It’s a good rule of thumb to clean and grease your handgun after every use. Cleaning your pistol every time you shoot it helps keep the gun running smoothly and will help prevent dirt-related jams and other mishaps that firing a dirty gun could cause.
The first thing you’ll want to know how to do is gun disassembly. With that, the absolute first step to taking the gun apart (as well as any other first step when handling a gun) is checking to make sure it isn’t loaded.
There are generally plenty of gun-specific videos you can watch online to teach you how to appropriately take your gun apart. Asking someone with experience with your particular handgun is also a good idea. Videos – as well as again asking a friend – also prove helpful for step-by-step cleaning and lubing instructions for specific pieces.
Cotton patches, a rod, a bore snake, lube, possibly a small soft brush (like an old toothbrush), and a cleaning solution are the supplies you’ll want to have on hand for cleaning your handgun. Q-tips and microfiber cloths or old rags make convenient cleaning tools, as well, especially for accessing grooves and other hard-to-reach areas.
And don’t forget about greasing your gun prior to using it again. Lube is necessary on pretty much any surface area where metal is running along metal while your gun is in use (firing).
Patches and a rod together or just a bore snake are ideal for cleaning the inside of the barrel. You don’t need both the patches and rod or a bore snake, however – you can use one or the other. You may want to try both if you have a friend with handguns, if possible, to decide which you prefer, but you won’t have to clean the barrel with both. However, you may like to have patches on hand to use for cleaning other parts of the gun.
If you do choose to purchase a bore snake, be sure to get the right size to fit the caliber of your gun. If you have more than one pistol, you may need more than one bore snake, each in the appropriate size, to ensure the barrel gets appropriately and completely cleaned. Using a bore snake that’s too small will mean that the snake doesn’t run tightly through the barrel, which will leave residue behind.
To check if your barrel is clean, hold it up to the light and look through. You’ll be able to see reside – black spots or marks – in the barrel’s rifling if it is still dirty. The rifling is the grooves cut into the inside of the barrel for projecting the ammunition through the gun.
Use your old rag or microfiber cloth with a little bit of cleaning solution – note that a little bit goes a long way – to wipe around the outside of the barrel.
The rail is where Q-tips or an old toothbrush come in very handy. (Just make sure if you use a brush that it’s a soft one so you don’t scratch anything.) Apply just a drop of cleaning solution to the tip of a Q-tip or top of the brush and run it along the inside groove of the rail on both sides of the gun. This will clean out any dirt that may have collecting in the rail while the gun was firing. Wipe off with a cloth or patches to make sure it’s dry.
Once this area is clean and dry, apply lube – again, just a drop is plenty – to the Q-tip and run inside the groove once again to make sure your gun is greased and once again ready to be used. If grease is running down the side of your gun (spilled out of the rails), wipe up any excess. You don’t need much at all – just enough that the slide runs smoothly through the rails once you re-assemble your gun. You can even test this before putting the gun completely back together by simply sliding the top of the gun into the grooves where it would go.
The magazine and pretty much any other surface that hasn’t been cleaned yet should just be wiped over with an old rag or microfiber cloth. Take the cloth and push it up inside the empty area where the magazine would normally go, and run it along the outside of the magazine itself. Be sure there aren’t damp spots left afterwards; be sure the magazine is completely dry before putting back in place.