View Poll Results: How often do you clean your rifle?

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  • Every 20 rounds fired or less

    31 56.36%
  • over 20 rounds but less than 100

    19 34.55%
  • over 100 rounds

    3 5.45%
  • Never!

    2 3.64%
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Thread: To Clean or Not to Clean, Rifle barrels that is...

  1. #1

    Default To Clean or Not to Clean, Rifle barrels that is...

    From a hunting rifle perspective, do most of us clean rifle bores way too often?

    After reading John Barsness’ article “Never Clean Rifle Barrels!” in the June edition of Handloader, it really got me to thinking. The jist of his article was he has kept track of the number of rounds he’s fired for decades and found it makes no appreciable accuracy difference to clean or not. He also claims his records prove that barrel break-in is a waste of time.

    Personally, I clean after every range session whether I shoot once or 100 times and also follow the typical cleaning program for breaking in a new barrel. For hunting I’ll shoot a fouling shot or two out of the clean barrel to verify zero and then clean again after the season is over.

    After some thought, I realized my great attention to detail on cleaning was due to being in the Infantry as a young man and carrying a rifle for a living. I know many others on this forum are prior service, and we were all taught and made to spotlessly clean weapons. So from Uncle Sam’s training burned in my brain and a personal hate for rust, I spend a lot of hours cleaning and oiling rifles.

    I am going to make a guess that most everyone on this forum cleans with some frequency, and most probably have a good set of cleaning equipment versus the guy with an -06 in the bedroom closet that gets cleaned once or twice a lifetime and has a multi piece cleaning rod set with some solvent and gun oil stashed in the garage somewhere…. So who is better off, us or him???

    So what is everyones procedure for cleaning and how did you come by it, Uncle Sam, Dad, Grandpa, Aunt Vickie??!! Has anyone besides Barsness kept track of accuracy with different cleaning regimes?

  2. #2
    Member Darreld Walton's Avatar
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    Default Different rifles...

    and loads require different cleaning techniques. No one would think of leaving fouling in a fired black powder weapon, not even if it came out of a cartridge! How many can remember mercuric primers? Anyone ever come across an old Krag or 1903 Springfield with a nasty bore that someone used Frankford Arsenal match ammunition made in the 1920's or '30's in and didn't get the soot out? Anyone shoot one of the 'other country's' MILSURP rifles with ammunition made overseas, especially in 8X57, and had a surprise the next day if there was any humidity in the air?
    I have had a few of the older Belgian manufactured Browning BLR's, .243's and .308's, and they absolutely refused to shoot until the bores were fouled, a LOT. Cleaning them guaranteed that I'd have at least 30-50 rounds down the bore before one .308 would shoot those sub MOA groups again that the rifle produced.
    The single saving grace of the AR platform military weapons is that GI's could once again swab the bore from the breech. I don't know that I've ever picked up a Garand or M1 carbine that'd spent any time in the hands of troops that didn't have muzzle damage from those jointed steel rods, or even the barracks rod without a muzzle guide. My match M14 got my homemade equivalent of a bore snake, and that's about it, except for a once-a-year pull down and detail cleaning at the end of High Power season, and then it, too, required about twenty rounds to settle back into the stock and start shooting again.
    My gopher guns, on days that the shooting is hot and heavy, and five hundred rounds apiece is 'average', a cleaning rod goes to the field with me, especially for the rifles with the carbon steel barrels. For some reason, I end up abusing Stainless barrels more, but I'm sure they'd probably perform better with a bit more attention.
    .22's I clean after they come back in from the field, every time. Same for my revolvers and pistols.
    Shotgun barrels get swabbed after each shooting session, and especially whenever I can start to notice streaking in the bore from the plastic wads. Moisture WILL get under that crap and pit the bore. Hate when that happens.
    Personally, I don't much care for cleaning bores, except that it gives me a reason to make them dirty again! That's gotta be a good thing!

  3. #3

    Default

    Not worth the effort. I have some rigs in excess of 400 rounds through them. Start with a good barrel and all is golden. Might mention I also run moly on a few bullets.

