The golden rule is – clean your rifle as often as you can - if you want it to deliver best accuracy. In other words, clean after every competition at the end of the day. If your round-count is exceptionally high, clean during the competition – if you get the chance. Remember however, some rifles will need a shot or two to settle down after cleaning and you should know how many shots your rifle needs from a clean barrel before it shoots ‘point of aim’.
Nobody likes cleaning but it’s got to be done and done properly to maintain accuracy.
Everyone will have their own cleaning regime but hopefully it will follow roughly similar lines. At the end of a day’s shooting, here’s my routine:
1. Pass a couple of loose-fitting patches soaked in your favourite cleaning fluid through the bore. This will push out the loose powder residue.
These patches came out of a 308 after 25 rounds – and it still isn’t copper-free!
2. Scrub the bore with a bronze bore-brush wetted with cleaning fluid – I use one pass for every round fired as a rough guide. Please do not attempt to reverse the brush in the bore – take it straight out of the muzzle but be careful when you pull it back through the crown – it’s very easy to damage the crown when cleaning. A bronze brush will not damage your bore and most benchrest shooters will scrub with a bronze brush every 10 to 15 rounds. That equates to five or six cleans in a single day.
3. Next, pass two or three tight-fitting dry patches through the bore to push out the fouling loosened by the brushing.
4. Finish off with a loose wet patches followed by a tight dry patches until they come out clean. Finish with a couple of dry patches so the bore is completely dry. Completely dry? Don’t forget, we ‘cut’ our Butch’s with 10% Kroil which prevents that ‘squeaky-clean’ effect.
5. Is there any copper in the bore? Almost certainly! Pass a loose-fitting patch through the bore loaded with a good copper solvent – Sweets is as good as anything. Many bore cleaners claim to remove copper – Butch’s does but it is nowhere near as effective as Sweets. I also like Montana Extreme Copper Killer and Pro shot Copper Remover. Most copper solvents are ammonia based. The ones that work well will bring tears to your eyes if you take a tiny sniff! If you are allergic to ammonia try the Pro-Shot, it’s almost odourless. Sweets is not always easy to get but Fultons at Bisley usually have it.
6. Let the copper solvent do its work by leaving it in the bore for at least ten minutes. Ignore any fables about Sweets damaging your bore. After 10 or 15 minutes, push out the Sweets with a tight-fitting dry patch. Any blue streaks on it? Yes? Repeat until the blue disappears.
7. Copper solvents can leave a slightly sticky coating in the bore so we need to clean it off with the wet patch/dry patch routine as in step 4.
8. If you have a stainless-steel barrel, consider it job done. If you have a chrome-moly barrel and you use the rifle regularly and store it indoors – job done. If the rifle is likely to be left for some time or stored in a damp atmosphere, then a patch sprayed with WD40 and passed through the barrel will afford the necessary protection but you MUST patch-out before you shoot. Incidentally, the stainless-steel used in rifle barrels is not a true stainless and it will also rust if left for any length of time in a damp atmosphere.