January 24th, 2016

Rifle Barrel Cleaning 101 — The Criterion Way

Editor: This article appears on 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.

Criterion Barrels Cleaning Clean Solvent rod guide Hoppes Wipe-Out

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.

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 Chamber
Proper cleaning of the chamber is a critical component of a general cleaning procedure. Carbon rings can build up near the neck and throat of the chamber wall, leading to feeding malfunctions and pressure spikes inside the chamber.

The chamber can be the trickiest part of the barrel to effectively clean, due to its fluctuation in size and the awkward ergonomics often required to remove carbon residue. Numerous chamber specific devices have been created to address this problem, and while some should be avoided (steel chamber brushes), others can be used to great effect (cleaning stars and plastic dental picks). The simplest approach to cleaning a chamber is to apply solvent to a couple patches, and use the cleaning rod to spin the wadded up patches inside the confines of the chamber. This should aid in removing any excess carbon. A Q-Tip can be used to reach portions of the chamber unreached by patches.

The Barrel Exterior
While the condition of the crown, rifling, and chamber are essential to firearm performance, the finish of the exterior should also be cleaned after handling. Condensation, humidity, direct water contact, and salt residue from skin contact can cause rust or corrosion. An application of anti-corrosion products is recommended when placing a firearm into deep storage for an extended period of time. [Editor: AccurateShooter.com recommends Corrosion-X or Eezox, but other products work well too.]

Finding Cleaning Components
While most cleaning components can be found at your local gun shop, some specialty items may need to be sourced through online retailers such as Brownell’s. Criterion utilizes both Dewey and Pro-Shot brand cleaning components during our day-to-day operations.

Do you have any rifle cleaning tips or tricks not mentioned in the above article? We’d love to hear about them. You can post your comments below.

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February 18th, 2014

New Bore-Tips Foam Bore Swabs for Barrel Cleaning

Wouldn’t it be nice to dispense with patches and jags when cleaning your guns? The folks at Super Brush, LLC, had the same idea, so they invented Bore-tips® swabs. These reusable foam “mops” provide 360° of contact with the bore, reaching both the grooves and the lands. Bore-tips thread onto standard cleaning rods. They are offered in a variety of sizes, from .22 Caliber up to 12 Gauge. Rifle Bore-tips come in .22 (5.56mm), .243 (6mm), and .308 (7.62mm) diameters.

Bore-tips foam bore swab

We saw samples of this new product for the first time at the Berger SWN. We’re intrigued. The product may be useful for some applications, particularly pistols and shotguns which require minimal brushing. For rifles they do a good job of applying solvents because they hold more liquid than a patch. However, you probably won’t want to abandon your jags and patches. Sometimes a tight-fitting patch is still the best tool for the job. Patches are cheap and it’s easier to discard a used patch, rather than fuss with cleaning foam swabs. But for shotguns (and lightly used pistols), these things make sense.

Bore-tips® Claimed Benefits:
• Each tip is reusable and can be cleaned with solvents or soap and water.
• Tough and fiber-free, Bore-tips will not shed or leave lint behind as cotton will.
• FAST PATCHLESS CLEANING — solves the shortcomings of the jag and patch.
• Foam fills the lands and grooves of the rifling, not sliding over the top like a patch.
• Quick threading on a standard 8-32 cleaning rod. Shotgun sizes use a 5/16 x 27 rod.
• Can be used with most commercially available solvents and oils.

How to Use Bore-tips®
Bore-tips foam bore swab
Use a Bore-tip to apply solvent to the barrel. After allowing the solvent time to work, brush the bore to break up any fouling. Next use a clean Bore-tip to push the fouling out the bore. When the now dirty Bore-tip clears the bore, wet it with a little solvent and then squeeze it with an absorbent rag or paper towel, this will blot the dirt off. After blotting the Bore-tip should be clean enough to continue using to remove the fouling until you are finished cleaning. When you are satisfied with the cleanliness of your barrel, use a clean Bore-tip to dry the bore.

Click for Full-Screen Images
Bore-tips foam bore swab Bore-tips foam bore swab

How to Clean Bore-tips®
Bore-tips foam bore swab
For faster cleaning, apply mineral spirits to the Bore-tip and squeeze/blot into an absorbent rag or paper towel. When the Bore-tip is clean, let dry and reuse. Using soap and water, squeeze to blot out any excess solvent or dirt. Next, wash the Bore-tip with a grease-cutting soap and warm water. Once clean, rinse then let dry completely. See cleaning video below:

Bore-Tips Foam Swab Cleaning Demonstration

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April 1st, 2013

Clean Your Barrels in Seconds with New Powered Bore-O-Matic

Are you tired of messing with cleaning rods, bore guides, stinky solvents, and messy JB patches? Can’t wait hours for bore-foam products to work? Well now there’s a new solution ideal for all pistol, shotgun, and rifle shooters. With the new Bore-O-Matic cleaning machine, you can clean your barrels in seconds. Remove copper, powder fouling, and even hard carbon in one ultra-fast operation. The Bore-O-Matic uses a self-deploying snake fitted with a bronze brush to instantly rout out all types of fouling. A powerful 0.5 horsepower electric motor spins the brush at 200 rpm as it snakes its way through your bore, eating away fouling, and leaving a “squeaky clean” interior finish in its wake.

