Notes for Novices No.5 – Cleaning

By Anthony Mitchell

In this article we will look at keeping our firearms clean. We will be concentrating on the .22 automatic, as this is the one most commonly encountered by new shooters.

The .22 bullet is made of lead, and is usually lubricated with wax or something similar. After a cartridge has been fired, there will be some residue left in the barrel and chamber. This will consist of lead, wax, powder residue and so on. If left uncleaned, this can lead to problems such as misfires or failures to feed.

Before we start, let’s have a look at what we’ll need.

Cleaning Kits

Cleaning kits can range from basic to luxurious. At a minimum it will contain a cleaning rod, slotted tip for a cleaning patch and a bore cleaning brush. Bore cleaning brushes come in nylon and bronze bristle types.

Cleaning Patches

These are usually made out of flannelette. They can be purchased ready-made, or you can cut your own from a piece of flannelette. Light coloured is the best. (Easier to see the dirt)


Solvents are to facilitate removal of lead, jacket material, powder residue etc. from the bore and chamber of the firearm.

Gun Oil

Gun oils are designed to lubricate and prevent rust formation. Many modern oils are a combined cleaner and lubricant.

Cleaning Mat

While not an essential item, it’s handy to have a mat to protect the work surface that you’re using (especially if it’s the kitchen table). This way, it doesn’t matter if you spill oil or solvent, as the mat can be washed out later on. It also makes life easier if you drop any small parts like springs, as they tend not to roll as far. You can buy a cleaning mat from your local gun shop, or, an old towel or bath mat will do the same job.

Cleaning Brushes

As well as a bore cleaning brush, a bristle brush is a must for general gun cleaning. These can be purchased, but old toothbrushes work just as well for most applications. (You probably need a new toothbrush anyway, so do yourself a favour, buy a new one and keep the old one with your cleaning gear)

Needle Point Oil Bottle

While definitely not an essential item, it is one of those things that are handy to have, especially when oiling hard to get at locations.

Parts Tray

This doesn’t have to be elaborate, a plastic takeaway container will do. It’s handy to have somewhere to put small parts like screws and springs. This will save crawling on your hands and knees looking for a missing part.

Cleaning Procedure

  • Before commencing, ensure that the gun is unloaded
  • Remove the magazine
  • Remove the slide
  • Place a cleaning patch on the slotted tip of the cleaning rod, moisten with solvent and run through the barrel. Clean from the breech end where possible.
  • Allow time for solvent to penetrate.
  • Repeat with a dry patch.
  • Repeat the process if necessary.
  • Use a bore brush if necessary for stubborn deposits.
  • Clean the feed ramp, extractor slot, etc.
  • Oil metal parts lightly when finished.

Lead Fouling

Lead build-up in the chamber can cause the gun to malfunction (e.g. failure to feed, failure to fire), and is difficult to see.

Before the following procedure is carried out, remove the slide from the gun to prevent any unintended discharge.

To check for lead build-up, remove the slide and hold the barrel vertically, chamber uppermost.

Insert a cartridge. It should drop in easily. If this does not happen, repeat the cleaning process. You may have to use a bronze-bristled brush for stubborn lead deposits.

Post-Cleaning Procedure

  • Check and clean the magazine if necessary.
  • Check the general condition of the gun for wear and tear. If any repairs are necessary, seek advice from a gunsmith.
  • Re-assemble and store securely.

Points to Remember

  • Prior to stripping down and cleaning, read the instruction manual.
  • Ensure that the screwdrivers, Allen keys, etc. are the correct size for the screws used.
  • When using a bore cleaning brush, don’t change direction until the brush is clear of the barrel.
  • If possible, cleaning should be done from the breech end, to prevent undue wear on the rifling at the muzzle.
  • Your firearm is a precision piece of equipment, if you wish to treat it otherwise, so be it.

Until next time, have a happy and safe shoot!

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