Barrel Brake-In Advice

J E Custom

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Joined
Jul 29, 2004
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Location
Texas
I'm not sure if this was ever uploaded but I was looking up a few things and found this article. I have been saying this for years. Brake-in is just basically de-burring and/or filling in micro-lines in the barrel. A lot of guys are stuck in that "old school"thought, including my father. lol... Hope you enjoy the read.


Barrel break in


This will probably start another debate but hear goes.

First= if break-in ware's out a custom barrel, it is not a very good barrel Because it only takes 10 to 12 shots on a good barrel.

Second = If you shoot 10 to 12 rounds without cleaning it will wear the barrel more because of the carbon left by the powder and the copper left by the bullet that can/will imbed in the bullet and travel the length of the barrel.

Third = the reason to do a brake-in is to minimize the fouling and hence the cleaning. (Less fouling less cleaning, less ware on the barrel.

Many people and barrel makers believe that braking in a barrel is beneficial, others don't. So It becomes a personal choice.

Hear is the brake-in procedure that I like and use. http://www.riflebarrels.com/support/centerfire_maintenance.htm

Having looked through many barrels with a bore scope, (not a bore light) I for one believe it is beneficial and do all of my custom rifles, and for sure the factory rifles. In fact, Break-in and frequent cleaning has extended the life of all my barrels considerably over the rifles that have not been taken proper care of, by at least 25%or more.

Old school used to be no one even knew about brake-in and with the new High velocity cartridges
it was discovered that barrel life would be extended if brake in and frequent cleaning was performed and also the use of Stainless for barrel steel improved the life of a barrel on large over bored cartridges that had poor barrel life.

I have read many articles for, and against barrel brake-in and none have changed my mind that there is no advantage to doing a Break-in.

Having over 50 years of shooting and going through the evolution of not doing brake-in, to doing a brake-in has convinced me what is best.

Just my opinion

J E CUSTOM
 

muddydogs

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Feb 26, 2015
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11
Location
Utah
Does anyone have data, real numbers showing how much breaking in helps a barrel? From what I read on this subject its a bunch of I think or over the last 50 years, well I would like to see some numbers and not opinions and speculation. Until then I will classify this along with engine break in and continue to drive them like I stole them.
 

kaseyfied

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Nov 30, 2008
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2,230
Location
oregon
A well known gunsmiths opinion is not good enough for even thought??? Interesting. I took the same 2 barrels on a 338 lapua, same powder an such, no break in with friends rifle, I did break in. He has since replaced his, mine is still keeping tight groups. How would this statement be any different from a creditable smiths statements??

Kasey
 

Edd

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Jan 26, 2011
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This version, from Krieger's website, is the one I choose to believe.

BREAK-IN & CLEANING:
With any premium barrel that has been finish lapped -- such as your Krieger Barrel --, the lay or direction of the finish is in the direction of the bullet travel, so fouling is minimal compared to a barrel with internal tooling marks. This is true of any properly finish-lapped barrel regardless of how it is rifled. If it is not finish-lapped, there will be reamer marks left in the bore that are directly across the direction of the bullet travel. This occurs even in a button-rifled barrel as the button cannot completely iron out these reamer marks.

Because the lay of the finish is in the direction of the bullet travel, very little is done to the bore during break-in, but the throat is another story. When your barrel is chambered, by necessity there are reamer marks left in the throat that are across the lands, i.e. across the direction of the bullet travel. In a new barrel they are very distinct; much like the teeth on a very fine file.

When the bullet is forced into the throat, copper dust is removed from the jacket material and released into the gas which at this temperature and pressure is actually a plasma. The copper dust is vaporized in this plasma and is carried down the barrel. As the gas expands and cools, the copper comes out of suspension and is deposited in the bore. This makes it appear as if the source of the fouling is the bore when it is actually for the most part the new throat.

If this copper is allowed to stay in the bore, and subsequent bullets and deposits are fired over it, copper which adheres well to itself, will build up quickly and may be difficult to remove later. So when we break in a barrel, our goal is to get the throat “polished without allowing copper to build up in the bore. This is the reasoning for the fire-one-shot-and-clean procedure.

