Cleaning and Lubing Your Gun

by Bob Londrigan, published in Front Sight Magazine, March 2009

I had a request for an article on how to clean and lube your gun.  My first response was that I had covered this several times.  However, when I looked back through the articles I had written, I did find a lot of related information but it was dispersed throughout many different articles.  For easy reference, I am going to pull together all the cleaning and lubing references into one place in this article.  We will start with cleaning/disassembly and then move to lubing/reassembly. As always, before doing any type of maintenance check to make sure the gun is unloaded.  

I recommend that you clean the top end of your pistol after every range session. It is quick and easy once you get used to doing it, and your gun will last longer and be more reliable because of it.  In this issue, I will cover how to clean and lube the top end.  Then in the next issue, I will address the more complicated bottom end. 

Begin by assembling your supplies.  You will need a small brush (an old toothbrush works well), some Q-tips, cleaning solvent or soap and water, disassembly tools such as punches etc., and a cleaning rod and a couple of patches.  It also helps to have some type of mat to lay all the parts on. First, take the top end off your frame. The type of barrel you have will determine the easiest way to do this.  For a bull barrel, rack the slide back till the slide stop is lined up with the takedown notch. 

Takedown Notch

Push the slide stop out with a punch, and then slide the whole top end off as one unit.  You can also rack the slide, place a takedown tool in the hole in the guide rod, release the slide slowly and capture the guide rod plug, and then slide off the top end.  Once I have the top end off I push the guide rod head forward enough so that I can place a takedown tool in/on the guide rod and capture the guide rod/guide rod plug assembly. A takedown tool can be made from a paper clip or in the case of a Recoilmaster use the plastic tool that comes with the guide rod.

Paper Clip Takedown

Once captured, slide the guide rod assembly out towards the rear of the slide.  You may have to rotate the assembly slightly to get it out and make sure you flip the barrel link towards the rear.

Slinding Out the Guide Rod Assembly

Guide Rod Assembly

Next, slide the barrel out the front of the slide (the barrel link will need to be rotated forward for this step.) For a bushing barrel take the bushing off first, and then take the guide rod plug and the recoil spring out the front of the slide.  This relieves the spring pressure and makes it a little easier to take the top end off. Detailed directions for disassembly/reassembly can be found here: .

Once you have the top end off, remove the firing pin stop, firing pin, and extractor.  The firing pin stop is removed by depressing the firing pin from the rear until you can remove the firing pin stop by sliding it towards the bottom of the slide.  

Removing the Firing Pin Stop

In order to remove the extractor from a 40 S&W, 38 super, or 9mm pistol, you may have to push the hook portion of the extractor away from the breechface so it will clear the breechface and allow you to remove the extractor out the back of the slide.

Pushing hook of extractor to clear breechface

Once you have the slide apart, give all the components a good cleaning.  I use soap and water and then blow dry with compressed air.  Any good solvent will do the job also if you donít have compressed air handy and you are worried about the water rusting the gun.  Make sure you clean out the extractor tunnel and firing pin hole.  I use a Q-tip with some solvent on it for this purpose.

Q-tip in extractor tunnel

Wipe down the barrel and run an oil soaked patch through the bore followed by a dry patch.  I donít do any other cleaning of the barrel than this.  The only exception to this is if you have excessive leading in the barrel.  I use jacketed hollow point bullets so that I donít have to worry about lead in the barrel.

 Oiling the barrel

If this is as far as you are going to go with cleaning at this time, then you are ready for inspection and then lube/reassemble.  I like to inspect all the parts at this time.  While the parts are clean it is easy to spot any types of cracks, etc.  Examine the firing pin stop for cracks and make sure the firing pin spring does not have any broken off coils.  Check the tip of the firing pin, the extractor hook, and your front and rear sights.  They should all look the same way they did the last time you cleaned the gun.  If you see any abnormal wear or cracks/breakage, then you will need to repair or replace these items at this time.

If everything looks good put the slide back together and you are ready to lube it.  I like to use a medium weight oil such as FP-10 or Mobil 1 to lube.  I use a lot of it and then wipe any excess off once the gun is completely assembled.  Areas on the slide that need to be lubed are inside the bore of the slide and the rails.  

Oiling bore of slide

I donít like to put oil in the firing pin hole.  Before you reassemble the gun (if you are not going to clean the bottom end), you still need to do a couple of things.  Clean the rails on the frame, and give the frame a good wipe down to remove as much dirt and gunk as you can. Then lube the rails on the frame, place a drop or two on the disconnector, put a few drops into the hammer/sear engagement area (you can see this area if you cock the hammer and look down from the top), and a squirt some on the top and bottom lugs of the barrel.

Oiling Frame Rails

Slide the barrel in, followed by the guide rod assembly, and then put the top end back on the gun and install the slide stop.  Lock the slide back and lube the outside of the barrel and the guide rod. Let the slide down slowly and put a few drops on the barrel hood. 

Oiling hood area

Then rack the slide several times to work everything in well.  You can now wipe the exterior of the gun down to remove any excess oil.  Dry fire the gun several times and make sure everything works correctly and you are ready to go.

The bottom end only needs to be completely torn down and cleaned about every 5,000 rounds or so unless you are having a specific problem.  Weíll get into that in the next article.

 1911 parts at Brazos Custom