Proper Care and Cleaning of a Single Action Revolver

By Heather Madsen

One of the most important aspects of owning a firearm is making sure that it is properly cleaned and maintained. A clean and well oiled gun will be more accurate, less prone to misfire, and will last longer than a gun that is neglected. In this article we will cover the proper tools and procedure for cleaning a single action revolver.

To start, you will need to assemble your cleaning products. You can get a kit that comes with everything or buy the individual products you need here. Either way, you’ll need a solvent or cleaner, gun oil, a clean rag or patches, bristle brushes, a cleaning rod with attachments, and a gun mat to work on. Q-tips are also a very useful and affordable tool you can use to help clean the hard to reach areas of your firearm. Once you’ve gathered all of these items, you’re almost ready to get started.

Check each chamber for ammunitionWhen handling any firearm, the most important thing to remember is safety. Before you start cleaning or disassembling your pistol, you’ll first need to make sure it’s unloaded. For a revolver, simply pull back the hammer and spin the cylinder to check all of the chambers, and ensure that they're not holding any ammo. Once you’ve made sure that your gun is empty, you’ll want to move any ammunition away from you and the firearm you’re cleaning. Placing it in a drawer or a separate room is a great way to ensure your safety, and the safety of anyone nearby.

Now you can begin the cleaning process. You’ll want to start by taking apart the different components of your firearm. For most gun owners, you’ll only need to know how to “field strip” your gun. Field stripping a single action revolver is very simple and only requires you to pull the base pin on the bottom of the gun, which will release the cylinder and allow you to separate it from the barrel. Dismantling your firearm further is called “detailed stripping,” and unless you are a trained professional, you should not attempt it, as it is very easy to damage the smaller and more delicate pieces of your firearm if they are removed incorrectly.

Once the cylinder is separated from the revolver, you can begin cleaning. Start with the barrel, as this is where most of the carbon build up will be. If you haven’t cleaned your revolver in a while it might be helpful to spray some solvent down the barrel and let it sit for a few minutes to loosen up any debris. Otherwise, you can simply spray some solvent onto a mop and use a cleaning rod to slide it up and down the barrel, moving from the muzzle backwards. Do this until your mop comes out clean. Using the same technique, run the mop through each of the chambers on the cylinder until they also come out clean.

Clean and oil each chamberAnother place to pay attention to when cleaning is the back of the cylinder. A lot of carbon or lead can build up there, so you might need to let it soak in solvent and then scrub it with a bristle brush to completely clean it.

The next step is to oil. A good rule of thumb is to oil the parts of the gun that have metal on metal contact; those are the spots that will rub the most, and will need lubrication. On a single action revolver that will include the barrel, cylinder chambers, the back of the cylinder, and base pin. Use a patch and cleaning rod to apply the oil to the barrel and chambers. Use a rag to wipe down the rest of your gun once you’re done applying the oil. Your goal should be to apply a light coating so that the gun is protected from rust and wear; your gun should be shiny, but not greasy once you’re done.

Once your pistol is cleaned and oiled, it’s time to reassemble all the pieces. Simply realign the cylinder teeth with the back of the frame, and reinsert the pin.

Pro Tip: If your revolver has a pin with a bevel, make sure you place it back in its slot correctly, otherwise you could gouge the bottom of your gun.

Lastly, you’ll want to perform a function check to make sure everything is assembled properly. For your revolver, simply pull back the hammer slightly and make sure you can smoothly rotate the cylinder. Then, make sure when you cock the hammer fully, it rotates the next chamber into position. If your pistol passes your function check, you are officially done cleaning, and your pistol is ready to be taken to the range.

If you have any questions regarding your single action revolver or what was discussed in this article, please reach out to a Sportsman’s representative at, or visit your local Sportsman’s Warehouse and speak to an associate at the gun counter.

If you’d like to learn more about the care, cleaning, and usage of firearms, check out our other videos and articles.