Bore-o-matic barrel cleaner

The Bore-O-Matic is easy to use. Simply squirt your favorite solvent* in the barrel, fire up the motor, and let the Bore-O-Matic power its way down your barrel. In seconds you’ll have a perfectly clean bore. Since the Bore-O-Matic’s flexible drive shaft is plastic-coated, no harm can be done.

Bore-O-Matic inventor Tom Bugiardo says that the Bore-O-Matic is perfectly safe for your fine match barrels. “We’ve seen how top competitors brush their barrels like crazy, and frankly, we’re just doing the same thing, but with a motor to minimize the labor.” Additionally, Bugiardo says that the bronze brushes used on the Bore-O-Matic can’t possibly harm your bore. “We all know that bronze is softer than steel so there’s absolutely no risk”. Some potential buyers were worried about the rapidly-spinning bore brushes rounding off the edges of lands or damaging the crown. “Horse-pucky” says Bugiardo, “We’ve researched this extensively on internet gun forums, so we’re 100% confident that running a powered bronze brush at 200 rpm down your barrel can’t harm a thing. Trust us.”

Because the Bore-O-Matic spins as it runs down the bore, gyroscopic forces self-center the cleaning brush. So, no cumbersome (and expensive) bore guides are needed. “Just feed that puppy right down the barrel, and say ‘goodbye’ to barrel fouling forever”, says the inventor.

Bore-o-matic barrel cleaner

Along with the $189.99 benchtop Bore-O-Matic unit, a smaller $99.99 hand unit is available. When working in tight spaces, or when cleaning at the range, the battery-powered Bore-O-Matic “Hand-Jobber” is ideal. The Bore-O-Matic handheld unit conveniently fits in a range box and runs off long-lasting, rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries.
Bore-o-matic barrel cleaner
With the compact Bore-O-Matic “Hand-Jobber” you can also easily dip the attached cleaning brush in a tub of JB or Iosso bore cream. Bugiardo tells customers: “Slather that JB on your brush and run ‘er right in the muzzle if you want a mirror finish in your bore. Remember, nothing says ‘pride of ownership’ better than a bore that shines like a spit-polished diamond!”

Currently the Bore-O-Matic is available only from Bugiardo’s company, TB Plumbing Supplies, in Lizella, Georgia (no website yet). Bugiardo expects the product will soon catch on with shooters nationwide and it will be carried by major retailers and online webstores.


*With its high-speed rotary brush, the Bore-O-Matic is so efficient that you don’t need expensive, specialty solvents. Bugiardo uses a simple solution of Windex, Ammonia, Drano Gel, and baking soda. “Makes my barrels shine, inside and out”, Bugiardo says.
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June 1st, 2011

T.K. Nollan’s Barrel Saver Cleaning Rod Guide

Smart shooters know the importance of using a quality cleaning rod bore guide when cleaning barrels. The rod guide helps center the rod in the bore, preventing uneven wear on the rifling. Good bore guides also seal off the chamber to prevent solvents and gunk from flowing back into the bolt raceway and trigger housing. While most bore guides are “better than nothing”, the best designs are custom-sized to the chamber and also have a very tight clearance around the rod shaft. This prevents the rod from bowing and from dragging on the critical throat area of your rifle. We use Lucas Rod Guides for many of our rifles. The Lucas two-part design, with a caliber-specific insert, provides a tight fit for the rod.

T.K. Nollan’s Barrel Saver System
While many readers may have seen or used Lucas Rod Guides, T.K. Nollan makes another very high-quality cleaning rod guide that is favored by top benchrest shooters such as Tony Boyer, Dwight Scott, and Dick Wright. If, like many short-range Benchresters, you do a lot of barrel brushing, it may be worth investing in the $135.00 Barrel Saver.

T.K. Nollan Barrel Saver

T.K. Nollan’s patent-pending Barrel Saver is a precision-machined system designed to provide maximum protection during barrel cleaning. The Barrel Saver features a double O-ring “fail-safe” seal, and a stainless steel outer tube with straightness held to within .001″. To help ensure optimal alignment, a bushing, custom-sized for your action, precisely centers the outer tube in your action. Models are offered for Hall, Stolle, Grizzly, Farley, Remington, RFD, Nesika Bay, Borden, BAT, Viper and similar 2-lug actions.

