How-To Clean the M&P 9mm

Breaking down and cleaning M&P 9mm

How to Field Strip and Clean The M&P 9mm

Welcome to our step-by-step guide on maintaining your M&P 9mm peak performance through effective and thorough cleaning. Owning a reliable firearm comes with the responsibility of proper care, and understanding how to clean your M&P 9mm is essential for ensuring its longevity and precision. In this blog, we’ll dive into the cleaning process details, providing easy-to-follow instructions, practical tips, and insights into the importance of regular maintenance. Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or a first-time gun owner, join us to discover the best practices for keeping your M&P 9mm in top condition, ensuring it remains a reliable companion for years to come.

M&P 9 Disassembly & Cleaning Video

How to Break-down and Clean your Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm

One of the first things you’ll notice in this post is, “That doesn’t look like my M&P.” It did once; it is a Full-Size Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm law enforcement trade-in, which I picked up online for a great price. I was so happy with the new handgun for such a great price that I picked up a second one and a Glock 22. We’re all Law Enforcement trade-ins. If you decide to get one, I hope the process is as pleasant as mine. That said, although the slide, barrel, and trigger are aftermarket (slide and barrel are Faxon, and the trigger is Apex), the gun breaks down and is cleaned identically to how it was when it was a stock M&P 9mm.

Supplies for Handgun Cleaning

Supplies for cleaning will vary based on the cleaning you’re doing. For the sake of this blog post, I will be doing a light cleaning, and it will touch base on all the areas you would if it were a thorough cleaning, but keep in mind the process will vary slightly.

Standard Cleaning Tools and Products

  • Protective eyewear
  • CLP wipes
  • Bore cleaner
  • Cleaning rod and brush with 9mm brush and slotted attachment
  • Patches
  • Gun oil
  • Picks and Brushes
  • Q-tips
  • Silicone Cloth
  • Cleaning mat (nice to have)
  • A cleaning kit or caddy also helps

These are the essentials, and any cleaning kit for a 9mm will have most or all of these items, but there are many versions of these products and tools. So, get the ones you are comfortable using. The cleaning routine is more important than which products you select, although if you have some that are more economical and you’ve had good results with, please comment below.

Light Gun Cleaning

I shoot regularly and am in the habit of cleaning my guns after every trip to the shooting range, so even on a longer trip to the range, going through a few hundred rounds, my guns don’t tend to be that dirty. That, combined with the fact that I don’t store my guns without taking them out for extended periods. Because of these factors, my gun cleaning tends to be a quick clean that tends to go pretty fast. I am still thorough, but the process tends to go quickly.

Heavy Gun Cleaning

For those of you who store your guns for longer periods (more than 3 or 4 months), don’t clean your guns each time after shooting them or prepping your gun for extended storage. You would still want to go through all the outlined steps, although you may want to clean more thoroughly as possible soak your barrel and spring in cleaning solution and apply a little extra lubricant/oil to the metal parts of your gun. For potentially extra-long storage, you would want to prep your firearms in a manner not outlined in this blog post.

Gun Cleaning Spot

I try to keep my cleaning supplies organized and have a spot where I always do my cleaning. Having this sort of routine tends to make the process more of a habit that eliminates missing steps; it becomes routine. It can be as simple as a desk or table you clean at and a bucket with all your cleaning supplies or as elaborate as a gun room.

Remove the Magazine & Clear Your Gun

You hear it again and again, and I even have friends who have commented about videos that open with “the clear your gun disclaimer”, that they wish they wouldn’t because everyone knows this already. My answer to that is two-fold,

1. Maybe they know it because they see it every time they watch a video

2. Even if you instinctively do your chamber and magazine check, part of that automatic process should be to think about it as if it were not instinctive

Because if you are honest with yourself and have spent any time shooting regularly. Then the vast majority of you have accidentally discharged a firearm, and if you haven’t, you know someone who has. That being the case, let’s agree that it’s our responsibility to instill the chamber check and magazine removal every chance we can.

For new shooters, these two things are a must! The only single thing more important is “muzzle control.”

