How to Clean a Smith and Wesson M&P

Smith and Wesson M&P in Hand

In the attached video, you will see two variations of this firearm. The first is the M&P Pro Series with the extended barrel as well as fiber-optic sights.

The second is a modified duty-length weapon with a replacement slide and barrel, both by Faxon, as well as an Apex Forward Reset trigger group.

Neither of these modifications changes the method of cleaning. The only thing, as you will see in the video, is the tread protector on the threaded barrel may stick and require a tool to remove.

Seeing as I had a second gun, I simply showed the process on the non-threaded barreled gun. This process also works across all the different calibers of the Smith and Wesson M&P.

The first rule of gun cleaning is: be safe. As such, each gun must have the magazine removed and the chamber checked before any further work is done.

That being said, here are the steps involved in cleaning a Smith and Wesson M&P:

Step 1: Takedown

The next step, after assuring the gun is unloaded, is to lock the slide back and to use a tool to manipulate the takedown wire inside the magwell.

With this moved into place, the takedown lever must be moved into the vertical position, then the slide can be removed.


Disassembly of Smith and Wesson M&P handgun
The Smith and Wesson M&P has a special tab you must depress to remove the slide from the frame.

With the slide off, the captive recoil spring is removed next. Then the barrel will easily slip out as well.

This is the extent to which the gun should be broken down for routine cleaning. There is no need to break down the frame components or the trigger assembly unless a failure has happened. The firearm can be cleaned and lubricated like this.

Step 2: Cleaning

The barrel is the largest area in need of cleaning. The chamber area and the lands and grooves often are the most caked with carbon. With this in mind, I run a wet patch or mop over those areas with my cleaner or carbon cutter.

In the video, I use Kroil, as I find it to be a quality cleaner, especially for routine work.

I prefer drip or soak applicators that are designed for cleaning, as opposed to items like G-96 that act as a cleaner, lubricant and protector rolled into one.

For deep cleaning, single-purpose cleaners are better. For solid lubrication, dedicated lubricants are also better.

CLP products like G-96 are great for light cleaning, as well as for things like a carry gun that is not shot a lot, but needs frequent removal of dust and reapplication of lubricant and sweat protection.

They are also great when an aerosol is needed to reach the recesses of a firearm or to blast away accumulated fuzz and dust.

This may be overkill, but it works for me. Another point that many will see as overkill is my unwillingness to run anything other than a patch or mop in the opposite direction of bullet travel.

In the video, I pointed this out and even did so with the wet patch. I do not always honor this with a wet patch, as the point is to ensure the surface is wet and there is no damage potential from grinding of grit or the brush across the rifling.

With brushes (even nylon), I only push them through in the direction the bullet travels. This greatly decreases potential wear from the brush or the grit embedded in it.

It also keeps all dirt and debris moving away from the action.


Cleaning Smith and Wesson M&P Barrel
Go with the rifling when cleaning the barrel of your Smith and Wesson M&P to prevent damage.

When I use a wet patch and it does not come out terribly dirty, I will use that patch for cleaning the exterior of the barrel, the recoil spring and other areas until it accumulates too much carbon or dirt.

I am frugal, and patches and cleaner are not free. Additional wet patches can be used, as needed.  One for the barrel and one for the frame is common on a lightly-shot gun.

Using several per major component is not uncommon for a well-fouled firearm.

A specific area many people miss on the Smith and Wesson M&P is the spring inside the magwell. A quick pass with a cleaner-soaked patch will loosen any grime.

Just be sure to lubricate it after the cleaning is done. This is best done with another wet patch soaked in lube.

As mentioned earlier, I start by soaking the inside of the barrel first. After I have cleaned the rest of the firearm, I return with the brush to work on the inside of the barrel.

This allows the cleaner time to act on deposits and simplifies the cleaning process. The fewer strokes taken with a brush, the less likely you are to damage the rifling.

Also, why work hard when you can work smart. It is also useful to use a roller-bearing rod for use with the brush. This allows the brush to follow, instead of fight, the rifling.

By following the rifling, you get a better cleaning action as well as reduce wear.

The last step of cleaning is to remove the cleaner, which will pick up any debris missed by the previous passes. I always remove the cleaner prior to applying the lubricant, as the cleaner will dilute the utility of the lubricant if left in place.

Step 3: Lubrication

Lubricants vary in their purpose. Some are very light and evaporate quickly. Some are designed to be thicker and last longer. The first type is great for frequent reapplications, like CLP products.

Many of the second type stay around longer, but tend to attract dust and grit if used on high-use items like carry guns.

I have found a product that has low evaporative qualities, great adherence (it stays even when wiped off) and low attraction to dust and grime when applied thinly.

This product is AWT Extreme Force Lube. It can be applied thicker in guns that like to be run wet (AR’s) without too much run or creep, and as a full-synthetic, it is very good in high-temperature environments.

I like to use a needle applicator so I can limit the film depth and to get into the recessed areas like the trigger springs and the firing pin assembly.


Applying oil to Smith and Wesson M&P handgun
It is important to apply lubrication to the slide rails of the Smith and Wesson M&P to keep it functioning properly and prevent wear.

On the Smith and Wesson M&P, lube needs to be applied to the entire exterior of the barrel. It should also be applied to the rails and groves of the slide, the recoil spring and the above-mentioned areas.

The lube should not be left “wet”. The gun requires a light film; so, after applying the lube, a wipe with a clean patch is great to spread it out and leave a thin layer.

I apply drops to the slide rail areas and cycle the action to distribute the lube there.

Step 4: Reassembly and Function Check

Reassembly of the gun is done in the reverse order of takedown. The barrel is mounted into the slide. The captive recoil spring is fitted to the barrel and slide.

The slide is slipped back onto the frame rails and put back to the slide lock location. The takedown lever is moved into the horizontal position.

Then, after dropping the slide lock, cycle the action several times to ensure proper function. Dry fire the gun, install a magazine and make sure a round will chamber.

If both the dry fire and the chambering work, the gun is back to being functional and clean.

How do you clean your firearms? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. If one has a compressor, using a stream of air at about 50 psi to get the crud out of the hidden corners. I personally over oil after a good cleaning then blow it all out with the air nozzle. What’s left I wipe off with a clean patch, then put a few drops back on the slides.
    This also helps to keep the trigger area clean and lubed.

  2. I thoroughly clean the rails and their grooves on both the slide and the frame before I lubricate them. The rails get about as dirty as any other part.

  3. Great video! My bride is new to shooting and this video has taught her more than I have been able to accomplish! We each own M&P9’s and M&P 22’s and this has allowed her to clean each by herself!
    Also I would like to purchase one of the pads (Smith & Wesson M&P/schematic) used in your video. Please advise, Hugh

  4. You might add that you need to remove the mag release button to get it cleaned good.
    You reach down and gently pull the spring back to slide the pin out.
    this applies to the M & P Shield.

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