Tips to Remove Lead From Your Handguns

posted on April 16, 2018

Above: A favorite among wheelgun enthusiasts, the Lewis Lead Remover remains one tried-and-true method of ridding revolvers of pesky lead deposits.

I am a big fan of shooting lead bullets in my handguns because they are inexpensive, easy to load and easier on the barrels than jacketed variants. The downside is they leave a significant amount of lead buildup in the barrel (in some of my guns), which requires a lot of work to remove with regular bore cleaner and a brush. There has to be a quicker and better way to remove the lead fouling than the method I am presently using. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
K.C. Diaz Taos, NM

Loading and shooting both cast and swaged-lead bullets in my pistols and revolvers has always been one of my passions. One of the things to remember with lead bullets in handguns is to match the bullet to the application, which helps to limit lead deposits in the barrel. Another consideration is to ensure the bullet diameter is compatible with the bore of the barrel and in the case of a revolver, the throat diameter of the cylinder. There are several ways to remove lead from the barrels and throats of handguns. All have some pros and cons. I’ll list them in the order of my preference and you can choose which one best fits your particular needs.

My favorite method is to disassemble the gun as soon as I have finished the shooting session, and run a tight-fitting bore brush through the barrel and throats in the case of a revolver, while the gun is still hot. This method has worked for me consistently over the years with handguns and long guns when shooting lead bullets. Once the gun cools, lead has a tendency to bond a little tighter to the surfaces where is has collected, making it more difficult to remove. Should it be the case where the gun has cooled and the lead has become more difficult to remove, the Lewis Lead Remover is an excellent tool to remove deposits from barrels as well as cylinder throats. It works very well through pulling a tight-fitting patch made of soft wire screen material through the bore or cylinder throat to scrub the lead away from the surfaces being cleaned. Several passes may be necessary to remove every last particle of lead, but I’ve never known this handy tool to fail.

The two aforementioned methods are the most time-saving and work well, however there are others to consider: Chemical removal of lead is always an option. In the “old days,” some folks used mercury to amalgamate with the lead and remove it from a gun. This was before they realized mercury was extremely toxic and would shorten a person’s lifespan considerably. (For that reason alone, do not use mercury to remove lead from your guns.)

Today, modern chemical removal involves using penetrating fluids to undermine and loosen the lead deposits. This takes time but usually works if sufficient time is allowed for the chemical action to do its work. It usually takes a bit of scrubbing with a bore brush to completely remove all traces of the lead, which adds to the time needed to clean the gun. If you are not inclined to use a brush for lead removal, Outers has an electro-chemical product that it markets under the name of Foul Out that comes in several iterations. Once applied, it takes some time and monitoring, but is easy on the elbow.

I always like to spend more time shooting and less time cleaning. That’s the reason I clean the lead out of my guns while they are still warm because it reduces my work once I get home.


Sheriff Jim Wilson
Sheriff Jim Wilson

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