Each Nollan Barrel Saver comes with two (2) metal guide tubes, one for brushes and the other for jags. As you can see in the slide show below, these brush/jag tubes run INSIDE the larger diameter guide which slides into the action and chamber. This “tube-within-tube” design, combined with the 0-ring for the chamber, ensures that the cleaning rod stays precisely centered, even if you brush fairly aggressively. While we strongly advocate bore-brushing only in the outward direction, we know some shooters prefer to brush back and forth. If you are a “back and forth” cleaner, you NEED a product like the T.K. Nollan Barrel Saver.

T.K. Nollan Barrel Savers start at $135.00 plus $9.00 shipping for PPC-type chamberings. Custom sizes cost $150.00 plus $9.00 shipping. Each Barrel Saver kit comes complete with two Rod Guide Tubes and spare O-rings. For more info, visit the Barrel Saver website, or contact T.K. Nollan at this address:

TK Tool Co. – Precision Benchrest Tools
tknemail [at] gmail.com
401 South Cimarron St.
Catoosa, OK 74015
(918) 633-2966 (Call before 9:00 PM CST)

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May 24th, 2011

Protect Your Barrels with New Polymer Jags and Brush Guides

German Salazar has found some innovative and smartly-engineered new cleaning accessories that can benefit any shooter who wants to maintain the accuracy of his precious (and expensive) barrels. Here’s German’s report on the new Bore Rider Jags and Bore Rider Brush Guides.

Good Stuff: Bore Rider Barrel Care Products by German Salazar
We see new bore cleaning solvents introduced with some regularity, but cleaning hardware evolves more slowly. I’ve been using some new jags from Don Leidich’s Bore Rider Barrel Care Products for a few months and am satisfied that they are a genuine improvement over anything else I’ve used. Don began making these items for the black powder cartridge shooters as their cleaning needs are serious and frequent. He has now expanded the line to include popular bore sizes for modern centerfire barrels.

Bore Rider Jags Brush Guides

Modern Jags and Brush Guides Made from Acetron Polymer
Don’s Bore Rider enterprise makes jags as well as companion Brush Guides for use with bore brushes. These are all made from Acetron® GP, an acetal polymer material similar to Delrin, but with greater lubricity. Bore Rider Jags and Brush Guides minimize any damage that might occur to the crown when the jag or brush exits the bore. With conventional jags and brushes, when brushing or patching your barrel, the cleaning rod shaft falls to the bottom of the bore as the patch or brush exits. Over time, that can result in excessive wear at the lower edge of the bore (6 O’Clock position) in the last few millimeters on the muzzle end. In extreme cases you can even wear a slight groove in the lip of the crown (i.e. the very end of the rifling at the muzzle). Another advantage of Bore Rider Jags over conventional brass jags is that you don’t get “false positive” green/blue patch colorations from solvent reactions with the metal jag itself (as opposed to actual copper fouling in the barrel).

Bore Rider Jags Brush GuidesThe Bore Rider Jag has an extra-long shank so that when the patch exits, the Acetron (polymer) shank is the only thing that makes contact with the crown. This way you don’t have a metal rod tip riding over the delicate crown. The Bore Rider Jag shank diameter is also a close fit to the bore to avoid uneven wear. The Brush Guide is an Acetron extension that fits between your brush and the end of the cleaning rod. This extension protects the crown when you brush, allowing you to push the brush completely out of the barrel without dragging metal connections over the edge of the crown. [Editor’s Tip: While the polymer material used in the Bore Rider Jag and Brush Guide is “kinder” to crowns, be sure keep the Acetron shanks clean from small particles and debris. These particles can embed themselves in the polymer. Wipe off the Jags and Brush Guides regularly.]

If protecting your barrel’s crown was all that these items did, that would be enough to merit their use. However, what’s more interesting about the jags is that they are made for a very tight fit in the bore and as a result, they truly get the patch working to scavenge the grooves of all the residue possible. The fit is so tight that Don was concerned that not all patches might work properly, as some extra thick ones might not enter the bore at all on this jag. I’ve used the jags with patches from Sinclair, Bruno’s Pro-Shot and a couple of no-name bags and all have worked flawlessly. Also, the jags are designed so that the segments that hold the patch material can never come in contact with the crown while pulling it back into the barrel. My borescope examination of the barrels shows that the job is getting done right.

Bore Rider Jags Brush Guides

Source for Bore Rider Jags and Brush Guides
The .223, .243, .264 and .308-caliber jags sell for $15.00 and the Brush Guides sell for $13.00. Other caliber jags start at $22.00 for jags and $18.00 for Brush Guides. These are threaded and chamfered to fit appropriate Dewey rods. The opposite ends on the brush guides have 8-32 female threads. Customers can buy adapters (from other vendors) to fit other brands of cleaning rods. Don can also customize Jags to fit a customer’s rod specifications if you don’t want to deal with an adapter. Don’s custom made Jags and Brush Guides cost $25 and $18 respectively.

Bore Rider Barrel Care Products
Don Leidich
18855 Nelson Rd.
St. Charles, MI 48655
989-642-5036 evenings
brbcp@yahoo.com

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