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Bore Cleaning Basics
The other option is to use an aggressive ammonia based fluid such as Sweets 7.62 solvent that will remove copper quickly. It is a very strong solution. A patch saturated with Sweets is wrapped around either type of previously mentioned jags, and the bore stroked several times. The patch will come out blue, indicating the presence of copper. Allow the barrel to sit in a saturated state for about ten minutes and patch dry. If there is a lot of copper present it may be necessary to repeat the process. Other than a patch, you could use a cotton bore mop to apply the Sweets.

As an absolute maximum, Sweets should NOT be left in a bore more than FIFTEEN minutes. This warning appears on the Sweets bottle. This time frame applies to ANY ammonia based product. By now the bore should be squeaky clean.

bore cleaning basics
Multiple calibre rod guide (top). Calibre specific (below).


How often do you clean? Perhaps of more importance, how often should you clean?

This is not easy to answer and you have to consider the cartridge type and frequency of use. An over bore high intensity varmint cartridge should probably be cleaned after ten or so shots, a “normal” hunting rifle perhaps after fifteen or twenty, a benchrest rifle after each relay. You will note that we are talking about non coated bullets; moly coated projectiles are another type entirely with totally different cleaning requirements.

Whatever the cleaning regime, having removed the offending carbon and copper, there is still a requirement to protect the bore between shooting trips. Should we apply further liquid(s) to protect the bore in storage? A personal preference is a 50/50 mixture of Hoppes #9 and Penetrene. Both will prevent any chance of rust and the Hoppes will work on any residual copper, if any. Before the rifle is next fired, a couple of dry patches will eliminate the mixture out of the bore.

Bore cleaning can be a long process with several rifles to clean after a day in the field. Usually it assists the cleaning process to run a patch saturated with Hoppes #9 through the bore at the end of the day’s shooting. The trip home allows time for the Hoppes to work.

You might be surprised at the amount of green on the first dry patch through the barrel.

There is a lot of misinformation about cleaning. The above is basic information that needs fine tuning depending on individual rifles, barrel steel types and the amount of use. Everyone has an opinion, and you have to make up your own mind.

Stainless barrels do not appear to foul as much as conventional steels. Older steel types may require more attention. Some barrels will show evidence of copper, some will not. One rifle in the author’s gun safe, calibre .243Winchester, only shows black in the bore after use. Sweets confirms that the copper is present. The load is on the mild side using commercial projectiles. Another rifle, different steel, shows copper near the muzzle after two or three shots.

There is one inviolate rule that must be applied to bore cleaning. Irrespective of the cleaning fluids you choose to use, they should NEVER be mixed. Use a particular fluid and patch it dry before using the next.

A current suggestion is not to pull a wet bore brush back into the barrel, the claim is that the bronze bristles will inflict minute damage to the barrel crown and hence destroy accuracy. As matter of interest I looked at two custom stainless barrels with a high powered magnifying glass. No such damage was evident.

A word of warning about the fluids that are used in the cleaning process. Many are of a volatile nature, and if inhaled in sufficient quantities could be harmful. To avoid this situation you should always clean your firearms in a well ventilated area. Some shooters have taken the process one step further and wear cheap disposable gloves when cleaning.

Another consideration is to prevent all solvents dripping onto any part of the stock, particularly those that are wood with a finishing top coat. Some solvents will immediately attack such finishes and leave you with a damaged stock. Protecting the stock with a small towel during cleaning is one solution to this problem.

With the cost of quality firearms rising continually, good cleaning practices are important. Like everything else in shooting, you pay for good quality products. Look upon cleaning gear as an investment, it will always return good results.


Matthew Cameron is a retired Australian Airline Pilot who flew domestically within Australia and internationally out of Southeast Asia. Interested in long range varminting and pig shooting for many years, he reloads for a variety of calibres and has written articles on reloading and associated subjects since the early 1990's, published in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. In the last few years he has enjoyed bench rest shooting and gliding when not reloading or writing.


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