  4. #4
    New member George's Avatar
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    Default clean or no

    Well, I use to clean and oil fairly often but without understanding the right way. I knew rust was bad so the routine was patch and/or brush with Hoppe's 9, run a clean patch thru then an oily one and call it good. Later I came to understand the reasons and proper techniques. Rifles have been damaged by the wrong ways like running jointed, bent or dirty rods either from the breech or muzzle end or by not using a bore guide. Mercuric primers were death on bores if not cleaned as is black powder. I have proven to myself that GOOD barrels that ARE broken in will clean easier and maintain top accuracy. And, barrels that have been neglected or have some flaws or rust pits will NEVER give best accuracy and they will NEVER be easy to clean. Barrels that are just shot, not broken in then not cleaned or cleaned with a patch of Hoppes then oil until the next range session WILL NOT shoot to their potential. I guess for those who don't clean... that's OK but may not know top accuracy or have never been witness to it- so have nothing to compare it to. If the thought of layer after layer of ironed on and baked on powder residue and copper jacket fouling won't affect accuracy... not much use in trying to change an attitude. Or that a little rust won't damage a bore... what can anyone say! Lead fouling is yet another critter. Lead build up can wreck accuracy in a hurry depending upon type of lead alloy, load, velocity, bullet to bore fit, etc. Also, anyone shot or witnessed a 17 Rem go south after a few rounds?- it's fouling. So as to the question of how often?- I now clean thoroughly after no more than 20 rounds with all high power, jacketed loads. Certain 22 rf or cast pistol or even mild rifle cast load shooting may only require complete cleaning after many more rounds, maybe 100 or more. With blackpowder, either muzzleloader or cartridge, to get the best accuracy requires cleaning after each shot. No one else may do it the same way but that's what I've found... and think I'll stick to it.

  5. #5

    Default

    I'm willing to bet Barsness doesn't live near the ocean or hunt from a boat. On hunts I have to clean the gun inside and out nightly or there'll be rust by morning- no matter which miracle rust preventative I use. At home, I can pick up rust within a week after any outdoor shooting session. I clean them, and darned if I'll change just to make Barsness feel like he knows what he's talking about.

  6. #6
    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    Default

    Depends on the situation of your hunt/shooting. As Brwnbear pointed out if you spend lots of time on the salt you'll need to do more maintenance than you would after a day on the range. I used to completely strip down all my guns after each day of shooting. Then my X-Father in law pointed out this was unnecessary and diminished accuracy(I put allot of stock in what he said because he trained the Michigan state police sniper team and was a national champion level competitive shooter) Now a days I'm not nearly as anal about cleaning and oiling but I still would not never clean the bore of my rifle!

  7. #7

    Question copper fouling

    Question guys. Does copper fouling have a detrimental effect on accuracy? I shoot Barnes X and clean it after every shooting session, so I haven't let it accumulate to be a potential problem. Thanks, ciao
    If you like getting kicked by a mule...then you'll "love" shooting my .458.

  8. #8

    Default

    Yep it can. For the record I had over 300 Barnes X bullets through my 250AI before I put a patch to it, very little green came out.

  9. #9

    Default

    I take my lead from benchrest shooters, who clean regularly for max accuracy. JB Paste was popularized by them specifically for removing fouling.

    In my own experience shooting lots of sod poodles in the Southwest where high velocities, long range and extreme accuracy are key bears out their concern. It's not uncommon to shoot 300-400 rounds a day, and fouling is a way of life. My 22-250 starts the day with groups in the .3 to.4 inch range from a clean bore, but after 100 rounds or so it's pushing an inch. Not a big deal for moose, but it's enough to cause misses on sod poodles beyond 300 yards or so. Take a break and clean with JP Paste, and groups shrink back down to where I started.

    Even in my 223 accuracy suffers from fouling, enough to mandate JP Paste at least once during a busy day of shooting.

  10. #10
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    Default Cleaning is a good thing...

