Ladies, you need to learn how to clean your handgun. I admit gun cleaning isn’t the most fun part about firearms ownership, but it is very necessary. Did you know that the average gunsmith charges $75 to clean a handgun? Each time? If you practice as much as I do, that can add up to a whole lot real fast! You can do this! Girls can clean guns too!
Why Is Gun Cleaning Necessary?
Simply put, gun cleaning prevents malfunctions. You expect that your self defense handgun is going to work when you need it, so why bet your life on that by not cleaning it? If you have never taken your handgun apart, you are in for a big surprise. Powder residue, carbon buildup, and lead/brass/copper buildup can get quite impressive in there. Not to mention all of the dust and dirt accumulation on the outside. All of this gunk, inside and out, can not only compromise your accuracy but also cause permanent damage to your gun. Rust and corrosion are not your friends.
How Often Should I Clean My Gun?
Honestly, there is no right answer to this question. My dad cleans every gun after every outing, bringing each one back to its pristine showroom condition. But he is retired. And former military. Most people do not have the luxury of time that retirement brings. I kind of go by the “every 250 rounds” rule. Because I usually shoot more than 250 rounds out of my 2 carry pistols each outing, these handguns do get cleaned often. My shotguns, rifles, and target pistols, however, are a different story. I should be ashamed, but, Life.
If the only handgun you own and shoot is your self defense carry pistol, then clean it as if your life depends on it. That means after every outing, no matter how many rounds you put through it.
Gun Cleaning Kits
Gun cleaning kits can be as simple or as extravagant as you want. Just like everything else, they come in many packages and price ranges. You can even make your own out of household items if you are on a tight budget! Just be sure whatever you get includes the following items:
- Cleaning Rod
- Rod End Accessories (bore brushes, patch holder)
- Nylon Brush (toothbrush)
Bore brushes are caliber specific, so be sure the kit you buy has the one you need in it. In addition to the kit, you will need a gun cleaning mat, an old t shirt or rag, and some q tips. You can use an old towel if you don’t have a mat, but I recommend getting the mat. You can get mats with breakdown pictures of your specific gun, in case you take it apart and can’t figure out how to put it back together again. Yes, gun cleaning does require some disassembly of your gun. But no worries! It really isn’t difficult and I’m going to walk you through every step.
Gun Cleaning Step 1: Setup
Gather all of your cleaning materials and head to your dining room table. You can spread old newspapers or towels over the table if you like, and then place your gun mat on top of them. I like to also place a few paper towels on the mat to help absorb the solvent and oil. Then open up your cleaning kit and spread the items out on the mat. It is a good idea to open a window while cleaning your gun, as the chemicals are pretty strong smelling. If you have sensitive skin, you might also consider wearing a pair of disposable gloves to protect your hands. I personally don’t like wearing gloves ever, not even in the winter snow. But do yourself a favor and have a pair handy just in case you need them.
Gun Cleaning Step 2: Unload Your Pistol And Field Strip It
Start by pointing your gun in a safe direction, drop the magazine out, and rack the slide open to its lock position. Then release the take down lever (see image). Get a good grip on the slide and release the slide lock. You may have to push the slide back a little bit to release it, and be mindful of the ejection port. It is very easy to pinch your hand in there doing this. Some handguns, like my M&P, require you to pull the trigger before the slide will move any more forward at a certain point. Check your owners manual to see if yours requires this also. After pulling the trigger, continue to move the slide forward until it comes off the end of the frame. Now that the slide is off, flip it over and pop out the spring. The barrel should then come right on out and you have successfully field stripped your handgun! You should now be looking at 5 separate parts: the frame, the slide, the spring, the barrel , and the magazine.
Gun Cleaning Step 3: Time to Scrub
I like to start by soaking the inside of the barrel with solvent. You can either spray it in or use a few solvent soaked patches on the end of your rod to get the process going. Then lay the barrel aside and turn your attention to the slide. Spray the slide down lightly with solvent, taking great care to avoid the firing pin area. Then use the nylon brush, or toothbrush, and lightly scrub the both the inside and outside of the slide. You will notice how dirty your brush gets…this is good! When you think you’ve cleaned out all of the gunk, wipe the slide down with a rag or old t shirt. Do not use paper towels. They tend to rip and leave paper fibers all over the gun parts. Wipe the slide down until it is dry and clean.
Now it’s time to clean the frame. Again, use the brush. Pay extra attention to the feed ramp, as residue often gets caked on there and requires a little help from your wire brush to remove it. Dry the frame with the old t shirt and turn your attention back to barrel you have had soaking for awhile.
Take the cleaning rod and screw your caliber bore brush on to the end of it. You must be careful cleaning the bore, or inside of the barrel, because it is possible to damage the rifling in there. Push the bore brush into the barrel in the same direction that the bullets come out…push it through and out the other end…unscrew the brush…pull out the rod…screw the brush back on…and do it again. Be easy and don’t scrub back and forth. After doing this a few times, replace the bore brush with the patch holder end and start running the patches through. You should run a clean patch through as many times as it takes until it comes out clean. Don’t worry, patches are cheap! Then lightly scrub the outside of the barrel with the nylon brush, and dry it off with the old shirt.
The two parts left to clean are the spring and the magazine. I use a q tip to clean the magazine ramp, and use the old t shirt to wipe down the spring. It is sometimes necessary to disassemble the magazine for a deep clean, but I do not do this every time. It is completely a judgement call.
Now your gun is clean and it is time to lubricate it and put it back together!
Gun Cleaning Step 4: Lubricate
Guns have many moving parts, and need adequate lubrication in order to function properly. With lubricant, less is best. I like to put a drop of lubricant on the end of a q tip and swab the areas that require lubrication: each side of the slide rail grooves, the barrel exterior near the muzzle, and the exterior of the chamber. All it takes is a tiny drop where the parts rub against each other. Too much lube, or gun oil as some call it, attracts dirt and dust and leaks out on clothes and holsters. I like the q tips because they easily control the amount of oil applied.
Gun Cleaning Step 5: Put Your Gun Back Together
Pick up the slide, place the barrel back in it first, and then put the spring back snugly in its place. Flip it over, line the slide up with the slide rail grooves on the frame and push it back into place. Note that it may take a little bit of muscle to make it past the slide lock at the rear of the gun. Inspect your handiwork, rack the slide a few times, dry fire it some, and wipe away any excess oil seeping out. That’s it! Your gun is now clean and safely ready for another outing!
If you continue to shoot your guns and never clean them, you are asking for trouble. The gunk buildup can not only reduce accuracy but also cause misfires and even backfires! And also annoying things like casings not ejecting properly. You have just seen how easy it is to clean your gun yourself! Field stripping your gun and cleaning it will not only keep it in pristine operating condition but also gives you the precious knowledge of how it operates. You can do this!