Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Clean Up Your Act...

At the request of New Shooter Liz, I have been tasked with presenting the steps involved in cleaning one's firearm(s).

Grab a cold one, folks, this is gonna be a long one. Kevin Baker long...

First step: Assemble your cleaning supplies. I have a Rubbermate tote in which I keep the majority of my gun cleaning accoutrements: Cleaners, oils, rags, brushes, steel wool, etc.; it's all in the tote. Makes it handy to just grab the big box 'o' supplies, as shown here:

There's just about everything you need right in one handy place. There's rags - actually old cloth diapers that we bought when our son was born. No, they weren't actually used as diapers, but for burpers (the parents out there know; those without kids, well, ask a parent...). There's plenty of cotton patches. There's lubricants. There's cleaners. The big red box contains brass bore brushes, cleaning jags, and patch holders. There's some 0000 steel wool for removing light surface blemishes (it works really well on stainless and the cylinder of the S&W 360PD, too!). There's cleaning rods for everything from .22s to shotguns. Oh, there's also a couple dozen manuals and take-down instructions, too...

Basically, this box is the culmination of well over a decade and a half of cleaning the crud off of my guns. Stuff that works - like good ol' Hoppes #9 - stays in the rotation.

Next step: Set up your cleaning area.

Notice the careful placement of the towel over the kitchen table. Don't let Hoppes spill on the table. Trust me on this one... A small but powerful flashlight is good for illuminating barrels to see if all the crud is gone. The red plastic cup is quite useful for tossing dirty Q-tips and patches into for easy clean-up of the cleaning area. And it doesn't leech out Hoppes onto the table. Once again, trust me... And boresnakes. I can't say enough good things about boresnakes. Especially for cleaning .22 rifles. A boresnake, some Break-Free, and a little bit of oil and you're good as new.

Lay out the guns to be cleaned. (Edit to add) This is a good time to double- and triple- check to make sure that ALL GUNS ARE UNLOADED. Check 'em again. Even if you are 100% certain the firearm is unloaded, check again. (thanks to DJK for the reminder!)

In general, I like to have a seperate section for each firearm to be cleaned. Note the cloth diapers, which serve an extra purpose. Not only do they present a unique section for each firearm to be cleaned, but they are extra-absorbent for inadvertent spills and overspray.

Then prep the guns. For revolvers, 99 times out of 100 all you need to do is open the cylinder. For semi-autos, "field stripping" will suffice.

Here's where the "one section per firearm" comes into play. All the parts for each gun stay on their respective section. Helps eliminate confusion if you're cleaning similar arms.

Note the S&W model 422. It's not field-stripped for a reason. It didn't get shot very much, so it got a quick run-through with the boresnake and was good to go. This is a judgement call made every time a gun goes to the range. They always get cleaned, but sometimes it's a quick hosing down with M-Pro or CLP.

Cleaning a semi-auto, part I - the frame.

Generally, a cotton swab soaked in Hoppes and a toothbrush are all that are needed to sufficiently clean the frame. Pay extra attention to the feed ramp, as this is where the bulk of the crud will accumulate (as shown in the pic).

Cleaning a semi-auto, part II - the slide.

Yeah. See all that crud? All that needs to be scrubbed off. Usually takes a good handful of Q-tips - helpful money saving tip from Jay? Buy in bulk at a warehouse store...

Cleaning a semi-auto, part III - the barrel.

Barrels are pretty easy. Take a bronze bore brush. Dip in Hoppes. Run through 3-5 times. Put a cotton patch on a jag. Dip in Hoppes. Repeat until patch comes out clean. Dry with a clean patch, then run a patch lightly covered in oil through. Barrel's done.

Cleaning a revolver is easier. The hardest part is getting the ejector free of powder residue and other assorted garf.

Basically, repeat the barrel-cleaning instructions above for the barrel and cylinders of the revolver, and clean the inside of the frame with a cotton swab.

Pay special attention to the forcing cone (where the bullet enters the breech):

This is what gets the most fouling. This is also a good time to check for flame-cutting.

Here's our semi-auto barrel all cleaned up:

Ahhhh. Isn't that better?

Almost done. Time to clean the exterior.

M-Pro 7. Good stuff. Just spray one side, let sit for a couple of minutes, then wipe clean. Flip gun over, repeat. Also works wonders on small parts for semi-autos like springs, barrel bushings, etc.

Once the exterior is clean, it's time to oil the interior. Run a patch with oil through the barrel and cylinders, then a little bit of oil for the crane and ejector rod (use sparingly, or you'll be wiping it up for a week...). For semi-autos, generally oiling the rail where the slide meets the frame and a couple drops on the barrel does the trick.

The last step is to wipe down the exterior with some oil to prevent corrosion.

This step isn't really necessary if the gun sees any kind of regular use, but it certainly can't hurt! (It's also my favorite part, because it means I'm almost done cleaning...) Now it's time to put everything away! I'll typically wrap the cleaned firearm in a clean cloth diaper - this helps wick away any excess oil left on the gun, as well as protect the finish from scratches when it inevitably gets jammed in the pistol safe.