If you have a Tactical Barrel

I know some of you may be thinking, if I have a tactical barrel equipped for a compensator, suppressor, or silencer, I already know it has to come off and how to take it off. I was of the same train of thought, but over the years, I have talked to people who bought a tactical barrel not knowing what they were buying based solely on the look of the gun (let’s face it, it is a good look), or inherited a gun with a threaded barrel, for any of you who do fall into one of those categories. The cap on the end of your barrel will need to come off to clean your handgun. It is a straightforward process, as simple as any other hand-tightened nut. Grab onto the cap and twist (righty tighty, lefty loosey).

removing barrel cap
Twist to remove the barrel cap.

M&P 9mm Slide Removal

Once your cap is off, or if you don’t have a cap, you will remove the slide off your M&P.

The first step to removing your slide is going to be pulling back the slide and pushing the slide stop up to secure your slide back.

Once you have the slide stop engaged and the slide is being held back, you’ll want to turn your attention to the slide release lever in front of the slide stop. You’ll push down on the back half of the release. It will stay in the downward position after it is pushed down. As you get more familiar with this process, you will likely perform all these in one motion, but as you learn, it’s easiest to lock the slide back to engage the slide release.

engaging slide release
Push the slide release down.

Once the slide release is engaged, you will hold the slide bracing for when you push the slide stop down. The slide will want to come snap forward. So, when you release the slide, stop holding the slide as if you were going to chamber a round to assist it forward.

slide back to forward position
Slide back in a forward position.

I know some slides are ready for release once the slide is back in the forward position; I have pistols ready for slide removal after the previous steps have been taken. With the M&P, I pull the trigger to release the slide fully, and it comes right off. I have other guns where this is how you fully release the slide, so when I felt resistance on the M&P, I just tried this way, and it worked effortlessly. If you would like clarification, please check your manual or other sources online.

removing the slide from the gun frame

After the trigger pull, the slide comes effortlessly off the frame. Simply guide it off the frame rails, assisting it forward until it is entirely removed from the pistol’s frame.

M&P Slide Disassembly

M&P 9mm disassembled
The slide removed from the frame.

Congratulations, you have now removed your M&P’s slide from its frame/receiver. At this point, some people prefer to start cleaning the frame before continuing the disassembly, but I like to finish the disassembly and then clean everything together. There is no correct way; whatever makes the most sense to you. Albeit (I think this is my first time using that word, pretty cool), if you do that, you’ll be skipping around a bit from here on out:)

The next two steps are pretty straightforward: you’ll be removing your captured spring from the bottom of the slide and then removing the barrel. Keep in mind when you remove the spring, it is under modest pressure (from the factory unless your spring was upgraded). Also, note that if you did not purchase your firearm and it had upgrades you weren’t aware of, then the spring may be “uncaptured.” This means your spring and rod may be two separate pieces. If you control the dismount of the spring from the barrel, it shouldn’t matter, but once removed, you’ll want to keep both pieces together.

After spring removal, your barrel comes out easily. Simply grab the barrel where the spring was pressed against. You’ll hold it, lift it out, and simply guide it backwards off the slide.

Cleaning Your M&P 9mm

Now that your M&P 9mm is taken apart you’ll asses how much it needs to be cleaned. If you haven’t cleaned your gun for some time and you are cleaning it now because you recently shot it and it didn’t function as it should. If you are experiencing soft or misfires, you may want to know more about removing the guide rod, extractor, and firing pin from the slide. This is not an area I clean regularly (more like every 3 to 4 months) because I do frequently clean and typically when I do remove these components, they have stayed fairly clean. Since troubleshooting your guns, performance would entail removing this, I will cover it towards the end of cleaning, although I don’t recommend cleaning as part of routine maintenance.

Factors That Impact How You Clean Your Handgun


As mentioned earlier, if you plan to clean your pistol regularly after shooting, the light clean I am about to outline will be sufficient. If you need a deep clean then all the steps outlined below are still relevant. However, you may want to soak your barrel, more liberally apply cleaning solution and use your brushes (avoid using brushes on your gun finish if you have to be sure to use soft phosphor bronze or nylon brushes).

For those of you who inherited or were given the gun, and aren’t sure, a visual inspection should suffice. Once you disassemble your Smith and Wesson Full-size M&P 9mm, you should not see dark deposits, rust, or build-up on the metal. If you see dark spots or deposits, proceed with a deep clean; if you see rust, I recommend you take it to a gunsmith and have it professionally cleaned and inspected.

