HGR 021 - Keeping Things Clean

HGR 021 - Keeping Things Clean

This week Ryan discusses some of the tips, tricks and cautionary tales that can come into play when you are cleaning your handguns.

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Week in Review:

  • Had a great time with the Handgun Radio Listener Roundtable last week! It was really great to get to speak with some of the people who listen and get some of their points of view on the show.  I will definitely be having more interview and roundtable-style shows on Handgun Radio in the near future.
  • Been testing an 1851 Pietta Colt Navy .44 caliber blackpowder revolver.  This was my first experience with blackpowder and I can tell you that it makes one very appreciative of metallic cartridge design.  The loading of the cylinder on the blackpowder revolver is very time consuming. You have to start off with a measured charge of powder, an over-powder felt wad, a soft lead ball .451” in diameter.  You then ram that in with the underbarrel rammer, and finally place some sort of blackpowder lubricant over the charged chamber. You then  have to do that to the remaining four chambers, leaving one unloaded for safety. I can see why the development of the metallic cartridge was such a huge step forward. Using these pieces of history really gives you an appreciation for how far firearms have come.
  • A few episodes ago I told listeners to send in their votes for favorite wheelguns. Here were some of those emails.
    • Kevin- Colt Python (8” polished ultimate stainless, 6” blued model)
    • Brian- S&W Model 586 (8” Silhouette Model & 4” Duty model.)

It seems like the longer barrel models of revolvers have gotten a lot more popular.  I used to think that the longer barreled models didn’t have much of a following because of the practicality of the longer barrel. The Colt Python seems to be a favorite, as does the Model 586 and 686. The 586 and 686 are built on the larger L-frame in the S&W line, this is one step up in size from the K-frames.  All are high-quality, classic revolvers. The K-frame magnums seem to fit my hands better than the L-frames.

Main Topic: Keeping Things Clean:

For some people, cleaning guns is a zen-like thing. They get prepared, get into the zone and get to cleaning. For others, cleaning guns is like pulling teeth, and it cannot be finished fast enough. There are some things you can do to not only make your cleaning time shorter and more efficient, but also ensure that you don’t run into any problems with your firearm when you’re carrying it.

1.) If you have trouble remembering how things go together, take pictures of the gun during each step of disassembly- Sometimes, small parts can be dislodged during disassembly, or you may not remember which way the part goes in relation to something else. Having schematics, or better yet, photographs of your gun while assembled will give you something to follow as a guide.

2.) Keep track of all small parts, screws and springs: You may think that small screw is easily replaced or that spring you lost can be found anywhere. You could be wrong. Some of the smallest parts for obscure or old guns can be extremely expensive.  If I am completely taking apart a firearm with many small parts, I will put these parts in small ziploc bags and label them with a sharpie marker as to where they belong. Take for example the magazines for my Colt 1903 .32 ACP. You would think a simple piece of metal and a spring wouldn’t cost much, but the originals can cost upwards of $150!

3.) Lubrication is your friend….until you use too much of it or the wrong kind: It seems that when it comes to lubrication, people default to the old adage of “if a little is good, more must be better.” This can be the cause of many firearms problems. I remember a fellow I used to work with. He said he had an old Smith & Wesson revolver that wasn’t working right and he wanted me to look at it because he knew I had worked on S&W’s in the past. He said he was having light primer strikes and the trigger pull was really heavy. He brought the gun to me in a ziploc bag that was coated with WD-40 on the inside. I checked to make sure the gun was unloaded, which required considerable effort since the cylinder seemed to hang up as I swung it out to the side.  I pushed the cylinder back into place, and pulled the trigger. I watched as the hammer fell slowly from where the sear released it.  I could actually time the hammer fall at a little more than 1 second.  I took the gun home, pulled off the sideplate and saw that he had sprayed the entire gun with WD-40 to “lubricate and protect” it, because someone who owned firearms said that was what he should do. The guy forgot to mention that in cold climates, WD-40 tends to get gunky and thick, transforming into more of a sludge.  This was causing all his malfunctions. It took me nearly an hour and a half to clean the gunk off.  If you use a liquid lube, such as Rem-Oil, use it SPARINGLY. Oil attracts dust, dirt and other particles that can render the liquid oil into a sludge which can cause problems. Low temperatures can also affect the consistency of the lubricant. If possible, use a dry lube specifically for firearms related applications.

4.) Take your grips off and clean under them, especially if they’re rubber or synthetic- Grips on handguns can trap moisture underneath, and as we all know, moisture and firearms do not get along well.  This is especially true of handguns with rubber grips on them, as these tend to wrap around and not have as many cracks or areas where accumulated moisture can escape.  Stainless steel guns can still rust, so this applies to them as well.

5.) Make sure screws are properly tightened- This is especially important on revolvers.  On the S&W revolver, there are some screws that need a particular torque on them to allow the revolver to function properly.  On the frontstrap there is usually a strain screw that applies pressure to the mainspring in order to allow the proper functioning of the gun.  If that is not screwed in far enough, the mainspring will not afford the proper tension. Another screw keeps the cylinder crane assembly in the handgun. If that is not properly tightened you can imagine what the results might be.

6.) Don’t store your gun in it’s holster- Holsters are great for carrying guns around on your belt; not so great for storing your favorite handgun.  The materials that some holsters are made out of have chemicals that they were treated with still in them.  When there is a high moisture content, these chemicals can seep out of the holster.  Store the handgun in your gun cabinet in a climate-controlled environment.

7.) Use your cleaning session to inspect the handgun for damage- Make sure you use your cleaning session to inspect for damage to your handgun.  Pay particular attention to the forcing cone on revolvers, as cracks and flame-cutting can occur there. Also look at the slide rails on semi-autos, as a lot of force is directed to these parts during firing.  Finally, pay particular attention the crown on the barrel. The crown being damaged can cause the bullet to leave the barrel irregularly and be inaccurate.

8.) After you handle your firearms, make sure that you wipe them off especially if you aren’t going to clean them immediately- The oil from your hands can leave fingerprints and marks on the gun. The oils attract dirt and moisture which can cause rusty fingerprints if not taken care of.  By wiping down your firearms with a soft cloth, you minimize the risk of having your firearms finish damaged.

9.) How do I clean the carbon fouling and nastiness off the front face of my cylinder?- I have always used the eraser from a wooden #2 pencil to clean the carbon fouling off of the front face of my cylinders.  It seems to work quite well for me!


  • Thank you to all of you who are sending in e-mails. It lets me know how you are liking the show, what I should keep and what I shouldn’t.
  • Any questions? Comments? Concerns? E-Mail me at ryan@handgunradio.com
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  • Be sure to go over and check out all the great content and shows on the Firearms Radio Network and the Firearms Insider! There is great new content posted there almost every day so be sure to check it out often!
  • Don’t forget to shop Brownells using our affiliate link www.handgunradio.com/brownells.  The holidays are fast approaching! Get those handgun parts and accessories for the gun person in your life from Brownells!

Until next week, have fun and SAFE SHOOTING!!!