Whether you’re thinking about buying a gun for the first time or are a seasoned owner, looking after your gun is a vital part of gun safety. Knowing how to clean a pistol and doing this regularly will ensure that your gun keeps working properly.
It’s important that you know what you’re doing before you start cleaning your gun. Making mistakes when handling your firearm could be dangerous. If you’re not sure where to start when cleaning a gun, then you’ve come to the right place!
Read on to find out everything you need to know about how to clean a gun.
Why Is Regular Gun Maintenance Important?
Cleaning a firearm regularly is a matter of safety and it will keep the gun working properly.
Over time, you will find that powder residue from shots and other grime can build up inside your gun’s action or on the barrel. If left uncleaned, this residue will affect how well your gun performs. It may become unreliable and can even become unpredictable.
Cleaning your gun regularly will also ensure the safety mechanisms work. This is why cleaning your gun, as we already mentioned, can reduce the risk of it accidentally discharging. The last thing you want is for the safety of your gun to fail!
Not only is this a matter of personal safety, but it’s also your legal responsibility as a gun owner. If your gun isn’t properly maintained or is used in an unsafe manner then you, the owner, are liable for any damages that it causes. So it’s always a good idea to stay on top of your gun maintenance!
How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?
Whether you used handguns, rifles, or shotguns, these should all be cleaned regularly and the more you use your gun, the more cleaning it will need.
Ideally, you should give your gun a thorough clean at least once a year, even if it hasn’t seen any action. This is because it may still collect dust or start to rust depending on where you store it. If you have the time then doing this more regularly won’t hurt.
If your gun sees more action then it will also need more regular cleaning. In fact, you should try to clean it after each use, especially if you’ve fired multiple shots. So whether you’ve been out hunting or have just been practicing on the shooting range, you should give your gun a thorough cleaning.
Some shooting conditions can do more damage to guns. This including shooting in humid conditions or around water. The extra moisture in the air can lead to rust so it’s important to clean your firearm immediately after using it in these conditions.
So without further ado let’s take a look at everything you need to know about how to clean a gun.
What Do You Need to Clean a Gun?
Before you clean your gun, make sure you have all the right equipment that you’ll need. Some guns require different cleaning techniques, however, having these basics to hand will always help:
- A cleaning rod
- A caliber-specific bore brush
- Caliber-specific, lint-free, and fiber-free cleaning patches
- Forming-fitting and slotted cleaning jags
- Cleaning swabs
- A luster cloth or silicone impregnated cloth
- Utility brushes
- Double-ended brushes
- Cotton swabs
- A bore snake
- A disposable drip pan
- Bore cleaning chemicals
- Action cleaning chemicals
- A rubber mat for your work surface
You should also ensure that you wear the proper safety equipment when cleaning your gun. This includes wearing safety glasses and solvent-resistant gloves.
Preparing Your Cleaning Station
The best place to clean your gun is outside or in an open garage because you want plenty of air around you while you work. However, you can also work indoors next to an open window.
Always make sure you clean your gun on a stable surface, such as a sturdy table. Ideally, you should also try to keep your cleaning materials away from areas where people eat and drink.
One of the most important things to do before you clean your gun is to remove live ammunition from your gun cleaning area. This includes emptying all the guns of their magazines and ensuring they are unloaded. You should store your magazines and ammunition safely well away from your gun.
Really, this is just an added safety measure. The last thing you want to be involved when cleaning your guns is live munitions!
Check the Gun’s Manual
Every gun is different. For example, cleaning a bolt action rifle is different from cleaning a semi-automatic pistol. So it’s important to check your gun’s manual before you start cleaning it.
This will detail how to safely take your gun apart without doing any damage to its parts.
It will also contain information about the types of chemicals you should and shouldn’t use on your gun. This may depend on the material that your gun is made from.
If you can’t find your gun’s instruction manual then the NRA also provides guides on how to safely disassemble and reassemble your firearms.
Cleaning the Barrel and Chamber
Once you have unloaded your gun, you’re ready to clean your gun.
Start by cleaning the chamber and barrel using a dry bore brush. You should push this in the direction from the chamber to the muzzle of the gun. This loosens any metal debris that gets left behind when you fire your gun.
Next, dip a cleaning patch into some bore solvent and put this on the end of your cleaning rod. Then pass the rod through the gun’s chamber. This will saturate the bore surface and the inside of your gun’s chamber.
