How To Clean a Pistol – Beginner’s Guide

How To Clean A Pistol
Alfred Mendoza

People buy pistols because of different reasons. And for what reason it may be, it should be properly maintained to keep the pistol’s accuracy.

Stop waiting for your pistols to get rusted. Start your cleaning session with the help of our team’s step-by-step instructions on how to clean your pistol.

1. Gather the Materials and Tools Needed

To start the gun cleaning process, you have first to gather the correct cleaning supplies. It is essential to use a cleaning kit with the right tools to avoid any damage while cleaning your pistol. Check our recommended AR-15 cleaning kits

You will need a bore brush, cleaning rod, nylon cleaning brush, bore snake, and double-ended utility brushes. These brushes will help clean the sensitive parts and hard-to-reach places of your pistols. 

In addition to this, you will need any brand of cleaning solvent, gun oil, and clean cloth or patches. The gun oil will help clean, lubricate, and protect your firearms from rust and carbon buildup. 

2. Remove the Magazine and Unload Your Pistol

Always start your cleaning process by removing the magazine and unloading your pistol. Never try to clean with a loaded gun. Out of 430 unintentional firearm fatalities in the United States per year, 17.2 % believed their guns were unloaded [1]

Our team suggests remembering this three-step unloading process before starting to clean your pistol. First, remove the source of ammunition by emptying the magazine. Next, rack the slide and remove the cartridge. Lastly, triple-check if the chamber and the barrel are empty. 

Unless you confirm that the barrel is empty, the gun can be considered loaded.

3. Disassemble Your Gun

To avoid additional damage to your pistol, always check the owner’s manual before disassembling your gun. The manufacturer’s instructions will help you correctly disassemble your gun. It also allows you to access the necessary parts that need cleaning. 

Gun cleaning can push through with stripping the major components of the semi-automatic pistols like the barrel, slide, rod, frame, and magazine. 

It is not necessary to do field stripping if the purpose of disassembly is cleaning guns thoroughly. Remember not to take apart your pistol completely or more than it should be unless it requires repair. Lastly, never clean a gun on a dining room table.

Disassemble Your Gun

4. Clean the Barrel and Chamber

Using a nylon brush and cleaning rod, dry brush the chamber and the barrel bore to remove the carbon fouling stuck in the pistol. Place a clean patch treated with solvent on the tip of the cleaning rod, then push the first patch inside the barrel to saturate its surface. 

Let the cleaning solvent break down in the fouling for fifteen minutes before using a bore brush to scrub it. Use a dry patch with a patch holder to remove residue and stop until clean patches come out of the bore. 

Avoid pulling back the cleaning patch so the gunk will not redeposit. 

5. Lubricate the Barrel and Action

After cleaning the barrel, apply a few drops of lubricant to the cotton mop. Run through the mop the little gun oil and leave only a little lubrication inside the barrel. After lubricating, apply solvent on the bore brush and brush all the action parts before wiping it dry. 

Remember that the proper lubrication points differ on each particular handgun. The light coating of lubricant on the moving parts of the action, like the cylinder pin, will help prevent rust. 

Avoid getting your gun dripping wet with lubricant as it will attract debris and hold gun fouling. The sole purpose of lubrication is to avoid friction of pistol parts when the action cycle takes place.

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6. Clean the Magazine

The magazine is responsible for the proper feeding of the pistol. A clean magazine is reliable for the proper operation of a pistol. Using the owner’s manual, you can disassemble, clean, and reassemble a magazine. 

Since the magazine is under tension spring, take safety considerations during disassembly, so wear safety glasses and point the magazine in a safe direction. After removing the base, spring and follower, wipe all the parts with a dry and clean rag. 

Do not oil the magazine as it works better when dry. When reassembling, pay attention to the orientation of the follower and spring for proper execution.

Clean the Magazine

7. Reassemble the Pistol

After lubricating the necessary parts of the pistol and cleaning the magazine, it’s time to reassemble the pistol. To reassemble, start with the barrel. Insert the barrel muzzle into the slide facing towards you until it locks in the ejection port. 

Check the alignment by pressing the barrel lug. Then insert the recoil spring assembly and make sure it is placed on the center of the barrel. Align the rails with the guide on the frame, then pull the slide rails back until the trigger assembly starts to engage. 

Allow the spring to return the slide’s interior grooves into the battery until the loose particles slide back on the frame. 

8. Perform a Functional Check

After reassembling, it is essential to check the proper function of the pistol, especially if you are planning on long-term storage of the pistol. Check the trigger mechanism, safety, grip panels, slide and lock operation, magazine retention, and ejector rod if double-action revolvers. 

Cycle the action first to make sure every part has spread the lubricant evenly. If there is lubricant oozing out the joints of a specific gun, you can wipe it with a cloth or paper towels. Do not put ammunition while on a function check to observe gun safety.

9. Wipe the Pistol

Before putting the cleaned pistol in a designated locking container, wipe the pistol clean with a metal preservative.

The outer surfaces of the pistol should also be cleaned immediately, making sure it is stored clean. 

A silicon lubricant can help remove the remaining debris on exterior gun parts, including the fingerprints.

After you clean your gun, turn the large plastic trash bag inside out to collect the debris along with the used protective gloves and throw it away. We also suggest keeping your weapons in a fireproof gun safe

Wipe Down Pistol


The best way to remove rust spots on guns is by using a WD-40. Spray the WD-40 solution on the rusted area and let it sit for 24 hours. After a day, respray, then wipe the surface with a rag or paper towel, and your gun will be as good as new.

It will help if you clean an unused gun at least once a year. There is no much stricter cleaning schedule for an unused gun, but it is advisable to check the pistol for any corrosion even if carried clean. We also recommend that you learn how to stipple your gun

To clean your gun with household items, you will need transmission oil, kerosene, mineral spirits, soft cloth, cotton buds, and a metal rod. Unload your gun, then disassemble the necessary parts you will clean. After cleaning, you may reassemble it and finish with a final wipe of lube.

So, How Do You Clean a Pistol?

An overly used gun needs regular cleaning to ensure the reliability and functionality of the pistol. With the correct cleaning tools, pistol cleaning will be easier and safer. The rust on the pistol will indicate how much cleaning attention the owner gives. 

Do not fear cleaning your pistol as long as you are doing it the right way with the right tools. Remember that a clean gun is a safe gun.



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