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Basic Rifle Maintenance - Part 1

Basic Rifle Maintenance - Part 1

By Vince Bottomley
©Copyright 2009, Target Shooter Magazine

We mentioned the possibility of an article covering basic rifle maintenance in the April issue of Target Shooter and enough of you responded to make it a reality, so here goes.

We’ll keep it simple and restrict it at this stage to the centrefire bolt-action rifle and we will start with the bolt itself.

The bolt is a key part of our rifle. Not only does it close the breech, sealing the pressure-chamber, it also extracts the fired case and provides ignition via the firing-pin striking the primer. It is this latter function that concerns us most when it comes to maintenance.

Lock-time - the time taken for the firing-pin to strike the primer after we have pulled the trigger - is measured in milli-seconds. Even though the lock-time is unimaginably small, movement of the rifle can occur in this time-period and if it does, accuracy will obviously suffer. Clearly, a fast lock-time is desirable - even more desirable with a hand-held rifle, where movement is more likely to occur.

A number of factors will influence lock-time but the one that we can do something about is the firing-pin/spring assembly. But first, let’s dismantle our bolt. Most bolts are designed to easily ‘field-strip’ and even if our featured bolts are different from your rifle, you’ll be surprised what you can find on the internet. (In less than a minute I had a YouTube video of a Mauser bolt strip).

The spring assembly usually screws into the main bolt-body (e.g.Remington, Winchester, Stolle) but some bolts employ a bayonet-style engagement (e.g. Howa, BAT) or even a screw-on cap (e.g. Savage, Barnard, RPA).

Basic Rifle Maintenance - Part 1

The picture above shows a few types – from the left: Remington, Winchester, Howa and Barnard. We will concentrate on the Remington as it is one of the most popular and I just happen to be trouble-shooting a light-striking problem with one.

Basic Rifle Maintenance - Part 1

Using a suitable stripping tool, we can compress the spring and easily unscrew the firing-pin/spring assembly. We now have two parts – put the spring assembly to one side and we’ll deal with the bolt-body first.



The problem here is the likelihood of crud accumulating deep down inside the narrow passage that guides the firing-pin. Gases blow back through the firing-pin hole and if you’ve ever pierced a primer, this is where the small metal disc ends up. An aerosol of auto carburettor cleaner (Halfords) is useful here . Spray inside the body and swill out the crud. If it looks very dirty, use a pointed stick – like a kebab stick with a cleaning patch attached. Shine a torch inside to ensure it’s clean. Whilst you’re at it, spray the bolt-face with the cleaner – particularly around the extractor and ejector pin. Depress the pin a few times to make sure it’s running free. If you have access to an air-line, give it a blast inside and out and the job is done.

Now for the spring assembly. I’m intending to fully dismantle the Remington spring assembly as there is a problem with light-strikes but for normal maintenance it’s not necessary and we are simply going to clean the spring-assembly with our aerosol carb. cleaner to remove all traces of crud and grease. We do not want ANY grease or oil on the spring or pin – it will cause drag and increase lock-time! Again, dry off with an air-line if you have one. A light spray with WD40 is all we need – no oil or grease on the spring or pin please! You can put a very small amount of grease on the threads or bayonet prior to assembly.

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