How to Clean your Revolver

How to Clean your Revolver

This blog has an accompanying video on YouTube. You can find the video version of this content here:

The tools and equipment will be very similar to those used in our video on proper cleaning of a semi-auto. There are some notable differences in the type of general cleaning and maintenance that you'll use on a revolver vs. a semi-auto pistol. With that said, this is how we do it. You are responsible for verifying that this is in line with your manufacturer's guidelines and recommendations. We cannot guarantee that this will work on your pistol and make no claims as such. We are also not being paid to endorse any products.

As with the semi, you'll need to gather all the cleaning supplies together and create a space where you can work. Some of the safety precautions should include sterilizing the environment and ensuring that no live ammunition is anywhere near this cleaning station. Gun "accidents" are generally caused by negligence and a lack of preparation. Take this step seriously so that you don't end up putting a hole in yourself or something that you care about.

The products that I use are:

  • latex gloves to keep the powder and lead out of your pores and body
  • synthetic solvent to break down and remove fouling
  • synthetic lubricant for reassembly and reducing friction within the gun
  • cleaning swabs made of cotton or foam (foam preferred)
  • dental pick (metal or plastic)
  • cotton cleaning patches (or a t-shirt cut into strips)
  • Bore Snake in appropriate caliber
  • brass brush
  • a cleaning pad or old t-shirts to keep the solvents and grime off of my furniture

Once you've gathered everything, ENSURE THAT YOUR GUN IS EMPTY. You won't need to press the trigger to get the revolver's cylinder open, but most gun "accidents" are caused by negligence. You reduce your chances of a negligent discharge greatly by removing any live ammunition from the area where you'll be conducting administrative tasks.

I break revolvers into a few sections for cleaning. Those are:

  • The frame itself
  • The cylinder and individual chambers
  • Barrel
  • The stocks / grip


Start by spraying everything down with your solvent. You may also wish to activate the push rod that controls the extractors to get access to any grit that is laying beneath the extractors. Let the solvent cure. I then give the exterior of the gun a good wipe-down to make sure that all the grit, powder, fingerprints, etc. have been removed. That also allows me to identify areas of the finish or the gun that require additional cleaning. You can use a nylon brush or your patches for this. Just make sure that you're not damaging the finish of the firearm. You can pay special attention to the areas inside the frame near the firing pin channel. That area will accumulate powder, as will the area just outside the forcing cone of the barrel.


Now is the time to wipe down the exterior of the cylinder. Once complete, push the rod that actuates the extractors and clean the push rod and the extractors thoroughly. Once I wipe everything down, I will generally hit this with a brass brush to move off any fouling or caked on dirt. Depending on your ammo and how long it has been between cleanings, you may need to repeat this process a few times. The use of a pick to get the contours of the extractors clean is fine, but don't press too hard and scrape up your gun.

From here, I run the bore snake through each chamber to pull out the powder and fouling. Cleaning the chambers is often overlooked. In order for your revolver to run smoothly, the rounds should seat into the cylinders quickly and without friction. You don't want to deal with a malfunction caused by a partially-seated round. Later, you can use dummy rounds or snap caps to verify that the chambers are clean and allow for proper loading.


Run the bore snake from the chamber side of the gun towards the muzzle. You should note that the fouling is removed from the rifling of the gun. If there is still fouling, spray solvent into the barrel and let it cure for a short time. Using the bore snake again should remove that.

You should notice that just outside the barrel, on the inside of the frame, there is an accumulation of burned powder near a small protrusion of the barrel. That is the Forcing Cone of the gun. That area catches the projectile as it leaves the chamber. The job of the forcing cone is to ensure that the projectile is funneled into the barrel and the rifling. In many cases, that area will be the dirtiest area on the gun. Spend some time with the brass brush and solvent here. A little work in this area every time you clean should keep your gun looking clean and prevent buildup in this area.


Depending on your firearm, you may wish to clean your grips. For wooden grips, I generally shy away from applying a solvent to them. This can damage the finish of the gun. In most cases, wiping the grips down with a clean cloth, or with soap and water, will clean most dirt. You may also wish to test your rubber or plastic grips before using a solvent on them. Most times they are safe, but solvents can damage some soft rubber grips.

It is RARELY necessary to remove the stocks from the revolver during cleaning. Outside debris are rarely able to work into the frame of the gun itself. However, should you have a need to inspect this area, remove the screws holding the grips onto the gun carefully and then rock the grip back and forth until you can remove it. From there, complete an inspection of the frame. If you need to clean / oil something, do so. HOWEVER, only properly trained armorers or those who are familiar with the workings of a revolver firing control should remove the frame plates and interact with the firing controls.


Once I have been over the entire revolver and removed as much dirt as possible, it's time to lubricate. Again, less is often more with this. I will be using SMALL amounts of oil. Places that I will oil include:

  • The extractor push rod (to ensure proper movement and removal of any remaining carbon)
  • The hinging point where the cylinder moves away from the frame (1 or 2 drops in that area will be enough)
  • 1 drop on either side of the trigger where it meets the frame


For the revolver, I conduct a function test that includes the use of dummy rounds. First, I ensure that all rounds will properly seat inside the chambers. If there is resistance when I attempt to load, that indicates additional fouling or dirt that must be removed to ensure proper function. Once I'm sure that the rounds will properly seat, I want to cycle the weapon multiple times, verifying that the cylinder locks into place on each chamber, that the cylinder turns in a smooth and uniform fashion without any variance in trigger pressure, and that no cylinders are skipped. To test the locking of the cylinder, you may cock a firearm that allows for single-action mode and attempt to rock the cylinder side to side. There should be minimal (or no) movement in the cylinder when the gun is cocked. For double action pistols, the cylinder should be locked once the hammer has fallen. Excess play in the cylinder can lead to shaving of the projectile during the firing process, or a lack of detonation due to the primer not being in front of the firing pin. Both are serious issues.

Finish all of this up by wiping down your firearm and removing any surface grime or extra oil. If you're going to store the gun for a prolonged period, you should revisit this step in a few days to catch any solvent or oil that has run out of the gun while it was at rest. If the gun is going back into service, ensure that no fouling or oil has pooled in your holster. That said, we should have used minimal lubricant, so this should hopefully not be a cause for concern.


We hope that this has been of use to you. Again, check out the video if you'd like to see us perform any of these steps.

Stay safe!


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