Every barrel will vary slightly in how many rounds they take to break in For example a chrome moly barrel may take longer to break in than stainless steel because it is more abrasion resistant even though it is a similar hardness. Also chrome moly has a little more of an affinity for copper than stainless steel so it will usually show a little more color if you are using a chemical cleaner. Rim Fire barrels can take an extremely long time to break in, sometimes requiring several hundred rounds or more. But cleaning can be lengthened to every 25-50 rounds. The break-in procedure and the cleaning procedure are really the same except for the frequency. Remember the goal is to get or keep the barrel clean while breaking in the throat with bullets being fired over it.

Finally, the best way to tell if the barrel is broken in is to observe the patches; i.e. when the fouling is reduced. This is better than some set number of cycles of shoot and clean as many owners report practically no fouling after the first few shots, and more break-in would be pointless. Conversely, if more is required, a set number would not address that either. Besides, cleaning is not a completely benign procedure so it should be done carefully and no more than necessary.
 

Edd

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Jan 26, 2011
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Edd, what cleaning product do you use? Does it help prevent carbon and copper fouling?

I've always used Hoppe's #9 and either Barnes or Sweets copper solvent.

I recently ordered a bottle of M98 cleaner from GSC Bullets along with a few of their bullets to try.

I don't know if it helps prevent fouling.
 

J E Custom

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Joined
Jul 29, 2004
Messages
10,723
Location
Texas
This version, from Krieger's website, is the one I choose to believe.

BREAK-IN & CLEANING:
With any premium barrel that has been finish lapped -- such as your Krieger Barrel --, the lay or direction of the finish is in the direction of the bullet travel, so fouling is minimal compared to a barrel with internal tooling marks. This is true of any properly finish-lapped barrel regardless of how it is rifled. If it is not finish-lapped, there will be reamer marks left in the bore that are directly across the direction of the bullet travel. This occurs even in a button-rifled barrel as the button cannot completely iron out these reamer marks.

Because the lay of the finish is in the direction of the bullet travel, very little is done to the bore during break-in, but the throat is another story. When your barrel is chambered, by necessity there are reamer marks left in the throat that are across the lands, i.e. across the direction of the bullet travel. In a new barrel they are very distinct; much like the teeth on a very fine file.

When the bullet is forced into the throat, copper dust is removed from the jacket material and released into the gas which at this temperature and pressure is actually a plasma. The copper dust is vaporized in this plasma and is carried down the barrel. As the gas expands and cools, the copper comes out of suspension and is deposited in the bore. This makes it appear as if the source of the fouling is the bore when it is actually for the most part the new throat.

If this copper is allowed to stay in the bore, and subsequent bullets and deposits are fired over it, copper which adheres well to itself, will build up quickly and may be difficult to remove later. So when we break in a barrel, our goal is to get the throat “polished without allowing copper to build up in the bore. This is the reasoning for the fire-one-shot-and-clean procedure.

Every barrel will vary slightly in how many rounds they take to break in For example a chrome moly barrel may take longer to break in than stainless steel because it is more abrasion resistant even though it is a similar hardness. Also chrome moly has a little more of an affinity for copper than stainless steel so it will usually show a little more color if you are using a chemical cleaner. Rim Fire barrels can take an extremely long time to break in, sometimes requiring several hundred rounds or more. But cleaning can be lengthened to every 25-50 rounds. The break-in procedure and the cleaning procedure are really the same except for the frequency. Remember the goal is to get or keep the barrel clean while breaking in the throat with bullets being fired over it.

Finally, the best way to tell if the barrel is broken in is to observe the patches; i.e. when the fouling is reduced. This is better than some set number of cycles of shoot and clean as many owners report practically no fouling after the first few shots, and more break-in would be pointless. Conversely, if more is required, a set number would not address that either. Besides, cleaning is not a completely benign procedure so it should be done carefully and no more than necessary.


+1
well said

Before I totally believed in brake-in I tried a test on a new rifle. I shot 50 rounds through a 416
Remington without cleaning.(It was the only new rifle I had at the time)

Using the same ammo and shooting 5 shot groups on separate targets, I monitored each group
to see if there was any improvement/change.

The best group was the first one. after the second group it settled into a very consistent 1'' group for all the others. I was ok with that because of the service that the 400 grain bullets would be used for.

After getting home I started the cleaning process (Something I had learned well while shooting NRA matches. I first looked through the bore and saw lots of copper fouling (Not to surprising) and started the cleaning process.

After 1 hour of cleaning I began to wonder about the wisdom of shooting this much without cleaning
and if a brake-in would have helped. 3 hours later and hundreds of patches it finally came clean.
So I vowed never to shoot this rifle that much with out some cleaning. (also to take better care of my shoulder) I also thought that this rifle might be the exception as far as fouling and just be worst than others.

