I first want to start with if you have anyone else to help you, use them. I'm no expert and just an average Joe that knows the importance of keeping your gun clean and oiled. Guns are typically made of metal or have metal parts and that means they are susceptible to rust which is no good. After all a clean gun actually reduces the risk of accidental/negligent discharge.
Ensure that any firearm is safely unloaded and cleared before proceeding with any disassembly work. Performing a safety check is always a mandatory first step that should be done and re-done as a double or triple check to guarantee a clear and safe firearm before proceeding.
Before you start cleaning your gun, you need to choose a clean area with plenty of space to work (means no clutter). The area should be well-lit and well-ventilated to avoid any mistakes or side effects from the cleaning chemicals (near a window is fine inside or in the garage is better).
If you can, avoid using your kitchen, dining room table, or any other surface where people eat or drink. Gun cleaning materials include oils, solvents, and lead or carbon fouling which can contaminate nearby food.
This is going to sound silly but another tip is to remove all live ammunition from the room or area where the cleaning work is to be performed. Empty all gun magazines and secure all ammunition in a different location or nearby gun safe until the cleaning process is done. This involves ensuring the removal of any other live ammunition (even if it is boxed) from the room or cleaning area and will prevent any possibility of mishandling or inadvertently introducing live ammunition in a firearm.
Locate your guns owner manual(s). These are an excellent source of information for your gun that will explain exactly how to take your gun apart safely and clean it. Most manuals offer colored diagrams and detailed pictures to guarantee you both disassemble and reassemble your gun properly. If you can't find your owner's manual and no way to get a copy check out NRA's Guide to Firearms Assembly which provides written and visual instructions on how to take apart most handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Manuals for specific models from various manufacturers are also available. You can download these free of charge from the manufacturers’ websites and printed.
Different guns will require different techniques. But here are some essential tools for the gun cleaning process. A caliber specific cleaning kit will include most if not all of the above cleaning supplies.
Bore brush (caliber specific)
Cleaning jags (slotted and form-fitting)
Cleaning patches (caliber specific, lint and fiber-free)
Luster cloth/Silicone impregnated Gun and Reel Cloth
Cleaning chemicals, including bore cleaners, action cleaners, and lubricants
Disposable drip pan (to catch byproducts and residue of the cleaning process)
Rubber mat (protects gun parts and cleaning surface)
Long guns/Rifles/Shotguns a cleaning cradle (these come in handy to secure your gun so you can focus on the parts and tools)
Safety glasses (sounds silly but it protects your eyes from springs, splashes from chemicals that could cause blindness, etc..)
Solvent Resistant Gloves (protects your skin from the chemicals)
Remove magazine and ensure the firearm is unloaded
Clean the Barrel and Chamber
Dry brush the chamber and barrel with a copper-phosphate (or nylon) bore brush in a chamber to muzzle direction. This will loosen and remove some of the large carbon and metal fouling from the bore.
Place a cleaning patch dipped in bore solvent on the tip of your cleaning rod. Next, push the cleaning patch through the barrel and out the other side and saturate the chamber and bore surface.
Avoid pulling it back through – this will redeposit dirt and gunk back into the bore.
Allow the cleaning solvent to break down bore fouling for 10-15 min.
Next, use just the bore brush to scrub the inside of the barrel. Use a new, dry patch to remove any residue and keep running it through the bore until the patch comes out clean.
Use a pull-through tool impregnated with a light lubricant, such as a bore snake and CLP or equivalent to further clean and treat the bore surface against corrosion. Do not lubricate the bore using gun oil! For long term storage only, the bore can be treated with a heavier lubricant such as Barricade (or equivalent). This must be removed by cleaning the barrel prior to shooting the firearm!
Clean the exterior of the barrel, barrel hood, barrel lug, and the feed ramp
Clean and Lubricate the Action
You need to clean and lubricate more than just the barrel of the gun. The action (slide, pump, or bolt) should also be cleaned using a nylon utility brush, dry cloth, and action cleaner solvent. Spray the action liberally from the top of the frame/receiver, allowing carbon and metal debris to be washed into the drip pan. Use manufacturer’s recommendations for your particular model. Allow the cleaned sub-assemblies to dry. Use proper disposal procedures for any cleaning residues.
Lastly, use a needle applicator to precisely apply lubricant drops at the specified lubrication points on the frame/action, slide assembly, and exterior of the barrel, as recommended by the manufacturer. It is important not to over lubricate, as this will more readily attract contaminant accumulation and could potentially cause reliability issues.
Don’t Forget the Magazines! Magazines are the source of ammunition and are responsible for proper feeding of a semiautomatic firearm. Reliable, clean magazines are critical for the proper operation of a semiautomatic. They can be disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled according to manufacturer’s instructions. Special purpose brushes are available for magazine cleaning. Use safety glasses and extra care when working with magazines during the disassembly and reassembly process, as magazine followers are spring loaded. Magazines must never be cleaned using petroleum products, as these will contaminate ammunition primers. Magazines should never be lubricated, but rather cleaned with a residue-free solvent or cleaning agent
Reassemble the Firearm
Perform a Functional Check
Anytime a firearm is disassembled and reassembled, a functional check needs to be conducted in order to ensure that the firearm still operates as designed following the disassembly. During this check the proper functioning of the trigger mechanism, safety or safeties, slide operation and locking, magazine retention and ejection systems are verified. Follow the manufacturer’s procedure for your specific firearm and always observe the rules of gun safety!
Wipe Down the Outside of the Gun
Once the inside of the gun and it’s moving parts are clean and lubricated, it’s time to clean the exterior. A gun/reel cloth is perfect for this job.
These cloths are soft and pre-treated with silicone lubricant. This helps to remove any leftover debris, acidic prints, and adds a nice shine of protection to your weapon.
If you don’t have a silicone cloth, individual CLP wipes, or equivalent will also work well.