Cleaning the Handgun:
Now that we've been to the shooting range practicing the shooting tips we've learned, it's time to clean the handgun. Cleaning the pistol should be done every time it has been used ! Corrosive residue is left by the powder residue. If allowed to build up in the pistol, bad things happen. This is particularly true of semi-auto pistols whose function is affected by this build up. When you need the pistol most, it may not function properly to save your life simply because it's dirty. As mentioned, this residue is also corrosive. Dirt (of any kind) traps moisture and holds it against metal surfaces. This causes surface rust which leads to pitting. Pitting makes surfaces rough and the moving parts (action) of a firearm need smooth surfaces to function properly.
Step 1: Gather all the supplies you'll need for cleaning and organize them in your work space. It's important to have a clean work space that is free of clutter. A proper gun cleaning kit is required with proper size tools for your gun's caliber. A nice gun cleaning mat will protect the gun and your furniture ! That's why I give them away with every firearm purchase. Equally important is that the space is free of distraction ! It's easy to miss important steps (like unloading the gun !) when distracted.
Step 2: is to "clear" the pistol. This means removing the source of ammunition (magazine in a semi-auto) and removing any live ammunition from the firing chamber. Point the pistol in a safe direction to accomplish this. It is imperative to remove the magazine first so that when you cycle the action to remove the live round from the chamber it does not inadvertently load another. Once all ammunition is removed, I strongly suggest moving the ammunition to another room. This greatly limits the likelihood of inadvertently loading another round until you are finished cleaning and satisfied the gun is now ready for use again. Some pistols require the trigger be pressed in order to remove the slide. Worse yet, some pistols have a magazine safety which means you won't be able to do this without putting a magazine in the pistol. See why it's so important to make sure there's no live ammo ?!?!? Some pistols (like Ruger) come with a "dummy" magazine to use for this.
Step 3: Once the pistol is clear of any ammunition and has been rendered "safe" (in quotes to remind you that just because you're sure it's unloaded there is no excuse for unsafe handling practices) it is time to "field strip" the pistol. Every manufacturer has their own design and method of field stripping. Always refer to the owner's manual (also available online if you've lost yours) for how to take it apart. Revolvers do not have to be disassembled but it is helpful to remove the cylinder for cleaning.
Note here: It is a good idea to use only commercial gun cleaning solvent and oil. I prefer Hoppes No. 9 solvent. It removes the residue without harming the finish of the gun. There are many other products available, many of which use chemicals like Naptha which are tough on gun finishes. Other products can leave residues of their own that can build up. Gimicky products like Pig Lube (smells like bacon) and Frog Lube (doesn't smell like frogs) fall into this category. These products make claims of leaving surfaces with a coating that makes them run smoothly. What has been found is that with the constant heating/cooling cycles of using the gun these products break down and get tacky causing function issues.
Step 4: Soak a patch from your cleaning kit in solvent and wipe down all parts with a good coat. Don't forget to push it through the barrel as well to clean the inside. Let the solvent soak the parts for several minutes.
Step 5: Using a bore brush made only of brass, scrub the inside of the barrel. It is important to push the brush all the way through the other end of the barrel, and pull it all the way back out on the return stroke rather than push the brush in and work it back and forth. This really saves the brush from getting worn out prematurely and ensures that all of the barrel is scrubbed. I typically make at least 25 passes with the brush. Nylon brushes may also be used, but are not as good at removing particles. Wire or steel brushes should never be used !
Step 6: Using only a brass cleaning brush scrub all the other surfaces of the pistol. Pay particular attention to the slide rails (the track the slide rides on), the firing pin, and feed ramp of the barrel (most jams occur because of a dirty feed ramp), and the firing pin face and extractor. A small pick like a dental pick is handy for getting small particles out of tight spaces.
Step 7: Wipe all surfaces and inside the barrel with a clean patch to removed all the residue you've freed up with the brushes. Again, don't forget inside the barrel. Replace the patch as it becomes heavily soiled. Once you wipe a patch on a surface and the patch stays clean, you are done with cleaning.
Step 8: Lubrication. This is where many folks go overboard ! Over-lubrication is almost as detrimental as not cleaning the gun ! Too much oil will trap particles when the gun is fired and cause them build up even faster. This can quickly disable the pistol and cause many types of jamming issues. Two or three drops of oil on a clean patch is enough to lubricate the entire pistol. Again, don't forget the inside of the barrel. Following manufacturer's recommendation, there may be one or two springs that require a single small drop of oil. Check your manual !
Step 9: Reassemble the pistol according to the manual. A pretty important thing to do here (good thing we put all that ammo in another room) is function check the pistol. Work the slide vigorously back and forth several times. Check that when you press the trigger you hear an audible 'click'. Cock the pistol again. Press and hold the trigger all the way to the rear. Slowly move the trigger forward and listen/feel for the trigger to re-set. (another click). Once again cock the pistol. This time put the safety (if equipped) in the "safe" position and press the trigger. This time it of course should not 'click'. Once you are satisfied everything is functioning as it should, the job is complete.
Step 10: WASH YOUR HANDS !!! Forget Coronavirus, powder residue and gun solvents are toxic ! You do not want to eat with those hands.
As always, feel free to ask for help if you need it.