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Basic Cleaning of Your New Semi-Automatic Firearm

Basic Cleaning of Your Semi-Automatic Handgun

I always tell people when they talk about purchasing a firearm that they need to remember that it’s a bit like taking care of a child or pet or even a vehicle. It may not be as 24/7 as that but the fact it is, in order to have a relationship with anyone or anything there has to be a give and a take. It sounds completely corny but is so true. Part of creating a relationship with someone or something is caring for it. What we hope for in return is trust and confidence in that person or thing. Cleaning a gun keeps it functioning properly and happily and in return, you will learn to trust and have confidence in your firearm. You will have an inside view of the parts of your firearm that make it function and you will be the one making sure those parts are in good working order to be your protection or even just your friend while on the range. Now let me tell you how to do just that!

Things You'll Need for Properly Cleaning Your Gun

    The kit that I highly recommend for a Gun Rookie has to be Hoppe’s Essential Gun Cleaning Kit. This kit has EVERYTHING you need for getting your firearm back in tip-top condition after a day at the range. Solvent, gun oil, brushes, rods and ends, cotton patches(used for cleaning the barrel), and more are included as well like a mat or "rug" to protect the surface of the table or bench you are cleaning your gun at. There is also a large cotton towel for wiping, down your firearm. You'll need all of these implements for basic cleaning and to find everything all in one kit is fantastic. Better yet, this kit has a phenomenal price of just a little over $30! You'll also want to grab a can of aerosol type oil and maybe some cotton swabs as well. Hoppes has an option this too! All of this, and the following tips and instructions, will provide you with the ability to do a basic cleaning of your firearm which is, in fact, all you may ever need to do. Oh! And grab some lead and metal dust remover wipes for your skin post-cleaning. More in-depth cleaning instructions for the finer, smaller parts of your gun will be posted soon for those of you who are interested in learning more!

    Set Up Your Gun Cleaning Space

    First, you'll need to find a well-lit and well-ventilated area in your home or garage with a table, desk, or workbench that has a good amount of space available. Cover the surface of wherever you choose to clean your gun unless you don't mind ruining the surface you’ve chosen. A solvent is no joke! It WILL ruin surfaces at first contact. Better to at least throw down a towel, a piece of cardboard, or a gun mat or rug, I recommend doubling up(cardboard and towel/rug). Once you've chosen and protected your gun cleaning space, layout your solvent and tools. Having everything easily accessible while you're cleaning makes it easier of course but it also makes it safer. Again, solvent is no joke. You don't want to spill it or splash it anywhere you don't want it to start doing its job (dissolving stuff), especially your skin. Have your tools laid out and organized so that they are easy to reach and easy to change out and utilize. Check out John's gun cleaning area, note his tools and solvent are in a tin.

    How to "Takedown" Your Firearm

    Not all guns are equal! In other words, your firearm has a particular way that it was designed and manufactured and you'll need to get to know your gun and follow the directions to properly dismantle it. I found out that my Walther PK380 needs a KEY in order to even remove just the slide! Remember, having a relationship with your gun will be the most important part of ownership, and learning to do a takedown to its basic pieces will be a big step in that relationship.

    Getting your gun ready for cleaning means taking it apart or doing a “takedown”. There are many, many parts to a firearm and it can easily be taken down to its basic parts and pieces for cleaning. A complete takedown isn't always necessary but of course, some elements of your gun will need to be separated in order to clean it properly for general use and upkeep. Here are the basic steps for a takedown but ALWAYS REFER TO THE OWNER'S MANUAL THAT CAME WITH YOUR GUN BEFORE TAKING YOUR FIREARM APART! If you don't have an owner's manual, contact the manufacturer. 98% of the time they will send you one for free.

    Remove the magazine. Clear the chamber and visibly inspect it to MAKE SURE IT IS EMPTY! Remove the slide and notice that you now have a full view of the frame which is attached to the grip. Place the frame on the gun mat. Looking back at the slide, you will see the recoil spring or guide spring. Remove the spring from the slide and place it on the gun mat. This now gives you access to the barrel. Dislodge the barrel from the slide and place it on the gun mat. Now you should have your firearm in several separate pieces laying on the mat in front of you. They're ready for their closeup!


