Cleaning your handgun is an essential part of gun ownership. Not only does it keep your firearm working properly, it prevents damage down the road. Here are some handy tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your handgun cleaning routine.
Start with Safety
The first step when cleaning your gun is to make sure that both the gun and the area where you're cleaning are free from any ammunition before proceeding. This means removing the magazine and double-checking the chamber of your handgun. All the rules of gun safety apply whether your gun is loaded or not, so make sure to point the gun in a safe direction when making sure it's clear.
The area where you'll be working should be well-ventilated since gun cleaning solvents and sprays can be volatile or irritating. Since many cleaning liquids and sprays have strong odors, clean outside if you can. If you have to clean inside, open some windows to get some air circulation.
It's important to protect yourself against flying debris or any oil or solvent from getting into your eyes, so put your eye protection on when cleaning. You should also make sure that you have plenty of light so you can see what you're doing (or if you need to chase a part down that tried to get away).
Read Your Manual
Make sure you read the manual that came with your gun before cleaning it for the first time. Manufacturers generally include instructions in their manuals on how to disassemble and reassemble your firearm. This is especially helpful when trying to remember where everything goes when you put it back together.
If you don't have a manual, look for one online. Many major manufacturers offer a digital version on their websites. If it's not available online or in print form, contact the manufacturer directly. There are also YouTube videos that will walk you through each step of disassembly and reassembly. Try to find a video from a trusted source, like the manufacturer of your firearm or a professional gunsmith with a solid reputation.
Know Where to Use Oil and Grease
Grease and oil are highly useful for protecting your gun, but there are some key differences that you should know about before applying them to your firearm. Every firearm will differ a bit, but grease is generally applied to parts of the gun that see a high amount of wear and friction since oil can heat up and move away from the area faster than grease. Use grease sparingly — a little really goes a long way!
A light film of oil on all of your other internals and moving parts of your gun before shooting is usually enough. If you notice that the oil is drying up, then it’s time for a new coat. Always carry a small tube or bottle of lubrication in your range bag in case your gun starts to act up while you're shooting. A little lubrication can temporarily clear up some range malfunctions, just be sure to do a proper cleaning when you get home.
Don't Completely Disassemble Your Gun Each Time you Clean It
For general cleaning, field stripping your handgun is fine. This is when you remove the barrel, recoil spring, and slide from the frame and leave everything else assembled. In-depth disassembly and cleaning can be done less often, like when your gun isn't working correctly or is extremely dirty. Completely dismantling a handgun and reassembling it can be tricky and require tools you may not have. If you're not absolutely sure you understand how to reassemble it, take it to a professional gunsmith when it needs to be deep cleaned.
Don't Rush the Process
A lot of people don't like cleaning their firearms, so they rush the process. This is bad for your gun because it allows debris to build up in nooks and crannies, which can cause malfunctions or permanently damage your gun. You also don't want to rush through the reassembly because you can easily make a mistake and end up with a non-functioning firearm. Make sure you set aside plenty of time and prepare your supplies in advance. Treating gun cleaning like a fun project instead of a chore can make it feel like a much less daunting task.
If at any point during the process of cleaning your firearm things seem too complex or daunting (or even boring), don't hesitate to stop what you're doing and take a break. Just make sure to get back to it as soon as possible. You don't want your firearm to sit around disassembled for too long because it it's easy to lose a part, which can get expensive and cost you a lot of time.
Make Sure You Do a Function Check!
When you're done cleaning, you need to make sure your gun is in good working order by performing a function check on all moving parts. This means testing out your mag release and making sure your safety and slide stop are working properly. The same safety rules apply when function checking your firearm — treat it like it's loaded and always point it in a safe direction.
Dry and live fire function checks are especially important if you're cleaning your carry gun since a malfunction at an inappropriate time could be disastrous. Once you confirm your carry gun is functioning correctly in a "dry" environment, take it out to the range and shoot a magazine full of rounds through it to be extra sure it's in proper working condition.