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January 31, 2022
How To Clean A Pistol

Whether you're new to guns or are an experienced shooter, proper maintenance of your firearm is a must. We created this detailed guide to walk through everything you will need to know about cleaning a pistol; including equipment and step by step instructions showing detailed photos for each step.

"How often should I clean my gun?" is a highly debated question. Want to know our stance? Clean your gun after every use.

And if you know what you're doing, it's pretty quick and easy. That's why we created this detailed guide.

Our goal was to make a step by step guide for some who had no idea how to clean a gun.

It might seem like there are a lot of steps but there are only a few processes that you repeat the same method.

Disclaimer: always consult your owner's manual for proper care instructions.

What does it mean to clean a gun?

We'll cover how to properly clean and lubricate the key components of your handgun.

The first part of the process is cleaning. This removes carbon and copper from all gun surfaces including the barrel, action and exterior surfaces.

The second part is lubrication. This improves performance of all components that may have friction. These areas are defined in your owner's manual but we'll also show what we're talking about in pictures below.

Lastly, we will apply protective product on the outside metal surfaces of the gun for protection from water and rust.

What do you need to clean a gun?

Disclaimer: Everyone has their own cleaning process and product preferences. Here’s what we use to clean a gun but there are many products on the market to choose from.  Feel free to choose the ones that work best for you.


Cleaning Rod with Jag
Copper Brush
Bore Cleaner Solvent
Ballistol Oil

Amazon sells kits with most of the things you need, like this.


A Step by Step Guide to Clean a Pistol

Step 1. Setup your workspace

Setup your workspace in a well ventilated area. Have a garbage nearby and plenty of paper towels.

Step 2. Verify the gun is safe

Verify that your pistol it isn’t loaded and remove the magazine. Make sure there is no round in the chamber.

Step 3. Disassemble

Disassembled Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm

Every pistol has its own instructions to disassemble. Refer to your owner's manual for the best how to properly disassemble gun*.

*There are different levels of disassembly. Go for the (field disassemble), meaning don’t further than necessary and remove trigger.

Step 4. Cleaning the barrel with patches

Attach patch to jag

Apply bore cleaner to patch

  1. Attach a brass loop to the cleaning rod
  2. Apply solvent to the patch (the solvent used will clean both carbon and copper from the barrel)
  3. Slide patch through the barrel 3-4 times
1st patch (lots of blue and black)
  1. Inspect the dirty patch.  If the patch is dirty, attach a clean patch and run the patch through the barrel an additional 3-4 times
  2. Repeat until the patch is clean

Note: The patch turning blue is the patch cleaning out copper. The patch turning black is cleaning out carbon.

3rd patch we used (less dirty)

Step 5. Clean the barrel with a brush

Remove the brass loop from the cleaning rod and attach a copper or nylon brush.

Note: Check your owner's manual for brush recommendations. For example, I can't use a steel brush on my barrel.

Might have to use some 'elbow grease'
  • Apply solvent to the brush
  • Push the brush through barrel from back to front 5-6 times

Step 6. Clean barrel with patches

Patches will get less dirty
  • Remove the brush from the cleaning rod and reattach the brass loop
  • Attach a patch to the brass loop
  • Apply solvent to patch
  • Push the patch through barrel several times
  • Then wait 3 to 5 minutes
  • Push a wet patch through the barrel 2-3 times

Step 7. Dry barrel with mop

Try putting a patch over the mop
  • Attach the mop to the cleaning rod
  • Make 3 - 4 passes through barrel
  • Your barrel is now dry

Tip: You can try putting a patch over your mop to dry the barrel to extend the life of your mop.

Step 8. Oil barrel

Apply oil to patch
Use a Qtip for hard to reach areas
  • Remove mop from cleaning rod and attach the brass loop
  • Attach patch to the brass loop
  • Apply oil to patch
  • Lightly lubricate inside of the barrel with 2-3 passes
  • Clean outside of barrel with solvent using patch
  • Lightly lubricate outside of barrel

Step 9. Clean spring

Apply solvent to a Qtip and run over spring and end surfaces.

Step 10. Clean and lubricate slide

  • Apply solvent to a patch and clean the inside and outside surfaces of the slide with hands
  • Just like you did in the previous steps, clean with patches until there is little carbon/copper on patch
  • Lightly lubricate all areas with oil as designated in your owner's manual (lightly). We like to use a plastic bottle with a needle tip to get into smaller surfaces.

Step 11. Clean and lubricate handle/receiver

  • Clean all areas of the pistol grip where carbon deposits have accumulated with a cleaning patch
  • Q Tips can help get in tight areas
  • Lubricate areas with an oil as designated in your manual

Step 12. Reassemble the pistol

Reassemble the pistol and cycle 3-4 times to make sure everything is properly assembled and functioning.

Step 13. Apply protectant to the outside of the pistol

Apply protective oil lightly to all exterior surfaces of the pistol.

You did it! You now know how to clean a pistol. Now store your handgun in a secure, cool dry place.

Gun Cleaning FAQs

Why clean a gun?

Every time you fire your gun an explosion happens.

And your gun builds up fouling material every time you shoot your firearm. This carbon and copper fouling material gets into the inside chamber and barrel of the gun.

2 reason to clean your gun:

  • Improve accuracy
  • Ensure proper functionality (it is common for cartridges to  get 'stuck' or jam in semi automatic pistols)

How often should you clean your gun?

This is a widely debated topic and a bit of a loaded question. Our recommendation is to clean your gun after every time you shoot it.

Depending on how you shoot - competitive vs recreational - you might think about cleaning based on the number of rounds fired. For example, competition benchrest shooters clean their gun after a set number of rounds during a competition. The manual that came with your gun will also give you maintenance recommendations.

Where do guns get dirty?

Guns can get dirty on all the main shooting components including the barrel, action, slide and magazine and exterior metal surfaces.

How to tell if a gun is clean/dirty?

Disassemble your gun per your owners manual and physically inspect all components.  Inspect the barrel for fouling.

Tip: Work in a well lit space and have a lamp or light handy to help inspect the chamber, barrel, and the outside surfaces.

When do you clean your gun? 

We recommend cleaning your gun every time you shoot.

Note: It's easier to clean when the barrel is still warm, and can even be done at the range. Removing the fouling material will require more effort if left to sit for a long time (like cleaning a dish that's been sitting out for days).

Where do you clean your gun? 

You'll be working with some chemicals so be sure to set up your work space in a well ventilated area.

Be sure to put down a towel or gun mat so you don't damage the surface you're working on.

Optional tip: wear gloves and save your hands while handling chemicals.


Feel free to reach out with any questions and we've to hear if you have comments.

We hope this was helpful.

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Born in the northeast, Hunters Guides originally began as a resource to help hunters navigate complex season regulations. After a few months, we realized there was a greater opportunity to help promote hunting. So we started creating the resource we wish existed - a site rich with videos, tutorials and how-to's.

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