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Web Blast Extra: COP Handgun Cleaning Guide

From The American COP November/December 2010 Street Level Column

By John Morrison


Preparation I: If you’re sleepy, exhausted, not fully alert or if there’s enough alcohol in your system to show up on a blood test, it’s the wrong time to clean guns. Try to assure you won’t be disturbed, distracted or have to leave the room throughout the job. Ventilate your workspace, due to both possibly harmful fumes and sheer stink-factor.

Preparation II: Gather everything you’ll need before you begin. “Puppy puddle pads” sold in pet stores provide a padded work surface and a liquid leak-proof bottom — ideal for gun cleaning. Assure you have sufficient light.


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OGRE EnviroClean solvent is effective, biodegradable,
and low-odor.


1: Unload the gun and render-safe. Check twice, both visual and tactile. Separate all live ammo from your work area. If the handgun design requires dropping the hammer, releasing striker or pulling the trigger, use a Safe Direction pad or other ballistic containment device.

2: Field strip/disassemble handgun according to manufacturer’s instructions. Remove wood, plastic or rubber grips unless (a) it’s unnecessary and (b) you’re certain the chemicals you’re using will not damage them. Some “gunk” spray-cleaners will melt a polymer frame as fast as you can say “Oh, shit!”

3: Put on safety glasses. Use canned air or a compressor and brushes to loosen and blow out dust, grit and debris. Repeat the process until all loose material is removed. It’s better to remove fouling dry before turning it into gritty mud, multiplying your work time and effort.


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TetraGun Action Blaster blasts out debris and neutralizes solvents.


4: Using a bore mop, thoroughly wet pistol bores and chambers and revolver cylinder chambers with solvent. Swab solvent less liberally on other fouling-prone areas like pistol breech faces and revolver backplates. Resist the urge to start scrubbing too soon; it will only wear out brushes and inevitably, wear your bore and chamber. Solvent takes time to work properly, so let it work for 15 to 30 minutes. Meantime clean your magazines or speedloaders, inside and out.

5: Run your bore brushes all the way through barrels and chambers without reversing direction or vigorous scrubbing. Carefully brush and swab solvent away from firing pin recesses and lockwork, so you’re not forcing liquid-suspended fouling into critical areas. For example, solvent or excess lube — especially if it’s fouled — in a firing pin recess can cause light, muddy firing pin strikes or even prevent primer ignition.

6: Stop and neutralize the solvent action with your spray cleaner, not lube. Real cleaners will chemically neutralize solvent — lubes will only push it around. Spray enough to float out all the debris you’ve scrubbed up. Also spray your bore brushes. Most are made of brass or bronze phosphor, and any remaining solvent will “eat” and weaken them. Bore mops dedicated to solvent use should be kept separate from bore mops used dry or with cleaners.


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If you operate in a hot, dusty area or around salt water, check out Sentry Solutions
gun and tool care products.


7: After patching the barrel dry, lightly wet another patch with solvent and run it down the bore once. If it shows blue, green or purple smudges, you still have some slug jacket-material fouling. Gray or black smudges indicate powder or carbon fouling. Crusty gray bits mean you still have a lead deposit problem, and reddish brown smudges indicate rust. Repeat the solvent-and-brush process, then neutralize and clean again until patches come out virtually spotless.

8: Next comes cleaning the rest of the firearm with cleaner, brushes and swabs, inside and out. Pay special attention to a pistol’s breech face, extractor and trigger. On revolvers, be sure to clean under the extractor star, wipe the extractor shaft, and clean all around the flash-gap area forward of and above the cylinder gap. Flush grit and solvent out of the crane pivot well. Cock hammers and carefully clean as far inside frames as possible. Blow it out again with compressed air. Pistols have many recesses, cuts and angles to clean. The inside angles of slide rails, sharp corners and bends tend to collect crud. Coil springs harbor gunk and must be cleaned thoroughly. Hollow-base recoil spring plugs sometimes become “trash cans.” Be especially mindful of wet gunk hiding just within frame holes for slide locks, safeties and decocking levers. You can push debris back inside the gun when you replace those pieces.


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You don’t need a suitcase-sized cleaning kit to do a good job.
Here’s a compact kit from GUNSLICK.


9: Using clean cloths and patches, wipe all components down thoroughly. Run another clean patch into barrels and chambers in case you’ve accidentally pushed debris or solutions back into them. Now use bright light and a magnifying glass to look for chips, pits, hairline cracks or other problems, which may be hidden by later application of lubes and grease. Examine firing pin noses carefully, and as much of the extractor as you can see. Look for spots where excess friction has occurred; “chatter,” bash and galling. These indicate where lube and grease has been needed but lacking.

10: Before applying lubes, greases and protectants, consult your manual. Different models of pistols and revolvers have very different cam and bearing points and may require special attention. It’s a good idea to regularly visit the maker’s web site — many post updates, recalls, and refined techniques for maintaining your firearm.


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Disassembling and cleaning Glock magazines can be a headache.
The GTUL makes it easy.


11: Remember to use lube where you need it to migrate; grease where you need it to stick. If you’re using a penetrating lube or protectant, rubbing it in firmly is actually helpful, especially in high-friction places like slide rails.

12: Finally, re-assemble your sidearm and conduct a thorough safety and function check. Again, here’s where a manual comes in handy. Keep in mind that in recent years firearms designers have worked to eliminate this, but there are pistols which can be completely reassembled and yet not work! Full function-checks are critical, and snap-caps or clearly marked inert rounds are very useful.

13: Once a year, whether your handgun is performing perfectly or not, a thorough check-up by a qualified gunsmith or armorer is highly recommended. One educated look could find problems you can’t see. You get an annual physical, don’t you?


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