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Old January 5, 2005, 03:57 PM   #1
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Best way to clean revolvers?

I recently picked up two revolvers, 6" bbls, one .22 Diamondback and the other a Python in .357/'.38 Spec. It's been awhile since I've cleaned a revolver and I'd welcome advice on how best to do it. Do I need to use a brass brush on the barrels? How about in the revolver cylinders? Is there a special way to be sure to get the carbon out of the cylinders? For a solvent, I like Hoppe's, mainly since I've been using it since I was a kid, but if there's something much better, I'm open to switching.
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Old January 5, 2005, 08:44 PM   #2
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This is what you need to get your gun perfectly clean
Soft cleaning rag such as a white tshirt
Bore rod
Copper Bore brush
Eyelet to wipe bore down after it is scrubbed
Copper Brush for hard to get carbon build up
Leadremover & Polishing Cloth for the Carbon on the front of the Cylinder chambers "this will scrub it clean, something the copper brush wont do"
Gun oil for lube
and Hoppes Bench rest copper solvent to soak your bore brush, cleaning brush etc.

For the carbon in the .357 cylinders buy a .40 cal bore brush "yes a .40 cal" soak it in Hoppes and force it in the chambers and scrub back and forth, this will get it clean as can be.

Hope this helps
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Old January 10, 2005, 01:26 AM   #3
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Congrats on the Diamondback and Python purchases!

Hoppe's works just fine for me but lately I've been using Rig #44 with good results.

If this is too long, I apologize but I thought I'd write this not only for you, but for any newbies to revolver shooting.

How often should you clean your handgun? It varies with who you talk to. I personally clean them after each range session as soon as possible since powder residue can absorb moisture from the air and start corrosion. If you carry and stake your life on a gun, remember that a clean, properly lubricated firearm will be more dependable than a dirty, improperly lubricated gun!

To brush or not to brush - You can always try to avoid brushing the bore & chambers, especially if you only shoot jacketed rounds. Sometimes it'll work, sometimes it won't.

Suggested Cleaning kit:
  • Aluminum Cleaning rod with eyelet & 22 cal jag tips for bore patches (one for .38 cal and one for .22 cal)
  • Bronze bristle brushes - .38 cal & .22 cal
  • Cleaning patches - .38-.45 cal and .22 cal
  • Cleaning solvent - Hoppe's No 9, Rig #44 or your favorite.
  • Lubricating oil - good quality oil, Tetra lube, FP-10, CLP, etc.
  • Lubricating grease - Tetra grease, gunslick, etc.
  • Nylon bristle "GI" weapons brush or old, firm toothbrush
  • Wipe down rag - old cotton t-shirt or (my favorite) old baby diapers.
  • Correct sized screwdriver (or driver tips) for grip screw & 1 sideplate screw.

  • Syringe-type oil applicator or small metal rod for precision oil placement
  • A Lead-Away cloth by Kleen-Bore.
  • Bore light
  • Quality hollow-ground screwdriver set or kit such as Chapman's

You can put all of the above into an inexpensive Rubbermaid 1.5 gallon plastic box for convenient storage.

For .22 caliber barrels, I recommend infrequent bore cleaning or cleaning only if (a)your storage conditions are humid, (b)firing was done in high humidity or rain/fog, (c)you suspect corrosive ammo was used. Otherwise, clean only about every 300 - 500 rounds. Do clean the chambers, frame and cylinder and lightly lubricate if needed.

Remove the grips using a correctly sized screwdriver. This is to avoid getting solvents or oils on the grips.

Typical cleaning involves folding a patch corner-to-corner and inserting into the eyelet tip on the cleaning rod. Wet/soak with solvent and push through the bore about 3 times. Repeat with a new, clean patch on the cylinders, replacing the patch when it turns black. Let soak 3 minutes.

Now use a bronze bristle brush, inserted from the muzzle end and slowly push the brush through the bore. Ideally your bore rod has a swiveling head so the brush can follow the rifling. If you're using a solid rod, don't tighten the brush all the way down on the rod so it can make 1 full turn inside the bore. Put a towel, rag or your thumb over the firing pin hole on the breech so if the brush pops out of the barrel it doesn't mar the breech face.
* Do not try to reverse the stroke with the brush in the bore. You'll damage the brush.
* Do not let the cleaning rod scrape the muzzle or inside of the bore.

Once through the bore, reverse and extract the brush from the barrel. Repeat this up to a dozen strokes. Replace the brush tip with the eyelet and run a dry patch through the bore.

Inspect bore using a bore light or a clean white patch on the breech face to reflect light up the bore. Look at each land and groove for signs of a raised spot on the surface, smears, or dark spots. If seen, repeat the wet patch soak & brushing until you get it clean.

