Steps in Cleaning Your 1911

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In a world of plastic pistols and mouse guns, there’s something grounding about a 1911. A well-made 1911 is a thing of beauty and a reliable carry gun but it requires a bit more care than a plastic gun. You can find simple joy in cleaning your 1911.

As always, let’s start with safety.

Clear Your 1911

Before cleaning any gun, you must clear it. Take care to follow the four universal safety rules:

  • All guns are always loaded.
  • Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
  • Always be sure of your target (and what is beyond).

Drop your magazine. Next, rack your slide to clear the chamber. Do this even if you believe the chamber is empty. Then verify by sticking your finger in the 1911’s chamber. Relying on sight alone to clear your gun is not recommended; sometimes our eyes miss what our sense of touch discovers.

You will continue to treat it as if it were loaded, making safety a habit.

Remington 1911-style semi-automatic handgun in two-tone black and Flat Dark Earth (FDE) lying on a wrinkled white cloth background.

The Remington R1 10mm Hunter FDE is a member of the R1 family of 1911s.

The Takedown

Remember, we’re field-stripping for cleaning, not disassembling the gun entirely. Here I’ll guide you through field-stripping a 1911 with a bushing. Some 1911s have bull barrels; field-stripping those varies slightly. These steps are specific to the Remington R1 line; however, there are only slight variations among the various 1911 models with bushing barrels.

  • Reminder: Your gun is clear, correct? Good. Cock the hammer of your gun (pull it completely rearward).
  • Engage the safety.
  • Either using your hands or a barrel bushing wrench, depress the recoil spring plug located directly below the muzzle. As you push the plug inward, rotate the barrel bushing clockwise approximately 1/4 of a full revolution. Take care not to turn the bushing so far that it releases the plug (you want the edge of the bushing to maintain pressure on the plug, holding it in place). This is easiest accomplished with a barrel bushing wrench, with which most 1911s come.
  • Disengage the safety and rack the slide until the rearmost, curved edge of the slide stop lines up with the disassembly notch — the smaller of the two notches in the slide, located closer to the grip. To accomplish this, hold the gun upside-down (muzzle aimed in a safe direction) and wrap your left hand across the top rearward portion of the slide, with your thumb hooked around the top of the gun’s backstrap.
  • Holding the slide with your left hand as instructed above, rotate the gun so you are looking at its right-hand side. Use your right index finger to start pushing the slide stop pin through to the other side.
  • Rotate the gun back around and pull the slide stop all the way out. Set it aside.
  • Remove the slide from the frame by pushing it forward. Set it aside.
  • Turn the slide over so its top is facing the ground or resting on your work surface. Remove the recoil spring guide rod and recoil spring together by lifting them upward over the barrel, free of the barrel link, and then rearward.
  • Turn the barrel bushing counter-clockwise and push both the barrel and the barrel bushing forward. This unlocks the barrel bushing lug and allows them to be removed from the barrel. Set them aside.
  • Flip the barrel link all the way forward and remove the barrel by sliding it forward out the front of the slide.

Your 1911 is now field-stripped for cleaning.

Muzzle and recoil spring of a Remington 1911-style handgun, plus the bushing and a black plastic bushing wrench

The bushing and bushing wrench for a 1911 (pictured: Remington R1 10mm Hunter FDE).

Cleaning

There are a number of cleaning products on the market, and I have a bin full of great options. However, I prefer to use SEAL 1 products on all of my guns. Some products perform better than others, so find one you like. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll outline cleaning my Remington R1 10mm Hunter using SEAL 1, a non-toxic, environmentally friendly and multi-purpose cleaner. It is designed to cut through carbon build-up while also lubricating and protecting my guns.