    I did not read JB's article and won't comment directly, I'll pick up a copy later.

    I will say this, I have owned over a hundred rifles that didn't shoot when I bought them but did shoot very well after getting out the many layers of copper/carbon/crud/copper/carbon/crud...etc.

    I don't know how many rounds JB has fired over his years of shooting but I'm pretty dern sure I've fired a big bunch. I know I can take the best shooting rifle in the world and make it shoot a lot worse by not cleaning.

    There are many good arguments about barrel break in, should we do it? does it need it? I cannot say positively that it is needed except to say some barrels are too rough when new to shoot worth a crap. Some of these will shoot better when smoothed up. This smoothing can be done by hand lapping or by shooting or by fire lapping. These things will make it smoother but will not necessarilly make it shoot better due to the many dynamics of the barrel when fired. Some barrels as set onto some rifles of the particular caliber will not ever shoot even MOA yet some will shoot less than half that, right out of the box. That tells me there are many factors to consider that have nothing to do with being slick.

    The number of rounds one can fire before accuracy degrades depends on several factors.

    What is your standard for accuracy; If your happy with 2" groups or better you can fire several hundred rounds through a good barrel.

    What caliber/bullet/velocity are you shooting; The higher velocity rounds leave more copper fouling, the soft copper jackets or solid copper bullets leave more fouling at lower velocity. Copper fouling is the greatest detriment to good accuracy.

    How smooth is your barrel; Broken in or hand lapped, rough barrels foul more quickly than smooth barrels.

    I have owned and shot many, many rifles. (and handguns) I do not know the actual number but have kept track of one particular brand that I've owned. I have also developed hunting and match ammo and test fired both in many different rifles for clients and friends over the past 24 years. I've seen a lot of guns. Calibers ranged from the 17 Bee to the 500 A Square. I've done a lot of cleaning. The Hoppe's company still sends me Christmas cards every year.

    I have records of serial numbers of 331 (yes that is the correct number) Sako rifles I have owned since 1972. Of these rifles, 56 were purchased new and about an equal number of them were apparently unfired, or fired so very little as to leave no evidence of ever having been fired. One of this hundred or so rifles shot about 3" with anything I ran through it. It's barrel was smooth it's stock fit was very good but nothng I could do made it shoot. It wore a beautiful piece of french walnut in their classic model. It was a 30-06, it is now a 6.5-06AI. It does shoot now. The rest of the new/unfired were all less than than MOA when I began shooting them. Some were very good shooters (less than 1/4 MOA). Do the Finns know something we don't about barrels? I don't know but they make very smooth barrels that clean up very easily.

    I have put over 4000 rounds through two of these rifles and they will still shoot 1/2" groups. One is an '06 the other was a 22-250. They were cleaned after any lengthy shoot, though the number of rounds between cleanings varied. I own 8 rifles now that shoot under an inch and have 2000 rounds or more through them. They have all been cleaned regularly.

    My point here is that if a rifle is shot a lot it must be cleaned for it's accuracy to have a long life. If a ol' betsy is only fired three times per year, cleaning once a year is more than adequate.

    It is also true that many good shooting rifles have been buggered up by improper cleaning or using improper equipment. The crown of many rifles have been ruined by cleaning and bashed because of it. This no doubt has lead to the axiom, never clean you rifle.

    Some rifles shoot better fouled. That is a shot or two not a few hundred. I've never shot a rifle that grouped better after a hundred rounds. The fouling shot is usually to get the same POI for the first through fifth round as cean barrels often shoot high.

    When doing Sniper duty a log book is kept of cold barrel performance with a target to mark POA vs POI. These are almost always fired from fouled barrels. It is this first shot that we rely on. It must be 100% predictable, the group is not so important. I have found that generally the first shot from a clean barrel is the same as the first shot from a fouled barrel after the rifle is "broken in". The break in or seasoning can be done with shooting and cleaning or lapping or.... whatever. But I have watched the cold/clean shot move into the warm/fouled group as the barrel "breaks in". I've had some very expensive rifles to shoot.

