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Barrel Break-in

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  • Barrel Break-in

    I've been breaking in a new barrel. One shot, then thouroughly clean in between for about twenty shots. I've seen a slight let up in copper foul, haven't yet noticed any increase in accuracy. Those who have done this, what have you found to be a good number of rounds for total break-in?

  • #2
    You gotta get that copper out, don't let it build up. 50 shots minimum I use to break in a new barrel. On a barrel that copper fouls, I fire lap with David Tubb's bore finish bullets.


    • #3
      I commend you for the effort and care you're taking to break-in your barrel. In answer to your question, the number of rounds it takes to break-in a new barrel varies, at least in my experience. As a general observation, custom barrels break-in faster than factory barrels. However, I've also noticed that larger calibers take a bit longer to break-in than smaller...again a general observation. I agree with Chignik, take the time to get all the copper fouling out after the shot set before starting another set. Otherwise you're just defeating your efforts. My biggest challenge is not to become frustrated with the process of barrel break-in as it can be tedious. Plus, people will feel compelled to tell you that what you're doing isn't necessary, and they have never followed barrel break-in with any of their rifles, and of course they just have to say, "...I just shoot until the barrel is too hot, then I clean it and all of my rifles shoot sub MOA at 200 yards." For me barrel break-in is a time to get to know my new rifle or get reaquainted with an old friend wearing a new custom barrel.

      For the last half a dozen or so barrel break-ins, I've followed Dan Lilja's recommendations, which I have pasted here for you to look at.

      As an example, I am at the tail end of breaking in a .375 H&H (Lilja barrel), which now has well over fifty rounds through it (singles x 10, doubles x 5, triples x 5, and five shot strings x 5). The copper fouling has greatly dropped off to the point that I have switched to all copper TSX's which I'm working up for hunting loads with little fouling after ten shot strings. The bore is very smooth. Accuracy has been very good and showing signs of excellence as I fine tune the loads. As a comparison, I broke in a .30-06 last spring (also with a Lilja barrel). It showed signs of accuracy excellence from the very beginning and fouling dropped off about 50% sooner than the H&H. Today that 06 is exceptionally accurate and easy to clean...which I attribute to my break-in matter what my friends may say.

      Good luck!


      • #4
        barrel break in

        Some barrels will shoot optimally after the first shot while others often require more... sometimes a lot more. In general I expect a barrel to be optimized by about a 100 rounds but again this is highly variable. For custom barrels it is often less while for OEM barrels I usually decide that it is not a shooter after at least 100 rounds. If performance is still considered to be suboptimal after 100 rounds, then firelapping (e.g. with system from Tubbs) is a reasonable next step before pulling the barrel for a new one. Also make sure you try a variety of bullet weights and brands - I have had excellent results with Barnes TS bullets.
        "Actions speak louder than words - 'nough said"


        • #5
          Total of 60 rounds. Clean between each shot for first 10, then 5 shot groups (cleaning between each group). Good luck.


          • #6
            Clean with what??

            When it is stated to clean between shots, etc.... are we saying just with the barrel type cleaner or to use one of those cleaners that really specialize in copper removal where you leave it in there for like 15 minutes before scrubbing, etc...?



            • #7
              clean to metal

              fec, I think when everyone says, "clean after 1 shot, then 3 or 5" and so on, it means clean with whatever method gets the copper and burned powder completely out. One method that shows at least the state of copper fouling is to look into the muzzle at an angle, in strong light. Sometimes it really takes a lot of time and elbow grease and sometimes not so much. With higher velocity loads that burn a lot of powder and where the bullet really lays down quite a bit of copper- it may take some effort, as would be the case with a rougher bore. Care should be taken because it is tedious and it's easy to get into a hurry and not use a bore guide or good technique, etc. Some of the latest copper solvents that are designed to sit in the bore for a while so they can act on the copper are supposed to work really well. Caution should be used with any strong solvent for obvious reasons.


              • #8
                All I used was Hoppes and my regular cleaning technique. As for those high-power copper fouling removers, they probably wouldn't hurt but I doubt if they would be of any extra help either. Let's face it, how much copper fowling will you get between shots on the first ten?


                • #9

                  I like Butch's Bore's a great all purpose cleaner that also has ammonia to get the copper out.


                  • #10
                    Ummmmm ammonia

                    What is the problem with ammonia?


                    • #11

                      fec, Most of the "standard" copper solvents, until fairly recently, have relied on ammonia as the primary chemical for removal of copper. The % ammonia in the chem has generally deterimed the speed of removal. There are a few of the newer ones out there now that claim to remove copper without the ammonia. I don't know the chemical agent(s) used. And, don't know if they too would eventually attack the bore steel if left in for a long time?? For years, Shooters Choice was the most commonly used ammonia-based solvent. Many others are of similar strength. If I need an extra ammonia, more aggressive solvent I'll use Sweets. Some solvents claim extra powder, plastic, lead, etc. removal agents or qualities. Most claim corrosion and/or lubrication additives along with the ammonia. I've never harmed a bore with ammonia but have always been very cautious with it in the higher % solvents like Sweets and have never left it in the bore for more than about 10 minutes or so. Don't want to find out by experience or experimentation I guess.


