How to Clean: Smith & Wesson Model 36

The Smith & Wesson Model 36 is one of the most iconic firearms of the 20th century. It is popularly known as the “Chief's Special” because it is commonly issued to U.S. police force members. 

First introduced in the 1950s, the Smith & Wesson Model 36 is still available in the market in different versions and metal alloy frames. It is a J-frame revolver chambered for .38 special. 

In this article, you'll learn how to correctly disassemble, clean, lubricate, and reassemble a Smith & Wesson Model 36. 

Pistol Cleaning Essentials

A reliable revolver like the Smith & Wesson Model 36 deserves high-performance gun cleaning tools and products to keep it at its best performance through the years. 

If it's your first time cleaning a Smith & Wesson Model 36, these essential Hoppes gun cleaning products will make your experience a breeze: 

  • Hoppe's Tornado Brush – Pistol deep cleans the pistol's chamber with its superior spiral-wound design. Its stainless-steel loops remove powder fouling effectively without damaging or scratching the rifling, that's why it's called the gunsmith's brush. 
  • Hoppe's No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner has been a worldwide favorite since 1903 because it deeply penetrates the bore to remove rust, lead, carbon residue, and powder fouling quickly. 
  • Hoppe's Lubricating Oil prevents the wear of high-friction parts of your firearm. This oil does not harden or expire and protects your gun from rusting and corrosion, even if you store it for a long time. 
  • Hoppe's Cleaning Rods – Pistol are aluminum rods that come in one-, three-, or four-piece options that run through the bore to remove fouling. It attaches to jags and brushes for deep cleaning your firearms and comes with an easy-to-carry, reusable pouch. 
  • Hoppe's Utility Brushes are ideal for the intense scrubbing of the revolver's interior parts without scratching. It has nylon bristles at both ends to remove dirt and debris in hard-to-reach areas. 
  • Hoppe's Phosphor Bronze Brush scrubs and removes fouling in the bore by attaching it to the cleaning rod. It provides multidirectional scrubbing that doesn't scratch the inside of the barrel.
  • Hoppe's Gun Cleaning Patches are ultra-absorbent and have uniformly woven squares for pre-cut gauges and caliber. The patches attach to the jag and run through the bore to remove powder fouling and carbon residue inside.  

You can also select from Hoppe's gun cleaning kits that include the cleaning tools and products above plus more. 

  • Hoppe's 3-Pack Brush/Swab Kit – Pistol includes a phosphor bronze brush, a tornado brush, and a cleaning swab for your different cleaning needs. 
  • Hoppe's 9-Piece Pistol Cleaning Kit can be used for popular chamberings that include the 38 Special. It has a brass cleaning rod and a brass-slotted tip and comes with a compact bullet-shaped container.  
  • Hoppe's Pistol & Rifle Cleaning Kit with Aluminum Rod has a cleaning rod, adapters, and slotted ends. It has cleaning patches, two Hoppe's No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner, and two Hoppe's Lubricating Oil. 
  • Hoppe's Deluxe Gun Cleaning Kit (Model: BUOX) comes in a heavy-duty box with five phosphor bronze brushes that fit the 38 caliber and other pistol, rifle, and shotgun calibers and gauges. It has a three-piece brass rod with four slotted ends and a rifle/shotgun and pistol adapter. It also has the Hoppe's No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner, Hoppe's Lubricating Oil, and cleaning patches. The cleaning kit comes with a Guide to Gun Care booklet. 

Smith & Wesson Model 36 Cleaning Procedure

When cleaning this pistol and every other firearm you have, the first step should always be a safety check. Practice gun safety rules at all times to avoid any untoward incidents.      

Pre-Cleaning Safety Check

Ensure that your Smith & Wesson Model 36 is unloaded. 

  • Keep your index finger away from the trigger. 
  • Point the gun in a safe direction and open the cylinder. Physically and visually check the cylinder if it's loaded. Empty the cylinder if needed.
  • Check for obstructions in the gun's barrel. 
  • Store ammunition away from the revolver in a safe and secure location away from children's reach. 

Smith & Wesson Model 36 Disassembly

To break down the Smith & Wesson Model 36, take off the grips by removing the screw and then pull both the sides off. 

  • Remove the side plate. Keep the three screws in order because they go back in the same holes they came from. 
  • While you don't need to take apart the pistol's internal parts, you can open it up to add some lubricant to any moving parts.
  • When you take the side plate off, there will be a floating part, your safety bar. Make sure to note how it goes back in place.
  • If it's your first time disassembling a Smith & Wesson Model 36, it might be helpful to take pictures or a video of the disassembly on your phone so that it will be easier to return the screws and other small parts in their right places.    

Smith & Wesson Model 36 Cleaning

After disassembly, you can start cleaning the chambers. 

  • Dip a 38-caliber phosphor bronze brush in some Hoppe's No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner. Put the brush through each chamber at least once to loosen up the carbon and powder buildup. 
  • When cleaning the chambers, remember where you started. You can count out loud as you clean each chamber so you can keep track of your progress.
  • Use a jag and a cleaning patch soaked in Hoppe's No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner and run it through each chamber. 
  • Run a dry patch through each chamber. Repeat this process until the last cleaning patch comes out clean. 
  • Put some Hoppe's Lubricating Oil on a patch and run through each chamber as well. 
  • Repeat the same cleaning steps done to the chambers to the gun barrel. 
  • Use some cotton gun cleaning swabs to clean the parts that have powder buildup. Use some Hoppe's Lubricating Oil on all moving parts.

Smith & Wesson Model 36 Reassembly 

Once you've completed cleaning the parts, you can reassemble the side plate and lubricate the essential pistol components. 

  • Put some Hoppe's Lubricating Oil on some patches and start wiping the gun down. 
  • For hard-to-get areas, use some cotton swabs or picks to help get them cleaned up. 
  • Drop some lubricating oil in high-friction areas or moving parts. 
  • You can reassemble the grip and clean up the work area.        

You need the best gun cleaning tools to thoroughly clean and maintain a classic and reliable gun, such as the Smith & Wesson Model 36. It's a timeless revolver that you can pass on to the next generation with proper cleaning, care, and maintenance.  

Check out Hoppe's Gun Cleaning Kits page for pricing, information, and to place an order.