The M-1911 Maintenance

A lot of people have written to me, to ask about tips on M-1911 maintenance. So I decided to gather some information, and put some guidelines here. Most of them come from Bill Wilson's "1911 Auto Maintenance Manual", but I've added some of my own.

Maintenance Schedule

Clean and lube (routine)

* Lead bullet use : every 300-500 rounds
* Jacketed bullets: every 500-700 rounds
* Carry pistols : once a month

Clean and lube (thorough)

* Every 5000 rounds and/or every 3 months, the pistol should be fully disassembled, cleaned and lubricated.

Spring replacement

* Recoil spring : every 2000 rounds
* Firing pin spring : every 5000 rounds
* Hammer spring : every 25000 rounds

Products I use

Every shooter has its favorite cleaning and lubricating products. The ones I use, are not always what I like, but what I can find in my country. So please, do not write back to tell me that XYZ cleaner is better than the one I use, you might be right, but try to import it from the States and then tell me if it is worth it. So, here is the list: * Bore Cleaner : Hoppe's No 9 is the best I've ever tried. I use it whenever possible. Otherwise, similar products from other manufacturers are used.
* Lube : I am currently using two lubes, one is Wilson's Ultima-Lube and the other is Break-Free. Ultima-Lube is an excellent lube, but is not very easy to find locally. I use it in areas where a small drop is all you need. To cover larger areas, like for example the inside or the outside of the barrel, I use Break-Free.
* Dry-Lube : I am currently trying to find out who is importing such a lube in Greece. This kind of lube is excellent for carry guns, since they dry out to a lubricating film which stays where applied, instead of flowing out of the pistol. If I find one, I'll let you know.
* Other : I am also trying to locate some source for the Outers Metal Seal. From Bill's writing it should be a decent product.

Update: I tried this product and indeed it is quite good. It covers your firearm with a protective finish which lasts quite some time. Thumbs up!
* Tools : patches, bronze cleaning brush, Wilson's bronze chamber brush, a nylon tooth brush and a special tool I made myself. It is an old dentist tool, like a small pick. I filed the point so that it is like a pensil's sharpened end, only angled a little from its axis. This tool is great to clean the small areas where firing residue gets stuck, like the edges of the breech face. Covered with a piece of patch or cloth, it can be used to wipe residue out from the slide rails, and other hard to reach areas.Use it with care though, being made of hard steel, it can damage the pistol's metal. A pair of twizzers has also proved useful on more than one occasions. Q-tips are also great to clean out hard to reach areas, like the firing pin hole and extractor hole. Have several in hand. Sometimes, if I am out of them I use pipe cleaners, these are working great for even tighter areas, like the plunger tube. Since I used to smoke a pipe, I always have a healthy supply which I use instead of Q-tips. Other tools I use is Wilson's Versa Tool and Wilson's plastic barrel bushing wrench. The Versa Tool, although very nice and useful, is too big and clamsy for daily carry. What I've did, is I purchased a Wilson's plastic barrel bushing wrench, and I cut it in half, one end has a Government/Commander wrench, the other an Officers. I then reshaped the two parts, so that they are of an oval shape. Polish the material to look like new, drill one hole at the narrow end and hang it (or them) at your key ring. Presto, you will never be without a bushing wrench again.


Barrel (jacketed bullets)

Saturate a cleaning patch with Hoppe's No 9. and run it through the barrel some times. Let it soak for some time, depending on how much copper fouling there is in the bore. After soaking, run another soaked patch through the bore and then clean the inside of the bore with a tight-fitting bronze brush. Clean the throat area of the barrel with a clotch soaked in No 9. Run dry patches through the bore until they come out clean. I usually stop here, but Bill recommends that you continue, by soaking a patch with Outers Metal Seal and run it through the bore a couple of times.

Barrel (lead bullets)

Same basic procedure, but do not use solvent in the barrel. Take a loose fitting bronze brush and tightly wrap a 2" square cut from a pure copper mess scouring pad, around the brush. Run it through the bore, remove the rod and repeat 6 or 8 times. Your bore should be 100% lead-free. (Author remark: I hate lead bullets and since reloading is not allowed in Greece, I never use them, anyway. The tip comes from Bill Wilson).


Wipe breech face and any other heavily fouled area (such as slide rails), with a patch or a paper towel saturated with No 9. Brush breech face and slide rails with nylon brush. If you have a tool, like my dentist tool, use it to remove the residue from the edges of the breech face, where the rim of the cartridge contacts. Clean out firing pin and extractor holes with Q-tips soaked in No 9 (or with pipe cleaners). Wipe slide out thoroughly with paper towels, especially slide rails.


Wipe feed ramp, top of slide rails and any other fouled area with paper towels soaked in No 9. Brush the inside of the frame out and wipe any old lubricant and firing residue. Pay particular attention to the rail cuts.

Small parts

Wipe and brush all parts clean. Use paper towels soaked in No 9.


Basic rules

* Any areas that show sign of metal-to-metal contact, should be lubed.
* After assembly, if you have lube running out of every crack, you used too much lubricant.

Areas to lube

Lube the areas below, as you reassemble the pistol. * Trigger : apply thin films of lube to top and bottom of the pad, to left, right and back sides of the bow.
* Magazine catch : one drop in the exposed spring area, just before inserting the assembly in the frame.
* Sear/Disconnector : one drop between sear and disconnector, after they are installed in the frame and alight film on the bottom angle of the disconnector where the sear spring rests.
* Hammer : small amount on both hammer hooks and thin films on the flat sides of the hammer.
* Mainspring housing : One drop inside the hammer spring hole, before inserting the spring.
* Thumb safety/Slide stop plunger : Light film on each plunger.
* Thumb safety : one drop in shaft hole, before installing the safety. This will lube both the thumb and grip safety.
* Firing Pin : one drop on the side of the firing pin spring, before inserting it in the slide
* Slide : one drop in front of the locking recesses, a thin film down each frame rail cut.
* Barrel : Apply a heavy film, to the outside of the barrel, where it contacts the bushing and one drop to the bottom of each slide stop lug.
* Frame : Thin line of lube down each slide rail, and one drop in the disconnector hole.
* Full-length guide rod : a thin film to its outside diameter.

Finish assembly and work the slide several times. There should be only a bit of lube on the outside of the gun, to wipe off, at the rear of the slide. Spray exterior surfaces with something like "Metal Seal".

Do not forget that magazines need cleaning too. I take them apart once in a while (don't get religious with that) and clean them thoroughly with Hoppe's. Wipe them off and lube them slightly. A little lube on a cloth is all that they need, do not overlube them. Also, please rotate your magazines. If you keep one of them loaded constantly, the spring will soon get damaged. Once a week is a nice idea, have several of them at hand (you have tested each new magazine with your pistol, haven't you?) and reshuffle them regularly.