How to Clean a Semi-Auto Pistol

By Larry Potterfield • January 18, 2023

Regular cleaning of your semi-automatic handgun is important for reliable functioning. Let me show you how I clean mine.

This Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Colt have all been recently fired and need to be cleaned. All that's needed are a few basic supplies.

Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and my finger off the trigger, I remove the magazine and check to make sure that the gun is unloaded. It's important to have the owner's manual for proper disassembly. If one isn't available consult the manufacturer, or you may find one online.

First, I remove the slide from the frame and recoil spring from the slide. Then, the barrel from the slide. I spray cleaning solvent liberally on all the small parts to remove the loose carbon. Then, I use a shop towel to wipe off any fouling that remains.

Once a year, or after a lot of shooting, I'll completely disassemble the slide; but normally I don't. It's important to pay close attention to the breech face, locking lugs, and slide rails.

I clean the barrel with a bronze brush and solvent making sure that all traces of fouling are removed from the barrel and chamber, as well as the locking lugs. Then I switch to a brass jag and push a clean cotton patch through the bore using a new patch each time. Once the patch comes out clean, a lightly oiled patch finishes up the barrel.

The frame is next. Solvent is used liberally to remove the majority of the fouling, being careful as some solvents may harm grips. Any stubborn spots are cleaned with a brush. I pay close attention to the slide rails feed ramp and the magazine well.

Once the frame and slide have been completely cleaned a light coat of oil is applied to the slide stop, recoil spring guide, and recoil plug since they were degreased previously. Excess lubricant is wiped off with a clean shop towel. A small amount of grease is applied to the slide rail grooves and lug recesses, as well as the center rail as this surface cocks the hammer with each firing. The barrel is lubricated where it comes in contact with the bushing as well as the frame rails.

One part that is often overlooked is the magazine. I disassemble it by removing the follower, spring, and, if possible, the floorplate. Then, I spray solvent into the magazine and use a soft brush and shop towel to clean the magazine and spring. The spring is oiled, but use it sparingly as an over-oiled magazine can pick up dirt very easily.

I reassemble the magazine, making sure the spring engages the follower correctly.

After the frame and slide are back together excess oil and grease are wiped off. That's how I clean a semi-auto pistol.

--Larry Potterfield