Gun cleaning is something that is shrouded in mystery for many shooters. Even those of us who have served in the Army have been taught some bad habits when it comes to this chore. Rifle cleaning however hast to be performed on regular basis just like maintenance on your vehicle. As any machinery there are moving parts and lack of decent gun cleaning is going to shorten the life of the rifle and compromise accuracy as well as safety.
There is no real hard rule as to how clean a rifle has to be in order to function properly, however there are very specific issues that need to be addressed to keep a rifle shooting well. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that it is relatively easy to damage a rifle during cleaning and as a result, lower its accuracy.
There may be special tools required for some rifles. Check your owner’s manual to ensure you have what you need to disassemble yours and make sure there are no special procedures required during cleaning.
Aside from that you should have a cleaning rod, jag, bore guide, bore brush, cleaner, lubricant and solvent.
Rods come in many shapes and sizes. The best on the market today is probably Dewey. Dewey manufactures rods with nylon coating which prevents the rod damaging the inside of the barrel. The rods also come with bearings in the handle which will allow it to spin easily as you are pushing the rod through the barrel. Cleaning rods composed of sections that screw together are not recommended. This is due to the fact that as you push the rod through the barrel, it will want to bend. As it bends, it can cause an edge in the joint to scrape inside the barrel possibly causing damage to the groves. This is especially important in long range precision rifles.
This is the device attached to the thread end of the cleaning rod. It will hold the patch in place and allow you to push it through the barrel.
Bore guide keeps the rod centered. This further minimizes the rod making contact with the bore as well as prevents oil and debris from the barrel getting in the trigger mechanism.
There are nylon or copper brushes available. Nylon will most likely be preferable because it is gentler on the lands (grooves) inside the barrel and Nylon bristles stand back up after being compressed whereas that copper bristles have a tendency to bend sooner. Also, if firing often you will most likely experience copper buildup inside your barrel from bullet jackets. There are special solvents needed to remove this buildup and these solvents will damage your copper brushes as well. If you are shooting often or if you are shooting high pressure caliber such as the .300 Remington Ultra Mag, you may have to address copper fouling more often and therefore nylon brush may be preferable.
CLEANER, LUBRICANT AND PRESERVATIVE
There are hundreds of different manufacturers of these products and a thousand different arguments as to which is better. Some more popular ones on the market today are Hoppe’s #9 bore cleaner, LucasOil CLP, Ballistol Multi-Purpose Lubricant. All three brands make bore cleaners as well as lubricants and solvents. CLP’s (Cleaner, Lubricant and Preservative all in one) is great for in the field use and some of the most popular ones are LucasOil and Break Free.
Most importantly, don’t over think this. Remember that the final objective here is to make the rifle shoot well, rather than removing every last bit of dirt off it. Many shooters are convinced that the rifle will not perform unless absolutely “squeaky” clean and that is not necessarily the case.
To clean the barrel, first make sure the rifle is unloaded. Remove the bolt as outlined in your owner’s manual. If you don’t have one and are not sure how to remove the bolt, you can visit the website of your rifle manufacturer. Many manufacturers have the manuals available for download on their sites. If you don’t find one, email them and request it.
Once you have the bolt out, insert the bore guide into the action, then attach the brush to the cleaning rod, apply a small amount of bore cleaner to it and push it through the bore guide into the barrel. This will ensure that there is a sufficient amount of solvent inside the bore. Some people prefer to use the jag instead of the brush, wet it with solvent and run it through the barrel instead of the brush. Neither one is wrong. Make sure you push the rod all the way through the barrel until the brush comes out the muzzle.
When the brush comes out of the muzzle it will cause an oily spray. To prevent black dots ending up on your wall, consider using a pop bottle pushed over the muzzle end of the barrel. This will contain any drips or sprays. You may have to make cuts into the bottle throat to get it over a heavy barrel or past a sight.
When the brush comes out of the bore, remove it and pull the rod back out in the opposite direction. Leaving the brush on the rod is also acceptable, but keep in mind that the brush and the jag should always travel in the direction of the bullet. Reason for this is to minimize getting the dirt and residue into your action and trigger mechanism.
Once the barrel is lubricated, leave the rifle on its side for about five minutes, flip it over ant give it additional five minutes. This will give the oil some time to begin breaking down the fouling inside the barrel. After about ten minutes, run the brush through the barrel several more times again as above. Then unscrew the brush and use the jag.
There are two types of jags. First is the tipped jag and second is the slotted. Tipped is preferred by most shooters. Simply take your patch and stab the tip of the jag through the center of it. Twist the jag so the patch wraps itself around it tightly and then insert it into the bore guide. Push it slowly all the way through the barrel. When the now dirty patch shows itself at the muzzle end, you can pull it off the jag by simply ensuring the patch is all the way out the barrel and then backing up with the rod which will cause the patch to open up outside of the barrel. As you pull the rod back the patch will fall off the jag and into your pop bottle. Repeat this process until the patches start coming through clean. Make sure that when you push the rod through the barrel, you hold it only by the handle and not the rod itself. This will allow the rod to spin as the patch is pressed into the rifling.
Clean the barrel first as this will most likely be the dirtiest part of the rifle most of the time. If you clean it after all other parts, you will smear dirt over everything you just cleaned.
Once the barrel is clean, use a rag to clean the bolt grooves (raceways) inside the receiver and leave a thin layer of lubricant on all metal surfaces. Do the same with the bolt. Do not strip the bolt down unless you’re familiar with the process and have the proper tools to do it. If you have any doubts as to how far you should go when it comes to disassembling your rifle, refer to the owner’s manual.
Do not attempt to disassemble the trigger. To keep it lubricated, simply dab very small amounts of lubricant into trigger housing openings if required.
Boresnakes are a very popular item for quick cleaning in the field as well as for hunters who don’t shoot very much. This device comes with a copper brush installed and also provides soft fabric material which acts as a patch. Simply dab a little oil on the snake just before the brush and slide the metal piece down the chamber. When the piece comes out the muzzle, Grab it firmly and pull the whole snake through the barrel. This will clean anything from the barrel that might cause the bullet to misbehave. When using the bore snake, ensure that you are pulling it straight out the barrel and not touching the crown as the friction of the snake may damage it.
As great and convenient as the snakes are, they are only suited for quick cleaning. They are not a substitute for deep cleaning using a proper cleaning rod and bore cleaner as outlined above.
Never remove or disassemble anything that you are not sure about. You may damage your equipment and injure yourself. If in doubt, seek professional help.
If your rifle has a scope, do not remove it for cleaning as you will most likely compromise the zero and will have to re-sight your rifle.
Most modern rifles have aluminum bedding system. Use caution if your rifle is bedded with fiberglass as some solvents may cause damage to the fiberglass. Some solvents may also damage your stock so use caution.
Most bore cleaners will remove copper fouling from the bore. If you shoot a lot and you find your accuracy is deteriorating, it is possible that the copper fouling is building up significantly. At this stage you should use a solvent such as Wipe out. Using products of this type may take several days so read the instructions and follow them closely.
Military veterans might remember when their superiors demanded such things as scraping the muzzle inside the flash suppressor until it shines. Doing this is un advisable since the very end of the barrel (crown) is quite soft and scraping it may damage it. Damaged crown will cause accuracy problems and is difficult to fix. Let the solvent dissolve the dirt and then wipe it off.
Remember that the final objective is to keep your rifle shooting well. This does not necessarily mean spotless! Experiment and find out what works best for you.