Think your rifle does not need a bit of tender love and care; then think again!
When it comes to keeping your guns clean; rifled firearms need to be given the biggest consideration. Fouling will start to fill up the rifling groves that spin the bullet to stabilise it. Compounding this is the copper that comes off the jacket, which also has to go! Both will have a detrimental effect on accuracy! Also smaller calibres like .17” and .20” will foul faster and what was once a ½” rifle can turn into something that no longer shoots tight or consistently. Depending on the steel used for the barrel it can build-up at different rates.
16 and out
When new the stainless barrel of my Ruger M77/17 17HMR could only shoot 16-rounds before its ½” groups expanded to 4”+ so making it useless. After about 500-rounds it settled down and I could go 250-rounds between cleanings, but I always take my cleaning kit into the field. So what do you need? Pull-throughs such as bore snakes are OK for a quick clean but what’s required are rigid rods (calibre-specific), brushes (copper and bristle), correct size cloth patches, spear point jags to hold them and a good all-round cleaning fluid that ideally incorporates a copper remover and corrosion inhibitor.
The process is easy; remove the bolt, magazine and moderator and fit the copper brush dipped in fluid and scrub through the bore. It is said you need 10-strokes for every round fired! Set the rifle aside for 10 minutes to let the fluid do its job then scrub out again. Next fit the spear point jag and a patch of the correct size and push it through to start removing the fouling. Use a clean patch for each pass – preferably from chamber to muzzle until they come out white.
You now need to check for copper, which is harder to remove than powder fouling. Run a clean patch up the barrel and stop so it about 1 to ½” from the muzzle, then shine a torch in and you will see any residual copper reflected off the white of the patch. To remove; run a patch soaked in solvent up and wait 10 minutes and using the bristle brush scrub out again, repeat until clean.
A general clean around the action, bolt locking lugs etc is advised and if the rifle has got wet take it out of the stock and dry and water off and lubricate all metal parts. If you use a sound moderator do not store the rifle with it fitted muzzle-up, as condensation builds up inside which will get into the rifling and start rusting. It’s advised to remove the moderator for storage and on that point always grease the muzzle thread to protect it!
Prior to firing clean the bore, which will still have a slight coating of fluid or oil on it. This can affect bullet flight/zero, or in the case of oil cause pressure to rise or even bulge the barrel if you use too much and needs removing! A patch dipped in a solvent like metholated spirits does the trick as does a couple of fouling shots! Cleaning is an essential task and you need to get it right to prolong the working life of your rifle! Any good gun shop will carry all this equipment.
What’re your best practices to clean your rifle?