Issue 43

Revolvers - Handgun Maintenance

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Maintaining your handguns is a very broad subject.  We'll publish future newsletters on some of the other aspects.  This issue and the next one will focus on the most commonly performed maintenance task - cleaning and oiling a handgun. 

We're going to start with revolvers.

First, some rules:

  1. Verify for yourself that the gun is empty.  If you don't know how to do this safely, you shouldn't be cleaning the gun.
  2. Make sure no ammunition is present.  Aside from the obvious safety factor, the solvents that will be used can render your cartridges unsafe or ineffective.
  3. Be sure you're in a well-ventilated area.  Some of the solvents give off pretty strong odors.
  4. Be sure to wear eye protection.  You only have one pair of eyes, so be sure to protect them.
  5. Clean your gun after each use.  The longer the "gunk" stays on your gun, the more difficult it will be to eventually get it off.  Plus, a dirty gun can affect the accuracy of your shots, as well as its safe operation.
  6. Follow the instructions of both the gun manufacturer and the cleaning supply manufacturer.  As I tell my Pistol Orientation class students, if there is a conflict, follow the recommendations of the gun manufacturer, as improper cleaning may void your warranty.
  7. Lubricate sparingly.  Excess oil or grease will attract dust and other particulate which can hinder the performance of your gun.
You will need: A gun cleaning kit for the caliber of your revolver.  At a minimum, it should contain a round bore brush, a soft bristle straight brush, a cleaning mop or cleaning patches, a cleaning rod with attachments for the brush and mop/patches, cleaning solution, gun oil and an old rag.  Doing the cleaning on a cleaning mat or a LOT of newspapers will save the finish of the work table...

Standard Revolver


Take a round, brass wire or synthetic bristle brush which is made for your caliber revolver, dip it into cleaning solution and run it through the barrel a few times.  You're doing this to "rough up" the build-up of un-spent gun powder, lead and copper in the barrel.  Do the exact same thing for each of the chambers in your cylinder.

Revolver Action


Then, take a gun cleaning mop or cleaning patch, soak it in solvent and run it through the barrel and cylinders again.  You're not looking to come out squeaky-clean, yet.  You're just getting the gun "wet" with solvent.  Use a new soaked patch for the barrel and for each chamber of your cylinder.

Dab a cleaning brush (or an old tooth brush) in solvent, and scrub a little around the front of the cylinder and in the nooks and crannies inside the frame of the revolver.

Then walk away.  Let the solvent do the work for you!  I generally let it work for 5 or 10 minutes.

Now, the real work begins.  If you've cleaned your gun after each use, it shouldn't take too long.  You now want to take a new patch, dip it in solvent, and run it through the barrel.  You want to do this 4 or 6 times with the same patch.  It should be pretty dirty!

Change the patch, dip in solvent, and repeat until the patch comes out clean.  Repeat this whole process for each and every chamber of your cylinder.

Once that is completed use your toothbrush, toothpicks (or picks that come with most gun cleaning kits) and a rag or cleaning patches, and clean out all of the nooks and crannies.  Don't forget to clean the ejector (face) and the ejector rod as well.

Once all of your patches have come out clean, run a dry patch through the barrel and each chamber, ensuring they come out clean.  Do the same with a dry patch in all of the nooks and crannies.

You will then finish up with putting a couple of drops of gun oil on a clean patch, and running it through the barrel and each chamber.  Work the patch into the nooks and crannies.  Go easy on the oil! 

I will generally put one drop on the ejector rod and depress it a number of times to ensure it is well dispersed.  I'll also put one drop on the hinge for the cylinder.

Finally, take an old rag, put a couple of drops of oil on it, and rub down all exterior metal parts of the gun.  Let the gun sit a few minutes to see if you get any drips from over-oiling the gun.  Give it another rub down with the old rag, and you're (finally) done!

Next Issue:  Semi-Automatic Handgun Maintenance


Bison Risk Management Associates is a Northern California-based company providing Personal Safety and Emergency Preparedness training, workshops and consulting for individuals, businesses and organizations.

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