This is when I got the idea to do a brake in on it because the fouling had prevented brake -in by covering the bore with a lot of copper not allowing the bullet to condition the bore.

The next session at the range was very informative. The set up and ammo was the same and the rifle was clean just like when I started the first time.

The first 5 shots with cleaning were slightly better than the first 5 from before I also noticed that cleaning was effortless 2 or 3 patches and the bore was clean. (Of course I realized it should be better because I had only shot 1 round round through it without cleaning)

The thing I noticed most about the break -in process was the feel of the patches in the bore. They got easer and easer to push through the bore the more shooting and cleaning I did.

The second 5 shot group (10 rounds through the bore) the groups got even better than the first and much better than the 50 shot groups that I had shot before. I though to my self, Maybe I am just having a better day But decided to proceed as long as I saw improvement.

The 3rd group was even better (15 rounds through the bore) and while cleaning the barrel I noticed
the bore felt greasy(very smooth). By now I was getting tired of getting the crap kicked out of me but wanted to continue, so I decided to fire a 5 shot string without cleaning (20 rounds down the bore) The rifle shot very well just under 1/2" (the best it had ever shot) so I gave it up and went home.

Deciding to clean when I got home, after only 2 swabbing's with solvent and 3 patches it was clean.

This was a factory barrel and sometimes they will take more shoot and clean shots to reach that point where they clean up easy. The custom hand lapped barrels take far less to get to that point
(7 to 10 shoot and cleans)

Others have different experiences and beliefs but I am convinced that brake-in improves cleaning and extends barrel life.

End of story

J E CUSTOM
 

longrangehunterII

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Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Messages
759
Location
Northern Idaho
Ed's statement about the reamer cutting the throat, and why barrel brake in is done, is exactly what I've read and been told by more then enough people a lot smarter then me.

And if JE's comments don't shed enough light in your head to see why it's done, then off to the races you'll go and why the fastest car does always win!
 

BergerBoy

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Nov 22, 2014
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I'm NOT a patriot... I am a U.S. Constitutionalist
Edd, what cleaning product do you use? Does it help prevent carbon and copper fouling?

I'm not Ed but try this:

Bore Tech Carbon Remover.

I try to leave most or some copper in the barrel so I will have min. POI on my first round shoots. When I spoke with Todd Hodnet at SHOT he said that carbon was the only thing that "pits your barrel" and he almost never cleaned out the copper when cleaning his rifles.

MagPull- Art of the Precision Rifle has a VERY good chapter "Clean bore vs Cold bore" that address the topic.

JMO
 

Laelkhunter

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Joined
Oct 20, 2011
Messages
1,002
Location
New Orleans, La
I have been told, and read in several places that copper fouling will be a lot less in smoother barrels, and does not always have a detrimental effect on accuracy. However, you could have a perfectly clean barrel, void of any fouling (copper or carbon), and on the first shot, you will have some degree of carbon fouling (from the powder being burned). This accumulates in layers and progressively gets worse with each round fired. The carbon fouling will eventually degrade accuracy, and could cause damage to the barrel if it is not cleaned. It was recommended to me to make an attempt to remove the carbon fouling, but not necessary to remove the copper fouling unless the accuracy starts to degrade. A good powder solvent or carbon remover is recommended to clean the barrel, even if you don't want to remove the copper fouling. If you decide to clean the copper fouling, then you must first remove the carbon fouling to get the best results.
 

Garycrow

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Joined
Jan 30, 2011
Messages
503
I basically do what J E has said with my new custom barrels. I've found that a good barrel by a top end maker, my last three have been Bartlein 5R's, will cease to copper foul to any degree after the first 10 shots or so. I clean down to bare metal for the first 10 shots then consider it broken in, after that I only clean occasionally. My three bartlein's don't copper foul any that I can detect, so I consider that the break in did it's job.

It is a subject that elicits a lot of emotion however. Many will say "just shoot it", but I've found that some time spent properly breaking in a barrel pays off later. You do have to clean correctly however, there are a lot of ways to scrub the heck out of a barrel and still not get it clean while damaging it in the process. Properly removing all the copper from a barrel isn't hard if you know how and use the right equipment and cleaners. Use the wrong stuff and you'll be scrubbing for days.
 

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