All About Cleaning a Handgun

All About Cleaning a Handgun

Guide to Field Stripping and Cleaning a Handgun

Welcome to our comprehensive blog, where we dive into field stripping and cleaning a handgun. This guide provides step-by-step instructions and expert tips for maintaining your handgun in top-notch condition. Proper cleaning and maintenance ensure the reliability and longevity of your firearm and promote safety on the range and in self-defense situations. In this “All About Cleaning a Handgun” blog, we’ll explore the equipment you need, the techniques to follow, and why routine handgun maintenance is crucial. So, let’s roll up our sleeves, grab our cleaning kits, and embark on a journey to master the art of field stripping and cleaning your trusty sidearm.

Video of Striker Fired Pistol Being Cleaned

Handgun Cleaning Introduction

Cleaning a handgun is essential to maintaining accuracy, reliability, and longevity. The cleaning process involves safely clearing the gun, using proper gun handling procedures, breaking down (field stripping) the firearm into its components, cleaning each part thoroughly, and lubricating and reassembling the gun.

The 6 major steps associated with cleaning a handgun.

  • Organizing your cleaning space with supplies
  • Clearing your handgun
  • Field stripping or disassembling your gun.
  • Cleaning
  • Lubricating
  • Reassembly and function check
cleaning a handgun

It is essential to use the proper cleaning solvents, lubricants, and cloth to clean the different parts of the gun. They should all be explicitly manufactured for firearms.

The cleaning approach you take will factor in things like.

  • How often you fire your handgun and how often you clean it after firing it.
  • How long do you intend to store your firearm?
  • How long you plan to store your handgun
  • What condition your gun is in?

Before cleaning any handgun for any reason, properly clearing the firearm is a must and is covered below in this post.

Importance of Regular Cleaning

Firstly, properly cleaning your handgun ensures the proper functioning and reliability of the firearm. Dirt, debris, and fouling can build up in the barrel and moving parts of the gun over time, causing it to malfunction, misfire, or perform unreliably. By regularly cleaning and lubricating the gun, you can prevent these issues from occurring and ensure that it will function properly when you need it.

Secondly, regular cleaning and maintenance can help prolong the handgun’s lifespan and its parts. Proper care and attention will help to prevent rust and corrosion, which can cause irreparable damage to the gun over time. By taking care of the gun, you can ensure that it will last many years.

Thirdly, regular cleaning and maintenance are essential for safety reasons. A dirty or poorly maintained gun is more likely to malfunction and cause accidents. By regularly cleaning and maintaining your handgun, you can help to prevent these types of incidents from occurring.

Bullet holes in targets

Lastly, Regular cleaning and maintenance also contribute to better accuracy, as a dirty barrel or a malfunctioning gun can affect the bullet’s trajectory, making your shots less accurate.

It’s recommended to clean your handgun after each use and to perform a deeper cleaning at least once every few months, depending on the frequency of shooting.

Safety Precautions

When handling and cleaning a handgun, it is essential to take proper safety precautions to prevent accidents and injuries. Here are some essential safety precautions to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times. This means pointing the gun’s muzzle in a direction that, if it were to fire, would not cause harm to anyone or anything.

2. Always ensure that the gun is unloaded before cleaning it. Check the chamber, magazine, and any other storage areas to ensure no rounds are present.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger. Never press the trigger unless you are ready to fire the gun.

4. Use a gun cleaning mat or another protective surface to catch any debris or solvents expelled during cleaning.

5. Wear eye and ear protection when cleaning a gun. Solvents and lubricants can be harmful if they come into contact with your eyes or ears.

6. Never leave a gun unattended while it is being cleaned. Always keep it in your control and never leave it on a table or other surface where someone else could pick it up.

7. Never leave ammo in the cleaning area.

Gun Cleaning Supplies

gun cleaning products

There are many gun cleaning products on the market. Naturally, the more you clean your firearms, the more you will prefer products. The critical thing to remember is that whatever products you buy should be for firearms. Below is a list of items you want handy when cleaning your handgun.

A cleaning rod (or pull-through bore rope) and brush appropriate for the caliber of your handgun.
A solvent or bore cleaner to loosen fouling and debris from the barrel.
A lubricant or oil protects the moving parts of the firearm.
Patches or cleaning swabs to apply the solvent and lubricant.
A toothbrush or small brush for cleaning hard-to-reach areas
A rag or towel to wipe down the exterior of the firearm.
An optional but recommended item is a chamber flag for a safe indicator when cleaning the chamber.
A cleaning mat to protect your work surface and catch any debris.
A bore snake, slotted cleaning rod, or mop to help you get into the tight spaces in the barrel.

Optionally, a gunsmithing or cleaning apron is fairly inexpensive and saves your clothes from abuse.