                      • #12
                        I clean between each of the first 10 shots with Sweet's 7.62, then between each 5. Since I have been doing this, my accuracy has been amazing compared to how I used to break in a barrel. I have been lucky enough to acquire several new custom rifles over the past couple of years, and I haven't noticed a difference between small or large caliber.


                        • #13
                          Here is a good comment on a break-in regimen from another site.
                          Presumably, anyone concerned with barrel break-in is using coated one-piece cleaning rods and a bore guide. Dewey is about the best. Sweets will have detrimental effect on your bore if you let it sit more than about 20 minutes. Might want to review articles from Precision Shooting or Boyd Mace's book to consider other tricks or products. JB Paste is an abrasive. Use this stuff very sparingly.

                          Other schools of thought are that shooting moly coated bullets will detract from accuracy, and total removal of all copper detracts from accuracy. I have read that if you examine even the finest Obermeyer or Hart barrel with a scope inspection tool, you will see the steel is anything but smooth and uniform in texture. Some copper deposit is necessary to, in effect, plate or coat the barrel.

                          I will also state that my personal experience (no custom barrels, but well-tuned rifle, scope mount system and handloads) even mediocre Remington VS barrels will "shoot" 5 shot groups into well under .5" and .8" at 100 and 200 yds, outdoors in the wind. My experience is that scope and scope mount system is most critical to uniform and repeatable accuracy.

                          Anyway, this competitive shooter, Rick Boucher, says this:

                          "... I would not oil the bore before a shot. The bore and chamber needs to be dry. If you get oil into the chamber you could have a nasty surprise and at minimum a difficult time extracting the case.

                          Clean after every shot with Shooter'e Choice and Sweet's for the first 30 - 40 rounds and then JB. Clean after every 5 rounds for the next 30 to 40 rounds and JB. Clean after every 10 rounds for 20 to 30 rounds then JB. Then have a ball. by cleaning after every 20 rounds for the next 100. After that the weapon can be cleaned after each set of not more than 50 to 60 rounds.

                          Always dry patch before shooting and inspect the barrel for patch threads. They will destroy the rifling in your bore. Take care with the brushing during break in. The brushes will leave as much copper fouling as the bullet when you brush the devil our of the bore, especially if you reverse the direction of the brush while it is in the bore. First use the Shooter's Choice and let set. Swab with a wet patch of Shooter's and then folow with a couple of dry. Clean with the Sweet's until the patches stop coming out blue. Then lay in the Shooter's again until they come out clean. It is a pain to break in a new barrel.

                          Do not fire lap the barrel unless you have the money to buy a new barrel. "

                          Another guy says:

                          " should only push the patch through one direction. the reason for this is not the copper but the resedue and other particles that come form the combustion of the primer. It is my understanding that some of these particles are quite hard and can scratch the barrel. I think once you have shoved the first 3 to 4 wet patches through and then a dry patch or two you could safetly start to scrub it with the back and forth motion with out doing any harm. By the time I get to the Sweets 7.62 I scrub the crap out of it.As far as the right break in procedure, everyone has their own way but I usually follow the rule of, fire one and clean for the first 10 and the fire 2 and clean for the next 20 then fire 3 and clean for the next 30 then I start shooting. This process is probably anal retentive but it sure makes for nice smooth barrels that are easy to clean. I also clean it throughly befor going to the range for the first time and then polish it with JBs to start it off. Once the gun is broke in I usually try to clean it every 20 to 25 rounds. Thats not to say I wont shoot a heck of a lot more if need be."

                          and one more guy, when asked about cleaning up a used rifle barrel:

                          "On re-break in; just start over, as you would a new gun. A rifle isn't like a gasoline engine where you can damage it by not taking care in the first stages.

                          The purpose of "breaking in" a rifle barrel, is to polish off some of the rougher tool marks and micro burrs, so that copper won't build up so quickly, and it'll be easier to clean.

                          If the gun has been shoot a lot, without cleaning, all that has happened is that the first shots laid a layer of copper over the tool marks, and then the bullets rode over the copper, making the layer thicker and thicker... and taking days to clean out, but the original rough tool marks and micro burrs are still under the copper. Clean it with a good copper remover like Hoppes BR copper remover, or Sweet's, and start from the begining."


                          • #14
                            Thanks to everyone for the info. Should be helpful to us average joe's. For a guy shooting a larger caliber, i.e. 300's, 338's, 375's etc., and buying factory ammo, break in seems fairly expensive.
                            I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
                            I have less friends now!!


                            • #15
                              Where is the limit

                              I agree, is there a rational and reasonable point of this barrel break-in thing where you are not shooting 100 rounds with cleaning of 40-50 times?

                              Seems to me, you have to break in at least 10%+ of barrel life to say you have a solid barrel.

                              There probably is something to the barrel break-in, but I cannot see shooting and cleaning to the point it takes 3-5 visits to the range because of the time factor of shooting then cleaning etc.....

                              Plus the money in bullets; well like I said before my wife says you guys are a bad influence and she is threatening a full financial audit because of the perceived cash flow toward rifles.

                              Any ideas on how to manage the pending audit? Surely some of you guys have been in this delicate position!



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