Cleaning Firearms

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Cleaning Firearms.

Mechanical devices demand regular and proper maintenance. This certainly includes all firearms, which do require a good cleaning and lubrication after use to keep their operational performance at a peak.

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Mechanical devices demand regular and proper maintenance. This certainly includes all firearms, which do require a good cleaning and lubrication after use to keep their operational performance at a peak.

Generally, though, this does not imply that a firearm needs to be disassembled to the last screw and spring in order to clean it. Any firearm can get a basic cleaning in five quick steps.

Before cleaning any gun, open the action to make sure it is unloaded, and then read the owner’s manual for specific gun model instructions. Remove clips or magazines. Take out the bolt in a rifle, or lock open the action of a semi-auto rifle, shotgun, or pistol. Brush with solvent, clean, dry off, and lightly lube the bolt. Make sure you brush the extractor and/or ejector as well.

Set the cleaned bolt aside and, working from the breech or chamber end, simply run a cleaning rod with attached bronze brush soaked in gun solvent down the barrel and out the muzzle. Repeat this same action if the barrel is particularly dirty. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. This allows the solvent to dissolve and soften bullet jacket material, lead, and powder fowling.

After the solvent soak, run the solvent soaked bronze brush down the barrel again several times to loosen the gunk in the barrel. Purists would say to unscrew the brush at the muzzle at each stroke of the cleaning rod rather than pulling it back up and out the chamber. If you are a professional target shooter, this extra effort might make a difference, but for the average everyday deer rifle or plinking gun, this is not necessary. You can make that judgment for your gun, especially if the application is law enforcement or security or the like.

After ten or so runs of the brush, I do recommend next running a cloth patch down the bore to push gunk out of the muzzle. In this case do not pull the patch back out. Take it off the rod, put on a clean one, and then pull the rod back out the chamber end. Repeat again with the brush scrubbing. As a rule of thumb on most hunting guns, running the brush 25 times should do the job.

Next run several solvent soaked patches down the barrel and out the muzzle end. Replace each time with a clean patch, pull back up, and replace patch again. Do this until you are satisfied with the relative cleanliness of the patch. They may never come out completely white, but if they come out black, with shades of blue and green, then keep cleaning. Solvent can turn a lot of barrel fouling bluish or green.

If this continues, you may need to soak the barrel again, rest it, and then brush again. It all depends on how many rounds were shot since the last cleaning. If you deer hunted and shot the gun a half dozen times in a season that is of course much different than running 500 rounds through a .22 rimfire plinking rifle, or a .223 AR rifle on the shooting range.

Contrary to popular belief, most guns do not perform well swimming in oil. After all the swabbing and scrubbing, the barrel and the bolt just needs a light coat of rust prevention oil. Use a clean soft cotton cloth with oil to wipe down all the metal surfaces of the gun. A very little on the wood stock does not hurt it. Don’t overdo oil.

I do this final step wearing those $1 brown cotton gloves to keep fingerprints from ending up on the metal before storage. As to storage, do not put any firearm in any kind of a sealed case, either fabric or plastic for long term. If you do, add a packet of moisture desiccant in the case. Otherwise, just prop the gun up, safely locked in a closet or secure area. Ammo should be kept in a place separate from guns.

Are there other steps that could be added? Sure. Use a clean toothbrush to dust in the juncture of the barrel where fitted to the stock. Brush off sights, mounts, scope metal, too. Clean optical lenses like any high quality glass. Brush around the trigger area.
Clean the clip or magazine and oil lightly. Brush up into the magazine insert cavity below the action. Brush off the butt plate that usually ends up in the dirt.

There you have completed a basic gun cleaning. Be sure to check the gun every so often to make sure no rusting has slipped up on the metal surfaces. It’s a good idea to run a dry patch down the barrel to clean out any leftover oil or dust before shooting again. If you continue to maintain your guns after each use, they will make proud gifts to your grandchildren.

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Sudden Accuracy Death Syndrome

Sudden Accuracy Death Syndrome is common, and afflicts thousands of innocent rifles …..

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by David E. Petzal

A Field & Stream reader e-mailed me about his .22/250 which had 750 rounds through it and had suddenly started firing patterns instead of groups. He took it to a gunsmith who accused him of Bore Abuse and said he needed a new barrel. The shooter described his cleaning technique, which involved J-B Non-Imbedding Bore Cleaning Compound and a very popular powder solvent, and said that he thought he was doing an adequate job of getting the copper out of the bore, and that he was not guilty of Bore Abuse.

I told him the following:
Sudden Accuracy Death Syndrome is common, and afflicts thousands of innocent rifles which, when new, shoot like a house on fire and then very shortly will not group worth a tub of old hog s**t. The reason is copper buildup in the bore. It’s almost impossible to burn out a barrel in 750 rounds even if you shoot up prairie dog towns, and cleaning rod abuse happens very gradually. But copper buildup?

J-B is what I use to remove copper, and it always works, but you have to use it correctly. My correspondent was not. He was putting it on a brush rather than a tight patch, and using far too few strokes. His powder solvent, while sweet-smelling, was less effective than Shooter’s Choice, which is what I have used for years. It smells awful, but it works.

In order to make J-B work, you must also buy a can of Kroil (Cabelas and Brownell carry it) a very thin, pungent, penetrating oil. When used in combination with J-B it develops awesome copper-scrubbing powers. Wet the bore with Kroil. Then take a blob of J-B, roughly the size of a good phlegm globber, and work it into a patch that you have wrapped around an old bronze brush. This patch should fit tightly in the bore. I will say that again. This patch should fit tightly in the bore.

Give the patch 30 trips back and forth. There’s no reason for this particular number. You can make it 20, or 40, or 37. Some bores will clean up with one patch. Most will not, and this is where people go wrong with J-B, whose essential ingredient is elbow grease, which you have to supply. Most of my rifles take three J-B patches with a Kroil patch in between.

The patches will come out black, or dark gray, with black streaks from the lands. You don’t clean until this stops, because it never will. All you want is the copper gone, and to see if it is, get all the J-B out with Shooter’s Choice and leave the bore wet for at least 2 hours. At the end of this time run another S-C patch through and see it there’s green or blue on it. If there is, you can do one of two things: Keep up the S-C treatment, which usually takes a while, or go back to the J-B, which is much quicker.

I also advised my correspondent that if he really wanted to do something useful in the way of barrel cleaning, he should invest in a Hawkeye Bore Scope, which costs about the same as a good scope sight. That way, you actually know what the hell is going on in your bore instead of guessing. He replied that if he bought a Hawkeye, it would cost him a divorce, to which I asked “What’s more important, being married or being able to see inside your barrel?” He admitted that my logic was unassailable.

Do not be afraid to scrub a bore. If you use a good rod and keep it centered, there’s no way you can hurt a barrel with J-B. Copper is fine when it’s part of a bullet, but when it becomes part of your bore, it’s a rifle-wrecker.

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