July 6th, 2019

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 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.

Reducing Cleaning Rod Wear to the Crown
When running a patch through the barrel, place the muzzle about a ¼” from a hard surface that runs flat at a perpendicular angle to the cleaning rod’s direction of travel, like a wall or the edge of a work bench (pictured). When the jag impacts the hard surface, retract the cleaning rod and remove the patch.

By withdrawing the jag prior to its exit from the barrel, you are limiting the possibility of the brass dragging upon the crown if the rod is at all bent or misaligned. The soft cloth patch will continue to serve as the point of contact between the jag and the barrel, minimizing potential wear.

If possible, insert the rod through the chamber, pushing it forward toward the muzzle. Some rifles, such as the M1 Garand or M14, will require you to insert the cleaning rod through the muzzle. In these situations the use of a cleaning rod guide is recommended to limit the friction placed upon the crown.

Avoid using cleaning rod segments for scraping carbon from the recessed muzzle of an AR-15 barrel. We used this trick in the Marine Corps to impress the armorers and NCO’s with the cleanliness of our muzzles, but it likely played a significant role in reducing the service life of the rifle barrel in question.

Use a Q-Tip soaked in solvent to remove any copper or carbon residue from the recessed muzzle of an AR-15 barrel. A little bit of remaining carbon on the face of the muzzle will not negatively affect bullet travel so long as the crown edge remains consistent around the circumference of the bore.

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.

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Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
December 23rd, 2018

TECH TIP: When and How to Use Bore-Snakes

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.

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.

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 No 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 »