Solvents and Bore Cleaners

Solvents and bore cleaners are cleaning agents specifically designed for cleaning firearms, including handguns. Although many products are available, the critical thing to remember is that the one you select should be specific to firearms.


  • Solvents: Liquid cleaning agents that dissolve and remove fouling, lead, carbon, and other debris from the barrel, frame, and slide of a handgun. Apply to a patch or brush and then run through the barrel and other parts of the gun. Typical solvents used for cleaning handguns include Hoppe’s No. 9 and Break-Free CLP.
    • Hoppe’s No. 9: One of the most widely used solvents designed to remove fouling, carbon, and other debris from the barrel, frame, and slide of a handgun. It is available in both liquid and aerosol forms.
    • Break-Free CLP: A solvent and lubricant combination designed to remove fouling, carbon, and other debris from the barrel, frame, and slide of a handgun.

Bore cleaners

  • Bore cleaners: Specialized cleaning agents designed for cleaning a gun’s barrel. Apply to a patch or brush, then run through the barrel to remove fouling and other debris. Common bore cleaners used for cleaning handguns include Sweet’s 7.62.
    • Sweet’s 7.62: 5% Ammonia, non-acidic, does not harm steel and removes copper fouling from the bore. After, use a quality gun oil to lubricate.

Copper solvent

  • Copper solvent: Copper solvent is a specialized cleaning agent designed to remove copper fouling from the barrel of a gun. Copper fouling can occur in rifles and handguns that fire copper-jacketed bullets. Apply solvent to a patch or brush and run it through the barrel to remove copper fouling. Common copper solvents used for cleaning handguns include Montana X-Treme Copper Killer.
    • Montana X-Treme Copper Killer: Speeds the cleaning process and brings the barrel back into specification after extended shooting sessions.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using solvents and bore cleaners and use them in well-ventilated areas to avoid inhaling harmful fumes. Also, be aware that some solvents and bore cleaners may harm certain types of finishes on firearms, so it’s essential to use the appropriate products for your specific gun.

Handgun Lubricants and Oils

Oils and lubricants are cleaning agents specifically designed for lubricating and protecting the moving parts of a handgun. They reduce friction, prevent wear and tear, and protect the gun from rust and corrosion.

Gun oils

  • Gun oils: Lubricants designed explicitly for firearms lubricate moving parts like the slide, barrel, and frame while protecting the gun from rust and corrosion. Some popular brands of gun oil include Ballistol, Break-Free CLP, and Slip 2000 EWL.
    • Ballistol: Multi-purpose oil used to clean, lubricate, and protect the moving handgun parts. It is also effective in protecting against rust and corrosion.
    • See above under solvents for Brake- Free CLP
    • Slip 2000 EWL: Synthetic lubricant and cleaner designed to remove fouling, carbon, and other debris from the barrel, frame, and slide of your handgun.


  • Grease: A thicker lubricant that you can use to lubricate the moving parts of a handgun, such as a slide, barrel, and frame. Grease can also protect the gun from rust and corrosion. Some popular brands of grease include Tetra Gun and Ballistol.
    • Tetra Gun: A line of lubricants and solvents specifically designed for firearms. They offer a variety of products, including lubricants, greases, and cleaners.

Synthetic lubricants

  • Synthetic lubricants: Lubricants made from synthetic materials and specially designed to provide superior lubrication and protect against rust and corrosion. Some popular synthetic lubricants include Slip 2000 EWL, M-Pro 7 LPX and Tetra Gun.
    • M-Pro 7 LPX: A versatile solvent and cleaner used to remove a variety of fouling, including lead, copper, and carbon. Also used as a lubricant to protect the gun from rust and corrosion.

Dry lubricants

  • Dry lubricants: Dry lubricants are lubricants that do not contain any oil or grease, but they work by leaving a dry film that reduces friction. Effective for lubricating parts exposed to dust, dirt, and other debris. Some popular dry lubricants include Tuf-Glide and Tri-Flow.
    • Tri-Flow: A dry lubricant designed to reduce friction and protect against rust and corrosion.

It is essential always to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using lubricants and to apply them in small amounts to avoid over-lubrication. Also, be aware that some lubricants may harm certain types of finishes on firearms, so it’s essential to use the appropriate products for your specific gun.

Disassembly of the Handgun

Disassembling or field stripping a handgun for cleaning is a process that involves breaking down the gun into its components to clean each part thoroughly. Again, first, clear and visually inspect your firearm. Some key things to know before disassembling a handgun for cleaning include:

Familiarize yourself with the specific model of handgun you are cleaning. Each gun will have its unique disassembly process, so it is essential to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or owner’s manual for guidance. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, we post blogs, gun cleaning, and field stripping videos on our YouTube channel.

