How to Remove Gunshot Residue (Updated on May 2024)

Washing your guns isn’t the only thing you should think about after a day at the range. It’s critical to practice good hygiene whenever you contact a handgun.

After firing their firearms, most individuals, particularly shooting novices, are often careless about hygiene, safety, and safeguards. 

Firearm safety does not end when you return your weapon to its case; it also relies on what you do next.

How many people think to wash their hands right after a shooting? How many people realize they haven’t cleaned their hands before eating their meal?

When you fire your weapon, you get gunshot residue on your palms and, in certain cases, your clothes. 

If you don’t sweep up after yourself, there’s a good possibility you’ll be spreading that residue to locations where it shouldn’t be. So, how to remove gunshot residue? Read on to find it out.

What is Gunshot Residue?

The residue remaining on the palms, or on the clothing, of someone who has done a few of the following:

  • Shot a firearm
  • Standing near the scene of a gunshot.
  • Came into contact with a freshly used handgun.
  • Came into contact with something recently been used by somebody who has lately used a gun.

The remains can also be detected on the firearm’s head or body, an entrance or exit wound, and any items fired at with the weapon. 

When the nanoparticles produced by a fired firearm settle and consolidate, firearm ejection residue is formed.

As previously stated, these particles can travel a long distance from the gun fired, such as the hair, hands, and clothing of the person who shot the gun, the item fired at, and any witnesses present at the time the gun was fired.

Also check: Good universal Gun cleaning kit

How to Remove Gunshot Residue?

The viscosity of gunshot residue is similar to flour, making it easily transferable to other surfaces. 

Indeed, placing your hands in your sleeves and taking them out will remove a significant amount of the residue.

It will be impossible to locate gunshot residue on the fingers of an active person after roughly six to eight hours.

Clothing and footwear, on the other hand, are a different story. The bulk of particles in gunpowder residue can be eliminated from the skin with water and soap, thanks to motion and natural oils released by the body.

However, doing so with textiles (especially cotton) is far more difficult because the minute particles may not wash out after a first wash and may bury deep into the fibers.

4 Steps on How to Remove Gunshot Residue

After you’ve finished shooting, clean up. Wash your clothes in contrast to your hands to reduce your contact with those dangerous substances, particularly if you have children or pregnant moms at home.

To avoid secondary transmission of these substances, don’t wash your range of clothes with the rest of your clothes.

Consider cleaning your hands before eating anything after a visit to the ranges. If you forget to wash your hands before eating, you won’t get particles into your tongue.

Use disposable gloves to protect the debris and clean solvents off your skin when washing your guns.

Is it Possible to Detect Gunshot Residue After Cleaning?

Although cleaning can help lessen the amount of gun residue left behind, it will not totally remove it. Regular washing and scrubbing will not eliminate the chemical compounds that makeup gunpowder residue.

Although these compounds are not visible to the naked eye, forensic experts can capture samples of them using an adhesive stub. 

The stubs can then be tested using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) in forensic labs.

Though cleaning does not simply eliminate gunshot residue, as seen above, it considerably minimizes your exposure to the dangerous components found in it, lowering your risk of experiencing health concerns later.

When a Firearm is Fired, What Happens?

We must first comprehend the process of firing a pistol and all of the physics involved before discussing gunshot remnants and particles.

Whether visible or tiny, gunshot residue is composed of fines scattered when a handgun or firearm is fired. 

When a gun is discharged, several events occur, some of which lead to the nanoparticles that make up most of the residue.

A firing pin strikes the primer cap when a firearm’s shot is fired back, causing a little controlled detonation and a flame. 

The following flame from the detonation must still pass through the hammer holes in the starter, igniting the fuel within the cartridge box in the meantime.

The temp in the weapon rises from the ignition, and a pressure reaction occurs, causing the bullet to be propelled fast out of the rifle barrel.

Vapors also release debris from the gun’s whole combustion chamber back into your face, hands, and body, in addition to the bullets. 

Whereas most gunshot residue is invisible to the naked eye, that doesn’t mean it isn’t present or harmless.

The problem is that gunfire residue contains many dangerous particles resulting from the degradation of the gun’s parts, such as lead. 

Because these components are minuscule, they are easily absorbed by the body, posing a threat in the future.

Because most of these chemical components shouldn’t be in contact with the human body for long periods, it’s critical to wipe gunshot residue off your skin once you’ve finished firing.

What Are Chemical Compounds Found in Gun Elements?

Small weapons cartridges are made up of gunpowder (which acts as fuel), a starter, the bullet, and the ammunition case. Let’s take a closer look at every element to better understand the process.

Primer Case & Primer

Copper and zinc are commonly used in gun primer cases, and both can be detected as bullet primer residue.

The assets and rimfire cartridges for small guns are divided into two groups based on the primer’s position. These two types of primers are also distinct from one another.

The primer composition of rimfire cartridges is totally determined by the manufacturer. The starter of centerfire primers, on the other hand, is made up of three primary chemical constituents.

These substances can also be found in gunshot residue, which can identify it. The following are some of the components and chemicals linked with them:

  1. The initiator: It’s made up of lead styphnate. When the firing pin makes contact with the primer cover, the reaction begins.
  2. The oxidizer: Barium nitrate is present. This supplies the oxygen needed for the fuel to burn and force the shot out.
  3. The fuel: It’s made up of antimony sulfide. This burns extremely quickly, igniting the gunpowder before propelling the bullet out of the weapon and toward the aim.

The Cartridge Case and Propellent

The cartridge case is usually zinc and copper, just like the priming case. Nevertheless, in rare circumstances, a nickel coating may be used instead.

In the early 17th century, contemporary gunpowder, often known as “smokeless powder,” was produced. 

In 1884, a French scientist named Paul Vielle was the first to create this type of smokeless powder, while Alfred Nobel created another 3 years later.


Lead rounds and metal-jacketed bullets are the 2 main types of all bullets. Lead is the principal component of hollow points, as the name implies. 

Makers may, however, add antimony to make them more durable. They may also be copper, copper alloy, or nickel-plated.

These rounds are polished and feature a gas check, a strong metal cup that prevents lead buildup and increases gun accuracy.

Rounds with metal jackets often have a steel or copper base and are constructed of brass or copper. 

Metal clad casings consisting of copper-nickel, steel, or aluminum are used in some rounds. In contrast, fragile bullets are made of copper and a polymer blend.

Also check: How to Refinish Gun Stock 


Is Gunshot Residue Dangerous?

Gasses force residue from the burning process back onto the gunman’s hands, face, and body, along with the round. While it is usually undetectable, it is far from innocuous. 

The issue with this residual is that it includes lead particles. The lead particles that cover our bodies when shooting are another story.

Is it Possible to Get Sick from Gun Smoke?

People who work near firearms are especially at risk, as they inhale lead-tainted dust and fumes while instructing clients and cleaning shooting areas of spent ammunition. 

Lead poisoning can result in various health issues, including nausea, exhaustion, organ damage, cognitive disability, and even death.


Finally, hope you learned how to remove gunshot residue in this article. 

While visible signs of leftover gunpowder are relatively easy to remove, unseen gunshot residue is far more difficult to eliminate, especially currently, when gunshot residue examinations with the Scanning Electron Microscope still reveal their existence.

However, following a trip to the range, you can assist yourself, and those around you limit the chance of exposure by cleaning your hands, face, and clothing. is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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I'm an passionate gun cleaning expert from NY US. My goal is to save you time by doing the leg work for you and putting all the essential information in one location to be confident about the cleaning your gun.

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