A handgun needs to work every time it comes out of the holster
Whether the operator is a competitive shooter, police officer, or carries a firearm for self-defense, the difference between winning and losing, or even life and death can be measured in a matter of seconds. Keeping your firearm clean is the best way to ensure it’s operating at its optimal. This guide gives you the important steps of cleansing and maintaining your handgun so it works how and when you need it.
Recoil Spring

To begin with, gather all your supplies. It is recommended to purchase a cleaning kit for your gun type. Kits are very cost efficient options and provide the most widely used supplies in a convenient container that is easy to store, transport and keep organized.

The Kleenbore® Classic Handgun Cleaning Kit features the best made cleaning components in the industry, neatly housed in a custom organizer tray and then securely packaged in a rugged, reusable storage case.

Each kit is caliber specific and includes the appropriate bore brush, slotted patch holder, patches and Break Free® CLP® - everything you need to clean and maintain your firearm.

These are the steps to clean a 9mm GLOCK® 34 (Gen 4) and should be adapted according to your handgun.


Always follow the firearm safety rules, whether at the range or cleaning your handgun, they are integral to the safety of yourself and those around you. Whenever handling a firearm, always observe the following:

  • Treat every firearm as if it was loaded.
  • Never point a firearm at anything you're not willing to shoot.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger and the safety on until you’re ready to fire.
  • Be sure of your target’s foreground and background.

Before starting the cleaning process, confirm the gun is unloaded. Remove the magazine and visually inspect the chamber to ensure the handgun is cleared of any rounds. Passing this visual inspection, point the firearm in a safe direction and dry fire. This begins the takedown process.


Whenever cleaning a gun, it’s a good idea to first check the owner’s manual to brush up on the gun’s mechanics.

The extent to which a handgun is disassembled depends on how long since its last cleaning and how many rounds have been fired since. For basic cleaning routines, simply removing the slide, barrel, guide rod, and recoil spring is sufficient. If it’s been a long time or thousands of rounds have been discharged, then a full detail strip is recommended.


To clean the barrel, soak it with Break Free® CLP® aerosol or liquid. Ideally, allow it to sit in the cleansing fluid while the rest of the handgun is attended to and finish with a few drops of Break Free® CLP® on a Cotton Gun Cleaning Patch. If a more thorough cleaning is necessary, liberally coat the barrel and let it soak into the bore overnight.

Moving Parts

Spread all the parts out on a pad and spray down anything not attached to the frame with Break Free® CLP®, allowing it to sit for 15 minutes. Avoid spraying the frame directly so as to not get lubricant inside the trigger group. Instead, put some CLP® on a Nylon Bristle Gun Brush and use it to clean where ever there is carbon buildup. A Bronze Bristle Gun Brush can be used in cases of extensive buildup.

When all the parts have been sufficiently cleaned with the brush, use a clean rag to thoroughly wipe them down. Repeat the process until any traces of carbon have been removed.

Back to the Barrel

Now that the barrel has been soaking for a bit, attach the appropriate size Bore Brush to a Cleaning Rod and in one smooth motion, run it through the chamber side and pull it back through until the brush clears the chamber. Do not stop the brush until it exits in the same direction as a bullet would, as stopping or changing directions mid-stroke could damage the rifling or the bore. Repeat for five passes.

Next, swap the brush for the correct Bore Cleaning Jag, apply the properly sized Cotton Gun Cleaning Patch, and push it through the barrel from the chamber side. Replace the patch and repeat. If the patch comes out clean, the barrel is done. If not, re-apply Break Free® CLP® and repeat the process until the second patch is clean.

Protect the metal by putting one drop on either side of a clean patch and punching the barrel. If storing the firearm for a long period of time, soak a patch with Break Free® Collector® and push it through the barrel. Remember when removing a firearm from long-term storage, push a couple dry patches through before heading out to the range.


Use lube sparingly as too much will simply attracts more dirt. Some guns operate better when wet, but unless a handgun prefers a lot of lube, only use a couple drops for the whole thing.

Using a Break Free LP Precision Shooter® apply a drop anywhere with metal-on-metal wear marks. Handguns with only a handful of rounds will show metal-on-metal wear, so it’s generally easy to spot. When lubing a brand new gun, however, make sure to put a drop or two on the guides—on the frame where the slide connects, as well as the inside of the slide where it rubs against the chamber. As always: don’t overdo it.

As with the barrel, apply Break Free® Collector® if the firearm is about to go into long-term storage.


To reassemble, build the handgun in the opposite order that it was disassembled. When complete, run a function test to ensure everything is working properly.

First, check the chamber to be sure that the firearm is unloaded. Then, cycle the slide, depress the safety (if there is one), point the barrel in a safe direction, and pull the trigger. The hammer or striker should fall, and the gun should ‘click’.

While still holding down the trigger, cycle the slide again then release the trigger and feel for the reset.

If the handgun has a safety, engage it and attempt to pull the trigger. Repeat the process for any grip or trigger safeties. Obviously, nothing should happen when the trigger is pulled.

Field Cleaning

For practice sessions and other situations where only a few magazines will be emptied, bring along the ultra-compact KleenPak™ Pull-Through Cleaning Kit or the PocKit Handgun Cleaning Kit and a bottle of No. 10 Copper Cutter. Each of these kits includes the necessary tools for a full barrel cleaning.

For times when the handgun will need to be cleaned top to bottom between stages, pack the CableKleen™ Pull-Through Gun Cleaning System — it comes with everything necessary for a detailed cleaning.


Chris Paul is an Army veteran who has spent the last 20+ years in the firearms and shooting sports industry. As a subject matter expert and Product Manager at The Safariland Group, his experience brings great insight to product development which leads to better tools. He is an avid horse enthusiast and his favorite weapon cleaning product is the Break Free CLP Precision Shooter®.