    Another point; Of todays mass produced rifle barrels, with todays shooters, maybe there will never be a "bad" barrel, clean or dirty.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  11. #11
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    Default

    Bore cleaning is a touchy subject, and there are strong opinions out there. I'm one of the frequent cleaner guys, and I don't consider my behavior to be anal, fussy or obsessive-compulsive. I also carefully break-in new barrels despite some of the compelling arguments not to. Bottom line for me, is that I like taking good care of my guns...inside and out. I use a one piece coated rod, jags and bore guide...brushing as infrequently as possible. My guns are well used, but in excellent shape. I did read Barsness's article when it first came out...and I got a kick out of it because I have at one time used almost every cleaning product that he had in one of his photos.

    What I have learned to do is to clean smarter. One day I asked my long time gun smith about bore care and any ideas he could share with me. He is old school and told me what he does and has done for many many years. I've been doing it myself for a year now...and it does really work. I have had no reduction in accuracy at all or increased fouling (...and I like tight little groups), and my cleaning time at the bench has been cut down by at least 50% to 75%. I'll share it with you here, but keep in mind that I started using the procedure with barrels that were already in good shape...

    I start out by cleaning as usual. I like Butch's Bore Shine as a general cleaner. I'll push patches until all the major gunk is out. I then make sure absolutely all of the solvent is out of the bore and chamber using dry patches and a bore mop, and I wipe the muzzle. I then run a patch soaked with a 50/50 mixture of good old Hoppes#9 and Kroil penetrating oil. I'll run the patch several times. Next, I stand my rifle in the corner, muzzle down, on top of a folded up paper towel. In the morning (after around 10-12 hours) I'll push several dry patches, taking out progressively less junk with each patch. If there was any copper fouling, there will be a green ring on the paper towel. I run another soaked patch of the mixture and repeat the stand in the corner routine. After work I'll run dry patches through it again, and I'll repeat the aforementioned process until the first dry patch comes out clean to my satisfaction. Really very simple and not time consuming at all.

    OK...I'm ready for the rebuttal...tell me that I'm ruining my barrels. I can take it...I think.

    Doc

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    I start out by cleaning as usual. I like Butch's Bore Shine as a general cleaner. I'll push patches until all the major gunk is out. I then make sure absolutely all of the solvent is out of the bore and chamber using dry patches and a bore mop, and I wipe the muzzle. I then run a patch soaked with a 50/50 mixture of good old Hoppes#9 and Kroil penetrating oil. I'll run the patch several times. Next, I stand my rifle in the corner, muzzle down, on top of a folded up paper towel. In the morning (after around 10-12 hours) I'll push several dry patches, taking out progressively less junk with each patch. If there was any copper fouling, there will be a green ring on the paper towel. I run another soaked patch of the mixture and repeat the stand in the corner routine. After work I'll run dry patches through it again, and I'll repeat the aforementioned process until the first dry patch comes out clean to my satisfaction. Really very simple and not time consuming at all. Doc;
    Doc,

    I have used the exact same technique for several years now except I just use Hoppe's as the bore solvent and then add Kroil to the patch after the bore is dry. I saturate the bore with the mix of Hoppe's #9 and Kroil and stand the rifle in the corner on a towel. I have done this many times and have had no loss of accuracy from it. I consider cleaning a rifle part of the bonding process. That's normal, right?
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  13. #13
    Member 8x57 Mauser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    That's normal, right?
    It's normal for those of us who bond with our firearms.

    Those who don't... well, they just don't know what they're missing.

    'Scuse me, time for my meds.

  14. #14

    Thumbs up Kroil is good stuff...

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc View Post
    Bore cleaning is a touchy subject, and there are strong opinions out there. I'm one of the frequent cleaner guys, and I don't consider my behavior to be anal, fussy or obsessive-compulsive. I also carefully break-in new barrels despite some of the compelling arguments not to. Bottom line for me, is that I like taking good care of my guns...inside and out. I use a one piece coated rod, jags and bore guide...brushing as infrequently as possible. My guns are well used, but in excellent shape. I did read Barsness's article when it first came out...and I got a kick out of it because I have at one time used almost every cleaning product that he had in one of his photos.