After the dry patch, run a wet patch through the bore, then a dry patch. If it doesn't come out clean (but you can't see lead fouling), repeat with wet patches twice and a dry patch until the patch comes out clean (or only lightly gray). Use the toothbrush to loosen fouling on underside of topstrap just above the mouth of the barrel.

These have been soaking while you did the bore. Use the bronze bristle brush and push it in until just about 1/4" shows at the exit end of the chamber. Rotate the brush to loosen any lead or powder fouling at the mouth of the chamber. Push thru the mouth of the chamber to expel any debris. Repeat on each cylinder. Clean with a wet patch, changing patches when they turn black. Run one more wet patch through all chambers. If still turning black you may want to see carbon fouling below. Use wet patches until they come out clean to light gray. Use dry patches to dry chambers.

Note: For easier or thorough cleaning, remove the cylinder from the frame. On Colts, the right hand forward frame screw opposite the cylinder crane should be removed carefully and be sure to use the correct sized screwdriver or screwdriver tip. Be sure to remove the screw-cap, spring and conical plunger and carefully set them aside or in a small container so they don't get lost! Once removed, open the cylinder slowly and slide the crane/cylinder assembly forward from the frame. Slide the crane assembly forward off the cylinder and set aside.

Carbon Fouling
Kleen Bore makes a Lead Away cloth to clean the carbon rings off the forward face of the cylinder (especially obvious in stainless guns). Cut a patch-sized piece of this cloth to clean the cylinder face. Considerable "elbow grease" and rubbing is needed. On blued guns you'll see a difference as the bluing shows up again. Be sure to flush the chambers and the ejector rod area with gun solvent, brake-kleen, or a gun scrubber aerosol to remove the semi-solid residue.

For stubborn leading in barrels - cut a patch sized piece of the lead away cloth and use in place of a patch. Do not use solvent. Insert the patch up to the leaded spot and turn the rod & patch inside the bore. Rub fore & aft too. Clean bore with a wet (solvent) patch then a dry patch. Re-inspect. Repeat as needed, reversing the patch until black then replace with fresh patch. After 2 lead-away patches, if still stubborn, repeat wet-solvent patch soak & brushing then repeat with lead-away patch (usually does it).

Before reassembly, add a small amount of grease (I like Tetra grease) to the cylinder crane's frame shaft and the groove. Spread with finger & wipe excess with clean patch, leaving a thin film. Repeat on the cylinder shaft that fits around the extractor shaft. Very thin film. Same for the faces where the crane meets the frame. Sample assemble and cycle a few times, take apart & wipe off any excess. Reassemble, and close cylinder carefully. Insert plunger, spring and screw-cap in right side of frame and tighten carefully. Do not overtighten! If you don't like using grease, substitute a drop of oil for each of the grease points above. The important part is that these parts get lubricated as they are often overlooked.

Open cylinder. Push extractor out and put 1 drop of oil at base of extractor shaft. Cycle extractor shaft several times, wipe clean. Cock hammer. Add 1 drop of oil to lower half of hammer. Lower hammer carefully. Add 1 drop of oil to each of: Firing pin hole, cylinder "hand" slot, cylinder bolt (bottom of cylinder opening), locking pin on center rear of extractor and it's mating hole below the firing pin. Invert gun. Add 1 drop of oil on mainspring shaft (inside coil spring if equipped) and let it run "down" to the bottom of the hammer. Lay gun on side and wait a minute, then insuring the gun is unloaded, close cylinder cycle action several times to distribute oil inside. Wipe off any excess.

With a clean patch, add 1-2 drops of oil and wipe down external surfaces to remove any dirt or fouling. Re-oil patch as needed to complete the wipe down. This will also protect your blue finish against rusting. Finish with the soft cloth such as t-shirt cotton or an old baby's diaper.

Put one drop on a clean, dry patch at one tip. Push through the bore a few times and then run a dry patch through to remove excess. Sometimes this helps reduce cleaning time after the next session, but it also helps prevent any rust formation in the bore.

I just finished cleaning my S&W M66 so this is all fresh in my memory.
You don't need to remove the cylinder each time or lubricate after every firing. If you use a degreaser such as brake cleaner, gun scrubber or similar products, use compressed air (or "dust off" spray cans) to evaporate the degreaser before relubricating. Use of a degreaser requires re-lubrication!

Note that .38 brushes will "wear down" especially as the mouth of the chambers are typically very tight and tend to break off the tips of the bristles. When this happens, use the old brush for the chambers and a new brush for the bore. Avoid the plastic brushes and the so-called "Tornado" stainless-steel brushes (they don't work that well IMO).

