Whether it's a revolver or semi-automatic, all pistols require regular cleaning to function properly. Over time, pistols will accumulate dirt, dust, lint, and of course burnt gunpowder residue. This isn't something that happens overnight, but constant use of a firearm without cleaning will eventually result in buildups of grime.
The Importance of Cleaning Your Pistol
There are a number of reasons why pistols should be cleaned on a regular basis, one of which is to keep the bore free of obstruction. Each time you fire a shot, gunpowder residue will stick to the insides of the bore. When enough of this residue has accumulated, it may alter the trajectory of fired bullets, create jams, or even cause potentially deadly backfires. Cleaning your pistol, however, will eliminate gunpowder residue to prevent problems such as these from occurring.
Another benefit of cleaning is the prevention of rust and corrosion. Even if your pistol is made of stainless steel, it may still develop rust. Rust occurs when moisture oxidizes with metal, at which point it will literally eat through the metal. Pistols that go uncleaned for long periods of time are more likely to develop rust and corrosion within the barrel, so don't let this happen to your firearm.
Clean After Each Shooting Session
Now for the million-dollar question: how often should I clean my handgun? The folks over at GunsAndAmmo recommend cleaning “as soon after use as possible if they are going into storage, or on a regular basis if they are shot often.” Assuming you shoot your pistol regularly, a good rule of thumb is to clean your pistol after each shooting session. Doing so will keep the bore and surrounding components clean and free of gunpowder residue or other obstructing debris.
We could write an entirely separate blog post on how to clean your firearms (and we may later), but it basically consists of two primary elements: removing the dirt and debris with a liquid-based solvent and bore brush plus pads, and lubricating the bore and other components with a liquid-based gun lubricant.
You can purchase “gun cleaning kits” that contain all of these items, or you can make your own kit by purchasing the items separately. Regardless, make sure the bore brushes are compatible for use in your caliber handgun. If the brush is too large, it may scratch and damage the bore.
Buying a pistol is an investment that will pay off in the form of peace of mind knowing that you can defend yourself should the time arise. However, it should be treated as just that – an investment. Pistols must be cleaned on a regular basis to function safely and properly. A good rule of thumb is to clean your pistol with both solvent and lubricant after each shooting session.
* Image used by creative commons license, credited to Ashley Hatch.