Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

Basic Rifle Maintenance - Part 2

Basic Rifle Maintenance - Part 2

By Vince Bottomley
©Copyright 2009, Target Shooter Magazine

Last month, in part one, we had a look at the bolt and what we could do to keep it in tip-top condition. This month, I had intended to look at the receiver but we had a request to cover barrel-cleaning – which I had intended to do the month after – so, always happy to oblige, we’ll swap things around.

basic rifle maintenance 2
If your crown looks like this you should maybe visit your gunsmith.

OK, barrels. Whereas we could strip our bolt into its component parts and inspect, clean and lube as necessary, there’s not a lot we can do to a barrel, except clean it. Removal is not really an option and anyway, what would it achieve?

Like most of you, I’ve been cleaning barrels for a good number of years but, I have to admit, until I bought a borescope, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I should perhaps qualify that and say – I couldn’t SEE what I was doing. The borescope made me revise my cleaning regime!

We all have our favourite bore cleaners and mine is Butch’s Bore Shine. I’d never used Butch’s until I went to New Zealand for the World Benchrest Championships in 2001. It’s customary at these events to receive a ‘goody-bag’ and ours contained a bottle of Butch’s. Naturally, my rifle was squeaky-clean but, why not give the Butch’s a go and see if it will bring out any more fouling? I was shocked to find that it did - lots! My next step was to take my bottle of bore-cleaner – which I had cunningly smuggled on the plane in a shampoo bottle – and pour it down the drain!

basic rifle maintenance 2
There are plenty of copper-solvents on the market but Sweets is as good as any.

There are other bore cleaners – like Hoppes, Shooters Choice, Pro-Shot etc. and if I find one better than Butch’s, I’ll switch. Some bore cleaners can get the barrel almost too clean and dry, so I like to ‘cut’ my Butch’s with a dash of Kroil – no more than 10%.

I recently read a piece on barrel cleaning in a well known publication where it talked about 4x2 and Young’s 303 gun-oil. If these items are still part of your cleaning kit, maybe now’s the time to get up to date. There is an excellent family-owned American company called Pro-Shot. Tim Hannam at Leeds is the UK importer.

Get yourself some Pro Shot brass spear-point jags, correct size patches and Pro Shot bronze brushes. These brushes by the way are not meant to be used for years like those horrendous Parker Hale things with a steel core. The Pro Shot brushes are brass-cored and quite cheap and you should throw it away as soon as you see any signs of the bristles breaking off. And don’t forget - ALWAYS USE A BORE-GUIDE!

basic rifle maintenance 2
Brushes, jags and patches from Pro Shot – and don’t forget the bore-guide.

Money-saving tip - most of us have more than one rifle calibre to clean – guys, you can clean everything with a 22 rod – no need to buy more than one cleaning rod! I even use just one 22 jag – fold your patches in half or use two patches and you can clean a 308 with a 22 jag!

First off, I know that no one likes cleaning their rifles. I don’t like cleaning my rifles but I do know that a rifle with a badly fouled barrel will not deliver best accuracy. But how do we assess when a barrel needs cleaning? To measure the accuracy fall-off you would need to set up your rifle benchrest style, to eliminate as far as possible any human errors and shoot several groups and watch the groups open-up as the round-count increases. But you don’t actually need to do it because thousands of benchrest shooters have already done it.

Two points to note – the more accurate your rifle, the sooner fouling will be detrimental to accuracy and, smaller calibres seem to suffer from the effects of fouling more than larger calibres. My 6PPC benchgun will run to about 25 rounds before accuracy noticeably deteriorates. With my 308 F/TR rifle, it’s maybe double that figure. Both rifles use BAT actions and Bartlein barrels.

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