Start with Wiping Your Gun Down

My first step in cleaning is to take my CLP (Clean, Lubricate, and Protect) wipes (I like the wipes, but it comes in a variety of solutions and is easily found) and thoroughly wipe down the frame, slide, outside of the barrel, and the spring. If you find any hard-to-remove spots, try a brush or a pick and continue to wipe down. For the inside of the slide rails, I recommend using a pick with a CLP wipe or a bronze or nylon brush with CLP solution on it.

Some people are against using Q-Tips to clean their guns but if you conscience of any threads they leave behind, I am for it. I use them for rails and hard-to-reach spots. If you are using CLP wipes, the idea is to wipe each part of the firearm until you can run a wipe over a component without gunpowder residue surfacing on the wipe.

Cleaning The Barrel

adding patch to 9mm slotted attachment

Once you are satisfied with how clean your pistols slide, frame, spring, and outside barrel are, it’s on to cleaning the inside. I recommend setting up your cleaning rod equipped with a slotted 9mm attachment for the barrel. Load a patch into the rod attachment, dip in bore cleaner, and run through the barrel (which end you start from won’t matter). I like to run the patch through and then pull it back through for the first couple of patches. If you’ve just been shooting, you will see they come back pretty dirty.

I then repeat this process for 3 or 4 patches. Once they start coming back clean, I switch the bore brush (like the one pictured below). I typically run the bore brush through 4 or 5 times. Then I switch back to the slotted attachment and repeat the initial process until my patches come back clean.

Lubing Your Smith and Wesson 9mm After Cleaning

After cleaning, it’s time to lube metal surfaces and rails. I typically start with the barrel. I will use the rod with the slotted attachment again, put a few drops of oil on a patch, and run the patch back and forth through the barrel.

Once the barrel is completed, I use lightly oiled patches. I’ll apply a thin layer of gun oil on metal surfaces on the frame, slide, and spring. In areas showing wear, I will use a bit of extra gun oil to the patch and add a bit heavier oil to those areas.

With the same amount of oil, I put on the worn areas, I will use the patch to grease the rails on both the slide and the rail sections on the frame. Some people do like to apply the oil by dropping it directly in the gun and rails. If you have a very steady hand and good dropper, it can be done without making a mess the next time you go shooting. When shooting, if you have oil slightly (or worse) running onto your trigger, you’ll know you are over-lubricated, which is why I like to use the gun patches.

If you decide to clean your extractor, firing pin, and firing pin housing

pushing sleeve back

The firing pin, extractor, and housing should stay pretty clean, but if you are inclined to clean or check them, this is a bit tricker but very doable. On the back of the slide where the back plate is, you’ll see a silver button and a pultruding metal piece. If you look closely towards the back of the opening there is a white plastic sleeve. You will push that sleeve back using a small punch or screwdriver.

Once the sleeve is pushed back, you’ll push the back plate up to remove it. Once removed, push the steel round button next to the sleeve, and it will release the firing pin.

After removing the firing pin, you will see the pin cavity. A Q-tip will work to clean this channel effectively.

Reassembly is the same process, and you will need to hold back the plastic casing as you did to remove the end cap.

Reassembling Your Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm

  • Place your barrel back on the slide
  • Captured spring will go in next
  • Barrel Nut is next
  • Slide your slide back onto the frame from front to back and engage the slide stop
  • While the slide is back, raise the slide release back up
  • release the slide stop, and guide the slide forward
  • rack the slide back and forth a few times to make sure everything feels right
  • You should be good to go from here

Wrapping Up Your M&P 9mm Breakdown and Cleaning

After wrapping up, I tend to work the slide some. Throw a snap cap in the chamber a few times and test the trigger. I’ll wipe the gun down with a silicone cloth; if there are no issues, it’s a wrap!


  • Michael Hodgdon

    A firearm, shooting, outdoor, and hunting enthusiast for over 35 years. Thank you all for the suggestions on topics you would like to see; we'll keep posting as you keep sending them in. Please comment; we will try to answer all comments quickly.

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