    ● Wipe Down and Inspection

    1. First, take a look at the different parts of your gun to make sure that everything looks to be in good working order. Look at and feel each of the loose pieces for any gouges, burrs, or anything that might look abnormal in comparison to the rest of the metal and finish. Note there will be signs of wear. That’s natural. What you should be looking for are any areas of excessive wear.

      2. Now grab some gloves! Protect your skin as best you can when cleaning your firearm. Lead and metal shavings may be present during the process and, as you well know, it's best to avoid skin contact with these materials.

      3. Grab a soft cotton towel and do an initial wipe down. Get as much surface dirt and oils off of the disassembled gun that you can. Using a scraper (like the tooth scrapers at the dentist's office) or even tweezers, try and remove some of the carbon that you may notice from the corners as well. There is no need to get it perfect at this point.

      4. Take a look inside the barrel now. You're likely to see tiny specks of "dirt". This is debris left behind from firing rounds of ammunition through your gun. The phosphor brushes that came with your kit will start the process of removing that debris a little later, but for now, we will just use a dry patch. Take a patch and “thread” it through the end pieces that look like sewing needle eyes. Push this through the barrel. You'll see now that the barrel LOOKS clean but it definitely is NOT. There are so many things going on inside the barrel of your gun when you fire a round through it! Explosions, fire, gas emissions. Remnants of every component of a cartridge fired are left behind. That's all going to leave some materials behind that you can't quite see with the naked eye. There are more steps to cleaning the barrel and I'll get into those in just a couple of paragraphs down.

      Now it's time to get into the more detailed cleaning. The barrel is a good piece to start with it because it is simple, it is the most important, and well, it is the most satisfying. Moving on from the barrel, clean the slide, then the action, and then the spring. Now it's time to go over how to clean each of these elements a little more in-depth.

      • How to Clean the Barrel

      Push a clean cotton patch damp with solvent (which smells like Banana Laffy Taffy, by the way, lol!) through the barrel using a rod with the “needle eye” on one end and the “t” handle on the other. This can feel a little forced and that’s normal. We just want to avoid needing a bunch of force here. They usually sell the patches for specific calibers so make sure to use the right size to avoid any trouble. After wetting the barrel with solvent, like we just did, we’ll set the barrel aside to let the solvent have time to do its job.

      • How to Clean the Other Disassembled Parts of Your Firearm

      With the solvent doing its job inside the barrel of your firearm, it's time to clean the rest of your gun! Simpler than you may have imagined, this process is quick and easy. Using a cotton square or even a cotton swab, wipe down each of the disassembled pieces of your gun. During this process, you may even want to use a bit of solvent on your square or tip to get any "baked on" build up from the corners of each of the pieces. That'll get your gun to look new again but don't use more than you absolutely need to. If you only fired a few rounds through your firearm, solvent may not even be necessary at this point. However, if you went to the range and popped off a whole box or two of ammo, you'll probably notice the need for it. If you do decide to use a little solvent on these parts of your gun then make sure to use a cotton towel like the one that came with your kit if you purchased the Hoppes Essentials kit, to wipe it off. Make sure you've gotten all of the solvent off. Next, we will oil your gun, oil and solvent don't play well together.

      Now it's time to lubricate your gun and get it ready for reassembly. Oiling is one of those ways to get one on one with your gun and really understand how it works. As you look at the pieces of your gun, take note of where the pieces meet and metal touches metal. These are the points that friction takes place. These are also the points where you will need to apply gun oil. JUST A TINY BIT! A little bit goes a very long way! After applying the oil set these parts aside and return to the barrel of the gun.

      • Finishing Up Barrel Cleaning

      This part is super easy. Change out the cotton square at the end of your rod with the correct size phosphor brush and run that through your barrel repeatedly for several minutes. This will break up the lead and carbon in the grooves of the barrel. Next, we are going to take a clean and DRY patch and run it through. SURPRISE! That's a lot of "stuff" you didn't see when you looked through the barrel before you ran the solvent through! Replace the dry cotton square and run it through again until it comes out completely clean. Once the patches come out clean, wet the barrel again and repeat the brushing, no need to “soak” this time. Now you should have a clean and DRY barrel, leave it that way. NO OIL is needed in the barrel of your firearm. Now it's time to reassemble your gun!

