There are two prevalent theories about cleaning.

  1. It just wears the gun out, so don’t waste your time until your gun malfunctions.  Then pull a bore snake through it and drip some 5w-30 into the action.
  2. It helps the gun last and shoot well throughout a lifetime.

The first theory is espoused by people who bath irregularly.  Why waste all that soap?

If you bath daily, and then again after a sweaty workout, you might want to clean your gun regularly too.  Here’s how.

  1. Get the dirt out
    1. run a solvent-soaked copper brush through the bore, 10 strokes (in and out is one stroke).
      • I prefer “Shooters Choice” because it cuts copper and otherwise works well.  Any well-known cleaner that cuts copper will do.  Benchrest guys, who I like to learn from, mix Shooters Choice and Kroil Penetrating Oil half-and-half.
      • Use a bore guide to keep the rod straight and off of the critical throat area, and to keep solvent from dripping into your action.
    2. rinse the brush with 99% alcohol.  This stops your cleaner – which eats copper – from destroying the brush.  I use a squeeze bottle, holding the brush and bottle in a garbage can to shake off the excess after the rinse.
    3. push a snug patch through with a fall-off (not a loop-style) type round jag.
    4. repeat 1-3 until the patches are no longer getting cleaner.  Some match barrels (ultra-smooth) with the right powders will have a completely clean patch after three to five repeats.  Most barrels will never have a completely clean patch.
  2. Get the copper out
    1. run a wet patch into the barrel with a loop jag
    2. let it sit a few minutes – 3-5 – to eat at the copper
    3. push a snug patch through with a fall-off jag.
    4. repeat 1-3 until the patch has little or no blue-green tint – this is the copper.
  3. Tidy up the chamber
    1. run a slightly-wet large patch into the chamber area and swish it around.
    2. repeat until it comes out clean.
  4. The rest of it
    1. Using a CLP or other solvent, clean up the bolt (especially the locking lugs and face).  A cotton swab helps. Put some light grease on the lugs where they engage the action.
    2. Then clean up the action, paying extra attention to the part the bolt locks into.

Run a final patch through the barrel with preservative oil / CLP to preserve it, and wipe-down the bolt and action.  Even stainless benefits from this.  Before you shoot again, remove the oil from the barrel with a tight patch to prevent an overpressure situation on the first round.  Corrosion is your enemy: stop it before it stops your accurate shooting.

I wouldn’t do this on my general AR-15 barrels.  They just aren’t worth it and there’s little benefit.  On a match barrel / gun, it extends the accurate life of the system.  I have a 30-year-old Rem 700 that has been cared for this way.  The barrel wore out a few years ago – from being shot, not from being cleaned – and has been replaced; the rest of it looks and shoots like new.


One Response to “Cleaning your Accurate Bolt Gun”

  1. Josey Wales Says:

    I would add that one should be very sure to dry the chamber completely after cleaning it; shooting a rifle with a lubed chamber is the same as shooting a pressure proofing load — you don’t want that.

    Everyone has their opinion concerning what is best for cleaning; I am anal about cleaning my barrels — they must be absolutely clean. I have bought every cleaner/solvent on the market over the years, and I have found that with what is currently available, nothing is better at completely taking the copper out of a barrel than the Montana X-treme products, partucularly the copper killer and copper cream. I also use Kroil initially to help ‘lift’ the carbon (especially with my gas gun). They are not only aggressive against copper, they are barrel-safe, unlike some of the other very aggressive cleaners (Sweet’s 7.62 comes to mind.)

    An aside about using a bore-guide (which is an absolute must if you care about your bore); be sure and take it out and carefully clean the area in the throat after the rest of the bore is clean, VERY CAREFULLY, as I have found that I have a dirty area where the leade is, just forward of the o-ring on the front of the bore guide. Ironic, as this area is one that benefits most from being kept clean and where most of the flame-erosion takes place.

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