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January 2nd, 2022

How To Clean Rifle Barrels Effectively and Efficiently

Criterion Barrels Cleaning Clean Solvent rod guide Hoppes Wipe-Out

This article comes from the Criterion Barrels website. It provides good, conservative advice about barrel cleaning. Understand that cleaning methods may need to be adapted to fit the amount and type of fouling (and the particular barrel). In general, we do try to minimize brushing, and we follow the procedures Criterion recommends respecting the crown/muzzle. We have also had very good success using wet patches followed by Wipe-Out bore foam. Along with the practices outlined by Criterion below, you may want to try Wipe-Out foam. Just be sure to use a fitted cleaning rod bore guide, to keep foam out of the action recesses and trigger assembly.

The above video shows how to apply Wipe-Out or other bore-cleaning foam. We use a slightly different method. First, we use 3-4 wet patches to remove loose carbon fouling. Then we apply the foam as shown, but usually from the muzzle end (with bore guide in chamber). Here’s the important point — after 20-30 minutes, once the bubbles have dissipated, we apply the foam a second time, getting more of the active ingredients into the barrel. We then patch out, as shown, after 3-4 hours.

What is the Best Way to Clean a Rifle Barrel?

We are asked this question quite frequently alongside requests for recommended break-in procedures. Improper barrel cleaning methods can damage or destroy a barrel, leading to diminished accuracy or even cause a catastrophic failure. When it comes to barrel maintenance, there are a number of useful techniques that we have not listed. Some techniques may work better with different barrel types. This series of recommendations is designed to incorporate a number of methods that the Criterion Barrels staff has used successfully both in the shop and on their personal rifles. Please feel free to to list your own recommendations in the below comments section.

We recommend the use of the following components during rifle cleaning:

• Cloth patches (sized for the appropriate caliber)
• Brass jag sized properly for your bore
• One-piece coated cleaning rod
• General bore cleaner/solvent (Example: Hoppes #9)
• Copper solvent of your choosing (Example: Sweets/KG 12)
• Fitted cleaning rod bore guide
• Plastic AP brush or toothbrush
• Q-Tips
• Plastic dental picks
• CLP or rust preventative type cleaner

There are a number of schools of thought relating to the frequency in which a barrel should be cleaned. At minimum we recommend cleaning a barrel after each shooting session to remove condensation, copper, and carbon build-up. Condensation is the greatest immediate threat, as it can cause the barrel to rust while the rifle sits in storage. Copper and carbon build-up may negatively impact future barrel performance, increasing the possibility of a failure in feed or function. Fouling should be removed whenever possible.

The below tips will help limit the wear of different parts of your barrel during routine maintenance, helping extend the life of the barrel and improving its performance.

The Lands and Grooves
This portion of the barrel may experience reduced efficiency due to copper fouling and cleaning rod damage. If copper fouling takes place during the initial break-in of the rifle, make sure to check our barrel break-in article.

For regular maintenance we suggest using a single piece coated cleaning rod rather than the traditional segmented rod or bore snake. While segmented rods and bore snakes may be convenient for field use, the corners between the segments may bow out and catch on the lands, scraping along the length of the rifling. Residual grit and particles from expended cartridges may also get caught between segments, resulting in an abrasive surface working its way down the length of the barrel. Most bore snakes will remove significant amounts of carbon fouling, but may fall short in the removal residual carbon buildup and copper fouling during deep cleaning. Good rods can be sourced from multiple manufacturers, but we have found good results using both Pro-Shot and Dewey brand products.

General cleaning requires the use of patches rather than nylon or brass bore brushes. Brass brushes may be required when aggressive cleaning is required, but can lead to unnecessary wear on the barrel if used frequently. This is not due to the nature of the soft brushes themselves, but from the abrasive particles of grit that become embedded in the material that is being run repeatedly through the bore. We recommend the use of bore guides when cleaning from both the muzzle and breech. These bore guides will help serve to protect the crown and throat from cleaning rod damage.

If significant resistance develops while running the cleaning rod through the bore, no attempt should be made to force it in further. Back the rod out and inspect the barrel to determine the cause of the resistance. The jag may be pushing between a bore obstruction and the rifling, digging a divot into the barrel before pushing the obstruction back through the muzzle. One way to minimize the risk of a stuck rod is by utilizing a slightly smaller patch during the initial push.

