How To Clean My Silencer

Since we’ve already answered the Should I Clean My Silencer? query, now we can tackle the fun part: How to clean a suppressor. If you own a rimfire or a pistol can, this writeup is calling your name. As for you higher caliber suppressor owners (e.g., 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and large bore), you know from our last post that most rifle units are self-cleaning, but feel free to read along anyway!

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Be sure to keep this popular idiom in mind when reading the below information because it’s certainly applicable. By no means does this entry cover every base regarding servicing a silencer, but we’ve attempted to provide the most common and beneficial options.

*Before moving forward, PLEASE note: Always ensure the host firearm is clear/unloaded before removing any silencer. Moreover, due to the potential toxicity of certain aspects of cleaning a can, take the necessary precautions (e.g., latex gloves, protective goggles) during the chosen process. Forging ahead…

Preface

When it comes to servicing a silencer, there are several options at your disposal to reach the end goal: a high-performing, fully-functioning can. However, it’s important to avoid damaging the suppressor itself and its components, which (unfortunately) is easily achieved when utilizing certain toxic chemicals and abrasive devices.

As mentioned in last week’s post, rimfire cans are the main culprits in terms of dirtiness due to the filthy, unjacketed .22LR ammunition run through these models. And although pistol cans generally use at least partially jacketed ammo, these units are prone to modest lead buildup, which directly affects performance.

Generally, there are two troublemaking culprits that accumulate within silencers: carbon and lead. Both “ingredients” are what you should target to clean off your recently used cans. Carbon, as seasoned gun owners are all too familiar with, is the byproduct of combustion in the chamber/barrel that accumulates as black residue pretty much everywhere. Lead, on the other hand, directly involves the projectiles that travel through the firearm’s barrel. As the projectiles make their way through the rifled barrel, minute grooves in the barrel “peel” off small slivers of lead and dispense them throughout the silencer’s interior. Not often found on the flat surfaces of cans, this silvery, rigid buildup typically accrues within the nooks and crannies.

Methods of Cleaning a Suppressor

In a nutshell, there are two ways you can attack the filthiness of a silencer. We affectionately refer to these methods as elbow grease vs. power tools. These options can be broken down accordingly:
  • Elbow grease includes basic utensils (e.g., toothbrush, toothpick, cloth) and noncorrosive solvents (e.g., Simple Green, Hoppes #9, soapy water). Simply disassemble the unit, soak the tube and baffles in chosen liquid, and brush/wipe away any leftover residue. (Note: Be sure to remember how the components fit together for reassembly after maintenance is complete.)
  • Power tools consist of the more extreme forms of servicing a silencer, specifically ultrasonic cleaners, brass tumblers, and polishing tools. It’s imperative to be careful when utilizing any of these options because each is considered a timed method and requires your attention. For instance, don’t leave aluminum baffles in a tumbler for an extended period or they’ll be reduced to useless nubs. And be extra careful with ultrasonic cleaners as they can erode finishes, namely Cerakote.

Based on our experiences, we’ve found the most effective and safest method is also the easiest: Simple Green, a handy toothbrush, and a reliable toothpick for the stubborn spots. There’s far less risk in damaging silencers if you roll up your sleeves and use some elbow grease to thoroughly clean each rimfire and pistol can in your arsenal.

As a general rule, the suppressor’s build materials will dictate which cleaning method is most optimal for your situation. For example, aluminum is a very moody element to deal with, so be aware when servicing your all-aluminum CGS Hydra. Actually, let’s examine the three primary silencer build materials and their key cleaning points:

  • Aluminum: Do NOT use ultrasonic cleaners, harsh solvents, or steel brushes/picks. To avoid permanent damage, only use safe chemicals and brass or plastic utensils.
  • Stainless steel: Use essentially anything… It’s not rocket science concerning this material, but tread lightly when using certain chemicals (e.g., paint thinners, hydrogen peroxide, “the dip”) due to the reaction created between the metal and the solvent. You don’t want your Q El Camino to be unpretty.
  • Titanium: See stainless steel. Moreover, brass tumblers seem to work well cleaning both titanium and stainless steel models (e.g., Sig Sauer SRD 45, AAC Ti-Rant 9M).

Considering rimfire and pistols cans alike are comprised of various components, it’s important to prioritize which areas need the most TLC.

Parts of a Silencer to Service

Let’s dissect the primary pieces of a suppressor and how to treat each.

  • Monocore/baffles: Depending on its design, the innards of your silencer are either a monocore or baffle setup. The flat surfaces are easy to clean, but the internal details can sometimes be problematic, even though buildup is often visible. Utilizing the solvent/toothbrush method works just fine. If needed, use a toothpick for the nooks and crannies, paying special attention to the places where metal meets metal.
  • Tube/endcaps: Chalk these components up to being a breeze to maintain. Because monocore/baffle removal essentially cleans the tube internally, all that’s needed is a simple wipe down with a twist cloth to remove minimal debris. Use the same cloth to wipe down the endcaps.
  • Threads: Much like the tube/endcaps components, a quick wipe down – or pass through with a toothbrush - will suffice the threads. Done and done.
  • Boosters: Some setups require the use of boosters. Merely remove the accompanying booster and wipe/lubricate as needed. It’s imperative that the interface between the piston and the housing is clean of debris or the booster could malfunction.
  • O-rings: These lil’ guys are almost always located between the booster housing and the piston. A gentle clean and lube allow O-rings to fully function… Ultrasonic cleaners and other solvents degrade the O-ring material, so use caution when servicing (or avoid altogether). And take a mental picture of where it’s housed for replacement during reassembly.

Outlook

With all of the preceding said, keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to refer to the silencer’s user manual for general care insight. Whenever in doubt, this guide provided by the manufacturer offers the best maintenance options for keeping your specific can clean.

When you encounter a silencer that is being stubborn to take apart, a quick range trip can help (sometimes you just need an excuse to go back out).  Heating the silencer up will often aid in the disassembly process.  Just be careful not to try this when the silencer is TOO hot! (For safety sake, use a Silencer Shop removal tool when in doubt.) It’s advantageous to remove a very dirty silencer at the gun-run while still warm. Obviously, adhere to all gun safety and range safety rules.  Even more, that can be a perfect time to remove the monocore/baffles from the outer tube. Once home, take the necessary precautions—wear gloves and goggles—to ensure a safe cleaning experience throughout.

Regularly scheduled maintenance of your rimfire and pistol suppressors increases their performance and longevity. As always, contact us with any questions you might have regarding all-things silencers. Moreover, if you have personal triumphs/helpful hints regarding suppressor maintenance, please “Leave a Reply” below for your fellow silencer enthusiasts. Here’s to clean and safe shooting.