A major key to firearm ownership is cleaning and maintaining the gun to ensure function and longevity. 

As the 1911 is one of the most common handguns in the world, it is always a great refresher to see how to disassemble the frame, barrel, and slide to oil and clean the pistol. 

In a world spoiled with simple polymer handguns, the 1911 is a bit more complicated. While most modern handguns feature a simple cross pin or takedown button, the 1911 has a few more parts and can be a bit more finicky. 




Clearing the Handgun

It should go without saying that the first step in any firearm maintenance process is to remove the magazine and make sure the firearm is clear of ammunition. 

Related: Pistol Cleaning Tips & Tricks

Step 1: Releasing Spring Tension on the Barrel Bushing

The first step with the classic 1911 begins by rotating the barrel bushing at the end of the slide as you press down on the spring guide cap.

1911 pistol flat on white background
(All photos: Samantha Mursan/Guns.com)

 The bushing holds the recoil spring end cap under slide spring pressure. 

1911 pistol with recoil spring sliding out

Much like the infamous AR detent spring, the spring cap easily can be launched across the room as soon as the pressure is relieved, so you have to be careful to slowly release the tension. 

Once rotated, the spring cap can be removed from the end, and the slide will no longer be under spring tension, making it easy to move into place for the next step in the process. 

1911 pistol spring cap


Step 2: Slide Takedown Pin

Before sliding the frame back and forth, you must find the takedown cut on the slide behind the slide stop release cut. 

1911 takedown pin

Once you have located the takedown cut, you will index the slide to sit in alignment with the extension in the takedown lever. 

1911 takedown lever

Once aligned, the takedown pin can be pushed through with pressure from the backside, popping the protrusion through the cutout in the frame until the lever can be pulled all the way through. 

1911 with takedown pin pulled out


Step 3: Separating the Slide from the Frame

Once the takedown pin is removed from the handgun, this will sever the connection between the slide and the frame, and the parts can be separated. 


1911 slide separated from frame
1911 slide taken off frame


Step 4: Breaking Down the Slide Components

The next step is to remove the spring from the slide, pulling it back toward the rear of the slide until it is free. 

1911 slide components

Then you will rotate the barrel bushing to the notch to pull it out of the front, in order to free up the barrel for removal. 

1911 with barrel removed
1911 barrel removed with pieces next to it

Once the barrel bushing is removed, the 1911 barrel will need to be pulled out of the front of the slide. This is due to the 1911’s non-tilting barrel design, which differs from most modern handguns.

1911 non tilt barrel displayed on white background


Step 5: Complete Disassembly

At this point you have completely disassembled the slide and major components, and they can be separated for cleaning and lubrication. 

1911 pistol pieces laid out separately


Step 6: Maintaining and Lubrication

Firearms should be cleaned, lubricated, and serviced to increase their life and performance. If the firearm is dirty, it is always a good practice to apply a solvent and wipe down the parts to remove debris and any carbon buildup. Once the parts are wiped down, the individual parts should be lubricated to ensure proper and reliable function. There are many opinions in the firearm community that surround the amount of lubricant that should be used, I am a firm believer in being fairly liberal with its application. 

A firearm that is commonly used should be lubricated more frequently than just when it gets a full deep cleaning. Especially in training, competition shooting, or practice, there is no need to deep clean the firearm after every course of fire, but it is important to apply lubricant liberally throughout frequent use. 
Lubrication should be focused on areas that incur high friction. 

Some major places include: the rails on the inside of the slide that coincide with frame, the firing pin housing that runs along the rear of the frame, and the chamber and barrel around the barrel bushing. Lubricating all of these high-traffic areas will help ensure proper function. 


Once the firearm is properly lubricated and cleaned, it is time to reverse the process to put the 1911 back together. 

Step 1: Putting the Slide Components Back Together

The first step is to slide the barrel back into the front of the slide and properly index the chamber and lever that is captured by the takedown pin to hold the frame and slide together.  

When properly placed, the spring can be inserted, and the guide rod can be placed against the takedown pin hinge. 

Step 2: Putting the Slide on the Frame

At this point, I find it easiest to hold the slide upside down as you slide the frame on, allowing you to maintain alignment of the hinge, in order to line it up with the takedown pin holes in the frame. 

With some struggling, maybe even some cursing, you should have moved the slide on the frame to line up the takedown cut in the slide, as well as aligning the holes in the frame with the hinge on the barrel. 

Step 3: Re-inserting the Takedown Pin

The next part is the insertion of the takedown pin, which leads to a common mistake with the 1911. Most frames feature a scratch along the upward path of the takedown lever, affectionately deemed the “stupid scratch.”

closeup view of 1911 pistol trigger

This scratch occurs when the takedown lever is pressed and slid up the slide, instead of being pushed directly into the frame. To avoid making this mistake, you must keep upward pressure on the takedown lever to keep it pressed against the spring detent that holds the pin in place. 

close up of 1911 pistol


Step 4: Placing the Barrel Bushing for Spring Tension

Once the finer details have been attended to, the handgun is almost complete. The barrel bushing can be re-inserted and rotated to the takedown side. Then the spring guide can be replaced and pressed into the slide, thus re-establishing the tension of the slide, and the bushing can be rotated to hold it all in place.






John Moses Browning’s 1911 design deserves care and respect, so if you own a 1911, make sure you maintain the firearm with love. If you don’t own a 1911, Guns.com can help you out

As always, the most important part of gun ownership is training, so grab some ammo, hit the range, train hard, and clean and lube your firearm. 

revolver barrel loading graphic