How to Clean a 1911 with Bill Wilson

Chances are good you clean your gun at least every now and then. Of course, how it gets cleaned and the parts involved depends heavily on what type of gun you own. If you’re a 1911 owner, you know the platform presents its own challenges and needs when it comes to cleaning day. In this video, Wilson Combat founder Bill Wilson talks about how he recommends cleaning and maintaining your 1911.

Bill Wilson and Ken Hackathorn talk about cleaning and maintaining 1911s.
Bill Wilson and Ken Hackathorn talk about cleaning and maintaining 1911s. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

How Often Should You Clean Your Gun?

This is a matter of some debate and seems to vary from shooter to shooter. In Bill Wilson’s case, he says he cleans his 1911s about every 300 rounds. There’s more in-depth maintenance involved at higher round counts, too, but that’s when he typically gives them a basic cleaning.

What Tools Do You Need to Clean a 1911?

gun cleaning tools
A few tools of the cleaning trade for Bill Wilson. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

The Wilson Combat Handgun Cleaning Kit shown in the video and contains the following:

  • 1911 nylon bushing wrench
  • Universal handle (works with rod & chamber brush)
  • Brass rod
  • Bore brush 9mm/.40 (nylon)
  • Bore brush .45 (nylon)
  • Chamber brush 9mm/.40 (nylon)
  • Chamber brush .45 (nylon)
  • 1911 extractor/firing pinhole brush
  • Magazine well brush
  • Bore mop 9mm/.40
  • Bore mop .45
  • Cleaning patch slotted tip
  • Channel tool
  • Universal toothbrush
  • 2oz Ultima-Lube oil
  • 2oz Ultima-Lube Universal Bore Cleaner
  • 30 cotton patches
  • Packaged in plastic divider box
Bill Wilson demonstrates how he cleans his daily use 1911.
Bill Wilson demonstrates how he cleans his daily use 1911. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

How to Clean a 1911 — Pro Tip

“For best results soak fouled areas with Wilson Combat Universal Bore Cleaner to start to remove bullet and powder fouling from your bore and caked-on areas.  After a three to five minute soak, using a mop on the inside of your bore, on your breech, slide tunnel, and inside your pistol’s recesses. Use nylon bore brushes and other supplied brushes along with the channel tool and patches to lift and wipe off the heaviest fouling. Finish with dry cotton patches on the slotted rod tip in your bore to wipe out the excess cleaner.  Use the supplied Ultima lube II oil for final lubrication of all wear areas.

“Your goal when cleaning is not to get your handgun surgically clean, but clean enough to maintain perfect reliability.  We have seen many guns sent in by customers over the years that have been harmed by overzealous cleaning.”

Watch the video below to see Bill Wilson’s process for cleaning his 1911:

Some of the viewers on shared their own cleaning tips, tricks, and general thoughts in the comments section.

YouTuber No Drama said, “I typically run a barrel brush through it to remove residue and then finish by running a lightly lubed wipe through the barrel just for corrosion protection. I also wipe the frame down with a lightly lubed patch for the same reason. If you’ve ever pulled a firearm/shotgun out of your safe and found the beginning signs of corrosion it’s an immediate “Oh S–t” moment.”

BillB1963 says he must be old-school like Bill, tearing apart his frame every 5000 rounds or so. He also says he never used any spray solvent. “Never had issues putting it back together, but then again I have had 1911’s for 30+ years. Love this, clean enough is good enough, lube is the most important.”

How often do you clean your guns? Tell us in the comments below.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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