4 Trouble Spots to Watch for When Cleaning Your Handgun

Revolvers and pistols are complex pieces of machinery. There are major components and tiny parts that must work together in unison for the guns to function safely and to perform when needed. Regular cleaning of handguns is a matter of course for anyone who uses handguns for anything from target shooting to defensive carry. Regardless of the manufacture or model of your handguns, there are four common trouble spots to watch for when cleaning them.

The Trigger Assembly

For the trigger to be able to move backwards, an opening in the frame of the handgun is necessary. This even applies to single-action trigger styles on 1911 .45 ACP models. This is a prime spot for gunk to build up. It is even worse for small handguns designed for pocket carry in a suitable holster. Pocket guns are notoriously neglected as far as routine cleaning goes, and pocket lint builds up over time. It combines with gun oils and greases to impede internal mechanisms. Cotton swabs, aerosol cleaners and the occasional complete disassembly style of cleaning is necessary. Seek training from an armorer before disassembling a handgun beyond normal filed stripping.

The Firing Pin

Residue from propellant powders, copper jackets and lead from bullets can creep into tiny spaces over time. Fibers from holsters and clothing can build up in the tiny spaces inside handguns too. The firing pins of handguns are mostly enclosed top and bottom, but there are small spaces fore and aft where gunk can get in. However, the most likely issue with a firing pin is corrosion and thickening of old lubricants inside the space. The only way to tell is to take apart the firing pin assembly to see. This level of cleaning does require specialized knowledge for each typem and sometimes each model, of handgun. If you are not absolutely certain how to do it, take your gun to a gunsmith for a complete cleaning and adjustment.

Hammers and Strikers

It is the firing pin that strikes the primer to fire the gun. However, without a hammer or striker, the firing pin does not have the energy to get the job done. Corrosion and weak springs can be hiding here in one of the most critical parts of all handguns. It is a trouble spot because of being subject to corrosion, gunk and obstruction. Strikers used in pistols remain in a cocked or semi-cocked position when there is a round in the chamber. Condition One carry of a 1911 style pistol, as taught by Colonel Jeff Cooper, is also cocked. Springs are tough, but they are not impervious to fatigue. All the moving parts and springs of hammers and strikers should be inspected once in a while, depending on such things as use of the handgun, whether it a carry weapon or not, and exposure to the elements.

The Muzzle

You may be wondering how the muzzle of a handgun can be a trouble spot when cleaning. It is not about wear and tear; it is about safety. Unfortunately, unintentional discharges have happened during routine handgun cleaning. Instructors Ralph Mroz and David Kenik teach to mind the muzzle until a gun is redundantly proven to be empty. The old “never point a gun at something you do not wish to destroy” saying is not functional when cleaning them. You do need to look down the barrel and point the gun in all directions when cleaning. This is where those words “redundantly” and “proven” come into play. You need to be intense about following an unwavering ritual of emptying and clearing weapons and visually inspecting them to prove it. Redundantly proving them to be empty would be a visual and touch inspection or another visual inspection from another person there who is familiar with the gun being cleaned.

A lighted magnifying light can reveal tiny problems in the inner working of guns when you clean them. Nice telescoping models for bench use are available. The bright light and magnification help in identifying corrosion, worn parts, fatigue, or over pressure bulges and cracking and a lot more. There is a lot more to cleaning handguns than just running a swab through them.

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