This is a very common question from my students. Like lots of things, it depends. In general, the advice is every 300-500 rounds. Sometimes the answer is related to time.
Your environment and how often you shoot affect that advice. Do you shoot often? Do you live in the city or country? Does it roll around under your car seat for a while? Does it stay in a safe all the time? Do you wear it every day? These are just a few questions to help you drill down into the factors that go into frequency of cleaning.
If you shoot often that 300 rounds could be once a week. If rarely, that could be 6 months or more for that gun.
When I living in the city and frequenting indoor ranges, my pistol was cleaned very close to every 300 rounds. Sometimes longer but no issues. My pistol stayed in a pretty clean environment of concrete, hard floors at home and businesses. Not too much dust to stir up so the only factor about dust was lint from my clothing making its way into the action and various internal parts. Every 300 rounds kept it looking and working great. Now that I live in the country and am working outside all the time, my pistol is so dusty all the time! Lots of times it gets cleaned after only 50 rounds. My gauge is when the grit scrapes during holstering and un-holstering. During a big fencing job while I was laying on the ground reaching down into post holes to pull out big rocks? Every other day I did a quick maintenance on my pistol.
One thing that everyone has to contend with if conceal carrying is lint from your clothes getting all over the pistol. One time while teaching, I un-holstered to show a technique and we all had a good laugh that the black Glock was absolutely covered in white lint! So, it got cleaned very quickly. Speaking of holsters, make sure you stick a towel into every nook and cranny to remove dust, lint and whatever collects in the crevices. Check the holster retention and adjust if it’s started to loosen up. That is very common and it’s a good idea to check it when you clean your pistol.
If not a conceal carrier and it sits in a safe or a drawer then it might only need to be cleaned a couple of times a year. Guns that stay in a safe still need to have a regular cleaning schedule, albeit less often, to ward off rust inside the barrel.
One final point about cleaning your pistol. Consult your owners manual if it’s been awhile or this is the first time! Save your manuals somewhere with easy access for the future.
We offer regular pistol cleaning clinics as well as lots of other classes. A complete list of our classes and events can be found here: