Cleaning your handgun is the best way to prevent injury to yourself and damage to your firearm. For this reason, handgun owners should regularly inspect and clean their guns to keep them operating properly and firing safely.

Each time a gun is fired, residue and sediment coat the inside of the barrel. If the gun isn’t carefully cleaned on a routine basis, it’s far more likely to malfunction and cause serious injury and/or damage.

Ideally, handguns should be cleaned after each interval of use, such as target practice. Though they don’t need attention immediately, guns should be cleaned within a couple days of being fired. Cleaning a handgun takes an average of 20 minutes, depending on how it’s done.

Safety is the most important consideration when handling and cleaning any firearm, no matter which way you choose to do it. Guns should be completely unloaded and there should be no live ammunition in the vicinity while cleaning firearms.

In addition, guns should not be pointed at anything you aren’t aiming to destroy throughout the entire cleaning process. This ensures a negligent discharge won’t result in tragic damage or injury.

Listed below are the 5 ways to clean a handgun, including the basic procedure.

1. The Basics

When cleaning handguns, there are basic steps to follow:


This will vary for different makes and models. Essentially, disassembly allows access to the primary components of firearms for cleaning.

Apply solvent

Gun solvent helps to dissolve residue and sediment which are difficult to remove otherwise.

Use utility brushes

Use proper brushes to scrub each gun component, especially the bore. Be sure to prevent damage by understanding exactly how brushes should be used.


Use cloths or rags to wipe components free of grime.

Use lubrication

Carefully oil and grease components based on need.


Assemble gun properly with appropriate tools.

These steps represent the overall cleaning process for handguns. Each make and model should be researched for proper and specific cleaning instructions to avoid any firearm damage or malfunction.

2. Follow Exact Manual Instructions

For new gun owners, the best method of cleaning a handgun is to follow the exact instructions in the owner’s manual.

It’s essential to spend time reviewing and understanding each step to avoid any potential malfunctions. If the gun didn’t come with an operation manual, one can be ordered from the manufacturer or found online.

Handguns do require some level of disassembly for cleaning. Following the exact instructions in the owner’s manual will help you understand the design of the gun, the procedures and tools to disassemble it, how to reassemble it and where to apply lubricant.

Using exact instructions to clean a handgun will prevent operational malfunctions, damage to the gun and injury to the user.

3. Use a Gun Cleaning Kit

Gun owners can purchase a pre assembled gun cleaning kit from most outdoor retailers, either in-store or online.

A ready-made gun cleaning kit for basic handgun cleaning typically includes:

  • Solvent (To remove lead and powder residue)
  • Lubricant (Gun oil)
  • Bore brush
  • Patch holder
  • Patches
  • Cleaning rod

More extensive kits might include a nylon cleaning brush, small bore light or flashlight and cotton swabs. As gun owners become familiar with their firearm, they might decide additional tools are useful to enhance the cleaning process.

Some gun owners prefer to create their own cleaning tool kit to customize their essential items. In general, handguns require these basic materials. However, certain makes and models might necessitate different or additional tools.

4. Consult Online Tutorials

One of the benefits of gun ownership is belonging to a community that shares information, support and enthusiasm.

This is reflected in the number of online tutorials regarding firearm operation, maintenance and especially cleaning. Handgun owners at all levels of expertise would benefit from watching online cleaning demonstrations.

As with any online tutorial, viewers should take measures to ensure their accuracy and reliability. Some professional gun websites provide cleaning tutorials which are excellent options for visual learners.

There are other independent tutorials, however gun owners should use good judgment as to the skills and expertise of the person giving the presentation.

4. Use a Professional Firearm Cleaning Service

In some cases, gun owners might not have time to thoroughly service their guns and they might need a professional’s touch.

Many gun retailers and ranges offer firearm cleaning and service options done by trained professionals. The process generally takes about a week and costs an average of $25 for a handgun.

The benefit of a professional service is the exceptional care and expertise offered to ensure your firearm is clean, operates properly and is safe to use. Firearms are inspected thoroughly during the service and gun owners are notified if any issues are present.


Overall, cleaning handguns is essential to keep them operating effectively and safely. All safety measures should be taken when cleaning firearms, and gun owners should choose a cleaning option most thorough, safe and effective for their skillset.

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