slide the bolt back in where it was when you pulled the lever out. Slide the lever back into its slot. The tip of the lever fits just inside a small slot in the bolt. Line the lever screw hole up and put it back in. If you need more help, look below for detailed pictures on disassembling and reassembling a lever-action rifle.
  8. shiny clean gunLightly oil the outside of the entire rifle. To finish cleaning your lever-action rifle, apply a light coat of gun oil to your entire rifle. This will help protect all its parts from rust while you store it. If you intend to store it long term, consider getting a hardshell case. The fabric cases tend to absorb oil over time, leaving your rifle vulnerable to rust. Also, they offer more protection than a standard cloth case.

How to Remove the Lever and Bolt of a Lever-Action Rifle

  1. Unload the rifle, set the safety, and cock the hammer.
  2. Open the lever halfway.
  3. Remove the lever screw.
  4. Pull the bolt out. You may have to push the hammer down to get it past it.
  5. Remove the ejector. And you’re done. Reverse this process to put your rifle back together.

Gun Cleaning Products

jag kit containerThe jag kit plus the regular cleaning kit. Not all cleaning kits come with a jag kit, but they are sold separately for around 13 dollars. The jag is far superior to other methods of removing solvent and loosened fouling. Just make sure to use the proper caliber/gauge. And always keep your tools clean.

bottle of Hoppe's 9Hoppe’s 9 Bench Rest Copper Solvent is specifically formulated to remove stuck-on copper from rifle barrels. Copper may come from the jackets of bullets. The copper solvent also removes lead and fouling. You can find Hoppe’s Bench Rest No. 9 from Amazon.

silver bore snakeA bore snake is one possible solution to someone who either cannot or does not want to remove the bolt and or lever. Just drop the weighted string down the barrel and pull it through. Always run the bore snake away from the receiver to keep filth from getting in it.