The process of cleaning the length of the rifling is relatively straightforward:

1. Check to make sure the rifle is safely unloaded.
2. Carry out any necessary disassembly procedures prior to cleaning.
3. Remove bolt (if possible) and insert fitted cleaning rod bore guide in action.
4. Soak a patch in bore solvent (similar to Hoppes #9).
5. Center and affix the patch on the brass jag, inserting it into the chamber end of the barrel. A misaligned patch may cause the jag to damage the lands of the rifling, so make sure the patch is centered on the jag.
6. Run the patch the full length of the barrel, retracting it upon reaching the end of the muzzle.
7. Let the solvent sit for a minute.
8. Continue to run patches through the bore until carbon residue is minimized.
9. Run a dry patch through the bore to ensure carbon residue has been removed.
10. Soak a patch in copper solvent (Sweet’s or KG-12).
11. Run the patch through the bore, leaving it to sit for 3-5 minutes (do not let solvent sit for more than 15 minutes.*)
12. Repeat this process until no blue residue remains on the patches.
13. Run a patch of Hoppes #9 and a dry patch through the bore to neutralize the copper solvent.
14. Inspect the barrel prior to reassembling the rifle, verifying that no bore obstructions remain.

*Please note that some ammonia-based copper solvents may prove to be corrosive if left sitting in the barrel for an extended period of time. It is essential that these solvents be removed within 15 minutes to avoid ruining the bore.

The Crown
The crown is the portion of the barrel where the bullet loses contact with the lands and grooves and proceeds to exit the firearm. The area most critical to accuracy potential is the angle where the bullet last touches the bore of the barrel.

Avoid damage to this area by using a plastic toothbrush and CLP type cleaner to scrub the crown from the exterior of the barrel. Even the most minimal variation in wear to the crown will negatively impact barrel performance, so be careful to avoid nicking or wearing away this part of the barrel.

(more…)

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
March 12th, 2021

MTM Gun Cleaning Patch Catcher — Works Great, Under $10!

MTM Case-Gard patch gun cleaning patch catcher green plastic box maintenance

Are you tired of making a mess in your gun room and picking up patches off the floor? If you clean at the range, would you like to make life much easier (no hunting for patches on dirty ground)? Then consider the MTM Gun Cleaning Patch Catcher. It is currently just $9.19 on Grafs.com and $9.89 on Amazon.

This handy see-through green container fits on the end of your rifle or shotgun barrel. It works with all patch types and bore sizes and fits virtually all barrel diameters, large and small. Simply slip the MTM Gun Cleaning Patch Catcher over your barrel to contain all the patches pushed out the muzzle. No more mess and stains on your bench/table. When cleaning tasks are done, simply remove the Patch Catcher and dump the contents into the trash. Watch the video to see how the MTM Patch Catcher works. Note how it also retains the solvent spray and/or drips.

One owner explains: “This box straps over the muzzle end of a barrel and keeps the mess completely contained. Excess cleaning solvents collect in the bottom. Patches fall off the jag and are captured as well when the cleaning rod is withdrawn. It also completely contains the splatter burst when a bore brush exits the muzzle of whatever firearm is being cleaned.” (D.J. Bradley)

MTM Case-Gard patch gun cleaning patch catcher green plastic box maintenance

MTM Case-Gard patch gun cleaning patch catcher green plastic box maintenance

MTM Case-Gard patch gun cleaning patch catcher green plastic box maintenance

Here are actual user reviews from verified customers:

“It’s been a long time since I bought something that is just WOW brilliant but this patch catcher is just that. It is so simple, so neat, so clean and so effective. It fits perfectly on all my rifle barrels and catches patches, brush spray and most importantly most of the smells of solvents. I can now clean my rifles in the house without inviting the wrath of my darling wife.” — Emmitt P. (Amazon)

“The MTM Patch Catcher works great! It is easy to adjust to different size barrels, and … all the gunk stays in the trap! Now, no more cleaning up the work bench/floor area after gun cleaning. This trap is a must have! I never knew I needed one of these until I got the MTM one from Graf’s. My buddy had a different brand, and it was hard to use. On his, the trap that holds the dirty patches and ‘juice’ would not stay in place, and some times most of the gunk ended up on the floor.” — Michael T (Grafs.com)

“This little device is more than a patch catcher. It also contains that dirty, smelly spray when a bore bristle exits the barrel. With the [MTM Patch Catcher] top open, it will also catch spray cleaners and lubes when used on small parts.” — TwoBoxer (Amazon)

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
February 17th, 2021

TECH TIP: When and How to Use Bore Snakes

Barrel brush bore-snake boresnake shake barrel cleaner brush

Handloading USAMU Facebook Bore Cleaning

On Wednesdays, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit often publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. One “Handloading Hump Day” post covered bore-cleaning, specifically the use of pull-through style bore-snakes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page each Wednesday for other helpful tips.

