Gun Maintenance: How to Clean a Revolver

A revolver and a handgun laying on a pad in preparation for cleaning

Cleaning your gun is something that gun owners and gun lovers do for many reasons. The most obvious motivation is that it keeps your gun functioning normally despite tens, hundreds, or thousands of rounds at the range, or several boxes of shells on opening day. Gun cleaning can be relaxing too, if you know how to clean a revolver.

Some shooters practice field stripping their guns repeatedly so if the situation ever arrives that they have to repair a gummed up weapon amidst a firefight, they could do it in the shortest amount of time humanly possible. Operating with a freshly cleaned weapon is similar to wearing a brand new pair of socks, you’re not sure why, but your day is just a little bit better because of it.

.357 Caliber Revolver Pistol, Revolver open ready to put bullets on leather furniture
With the cylinder open, clean the barrel and each cylinder.

Revolvers are popular carry guns, despite their relatively old technology level. Gun manufacturers are continuously coming up with new and exciting designs for their revolver lines, and there is no sign of this small part of the industry slowing down. That being said, we decided that it would be a good idea to go over some of the most basic revolver cleaning methods. Obviously, there is more than one way to do this, and you should always consult your manufacturer owner’s manual before attempting to clean any firearm.

Getting Started

The first step is to ensure the gun is unloaded. This is an obvious step, however, you can never be too careful with guns. Remember, an unloaded gun should be treated as if it was still loaded.

Gather your supplies. There are many gun-cleaning kits available. Most are inexpensive and will last a lifetime, just be careful with the brass rods, as handling them too rough or using them improperly will cause them to break.

Cleaning Process

Break the gun down. In this case, most revolvers will open to the side, exposing the cylinder. Tie a rag around the back of the gun to protect the firing mechanism. Some guns are more fragile than others, but doing this as a rule will prevent any accidents. It also gives you a nice place to grab the gun.

Grab the appropriate bore brush for your handgun. Remember, manufacturers of bore brushes use the same brush for many calibers. A 9mm Luger brush may be the same as a .357 Magnum, .38 Special and so forth.

If the gun hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, apply solvent to the bore brush and pull the brush out of the gun from chamber to barrel tip. If possible, you should always clean the barrel in the direction the bullet travels. Repeat these steps on each cylinder as well.

Grab an old toothbrush, and apply solvent to it as well. Brush the firing mechanism and the back of the cylinder. Push back the extractor rod and brush it as well. Spent gunpowder can collect around the extractor rod in a short amount of time. Once you have applied solvent to the cylinders and barrel, remove excess solvent material using a cleaning rod and cloth pad attachment.

Next, take the same cloth attachment and a fresh cloth. Apply gun oil and run the rod through the cylinders and barrel. Take another cloth and wipe away any excess oil. Finally, grab a clean rag and apply a few drop of oil to it as well. Polish and clean the outside of the gun until there is no visible dirt of fingerprints.

Traditions revolver with white grips and engraving
Firearms are useful tools for self-defense, but they are also an investment. Protect your investment by taking a few minutes to clean and lubricate your guns regularly.

Conclusion: How to Clean a Revolver

This method of cleaning is what I have always used, and I have never had any problems with my revolvers. Remember to be safe when cleaning your firearms and always promote your Second Amendment right to self-defense!

For those new to firearms, do you have a tip or lesson learned about how to clean a revolver? Share your best cleaning tips or preferred products in the comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November of 2011. It has been updated for accuracy and clarity.

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 (5)

  1. This brings to mind what is probably the one advantage a revolver has over a semi-auto pistol. You should definitely clean and maintain your firearm. But if you don’t, the revolver will keep on firing, when the pistol will probably fail, eventually. I’m not talking about accuracy, I’m saying the gun will go bang when you pull the trigger, even dirty. A couple caveats, though, for a dirty revolver: If the lead/soot buildup on the rear of the barrel and face of the cylinder gets so bad that that the cylinder does not turn easily this could possibly cause a failure in double action firing. Also, if you practice with a .357 or .44 Mag with shorter ammo (.38 SPL, .44 SPL) you can create a ring of fouling in the chambers that will prevent loading the longer magnum rounds. God bless and stay safe.

  2. Using cast bullets in a revolver dates back to before there were center fired cartridges. One area that needs to be cleaned is the forcing cone (Throat) of the barrel. Anyone that has used a LEWIS scrubber on the forcing cone of their revolver is shocked at how much lead comes off. Critical if you shoot both cast lead and jacketed bullets. Lead build-up is a much more common problem than the dreaded mismatch between the cylinder throat and forcing cone diameters so often thought to be a cause of poor accuracy.

  3. One item I HIGHLY recommend is: A CHAMBER brush. It is what it says it is, like bore brushes, are sized specifically to clean the CHAMBER, and should never be forced down the bore, as it is slightly larger in diameter to the brass, than the bullet. Think about it; as the bullet leaves the brass case, it typically leaves a ring of carbon deposit behind, and the respective BORE brush is too small in diameter to be effective to remove this carbon ring. Like bore brushes, they are sized respectively, and one for a 9 mm also works for .357, and 38, and cost about the same as a bore brush. Many CHAMBER brushes are made of stainless steel, which scrubs better, and makes for easy reference that it is for the CHAMBER, and NOT the bore. It makes so much sense, I have to wonder why they are not promoted more. When using a CHAMBER brush, it works best with a NON-rotating cleaning rod, so it can be twisted by hand in a cleaning motion, for best results. CHAMBER brushes work on pistols, revolver cylinders, and rifles. In the case of say an AR (5.56) chamber brush, these are designed to clean the star, and the LARGE part of the CHAMBER, but unfortunately does not consider the NECKED in portion where the bullet leaves the brass, and thus the carbon ring. For this area of an AR CHAMBER I suggest a .270 or a .280 BORE brush. Same principle apples to other rifle calibers. On the ones I have cleaned the CHAMBER in this manner, seems to also improve accuracy.

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