I hope this was an informative post, and I'm curious to see how my cleaning regimen compares to others out there in the gunnie universe...

That is all.


Anonymous said...

I've long since given up on Hoppe's - Shooter's Choice is my preferred bore cleaner now. MPro7 is great for the exterior, as you indicate.

I also tend to do the guns one at a time, and I do remove the cylinder to clean my revolvers - it's only 1 screw, and it makes scrubbing out 5, 6 or 7 (or even 10!) chambers much easier.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting on cleaning :)

In some ways the routine reminds me of tack cleaning for the horses. Similar patter, just substitute leather cleaners for metal cleaners. :D

Weer'd Beard said...

I'm fortunate enugh to have my own work bench in the armory for cleaning.

The only thing I use Q-tips for is for the chambers on my 617. Otherwise I cut patches from old T-Shirts, pillow cases, and bedsheets (Didn't take long to accumulate more than enugh to last an eon)

Another fun tip is I use cheap unsented Tampons to clean the barrels of my shotguns!

Anonymous said...

I did this a while back at nebraskafirepower....

Two suggestions for new gunnies on cleaning guns:

1)Don't take more than one gun apart at a time, particularly if guns are similar. Parts may LOOK identical, but may not be. Particularly with respect to bolts and barrels...... variations in headspace can cause things to go pear shaped in a right hurry!

2)Don't clean guns in places where small parts can be easily lost: lawns, over heating vents, etc. Searching for an AR's extractor pin in even short grass or a 1911's firing pin spring after it has shot into the laundry room is not fun....

Anonymous said...

I've found that segregating my brass brushes, cleaning jags and bore mops by size/caliber is a good idea. A nice container for them are used Altoids tins...clean out the white powder residue (easy folks, it's just the minty powder), wipe them down with Hoppes, dry, wipe lightly with oil, dry, and they're good little storage cases. A piece of the handy-man's secret weapon (duct tape) on the lid is great way to label them.

Kevin said...

You call that long?a

I feel insulted! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I use Butch's Bore cleaner and it is too powerful for brass brushes, as it cleans out copper very well.
Use nylon brushes with a strong copper cleaner.

DJK said...

Don't you check your weapons for clear first?


Anonymous said...

Hi, folks, a newbie shooter here... What's the general consensus on cleaning a gun after hitting the range? Is it something that really should be done religiously after every session, or is it something done every other time or what? I just picked up a Glock, and while I realize that they can generally take a bit more abuse than most, my goal is not to intentionally do so. Thanks!

Jay G said...


When I can get to the range on a regular basis (much easier now that I belong to a club only 10 minutes away!), I'll only bring a couple of guns and clean them separately.

It's when I've got a large batch to do that I toss everything together.


Reading about it is one thing. Doing it is another. Next time we get together I'll bring the box and we'll clean afterwards... *g*


I'm a big fan of the Q-tip-and-toothbrush approach myself, but to each his own, eh?

Interesting that you use the Q-tip for the 617 - I'm guessing it's because the Q-tip fits a .22LR chamber like it was made for it...

That reminds me. I need to take my NAA mini-22LR out for a range visit. I haven't shot that in ages...

(That's one I clean entirely with a Q-tip because it's so darned small...)


Excellent bits of advice. I've had to take the air conditioner floor ducts apart once to get at a spring. That sucked mightily...


That's what the clear plastic box is for - it's got four separate compartments, three for brushes, one for jags, and I split the brushes into .22/.25, .32/.38, and .40/.45...


Hey, it's long compared to what I normally put up... Thanks for stopping by...


Interesting. I've had very good luck with good ol' #9, but I'm always willing to try something new...

I now have three new choices: Shooter's Choice from Ross; your suggestion of Butch's Bore Cleaner; and another suggestion of GunScrubber.

Maybe I'll get all three and compare them to Hoppe's.

I've got four .38 special revolvers. Might have to take them all to the range at once... :)


Actually, that's a damn good point. *ALWAYS* check that the gun is unloaded before starting to clean...


You're asking the wrong person here. I am a FANATIC about cleaning - I clean after every range trip, even if I only put one magazine through the gun...

I even clean .22 rifles, if you can believe it... ;)

A good number of guns, Glocks especially, will run perfectly fine with hundreds of rounds through them before they need to be cleaned.

Basically, the gun will "tell" you when it needs to be cleaned. Revolvers will start having trouble loading rounds in the cylinder as residue builds up, then the cylinder won't turn as easily, and semi-autos will start to have problems loading rounds and ejecting brass.

I'd recommend cleaning after every trip until you get a better feel for your firearm.

Anonymous said...

Jay G

Thanks for the input! :-)

James R. Rummel said...

Good post.


DJK said...

Jay....there's still time to add step one.

1. Unload and check your weapon's chamber for clear.


I showed this to some guys in the gun club and one of them balked since it wasn't there. It'd make a good UPDATE. ;)

Jay G said...


Thanks. You bring up a valid point in your link (thanks BTW) about only cleaning one at a time.

I just went with what I had...


Update added. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

This is great info to know.