    What I have learned to do is to clean smarter. One day I asked my long time gun smith about bore care and any ideas he could share with me. He is old school and told me what he does and has done for many many years. I've been doing it myself for a year now...and it does really work. I have had no reduction in accuracy at all or increased fouling (...and I like tight little groups), and my cleaning time at the bench has been cut down by at least 50% to 75%. I'll share it with you here, but keep in mind that I started using the procedure with barrels that were already in good shape...

    I start out by cleaning as usual. I like Butch's Bore Shine as a general cleaner. I'll push patches until all the major gunk is out. I then make sure absolutely all of the solvent is out of the bore and chamber using dry patches and a bore mop, and I wipe the muzzle. I then run a patch soaked with a 50/50 mixture of good old Hoppes#9 and Kroil penetrating oil. I'll run the patch several times. Next, I stand my rifle in the corner, muzzle down, on top of a folded up paper towel. In the morning (after around 10-12 hours) I'll push several dry patches, taking out progressively less junk with each patch. If there was any copper fouling, there will be a green ring on the paper towel. I run another soaked patch of the mixture and repeat the stand in the corner routine. After work I'll run dry patches through it again, and I'll repeat the aforementioned process until the first dry patch comes out clean to my satisfaction. Really very simple and not time consuming at all.

    OK...I'm ready for the rebuttal...tell me that I'm ruining my barrels. I can take it...I think.

    Doc
    You'll get no arguements from me, I use similar tools and techniques!

    I just started using Kroil for bore cleaning in the last year. Man, that is good stuff! It is the most awesome penetrating oil I've ever seen. I highly recommend it for home shop and industrial use as a penetrating oil.

    I've contemplated using Kroil as an extreme cold weather lubricant, specifically when re-assembling bolts. It is so thin, it would seem like it would always flow even after the brass monkey lost the family jewels. Anybody have experience with that? Using the Kroil for cold weather lube that is, not losing the jewels!

    I like your 50/50 cleaning method, I'm going to try that. I've been using the procedure you describe with just Hoppes, then when it seems pretty clean leaving it soak overnight or longer with Kroil and then repeat if necessary.

    Prior to shooting I dry the bore with clean patches, then run a patch through soaked with Windex (to remove the oil from the bore metal). Seems to make cleaning easier after firing.

    Hate to admit it, but deep down I think I enjoy most of the cleaning hassle. I do like the bonding time with the shoot/clean/shoot barrel break in procedure. To my regrets, on more than one occasion I have scratched or dinged a good rifle due to overzealous cleaning techniques, or just plain carelessness. I am usually tired by that time.

    How many of you are anal enough in protecting your crowns to only run the rod from breech to muzzle and then unscrew the brush or jag? I have been known to do this on the really tight shooters, the special ones.

  15. #15

    Talking breech cleaning

    I clean from the breech, mainly to keep the crud from falling into magazine and trigger assembly...this includes shotguns also, but I don't unscrew brush or patches, just pull them back. I don't think this method will mar up crown...at least I've never had a problem. Ciao.
    If you like getting kicked by a mule...then you'll "love" shooting my .458.

  16. #16
    Member lab man's Avatar
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    I'll run swabs every 60 rounds or so, but I will do a wipe down and oil the rifle every time I shoot it. -Eric

  17. #17
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    I have the the same approach as brushing teeth, after every meal...After everytime I shoot, if it's 20 rounds or 40, when I'm done it gets cleaned. After I take it out and hunt with it, even if I don't shoot it, I clean it. I had one gun growing up that now has rust on it, a small amount. It bugs me. A 90's vintage shot gun made by Parker-Hale in England. Now I ownly buy stainless. Yes even stainless rusts, but it takes a little more to do so. Gun are not cheap. So I treat them as an expensive part of my life.

    Ron

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