  • Using a cleaner-saturated patch or a SEAL Skinz pre-lubricated patch, wipe the inside and outside of the barrel bushing. If the bushing needs to be scrubbed, use a nylon brush with SEAL 1 Liquid. Once you are finished, wipe it down with a soft rag dampened with SEAL 1 Liquid.
  • Move on to the barrel. Wet an appropriately sized bore brush with SEAL 1 Liquid. Move the bore brush back and forth through the barrel vigorously, pausing to re-apply your cleaning agent of choice at least once. The bore brush scrubs the barrel and loosens residue, simplifying the next step. (Tip: Always clean the barrel from the chamber end, not the muzzle end.)
  • Switch to a cleaning rod with a jag attached to the end. Slip a SEAL Skinz or clean, dry patch through the cleaning jag. If you use a dry patch, take a moment to saturate it with a liquid cleaning product. Run several patches through the barrel, one after another, until they come out clean. When you’re satisfied, run one final SEAL Skinz or lubricant-saturated patch through the barrel. Then run a clean, dry patch through to remove excess lubricant.
  • Use SEAL Skinz or a patch saturated with cleaning fluid to clean the exterior of the barrel. Take care to remove residue from the locking lugs on the exterior of the barrel. If there is too much residue to wipe off with saturated patches, use a nylon brush to clean it thoroughly. Then wipe it down again. When you are satisfied the barrel’s exterior is clean, wipe it down with your choice of lubricant using a soft rag.
  • Clean the slide next. Remington suggests spraying it with Rem Action Cleaner; I simply apply SEAL 1 Liquid to a nylon brush. Regardless of how you apply cleaner, you’ll be using the nylon brush for the slide. A little cleaner such as SEAL 1 CLP Plus Paste or Liquid on the brush goes a long way. Grip the slide with the muzzle end away from your body and begin scrubbing. Take care to clean the barrel lug cuts, extractor and breech block. When you believe it is clean, wipe it off with a clean, dry patch. Repeat until the patch comes back clean. Lightly lubricate the slide rails, hammer cocking surface, lug cuts and the bushing lug cut at the muzzle end of the slide.
  • Rags come in handy at this point for wiping down the exterior and interior of the slide. Q-tips or Swab-Its dipped in cleaner are great for cleaning nooks and crannies. When you are done, wipe down the exterior of the slide with a soft rag with SEAL 1 Liquid on it. Set the slide aside.
  • To clean the receiver, either spray with Rem Action Cleaner or wet your nylon brush with SEAL 1 Liquid. Use the nylon brush to remove fouling. Again, Q-tips or Swab-Its can come in handy. Lightly oil the interior of the receiver, paying special attention to the contact points of the hammer, disconnector and what Remington calls the “service window” in the magazine well. (Note: Some manufacturers do not recommend lubricating the latter part. In the long run, experience will be your guide in what to lubricate. For now, follow the lubrication guidelines for your model.) When you finish, wipe down the exterior of the receiver with the same soft rag you’ve been using to lightly oil as you go.
    *A word on grip panels: You can remove the grip panels from the receiver and wipe off any grit and dirt that’s collected under the edges. You don’t have to do this every time you clean your 1911, but it is recommended to do occasionally.
  • Re-assemble your 1911 by reversing the aforementioned field-stripping steps. When the gun is back in one piece, cycle the action repeatedly to spread lubricant. A nice touch is to apply an ultra-light coat of lubricant or oil with a clean rag to the gun’s exterior.
A field-stripped two-tone black and flat dark earth (FDE) Remington 1911-style semi-automatic pistol lying in its component parts on a wrinkled white fabric background

The parts of your 1911 after field-stripping (pictured: Remington R1 10mm Hunter FDE).

Re-assembly

  • Replace the barrel by sliding it into the slide from the muzzle end. Align it so it locks in place.
  • Insert the recoil spring and recoil spring guide rod from the chamber end. Make sure the guide rod rests on the barrel properly, directly in front of the barrel link.
  • Verify the hammer is still fully cocked.
  • Verify the safety is disengaged.
  • Verify the firing pin plunger lever is down. If it’s flipped up, the slide will not go on.
  • Put the slide back on the receiver and align the barrel link with the slide stop mounting hole. Insert the slide stop pin, making sure it passes through the barrel link. Push the pin all the way through. It will click into place (if you properly aligned the disassembly notch with the rearward portion of the slide stop).
  • Next, replace the recoil spring plug. Take care in this step as you did during field-stripping; the plug will be under a great deal of pressure. Consider wearing eye protection in case the plug launches into the air. Move the slide forward so it is fully atop the receiver. Your barrel bushing will already be rotated to one side. Place the plug on the end of the recoil spring. Put the bushing wrench over the bushing and use one hand to compress the spring to the level of the wrench. Capture the edge of the plug with the wrench and press it down, rotating the bushing back into its original position to hold it in place. Alternately, use your thumb on the bushing and use the edge of the bushing wrench to push the plug low enough for the bushing to catch. Once the plug is compressed enough, you can simply rotate the bushing into place with your other hand.
  • Work the action of your 1911 a few times to spread the lubricant and check basic function. Dry-fire in a safe direction if you wish.

Place your clean 1911 in your safe or holster. There’s no excuse to neglect cleaning and lubricating your 1911. In fact, you’ll find your gun performs better for longer periods with good maintenance.

Specs:

Manufacturer: Remington Slide Finish: PVD DLC
Model: R1 10mm Hunter FDE Slide Material: Stainless steel
Caliber: 10mm Barrel Length: 6.0 inches
Capacity: 8+1 Overall Length: 9.5 inches
Action: Semi-Auto Height: 5.75 inches
Frame Size: Government, long slide Weight: 41 ounces, empty
Frame Material: Stainless Steel

Sources:

Remington: Remington.com

SEAL 1: SEAL1.net