Retro WON: How to Clean a Pistol

What’s a great way to stay busy inside while the weather is cold? We know you might not want to hear it, but cleaning. Not cleaning up after the kids or your husband, but cleaning guns. Grab a cup of coffee and a few tools, and enjoy a few minutes cleaning your favorite pistol.  I’m going to show you how I tear down, wipe clean and reassemble my STI DVC 3Gun model 9mm pistol. This isn’t a full-blown cleaning, just a quick cleaning, the sort I do every night at a match.

Not a Soccer Mom is sponsored by Jagemann Sporting Group

Safety First

First, always make sure your firearm is empty and obey the rules of firearms safety. I like to clean guns sitting in front of the woodstove when it’s this cold, but today, this time I did it at a table while my son videotaped so you could see. I also advise wearing safety glasses. While the video is sped up, here are the basic steps:

1- Remove the slide from the frame

You start cleaning a 2011 style pistol by removing the slide. I hold mine with my right hand, drawing the slide back to the rear enough that I can see the slots for the slide stop, and my left hand can push the slide stop from the ejection port side to start it moving, then I can grab it from the left side and remove it. You can see this in the video at normal speed.

Remove the slide Clean a Pistol

Holding the slide with your right hand leaves your left hand free to remove the slide stop.

2- Remove the recoil spring and guide rod. 

One of the neat features of a DVC 3Gun pistol is that the tool-less guide rod allows easy capture and removal of the spring. Once it is compressed, you push the articulating portion of the guide rod to lock the spring in place. Then remove the guide rod and captured spring. You see me do this in the video, but here are some close ups of the guide rod and spring being removed:

remove guide rod A Clean a Pistol

Compress the spring and depress the locking segment of tool-less guide rod.

remove guide rod B Clean a Pistol

Pull the compressed spring and guide rod back and out of the slide. You might need to rotate it to have enough clearance.

3 – Remove the barrel and bushing

With the guide rod and spring out, twist your barrel pushing a quarter turn counterclockwise, so the tab lines up with the slot, and flip the barrel link down so you can remove the barrel from the muzzle end of the slide.

remove barrel A (1) Clean a Pistol

Flip the barrel link down so there is clearance for the barrel to be pulled out of the slide.

remove barrel B

Twisting the barrel bushing.

4 – Clean

I wipe down the slide and frame, clean off any carbon, pay special attention to the area around the extractor, my mag release, and remove all of the carbon I can with a rag or paper towel and then something like a felt pipe cleaner or Q-tip in the places a rag won’t reach. I always clean the extractor hook with a felt pipe cleaner to make sure there is not any carbon build up underneath the hook.

slide frame guide rod and barrel

A pistol has 2 basic halves, the slide and the frame. The barrel, guide rod and recoil spring almost universally nest inside the slide. Remove the barrel and guide rod assembly, and you essentially have 4 structures.

5 – Re-Oil your Gun 

Once everything is wiped off, I oil my gun back up. A light coat on the barrel, locking lugs, the barrel link, the slide/rails … I add a little to the recoil spring, and will often lightly coat my barrel feed ramp to help make cleaning carbon off easier the next time I wipe the gun down. If in doubt, check the gun’s manual for advice on where to place oil.

6 – Reassemble your Gun

Reverse the order of what you did to tear down the gun when you put your gun back together.

Insert your barrel into the slide with the barrel bushing over the end. Rotate the bushing to line up the slot like you did when you removed it, then once the barrel is inserted into the slide, align the bushing straight up and down.

insert barrel A

Place the bushing over the end of the barrel.

insert barrel B barrel bushing view

Line up the slots.

Slide your guide rod and recoil spring back into the slide, facing the notch down over the locking lug on your barrel, then twisting it so the correct side faces downward.

insert guide rod A

Some guide rods require you to rotate them to get the guide rod and spring into the gun.

insert guide rod B

Make sure the guide rod is rotated into the correct position.

Using my left hand, I hold the spring and guide rod firmly into the slide, against the barrel, then I align the barrel link straight up and down.

reassemble gun A barrel link lined up

Caption: barrel link set up for slide stop.

reassemble gun B hold guide rod against slide

How to hold guide rod and spring pinched against slide.

When I slide the frame and slide together, I try to move the frame onto the slide, since that leaves the barrel link with the hole I need to put the slide stop into, downward and I don’t have to mess around trying to line things up.

reassemble gun C move frame onto slide Clean a Pistol

Lining things up as they slide together.

Then I put the slide stop into the hole, then move the slide to allow the slide stop to fit in the slots and push it together.

insert slide stop A Clean a Pistol

Lining up the slide stop cuts.

insert slide stop B Clean a Pistol

Final push, and the pistol is back together.

And done!

This takes longer to read than accomplish. So pour yourself a cup of coffee, gather your cleaning gear, and do something productive while you’re cooped up indoors!

cleaning supplies Clean a Pistol

Supply list for a simple cleaning of a pistol:

Bore snake in the proper caliber.

Gun Oil

Rag or paper towels

Q-tips or pipe cleaners to reach tight spots.

This Retro WON first appeared January 2018.

Read Becky’s Semi-Auto Shotgun Cleaning How-To here.

  • About Becky Yackley

    Becky Yackley primarily competes in 3 Gun, USPSA, Bianchi pistol, but has competed in shooting since 1989 in disciplines from service-rifle, to NCAA Air Rifle and Smallbore, air pistol and a little bit of long range rifle. She shoots guns and cameras at competitions around the country, and writes in her fictional spare time.