Make sure that you don’t pull the rod back through the chamber once you’ve done this. If you do, you’ll end up putting any dirt you’ve removed back into the chamber of the gun.
Leave this solvent for ten to fifteen minutes. This will give it time to break down any debris inside the chamber. While waiting, do not leave your gun unattended, especially if you have children in your household.
After fifteen minutes you can scrub down the inside of the barrel using your bore brush. Then apply a fresh, dry cleaning patch to the end of your cleaning rod and run this through the barrel until it comes out clean.
Then you are ready to lubricate the chamber using a pull-through tool. It’s important to only use a light lubricant on this part of your gun, not gun oil. If you are planning to store your gun for a while then you can use a heavier lubricant but you must clean this out when the firearm comes out of storage.
Finally, clean down the outside of the gun’s barrel. This includes cleaning the barrel hood, lug, and the feed ramp.
Cleaning and Lubricating the Action
Cleaning the action of your gun requires a certain amount of precision and it’s a good idea to consult your firearm’s manual before you do this. This will detail exactly which points that you need to lubrication your action at.
Your action includes the slide, pump, and bolt. You can clean all of these using a nylon utility brush and dry cloth.
Start by spraying plenty of action cleaner solvent over these areas. When doing this, hold the action over your drip pan. This will catch any excess spray and debris that it washes free.
You should allow the solvent to soak through any debris. This usually takes about ten minutes. Then let these parts of your action dry before the next stage of cleaning.
Once these have dried, you can lubricate the action at the points listed in your firearm’s manual.
The easiest way to do this is by using a needle applicator, as you don’t want to over-lubricate the action. Using too much lubricant can trap debris in the action and make it unreliable.
Cleaning the Magazines
In semi-automatic firearms, magazines play an extremely important role. They help to feed your ammunition into your gun before it discharges. Because of this, you should take the time to clean them out properly along with the rest of your gun.
In order to do this, you’ll need to consult the manufacturer’s instruction manuals. This is because different magazines have different cleaning requirements. You’ll also need to get some magazine cleaning brushes.
When cleaning your gun’s magazines, you should make sure never to use petroleum-based products or lubricants. These can damage the primers in your gun. Instead, use residue-free solvents to clean your magazines.
Make sure to be careful when cleaning out your magazines. Most magazines contain spring-loaded mechanisms. Because of this, you should always wear safety goggles when cleaning them to avoid debris being flung into your eyes.
Reassembling Your Gun
How to clean a firearm isn’t just about cleaning it properly, you also need to carefully reassemble your gun and test it before you finish up.
To do this, follow the instructions in your gun’s manual. Then, while it is unloaded, check that all of the parts are in working in order. It’s a good idea to check your gun is working outdoors and to do this when there aren’t lots of people around.
When checking your gun make sure that everything is working, including:
- The trigger mechanisms
- The safety catches
- The slide operation and locking mechanism
- The magazine retention
- The ejection systems
If any of these aren’t working properly, you should disassemble your gun again and try to find the source of the problem. It may be that there is still some debris in the gun or that you’ve missed a step in reassembling it.
Whatever you do, do not reload your gun when checking that everything is in working order.
Wiping Down the Gun
Once you know that your gun is clean and in good working order, the last thing you need to do is clean the outside of it.
This will get rid of any debris or acidic prints on your gun. It’ll also leave it looking nice and polished!
A gun or reel cloth will do the job for cleaning down the outside of your gun. You can also use CLP wipes for this if you don’t have any silicone cloths to hand.
Don’t Forget to Clean Up!
Once you’re done cleaning your gun, make sure to clean up your work station properly. You shouldn’t leave your guns or any ammunition lying around.
Make sure that your gun is unloaded and locked away safely and then wipe down your work station.
You may also want to make a note somewhere of when you last cleaned your gun. Or you could set an alarm reminder on your phone for when it will next need cleaning. That way you won’t miss a cleaning session and your gun will stay in good working order!
Now You Know How to Clean a Pistol!
No matter how many guns you own, knowing how to clean a pistol will ensure that all your firearms stay in good working condition. Not only does this protect the guns but it also, importantly, protects you and those around you when you use them.
So what are you waiting for? Give your guns a regular clean and you can’t go far wrong!
For more tips on how to use your guns safely, check out our guide to basic gun safety.