Ever wonder if you can damage your pistol by cleaning it too much. Having a clean and well functioning pistol is a good thing, but as with most things in life, excess in any endeavor can produce bad results.
You can not over clean the trigger mechanism, the action, or the frame of the pistol but you can cause excessive wear on the crown end of the rifling with too much cleaning, incorrect cleaning methods, or with a cleaning rod that is abrasive. Wear to this area of any firearm results in poorer accuracy.
Once a barrel is worn in this area there is really no fix. The barrel must be replaced which is easy enough to do in a pistol but is very costly. Once you price barrels you will realize that it might be better to just replace the entire pistol.
Don't panic. If you are using a good cleaning rod and the proper cleaning techniques you probably haven't damaged your barrel. If you have you will know pretty quickly because your groups, even at short range, will open up considerably.
Even if you are using a rod that is abrasive, and you clean your pistol excessively, it will take time to cause a substantial problem.
The muzzle crown you see below is excessively worn but a primary example of what can be done by a novice who doesn't know what he is doing. Use a rod that is not abrasive and nowhere near the hardness of metal that makes up the barrel. Always insert your rod from the opposite end of the barrel, not the muzzle end when cleaning and try not to let the brush or rod exit the barrel before pulling it back or removing the patch.
Any brushes used should be made of brass. A good solvent allowed to just sit in the barrel for a few minute before brushing will allow you to get a really clean barrel with much fewer strokes of the brush. Once the patches are coming through clean, don't forget a layer of lubricant to protect the finish from rust. Even on the polymer pistols that will see a lot of hard use.
Are all pistols the same?
All pistols are the same in the requirement for a good rod and good cleaning techniques. Revolvers however, usually require less cleaning with the same number of shots.
Brand name revolvers are very well designed weapons in that they have fewer moving parts, and the parts that do move have very close machining tolerances and are usually enclosed completely to prevent foreign objects from ever entering the area.
Semi automatic pistols require more cleaning in order to function correctly and dependably than any other type of handgun. This is because there are more moving parts making up the semi auto design. All parts are mostly exposed and and are easily covered with powder residue and remnants. This material is usually the primary cause of a malfunction.
How often should a pistol be cleaned?
With heavy use a semi auto poly pistol should be cleaned around every 300 - 400 rounds or before you intend to carry it for self defense. This is the frequency I uses on my competition and pistols that I will just shoot at the range.
Never risk your life on a pistol that is not in top shape and clean. Even though some tactical polymer pistols have proven results in reliability by surviving some extreme torture tests and still being capable of firing, the last thing you want in a self defense situation is to pull your weapon and it doesn't go bang.
Do a thorough cleaning and functionality check on any pistol you plan to carry immediately before you put it into service.
Valuable pistols made from stainless steel, metal, or aluminium, like some 1911s might require a cleaning and oiling every time it's shot, especially when corrosive ammo has been used or the pistol has been exposed to the elements. Failing to do so might result in jams during your next shooting session.
Oh, and don't forget to give all metal parts a thin coat of a lubricant. Some people think that these types of metals won't rust. Wrong, they rust less and at a a slower rate than regular metals, but they still rust.