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How to Clean a Gun: A Beginner’s Guide

Disassembled pistol parts

Learning how to clean a gun for the first time is a critical part of gun maintenance that every gun owner needs to know. The more you handle and use the firearm, the more it will need to be cleaned. 

The cleaning process is also an easy way to familiarize yourself with your firearm. If you are familiar with your firearm and how it works, you will have the confidence to make alterations or upgrade your pistol.

Importance of Regular Gun Maintenance

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the only reason you need to clean your gun is to keep it shiny. If you spent the day at the range and you used corrosive ammo, make sure you clean your gun as soon as possible. While you won’t cause immediate damage while firing, the salts found in corrosive ammo can cause permanent damage if left alone. 

No matter what type of ammunition you use, fouling buildup is another hazard you want to prevent. If you never clean your gun, you are putting yourself at an increasing and dangerous risk of jams and misfires.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Before you can learn how to clean a gun, you need to have the correct supplies on hand.

  • Solvent
  • Lubricant
  • A dry rag or old t-shirt
  • Cleaning rods
  • Cloth cleaning patches
  • Boring brush (make sure it fits your barrel!)
  • A small utility brush or toothbrush
  • Cotton swabs
  • A safe place to put small parts
  • A flat surface*

* Make sure the surface you use is something you don’t mind damaging or has something protective on top. Some of the cleaning supplies can cause damage to surfaces if spilled. We recommend purchasing one of our various build mats.

Step 2: Unload the Firearm

Every guide on how to clean a gun should follow proper safety practices. Remove the magazine and make sure you thoroughly inspect the weapon to verify it is not loaded. Once you’re done, go ahead and check it again. Relying on the safety is not good enough for preventing accidents. You want to be absolutely certain that all ammunition has been removed.

Ammo inside the chamber of a pistol

Step 3: Disassembly

There are a few ways you can approach disassembly. Consulting the owner’s manual for their instructions is the easiest way to learn how to clean a gun. A simple field strip does not require any special tools and is often all you need to get rid of dirt, grime, and buildup. There should still be some small parts, so make sure you have a safe place for them. You don’t want anything rolling away.

If your firearm is extremely dirty or you just haven’t done it in a while, you may need to completely disassemble the weapon. Consult the owner’s manual for instructions or find someone familiar with the process who can teach you how to do it.

Step 4: Clean the Barrel

Grab the cleaning rod and boring brush. Attach the boring brush (which should fit your barrel) to your cleaning rod. Apply your solvent to the brush and push it all the way through the barrel. Go ahead and let the solvent sit; we’ll come back to it later, as this is an important step when learning how to clean a gun.

Step 5: Clean the Rest of the Firearm

This is where the utility brush and cotton swabs are going to be useful. Remove any debris hiding in the action, receiver, bolt, chamber, and frame. Depending on how far you disassembled your weapon, there may still be some small parts you need to watch for.

If you come across a heavy spot of buildup, apply some cleaner and allow it to sit for a few minutes if necessary so you can wipe it away. Then use a dry cloth to wipe everything down.

Step 6: Return to the Barrel

Remember how we mentioned the solvent was part of an important step to do when learning how to clean a gun? Here’s where we come back to it. Now that the solvent has had time to work its magic, return to the barrel. Use the rod to run some cleaning patches through the barrel. The first cloth will probably be filthy. Try a second one. If it doesn’t look much better, you may need some additional cleaner. Keep going until it’s as clean as you can get it.

Step 7: Lubrication

You’re almost done learning how to clean a gun! You want to add lubricant to metal-on-metal surfaces and moving parts — emphasis on parts. You don’t want any oil on the outside or handle, which could make the weapon difficult (and dangerous) to hold. It doesn’t take much, so be cautious not to go overboard.

NOTE: Do not apply lubricant to the inside of your barrel!

Step 8: Reassembly

At this point in the process of learning how to clean a gun, your firearm is ready for reassembly. Put it back together and dry-fire it to make sure it is functioning properly. Give it one final wipe-down with a clean cloth.

Silhouette of a pistol with a flashlight attachment

Build Your Own

Now that you know how to clean a gun, you can use your newfound knowledge of firearm disassembly and reassembly to customize your weapon! At Durkin Tactical, we have high-quality and American-made build kits for rifles and pistols. A build kit is great for swapping parts on an existing weapon or finishing a build with a serialized stripped lower receiver you already have. Putting it together yourself gives you a unique familiarity with your weapon from the very beginning. Shop now to start your own build!

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