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Cleaning your Pistol or Revolver

Every gun owner should be familiar with the proper care and maintenance of their firearm. A pistol, semi-automatic, or revolver that is fired regularly needs to be cleaned and lubricated to remove residue and to ensure a properly operating firearm is ready when needed. Even if you do not fire your weapon on a regular basis (which you should for target practice and to keep your skills sharp), a gun that it's in a safe or in the dresser drawer will still accumulate dust and dirt that may affect how the gun will perform. Like any mechanical devise, you should take your gun to a gunsmith one a year for a general checkup to ensure there are no loose parts or springs that may need to be replaced.

Basic Tools

Every gun owner should have a cleaning kit designed for their type of pistol or revolver. Many commercially available kits will include a range of calibers for all guns which can be a good investment when there's more than one firearm in the house and when they consist of different calibers. The gun cleaning kit should include:

Cloth Patches (designed for your caliber gun)
Cleaning rod, attachments, bore brush and tips to hold patches.
A small brush for hard-to-reach components.
Gun Solvent
Gun Oil
Soft cleaning cloth to wipe-down.

Safety First!

While handling your firearm, you should have a set of safety glasses, thin rubber gloves, and you should remember to ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger! To avoid any mishaps, we suggest you leave your ammunition in the safe away from your cleaning area--you won't need ammunition while cleaning your gun.

Check that the Pistol is Completely Empty

Different guns have different characteristics. For revolvers, the want to open the feeding latch and slowly turn the cylinder while counting the amount of empty chambers you are viewing; once you have reached the end of the chamber, you'll want to visually check from the rear of the barrel to ensure there are no cartridges; finally, run a cleaning rod down the barrel to be sure there are no obstructions inside the barrel itself. For Semi-Automatic Pistols, the magazine should be removed, emptied, and the ammunition removed from the cleaning area. Pull the slide back and check the chamber of the barrel to ensure there is not a cartridge in the barrel itself. Finally, run a cleaning rod down the barrel to ensure there are no other obstructions that you may not be able to view.
Attach the correct caliber brush to a cleaning rod and generously apply fresh gun solvent. For revolvers, if possible, swing the cylinder into an open position and run the brush through the barrel from the front to the cylinder area, exiting from the barrel into the cylinder area. Reverse the action pulling the brush back towards the front of the barrel until it exits the barrel. Repeat this process 10-15 times to ensure you have loosened as much dirt and debris as possible. Be sure to clean the cylinder chambers as well.
Remove the wire brush replacing it with the straight "jag" or the correct patch holder for your gun. Generously apply solvent to the patch and run it through the barrel and the chambers. The patch sill be quite dirty and should be replaced with a clean, dry patch, which is then ran down the bore of the barrel and the cylinders, repeating the process, replacing dirty patches each time until the patches come out clean and free from dirt and debris.
For Semi-Automatic Pistols, the process is similar to the revolver, except, most semi-automatic pistols can be taken apart in order to reach other pistol mechanisms. Refer to the manufacturer's site or the owner's manual for information on how to break the gun down as well as additional information on cleaning, maintenance, and care. If you are not confident you can break the gun down properly, please contact a certified gunsmith or firearms trainer who can personally sit down with you and assist you in the learning process.
On revolvers, use a small brush to clean areas such as the crane, frame, and other action parts that be appear dirty. For semi-automatic pistols, surfaces such as the interior of the slide, the slide rails, and the frame should also be cleaned. Semi-automatic magazine holders can be disassembled for cleaning as well; please refer to your owners manual for additional information.

While cleaning, you should perform a basic visual check of your pistols components and working parts. You don't need to be a gunsmith to notice if there are any cracks in the frame or if the barrel appears extremely pitted. Be sure to look for loose screws, excessive oil leakage, and proper fit of all components before using your gun. If anything looks the least bit suspicious, take your gun to a qualified gunsmith for a deeper inspection and safety check.


Pistols and semi-automatic pistols vary greatly in terms of lubricating moving parts. In general, revolvers should be lightly lubed in areas such as the crane, ejector rod, cylinder latch, around the sides of the hammer and the trigger. Semi-automatic pistols should be lubricated on the slide, slide rails, at the muzzle, down the outside of the barrel, around the sides of the hammer and the trigger, as well as any internal moving parts. Finally, a very light coating on the frame will help to keep is looking new, however, try not to touch the grips of the gun with lubrication, especially if the grips are made of wood as the lubricant can cause the grips to degenerate quicker than normal.

It is very important cleaning solvents and lubricants are never applied to bullet cartridges or bullets themselves as these can break down the components of the bullet making them unsafe to use.

Use only lubricants and approved gun cleaning solvents! Improper lubricants can damage your gun, become sticky, impair feeing of ammunition, can be too thin of a lubricant, and so forth. Also, guns in extreme climate areas, such as a dusty desert environment, high-humidity areas, and extremely wet we or cold areas may need additional care or special lubricants to help fight the adverse climate conditions. Check with you local firearms dealer, gunsmith, or firearms trainer to see if there are additional steps that need to be taken to protect your investment.

Do not over-lubricate your gun. Over-lubricating a gun can be just as dangerous as not lubricating it sufficiently. Areas where oil should not be present include the inside of the barrel (unless you are planning for long-term storage), the grip areas, and the external frame when carrying on your person in a holster. Oil can damage leather holsters and can cause the draw to be vastly affected if the gun is too slippery to grasp. Oil should never be present inside the chamber walls or magazine clips as oil can cause damage to bullets and their cartridges, causing misfires, hangfires, and stovepipe jams.
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