Today, we’ll shift from handloading to rifle bore cleaning and maintenance, with information courtesy of the USAMU’s Custom Firearms Shop. We recently had some inquiries about bore cleaning, and this seems a good opportunity to share. After all, even the best handloads won’t yield their full potential in a poorly-cleaned and maintained rifle.

NOTE: Hoppes claims a trademark on the term “BoreSnake” (one word, no hyphen). For this article, the USAMU has used the term in hyphenated form, two words. We believe the USAMU is referring to a Hoppes Brand Boresnake, not a different bore cleaning rope.

BORE-SNAKES: MIRACLE REPLACEMENT FOR THE CLEANING ROD?
The experiences of both our firearms test specialist and this writer have given no evidence that proper use of a clean bore-snake will damage a match barrel. Of course, one does not pull the bore-snake at an angle to the crown when removing it — pull it straight out, parallel to the bore’s direction, to prevent crown wear over time.

USAMU Handloading facebook page bore snake cleaningBore-snakes are very useful for some applications (primarily a hasty, interim wipe-down). In [my] experience they cannot replace a thorough cleaning with a proper rod and brushes. While the experiment cited here involves rimfire, it may help illustrate. Several years ago, the writer used his new, personal Anschutz to investigate the bore-snake issue. It had been fired ~350 rds with match ammo and had had 3 typical rod/brush cleanings.

Next, starting with a clean bore, the writer fired 300 more rounds without cleaning in order to build up a “worst-case” fouling condition. Afterwards, the writer examined the bore with a Hawkeye bore scope. There was a uniform, grey film down the entire barrel, with some small, intermittent lead build-up at and just forward of the throat.

Some bore-cleaning rope products feature separate, detachable bronze brush and bore mop segments. This allows more usage options (e.g. mop only), and makes it easier to clean the brush elements:
Barrel brush bore-snake boresnake shake barrel cleaner brush

A new bore-snake was then wet with solvent and pulled through the bore. The Hawkeye revealed that the grey fouling was gone, and much of the visible fouling at the throat was reduced. However, nine more passes with the bore-snake, checking after each with the Hawkeye, revealed no further improvement in cleaning. The writer then cleaned with two wet patches, observed, then one stroke of a new, wet bronze brush, and one wet patch to clean out residue.

USAMU Handloading facebook page bore snake cleaning

The Hawkeye showed a significant reduction in fouling at the throat; it was virtually gone. A second pass with a wet bronze brush and a wet patch removed the remaining fouling. Scrubbing the bore further, checking to see how much fouling was removed, revealed no significant improvement. The reason for this test was to learn what’s needed to get (and keep) this Anschutz clean with minimal cleaning rod use — and thus, minimal risk of bore damage/wear. Leaving fouling in the bore promotes corrosion over time.

Obviously, this applies to a nice, smooth rimfire match barrel, using good, well lubed ammo. It doesn’t apply directly to the use of copper-jacketed bullets, which leave a stubborn fouling all their own. However, it does suggest that while the bore-snake can be helpful and a useful field-expedient, to truly clean a rifle barrel one will still need a good quality rod, bronze brush and solvents. [Editor: Add a good-fitting cleaning rod bore guide.]

SO, WHAT ABOUT BORE SNAKES FOR BARREL BREAK-IN?
The goal of barrel break-in is to fire each shot through a clean barrel, preventing copper buildup and allowing the bullets their best chance at burnishing sharp edges. Thus, it seems this purpose would be best served by one’s usual rods, brushes and rod guides.

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
February 4th, 2015

Mystery of the Vibrating Cleaning Rod…

Sierra Bullets Product Development Manager Mark Walker recently acquired a barrel with canted lands. It turns out he needed to modify his bore-cleaning methods. His brushes and patches were not following the rifling… and he was well on his way to ruining his barrel before he figured out the solution. Read about Mark’s interesting (and puzzling) experience. This article first appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog.