If you're shooting lead bullets, shorten your cleaning time by firing jacketed bullets before leaving the range. This will help remove some of the leading by using the jacketed rounds to "scrub" the bore.
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)
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Old January 10, 2005, 09:03 AM   #4
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A Lewis Lead Remover will help mightily. Quantrill
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Old January 10, 2005, 12:37 PM   #5
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I've been told that the 'Lead-away' cloth will take the bluing OFF of a blued gun, so I limit it's use to my stainless guns. It works very well on those.
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Old January 10, 2005, 10:55 PM   #6
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I've used it on blued guns in the past with no harmful effects.
Caution is good however, and I'd suggest testing in a hidden spot first.
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)
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Old January 11, 2005, 12:05 AM   #7
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Best way to clean revolvers

On any guns, I've found that Dunk-It from Bill Laughridge at the Cylinder & Slide Shop works great!! A lot of spec-ops guys are using it in Iraq/Afghn to clean weapons.

Take your gun agitate it in the dunk-it bucket for a minute, let sit for about 5 min then clean it.

Try it. I think you will like it....
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Old January 12, 2005, 03:11 PM   #8
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Forgive my delayed reply, but my hat goes off to BillCA for his very helpful and very detailed description of how to clean a revolver. I'm finding that, much to my surprise, it's a lot more involved a process than cleaning my automatics! But shooting them all is fun and it's worth it.
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Old January 12, 2005, 04:52 PM   #9
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I've found that Dunk-It from Bill Laughridge at the Cylinder & Slide Shop works great!!
I do the same as Revoman, but I make my solution now. Dunk-It is a fast and easy way to get your guns clean and lubed.

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Old January 13, 2005, 01:24 AM   #10
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I did the detailed explanation because I've seen more than a few guns in the last year that the owners thought were "clean" or "maintained" and weren't. I've seen guns that were bone dry of lubrication or oozing oil like Kuwait after Saddam's withdrawl. I've seen clean guns with so much lead in the barrels that the rifling looked blurred.

In most cases, if you start with a clean gun and fire up to 200 rounds, cleaning isn't much of a chore unless you're firing lead bullets at high speed. Normally a Hoppe's dipped brush and a dozen strokes cleans the bore. A few strokes in the chambers usually cleans the gunk out. The rest is using solvent to loosen the powder fouling until the gun is clean. Then lubricate it, put some oil on the finish and store away until next time.

I've not tried Dunk-it -- yet -- but it's an appealing idea.

Another favorite is to buy Hoppe's in a quart bottle. Then I use a cheap aluminum "loaf pan" to pour the solvent about 2" - 3" deep. Take off the grips, pull the cylinder off and put frame & cylinder into Hoppes to soak. After 1/2 hour or so, rotate cylinder to soak other half while cleaning the frame. Finish with cylinder, reassemble and you have a clean gun. Use an old Mr.Coffee grounds-holder lined with 1 or 2 filters and pour the used Hoppes into a spare bottle for reuse. I can use it about 4 times that way before it's too dirty to filter out.

By the way -- those spray cans of "dust off" are great for blowing excess oil, solvent and degreaser out of the action.
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)

Last edited by BillCA; January 13, 2005 at 01:26 AM. Reason: typo correction
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Old January 13, 2005, 09:58 AM   #11
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Quantrill mentioned a Lewis Lead Remover. If you shoot lead bullets you will get leading, especially in the front of the cylinder and in the forcing cone. The Lewis Lead Remover works well to remove the leading but I rarely use mine unless the leading is severe. I found a new stainless steel bore brush, used at the beginning of the cleaning session before any solvent or lubricant is applied will effectively remove light leading.
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Old January 13, 2005, 10:06 AM   #12
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One thing I like to use when cleaning the bore on a revolver is a bore guide on my cleaning rod so as to significantly reduce the chance of any damage to the muzzle crown.
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Old January 13, 2005, 10:32 PM   #13
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Steve mentioned stainless steel brushes and I assume that these are the "Tornado" wound-wire brushes. I'd use these with caution and some solvent and/or oil as these are much harder than bronze bristle brushes.

In my opinion, these brushes are good for trying to get leading out of the forcing cone but not general cleaning (your experience may vary). Remember that a steel brush will be more abrasive to the bore than bronze so at least use them with solvent to add some lubrication.
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)
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Old January 13, 2005, 11:01 PM   #14
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I discovered something that works fantastically on bores. Its called a snake.
its good for rifles and handguns.
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Old January 14, 2005, 09:21 AM   #15
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Good post Bill.......
John Ringo

"I like these calm little moments before the storm (Stansfield, The Professional)."
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Old January 14, 2005, 09:39 AM   #16
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You mean you have to clean these things?

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Old January 14, 2005, 04:12 PM   #17
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Here's how I clean my .22 revo. I don't think this'll work for the .357. Youll need something to remove leading or copper fouling from the bore. But for the .22, this works for me.

