cleaning and lubricating firearms

Cleaning and Lubricating Firearms

Bought your first gun and need to know how to clean a gun and lubricate it to keep it clean and working? In the broad strokes...it's actually pretty easy!

For the most part, it's pretty simple. You take your gun partially apart, and basically run cleaning patches or a cleaning rag through the various parts until the patches come away clean. To lubricate, you give certain parts a light coat of gun lubricant. It's all pretty straight forward.

You will need to learn the specific takedown procedure of your gun to do it, however, since all guns are different. Granted, there are a couple of common methods of doing so, which we'll go over. Grab yourself some cleaning supplies and let's get to it.

First: You Need A Gun Cleaning Kit

gun cleaning kit required to clean firearm

One of the first accessories you should get with your gun is a gun cleaning kit. Usually they have them for sale at any gun store. You pick the caliber. The standard kit as a cleaning rod, a bore brush attachment, a patch attachment, usually a bottle of cleaning solvent and a bottle of lubricant.

That's all you really need, though a cheap toothbrush for cleaning and a boresnake for easy barrel cleaning are good investments as well.

For lubrication, get some Q-tips or generic swabs.

It's also a good idea to get a cheap towel to cover the cleaning surface with, some paper towels and - if so desired - some disposable gloves.

Now that we have what you need to clean your gun, let's get to cleaning the gun.

Field Strip Your Pistol

handgun field stripped

Now, for a basic cleaning, all you really need to is field strip your pistol. This is the most basic disassembly, and it leaves the trigger group and firing mechanism intact.

Have a revolver? Good news! There's no need, as most revolvers these days have a swing-out cylinder. No need for any of that - you just unload it and clean it. For semi-autos, however...

That said, how you'll do it depends on the gun. There are only a handful of basic takedown procedures, because there are only so many designs of pistol. Granted, there are little variations of each, depending - again - on the gun in question. However, just for illustrative purposes, we're going to go over a few.

We'll go over the tilting-link barrel designs - the 1911s, Browning Hi-Powers, CZ pistols and many more - and the common striker design of semi-automatics.

The first step is to completely unload and clear the pistol, no matter what type.

We're skipping details of takedown on these specific pistols to give you a general idea of how field stripping a pistol works. More detailed instructions are available elsewhere; this is just to give you an idea of how taking apart a gun works.

To take down a tilting link pistol, you lock the slide to the rear. Some models will need to be aligned to a takedown position, such as the takedown slide stop notch on a 1911 pistol or Browning Hi Power, or the takedown position on CZ pistols and clones. The slide stop lever is also the link pin, which has to be pushed from right to left out of the frame.

After the pin is removed, the slide can be pulled forward and removed from the frame.

From there, you remove the recoil spring guide rod from in front of the link, and remove the barrel from the slide. Take the guide rod out of the spring and voila - field stripped.

Striker-fired pistols are incredibly simple. Lock the slide back, then move the takedown switches - some have one on either side of the gun - or takedown lever down (or up, as it is on some models) and manually bring the slide forward.

Some striker guns require the trigger to be pulled to disengage the sear. If your gun does, make sure you have cleared the pistol of any ammunition before doing so! Some models do not, however. That said, after the sear has been disengaged, slide the slide forward and out of the gun. Carefully remove the recoil spring and guide rod, and then the barrel.

Not too hard, right? That's a field strip. There's rarely, if ever, a need for you to further take a gun apart than this much. If more is needed, it's recommended you take it to a gunsmith for a detailed cleaning and lubrication. Now that you've field stripped, let's get to the cleaning and lubrication.

How To Clean A Gun

cleaning a firearm properly

Now that disassembled, how to clean a gun.

Well, it's actually pretty simple. You go over every surface with a patch or rag with a bit of cleaning solvent over every possible surface. Pay special attention to the trigger group, firing mechanism and magazine well, as this is where the most detritus will be located. With patches, concentrate on one spot until the patches come clean. With rags, rotate areas until the rag comes clean. Then move on to the next area that needs cleaning.

Top tip - if you want to use rags instead of patches - you only have to buy them once, so it's frugal and earth-friendly - try a bag of those cut-up white t-shirts they sell at most hardware stores.

As to the barrel, attach the bore brush to the cleaning rod, and wrap a patch around it so the wire bristles don't make contact with the bore. Give it a few good drops of cleaning solvent, so the patch is good and wet but not necessarily sopping. Run it back and forth through the barrel a few times. Change the patch, repeat. Keep changing the patch and repeating until the patch comes clean.

Alternately, you can use a boresnake of some sort, which is a barrel cleaning accessory that you just pull through. A few have brush bristles on them as well. You just pull it through the the barrel and it's pretty much done in one fell swoop. They make the process fantastically easy, though some people do enjoy the ritual of cleaning a gun.

That's pretty much it. Wipe down everything with cleaning solvent until it's clean. Now it's time to lubricate.

How To Apply Gun Lubricant

applying firearm lubrication

Next is to apply gun lubricant. This is very important, as the lubricant helps reduce friction on the moving parts (especially the frame and slide) and keeps your gun cycling smoothly.

This step is very easy.

Step 1? Consult your owner's manual, or - if you don't have an owner's manual - find it online. Great thing about these here interwebs - which are a series of tubes invented by Al Gore - is that there is a titanic amount of available information, including most firearm owner's manuals. The major manufacturers will have it on their website (or someone in a forum will) and you can get the info you need.

Said sacred tomes will have in them instructions on how to lubricate your firearm, including the points at which lubricant should be applied. Follow those instructions.

You'll want to apply a bit of lube then wipe it thin. The idea is to spread a uniform layer of lubricant on the appropriate surface. It should be neither too thick nor too thin; sort of like spreading mayonnaise on a sandwich.

Once you've applied lubricant, reassemble the firearm in the reverse order of taking it apart. Now you've got a cleaned and lubricated gun!

Repeat as necessary. A cleaning and lubrication after a range trip is always a good idea for a gun that lives in the safe or at home. A carry gun should be treated to a quick clean and lubrication every week or two as a matter of course.

Now you know how to care for a firearm.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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