A Complete Guide to Cleaning Your Rifle’s Barrel the Right Way
Cleaning your rifle’s barrel is essential in maintaining the best possible accuracy. If you’ve noticed that your rifle is less accurate than it used to be, even while using high-quality accessories like scopes, it might just need a good cleaning.
From the second you fire the first round through your rifle, the barrel begins accumulating copper and powder inside.
After just about ten rounds, your short and long-range accuracy will begin to suffer. And if you wait too long in between cleanings, your barrel will accumulate so much fouling that the true bore diameter might actually begin to change!
To maintain optimal accuracy and reliability, it’s important to clean your barrel on a regular basis.
How Often Should I Clean My Barrel?
All barrels are different, and some can go longer periods of time in between cleanings than others.
I’d recommend going no more than 30 rounds, or one day in the field, without cleaning your hunting rifle. Your accuracy matters the most when you’re dealing with a moving target, and any inconsistencies due to a dirty barrel will surely be frustrating.
However, some barrels can go 250 rounds or more without any need for cleaning. It all depends on your specific rifle and barrel.
You’ll probably be able to tell when your barrel needs to be cleaned because you’ll notice a decrease in accuracy and failures to fire happening more often. Use your best judgment when it comes to cleaning in order to maintain your accuracy.
Preventative Maintenance: Correctly Breaking-In Your Barrel
To slow down the copper and powder fouling inside your rifle’s barrel, make sure that you correctly break it in before taking it to the range or out hunting.
Many people skip this crucial step when they first buy their rifle, which creates the need for more frequent cleaning in the future. Here’s how to break-in your barrel the right way. First, you’ll need:
A cleaning rod and patches
A bore brush or bore snake
To begin the break-in process, fire just one round through your rifle. Then, use your cleaning tools and solvents to clean the barrel completely. Put your rifle back together, and fire the next round.
You’ll want to repeat this process after each of the 20 rounds is fired. It is a tedious process, but will make a big difference in the future!
How to Clean Your Rifle’s Barrel
If you’ve noticed that you’re having more issues with accuracy and reliability, it’s probably time to clean your barrel.
To ensure safety, make sure your rifle is unloaded. Then, follow the process below to ensure the best results.
Remove Loose Particles
Use a dry bore brush or bore snake to remove any loose powder or carbon pieces from inside the barrel. Work from the breech/chamber end to the muzzle end.
Some people recommend using cut-up Windex wipes as patches on a cleaning rod instead, as the solution of these wipes is comparable to other chemical solvents used to clean rifle barrels!
You’ll want to run the tool through a couple of times or until most of the loose pieces have been removed.
Clean the Barrel with Solvents
In this next step, you’ll use a powder solvent to remove the powder fouling from inside your barrel.
If you have a cleaning rack, place your barrel in it to prevent any solvents from getting into the action. If you don’t have a cleaning rack, create a chamber plug with a paper towel to serve the same purpose.
Now, you’ll want to soak either a section of your bore snake or a patch on a cleaning rod in your powder solvent. If you’re using a cleaning rod, remember to wrap the saturated patch around it loosely to ensure it does its job well.
Then, moving from the breech end toward the muzzle, use short strokes to fully coat the bore in the solvent.
Don’t apply any pressure to the bore, and don’t pull the rod or snake all the way through. Once you seek the tip peeking out from the muzzle end, move slowly back down the other way, cleaning as you go.
After you’ve removed the rod or snake, allow the solvent to sit inside the barrel for between 5 - 10 minutes. Don’t ever leave a solvent inside your barrel for more than 15 minutes.
If you used a paper towel plug, remove it from the chamber with the muzzle pointed downwards. Then, pull a dry bore snake through the entire length of the barrel, working from the breech to the muzzle. Do this at least three times to remove the solvent.
Once you’ve finished this process with the powder solvent, it’s time to move on to the copper solvent.
Place your barrel back in your cleaning rack, or create another chamber plug with a new piece of paper towel. Then, repeat the same process you just used for the powder solvent!
Check for Remaining Residue
After you’ve cleaned and dried the barrel, you’ll want to apply enough patches to a cleaning rod to get a tight fit inside the bore.
Apply just two to three drops of copper solvent to the patch, and slowly push the patch through the entire length of the barrel.
Now that you have a tight-fitting tool inside of your barrel, you’ll want to take extra care to not let the cleaning rod come into contact with the muzzle’s crown.
Once you’ve gone the entire length of the barrel, examine the patch for any signs of residue. If you see a blue-green color on the patch, there’s still excess copper inside. If you see black on the patch, there is still powder present.
If you still have residue inside of your barrel, you’ll want to repeat the cleaning process. If not, you can proceed.
Oil the Bore and Chamber Area
After you’ve finished cleaning the barrel, apply a light coating of oil to both the bore and chamber to keep everything fresh.
Just remember to remove excess oil as soon as you take your rifle out of storage the next time you go shooting!
The Bottom Line
Properly cleaning your rifle’s barrel is essential to maintaining good functionality, both at the range and in the hunting field. However, improperly cleaning your barrel can damage or ruin it, so it’s essential to follow the steps laid out here to a T.
Richard Douglas writes on firearms, defense and security issues. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, 1945, Daily Caller and other publications.