      • How to Put Your Gun Back Together-Reassembling Your Gun

      Your gun is clean and lubricated and ready to be reassembled so it can eat up some more cartridges. This part is, again, unique to your chosen firearm. All of the steps that you went through before to disassemble it will now be done exactly as before but in the exact opposite order. Use your Owner Manual to make sure you get every part exactly where it is supposed to be and exactly how it is supposed to be there. And no, it isn't ok if there is still a tiny part laying on your gun rug after you reassemble your gun. If it came off while disassembling, it must be put back on in order for your gun to work correctly and efficiently! Every part is ESSENTIAL to the functionality of your gun!

      After you have your firearm properly re-assembled, you can do a quick wipe down with your towel and a little oil before storing it away.

      • Safely Store Your Gun

      CONGRATULATIONS! You just cleaned your firearm arm and readied it for its next round at the range or for the time, may it never come, that you have to fire it in defense. The first thing to do now is put your gun in a safe and proper environment for storage until next you carry or fire it. For more information in depth information about this, I will be posting an article addressing Safe Storage of Your Firearm.

      • How to Put Away Your Gun Cleaning Kit (Yes! There is a "Way")

      It's very important to put away and properly store your cleaning tools and products as well. The chemicals in the products used for cleaning guns are caustic and unforgiving. Throw away all of the cotton squares and/or swabs you have used in a bag and take that out to the garbage can right away. If you have kids or pets, you don't want them getting a hold of those as they have chemicals on them that are harmful to their health.

      With solvent: Spills WILL cause damage to surfaces and contact WILL cause injury to tissues.

      With gun oil: Spills will do what oil spills do and cause damage to anything it touches and it’s a real pain to clean. Tighten the lid on your solvent as tight as it will go and wipe off the outside of the bottle before placing it back into the storage box or bag that you will keep your cleaning kit in. Tighten the lid and nozzle on the bottle of oil as well. Wipe the outside of the bottle down and as an extra precaution, I like to put mine in a ziploc bag. I really don't like cleaning up spills from any kind of oil. Place that inside of your storage box or bag as well.

      Wipe down and if needed disassemble the rod you used to clean your gun with and place it in the bag. The brushes don’t need to be wiped down but I recommend using some oil to rinse the bristles to get the debris and carbon off em. If they are wire brushes be careful to store them so that the bristles don’t get flattened and become unusable. They are easy enough to replace but if you store them properly you won't have to do that for a very long time.

      Store away your clean cotton squares and swabs as well as the cotton towel you've been using with your kit. There is no need to throw this in the washer unless it's filthy. Use it again the next time you clean your gun!

      The cover you used on the surface of your cleaning space can also go right into your cleaning kit. If it’s a cloth or gun mat, roll it up and put it in the kit as well. If it was a piece of cardboard or other disposable material then throw it out in the garbage (it's not recyclable if solvent got on it)can with your used cotton squares and swabs.

      Last, remove your gloves and wash your hands and arms. Better safe than sorry when it comes to lead and other metals and chemicals and your skin and overall health. Hoppes also makes some wipes just for this!

      Your kit should now be ready for the next round of cleaning. Store it in a dry, room temperature area that is away from high heat or flame and out of reach of children or pets. That's it! You're done!

      There may be no better way to get acquainted with your firearm than taking it to the range and firing it but caring for it is certainly a close second. Cleaning your gun is both rewarding and eye-opening. This may be the first time you have seen some of the parts of your gun that make it function. That's quite an experience. It was for me and I hope it is for you as well. Getting to see and clean your gun this way helps you get more comfortable with it and that is so important when it comes to having trust and confidence in gun ownership and carrying it daily. 

      Knowing that you can safely disassemble your own firearm and improve its performance is quite empowering. The whole point of GunRookie.com is to impart knowledge and empowerment through facts, information, and education. 

      I hope this article helped you on your journey from being a Gun Rookie to being a knowledgeable and responsible gun owner. We would love to hear your feedback!