-.22 Bore Snake
-Can of G-96 or CLP

1. Spread newspaper.
2. Lay Bore Snake on it.
3. Spritz end of bore snake with G-96 or CLP
4. Pull Bore Snake from forcing cone through muzzle, repeat 3 times.
5. Pull Bore Snake through each chamber once. Twice if you shot a lot.
6. Spritz the cloth with G-96 or CLP.
7. Use the cloth to clean/lube clyinder face, cylinder star, ejector rod, under cylinder star, top strap, and all other metal areas.
8. Put stuff away.

Takes maybe 5 minutes. Once or twice a year, take the grips off and clean the innards.
I am Pro-Rights (on gun issues).
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Old January 14, 2005, 10:24 PM   #18
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Dave R,

I've not really used the Bore Snake cleaning tool as yet. I did get one as a Christmas present but old habits are hard to break.

Your cleaning method will work but you didn't say if your .22 is blue, stainless or aluminum. I always use a solvent soaked patch to clean the frame and cylinder because burned powder is hygroscopic and will absorb moisture against a nicely blued frame. Likewise, a light coating of oil on a patch or cloth will help protect the finish (I've found that Breakfree evaporates and doesn't prevent rust as well as a good oil).

Some manufactuers don't recommend cleaning .22's after every shoot. I've left a Marlin .22 rifle uncleaned for up to a year other than to wipe down the outside, action and bolt with oil. Upon cleaning the barrel, it was just fine after being stored with a unlubricated condom over the muzzle. For .22's, if you clean the barrel well, it's recommended you lightly oil it and then swab it out before using it the next time (a red colored condom would be good for this). And yes, a condom sounds silly, but we used 'em in 'Nam.
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)
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Old January 16, 2005, 12:50 AM   #19
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Protect the Crown!

Take YCI's advice and get a rod guide. My Smithy 686 may be going back to the factory soon for a recrowning job because I didn't take the same advice.

No matter how careful you are, you're going to knick the crown when cleaning from the muzzle end. A few knicks can take an insanely accurate gun and turn it into a marginal shooter.
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Old January 16, 2005, 06:21 PM   #20
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Last night I was cleaning my new Ruger with Gunscrubber in the barrel and it just didn't look good. So, I searched around and found an old bottle of Sweet's 7.62 Solvent and BINGO! In short order that barrel was clean and shiney. For what it's worth.
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Old January 16, 2005, 07:44 PM   #21
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Revolver cleaning

I have a 2' snubbie that is blued. No matter what I try, the exterior always has that "rainbow" effect. What can I do to get that off. I miss that new shine.

Thanks guys!
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Old January 16, 2005, 08:30 PM   #22
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Take YCI's advice and get a rod guide. My Smithy 686 may be going back to the factory soon for a recrowning job because I didn't take the same advice.
Were you using a steel rod?
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Old January 17, 2005, 01:19 AM   #23
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SLIP 2000 Carbon Cutter works good to take carbon off stainless steel revolver cylinders and carbon build up on the bolt and bolt carrier assembly of an AR-15 or M-16.

I've used various brands of "Lead Away" cloth for years on blued steel guns without a problem.

The best way I've found to reduce leading is to shoot FMJ bullets. My normal practice session with one of my little revolvers (J-Frame S&W) is 150 rounds. I usually take 100 rnds of lead reloads and 50 rounds of generic GI Spec 130 grn FMJ-RN. Every few cylinders full of lead reloads gets followed up with a cylinder of the FMJ bullets (most of my practice courses are 30 rnds, so it's actually pretty easy to keep track) and that REALLY reduces the leading problem.

Shooter's Choice also makes a specific solvent formula for Lead Removal that I've had VERY good luck with, but you have to let it soak in for a while and then brush enthusiastically. (In the old days guys used to fill a pint canning jar with Hoppe's #9 or GI RBC and soak the cylinder over-night before cleaning. I've done that too with good result and no damage to the cylinder, but I believe you CAN'T do that with a solvent containing ammonia)

I would only use a stainless steel brush in instances where I had VISIBLE and HEAVY leading. A regular bore brush (brass or bronze or whatever it is) is SOFTER than the metal of the barrel, whereas stainless steel will be just as hard and might cause scratching.
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Old January 17, 2005, 04:11 AM   #24
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The easiest way I've found to clean revolvers is to tell my kids that if they want me to keep buying them ammo to shoot they better clean the guns, including the ones I used. One of them is now in the Army. If the other one ever moves very far away I'm screwed. I'll have to lay the guns in the back of my pickup and go through the car wash.
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Old January 17, 2005, 09:31 AM   #25
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Thanks for this...

As a newbie to handguns, Bill's explanation was extremely helpful.
(In fact, I hope it's okay that I saved it to use as a reference later.)

In the past, have found the leading inside the cylinders of my .357 Ruger to be especially burdensome to clean, despite using jacketed rounds and a .40 copper brush. Thanks so much for the new info!!
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