Home How To`s How To Clean Your Rifle Scope & Perform Maintenance

How To Clean Your Rifle Scope & Perform Maintenance

cleaning rifle optic lens

Taken an objective look at your rifle and scope combo can you honestly say you take of your scope as much as your rifle? We clean and care for rifles, we apply lubrication, run solvent through the bore, and inspect the weapon regularly. We cringe if the weapon takes a fall or gets rained on, and when we slog through the mud we keep the weapon held high. We treat our weapons like babies, can we say the same for our scopes?

Even nice scopes, that can easily cost as much as the gun, like the Trijicon Accupoint, still tend to be a second thought compared to the weapon. This attitude is prevalent even in the military.

During my time as a Marine the standard issue rifle was the M16A4 or the M4 with a Trijicon ACOG mounted to the top. The optic costs as much as the weapon, and is used hand in hand on every range and every training op, and every deployment. Anytime we took the weapons out of the armory we would spend hours and hours cleaning the rifles, rarely did we touch the actual optics. We were never issued the proper equipment to clean the ACOG and were never really instructed in how or when too.

Maybe Optics Are Just Maintenance Free?

Scopes are often thought as maintenance free, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. With proper maintenance and procedures, a scope cannot only last a lifetime but work just like the day you pulled it out of the box. People forget how much they depend on and rely on a scope until it fails when you are in the middle of a competition or are sighted in on that big buck.

Most people who decide to clean their scopes are going to do so when they clean their weapon, which makes sense. So I want to give you a word of caution. When cleaning your weapon use a set of lenses covers and keep them on. The solvents often used to clean the bores of weapons are not friendly with the lenses of scopes. When you pull the bore brush from the end of the barrel it tends to erupt in a mist, and it can easily descend onto your scope lens. This can eat away at the coating on the scope and reduce light transmission, clarity, and pretty much everything your scope effectively does.

Meet Your New Friends Dusting & Brushing

Dusting, it’s not for tables and counters. Dust can easily gather on your lenses, you can lean it against a tree, a truck, hang it up in a dusty cabin, or in reality just day to day safe life. Dust on the lens is clearly an issue for clarity and light transmission. So what is the solution? I can tell you one thing, the solution isn’t to use a wet rag, or a dry rag, and especially not your t-shirt. Avoid using any kind of moisture and rag combo, this can actually be akin to running muddy sandpaper over your optic’s lens, causing scratches on the lens. You shouldn’t even use your finger to clear away dust, as the moisture of your fingerprint can trap dust to lenses.

Stick to an actual lens brush. Several companies like Leupold make $10 lens brushes specific for rifle scopes . You can also use lens brushes designed for camera lenses. My favorite tool for lenses cleaning is made by Nikon. Nikon makes lenses for rifle scopes, binoculars, cameras and nearly anything else that uses a lens. This lens pen uses a typical lens brush that folds into the body of the pen, and on the opposite end is a sponge with a nonliquid lens cleaner.

nikon lens pen

Make sure you dust the entire lens and then uses the lens cleaning sponge. Get up into the edges to avoid dragging dust down during the brushing. If the dust isn’t removed retract the brush a bit, this will make the bristles shorter, but more coarse and capable of getting through the thick or stubborn dust. Make sure you inspect your lens brush regularly to make sure there is no dirt clinging to the brush bristles. If your brushes ever get wet toss it and replace it, they cost about 10 bucks for a good one.

After the you brush the lenses with a lens brush and do not have the Nikon’s sponge you need to remove the fine smudges. You use a microfiber cloth designed for lenses. Make sure it has never been used with any solvent or liquid cleaners. Gently rub the scope’s lenses down with this cloth to remove any smudges.

You can also dust the body of the optic off, but this doesn’t add to the optics performance. In doing so, you need to avoid using rags that were previously used with solvents. These solvents can damage the O rings that act as a waterproof seal with some optics. Pay special attention to the turrets, they are mechanical, and can fail. So you should dust them off, pay special attention to them. You can use a lens brush, but don’t use the same lens brush you use on your actual scope lenses.

 If Your Optic Uses Batteries…

One last note on optics that utilize an illuminated reticle that is powered by batteries, like an Aimpoint, or EOTech, or 99% of illuminated optics. These optics do have terminals that are susceptible to rust, and degradation. Take some time to inspect them, and remember to change the batteries. If notice any issues with the terminals including small bits of rust or a cloudy appearance you can use a pencil eraser to clean them.

Make It A Regular Routine

Optics maintenance should be as routine as weapon’s maintenance. Take your time and exercise caution when cleaning lenses. They are the heart of the optic, and should be treated gently. A little routine maintenance can go a long way in preserving your optics overall life expectancy.




  1. While all of these tips are important, I think that remembering to clean your scope regularly is the most important one. It will save you time during each cleaning, and like you said will make them last longer. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yeah, absolutely Rachel. I agree, we can talk all day how important it is to clean scope, how to do it, what tools to use etc. But, the most important thing is actually doing it and not just once or twice after reading an article about it, but making it a regular habit.

  2. Never thought about this until now, but it’s actually so important. Great post, really interesting read xxx