Field stripping a gun for cleaning
Field stripped Smith and Wesson 9mm ready to clean.

Understand the different parts of the gun and their functions. Knowing the names and functions of the various components will make it easier to disassemble and reassemble the gun.

Take your time. Disassembling and reassembling a handgun can be tricky, so taking your time and not rushing the process is essential.

Pay attention to any safety warnings provided by the manufacturer. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when disassembling and reassembling your handgun to avoid potential hazards.

If special tools are required to disassemble your handgun, prepare them beforehand.

Keep track of any small parts.

Cleaning the Barrel

Cleaning a handgun barrel is an integral part of maintaining the accuracy and longevity of your firearm. Some key things to know about cleaning a handgun barrel include:

  1. Use the right tools. A cleaning rod with a slotted tip and brush is essential for cleaning a handgun’s barrel.
  2. Use appropriate cleaning solvents like the ones outlined above.
  3. Start by using a brush. Run a brush attached to a cleaning rod through the barrel to remove loose debris or fouling.
  4. Use a patch holder to apply cleaning solvent. Attach a patch holder to the cleaning rod and apply the cleaning solvent to the patch. Run the patch through the barrel several times to remove any remaining debris or fouling.
  5. Clean the chamber. Use a bore snake or cleaning mop to clean the handgun’s chamber. You want the ramp and throat of the barrel clean and free of any build-up.
  6. Dry the barrel. Once the barrel is clean, use a clean, dry patch to remove any remaining solvent or debris.
  7. Lubricate the barrel. Apply a small lubricant to a clean patch and run it through the barrel to protect against rust and corrosion.

You should not see visible deposits on or around the barrel when completed. However, be aware that some barrels have a specific finish, and you should use appropriate products to avoid damaging them.

Cleaning the Frame and Slide

Cleaning the frame and slide of a handgun is an integral part of maintaining the function and longevity of the firearm. Some key things to know about cleaning the frame and slide of a handgun include:

Use appropriate cleaning solvents. Solvents such as Hoppe’s No. 9 or Break-Free CLP remove fouling, carbon, and other debris from the frame and slide of a handgun.

Use a small brush or toothbrush to scrub the frame and slide. Use the brush to scrub away any dirt, grime, or fouling accumulated on the edge and slide.

Clean the internals. Use a cleaning brush or a toothbrush to clean the internals of the slide and frame. Be sure to clean the firing pin, extractor, and other internal parts of the gun.

Dry the frame and slide. Once the frame and slide are clean, try using a clean dry cloth to remove the remaining solvent or debris.

Lubricating your Handgun

Lubricate the frame and slide. Apply a small amount of lubricant to the frame and slide to protect against rust and corrosion. Apply lubricant to the slide rails slightly heavier and be mindful to not drop directly into the rails. Using a lightly lubricated patch will suffice.

If you noted any signs of wearing on areas of your handgun, apply slightly heavier like outlined above.

Lubricate the inside of the barrel by running a lightly oiled patch through the barrel with a rod and slotted tip.

Wipe down the exterior of the slide and frame with a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess oil, dirt, or grime.

Reassembly and Function Testing

The reassembly process of your firearm is by and large the same process you took to disassemble it, but in reverse.

Test the gun’s function before using it. Once you have reassembled the gun, test the gun’s role to ensure that it is working correctly cycling.

Handgun Cleaning FAQ’s

  • How often should I clean my handgun?
    • It is you clean your handgun after each use.. This will help keep the gun in good working condition and prevent the buildup of debris and corrosion.
  • What type of cleaning solution should I use to clean my handgun?
    • This will depend on the type of handgun you have and the materials it is made of. Some popular cleaning solutions include Hoppe’s No. 9, Ballistol, and M-Pro 7 LPX. It is important to read the instructions and check the compatibility of the cleaning solution with your handgun’s finish and material.
  • What should I use to lubricate my handgun?
    • To lubricate your handgun, you should use a lubricant specifically designed for firearms, such as gun oil or grease. Avoid using household oils or lubricants, as they can damage the gun and make it unsafe.
  • Can I use a cleaning kit to clean my handgun?
    • Many cleaning kits include the necessary tools and supplies for cleaning a handgun. Choose a kit that is specifically designed for your handgun caliber.
  • Is cleaning my handgun with my ammunition still in the magazine safe?
    • No, it is not safe.
  • What should I do if my handgun is not working properly after cleaning?
    • If your handgun is not working properly after cleaning, it is important to consult the owner’s manual or consult a professional gunsmith for guidance. It could be caused by a problem with the gun’s mechanics or a failure to properly reassemble the gun after cleaning.


  • 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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