Lessons Learned (The Canted Land Mystery)
by Mark Walker
Sometimes when you have done something so often, you take for granted that it will work for all equipment. In this case, I had used my cleaning process and equipment for years with no problems however a new barrel on a rifle caused me to rethink how I clean.

Last year, the barrel on my mid-range benchrest rifle decided to give up the ghost. After doing some research and asking fellow shooters, I decided to purchase a barrel that had rifling with “canted” lands. The barrel arrived and after looking it over, everything looked great.

Threading and chambering went very well with the barrel indicating in very straight and cutting very smoothly. After torqueing the barrel to the action, I went about loading some ammunition to break the barrel in with. At the range, the barrel shot as good as any I have ever had. Even with loads that were thrown together with no tuning whatsoever.

During the break in, I would clean the barrel after every five shots or so just because that’s what everyone says to do. The barrel cleaned up extremely well, however I noticed that the first patches down a dirty barrel would cause the cleaning rod to vibrate as I pushed them down the tube. That was something that I had never experienced before so I was a little concerned….

After looking at the barrel with a bore scope, everything looked clean and no indication of what might have caused the vibration in the rod. I did notice some surface marks in the bore that traveled perpendicular with the bore. Usually when a barrel is lapped, all marks follow the rifling twist so these marks parallel to the bore where another phenomenon that I had never seen before. The mystery was getting deeper.

After another range session where the barrel shot lights out, I brought it home to clean it as before. The first patches down the barrel again caused the strange vibration in the rod. After stopping and thinking about the vibration and the strange marks in the bore, I checked the bearings in cleaning rod handle to make sure it was spinning freely and everything seemed to be in working order. I then decided to mark the cleaning rod to make sure it was actually turning when it went down the barrel. Bingo — this revealed the problem.

When the first patch went down the barrel and the rod didn’t even attempt to turn, the light bulb went on. The patches and even the bronze brushes were simply skipping over the tops of the rifling and not following the rifling at all. I tried tighter patches and larger brushes, but the only thing that seemed to fix the problem was pushing them down the bore as slowly as possible while watching the mark on the rod to make sure it was turning. Had I continued to clean as I normally do, I surely would have ruined the barrel!

Once I figured out the problem, the barrel shot great and my cleaning process worked just like every other barrel I have ever owned except for having to go slow with the rod. This just goes to show that even though you may have done something a thousand times before, you should always be aware of what your equipment is telling you.

Sierra Bullets

Permalink Tech Tip 1 Comment »
September 12th, 2013

New Ripcord from Otis Features Rubber Core and Nomex Cover

otis technologies logo ripcord boresnakeFor barrel cleaning, we recommend high-quality one-piece cleaning rods, with fitted cleaning-rod bore guides, and top-quality jags or brushes. However, in some situations, long cleaning rods and bore guides just aren’t practical. Hunters, who can’t pack long, one-piece cleaning rods, can benefit from an “field-expedient” solution that cleans barrels quickly and easily

For those situations where you can only bring a minimum of cleaning gear, Otis Technologies offers the NEW Ripcord breech-to-muzzle cleaning cord. The Ripcord is composed of heat-resistant Nomex fibers braided over a molded rubberized core/cable combo, with a helix-style cord profile for better cleaning.

otis ripcord barrel pull cord cleaner

Otis Rip Cord Features

  • Breech-to-Muzzle function (pulls gunk out, not back into action).
  • 10″-long section of aggressive cleaning surface.
  • Helix shape engages rifling through the barrel.
  • Rubber core pushes outward for better swab contact.
  • Nomex® fibers act as brush to loosen and patch to capture fouling.
  • Equipped with 8-32 threaded ends to fit all Otis cleaning components.

otis ripcord barrel pull cord cleaner

How the Ripcord Does Its Job
Otis explains how the ripcord works: “The Nomex material acts as both a brush to loosen and a patch to capture fouling particles. The molded rubberized core keeps the Nomex cleaning surface pressed against the bore and the helix shape helps engage the rifling throughout the length of the barrel. The Ripcord is simple and easy to use — just insert the longer, narrower end in the chamber and then pull it through from Breech-to-Muzzle. Because of the rigidity of the Ripcord™, there is no need to gravity feed it through the barrel.” The Ripcord retails for $14.99 and is currently available in .22/.223 caliber, .308 caliber/7.62mm, 9mm, and .45 caliber, with other calibers coming soon.

Permalink New Product 3 Comments »