Is barrel break-in really needed for factory guns?

Discussion in 'Rifles, Bullets, Barrels & Ballistics' started by Skinny Shooter, Jan 11, 2005.

  1. Skinny Shooter

    Skinny Shooter Well-Known Member

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    Later this week I should be getting a new factory rifle in 308 win and started thinking about the first few times it will be shot.
    So I searched on here and found some threads on barrel break-in procedures. Maybe break-in procedures are for custom guns but I thought a hand-made barrel would already be smoothed out by the maker. Which would reduce the need for break-in in the first place.
    Currently own a VS in 22-250 and a VLS in 308. Neither gun was "broken-in" using the procedures described in those threads. I just shot the guns (without letting them overheat) and cleaned them when I was done. I'd say that their accuracy was in the .5 moa dept with factory loads and a little better at times with reloads.
    Some of the prescribed methods talk about the bullet smoothing out the rough spots. How can copper (even under high pressure) remove metal and/or smooth it?
    Another method was to use Flitz, JB paste or steel wool. I'd be concerned that too much metal is removed. What happens if the metal removal is uneven in certain spots and good in another? Maybe that's being too anal...
    I used to use Shooters Choice, CR-10, Butch's and other cleaners along with metal brushes and patches. Then I discovered Wipeout bore foam and use only nylon bristle brushes and a patch /jag combo. For the last year or so I haven't used a metal brush in my barrels and the accuracy actually got a bit better. I think that is really related to Wipeout performing a thorough cleaning of the gun.
    Now if the advice is to still use a "shoot one, then clean" procedure for 10 to 20 shots, how do I do that with Wipeout? That's a waste of a lot of foam.
    Some guys say they never break-in a barrel and it works for them.
    So who do I listen too?
    Thanks for your help
     
  2. Mysticplayer

    Mysticplayer Writers Guild

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    I would suggest you listen to yourself and your intuition.

    Barrel break in is full of urban legend that getting a clear answer is a big waste of time.

    Mechanically, all that is being done is to remove any rough spots. Whether it is with a bullet or lapping compound really doesn't matter.

    The most recent rifle I have is a Savage 110 in 270. Rds 4,5, and 6 went into 1/4". All I did before firing was to clean out the oil in the bore. I would suggest barrel is broken in.

    Personally, I don't bother with barrel break in. I just shoot and see what happens. If accuracy degrades quickly, then I hand polish with some JB bore polish and non embedding compound. This just takes the 'edge' off the lands. About as gritty as toothpaste so removing metal would take a lifetime.

    A bit more shooting and a barrel will settle down, IF it is ever going to. A mis manufactured barrel is never going to improve. A well made barrel will shoot from the get go.

    I really don't see the point of breaking in a match barrel. If this is a quality lapped barrel, any thing I do is only going to degrade the finish and cause wear. I would just shoot it as is. If a match barrel looses accuracy quickly due to fouling, I got a lemon and its back to the shop.

    My 2 cents..

    Jerry
     
  3. Varmint Hunter

    Varmint Hunter Well-Known Member

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    It seems that almost every custom barrel manufacturer recommends "their" particular method of barrel break-in. That tells me that there is something to the break-in process.

    Presumably, a rougher factory barrel would have more to gain by barrel break-in, but who knows?

    VH
     
  4. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    I believe barrel break in is even more beneficial for the factory barrels as they are much less uniform, more rough, and have more metalurgic impurities. I also break-in my custom barrels but they always take fewer shots as they are already smooth. If a custom barrel doesn't get easier to clean by the 10th shot, it is going back to the manufacturer.
    As for your question of the copper bullet smoothing out steel, I will just say that it definetly does at some point. You can tell all of a sudden when it takes half the time to remove the copper then it did before. It might be on the 11th, 20th, 33rd, or 50th. Who knows, but you will be able to tell when it happens.
    A good solvent for break in is Butch's or Montana Extreme, but my favorite as of recent is Coppermelt. It would be easy for you to use Coppermelt since it takes the same patch/brush combo that you've already been using. It will also reduce break-in time from several days to several hours.
    Bottom line: Just do it. It is recommended by the guys who make the barrels. When you buy a brand new car, do you follow the manufacturer's advice and keep it under 60 mph for the first 500 miles? I would. After all, they know it best, and guns are really the same. Any brand new chunk of steel that has been machined and will be exposed to high intensity pressure will benefit from a break in period whether it is an engine or a barrel.
     
  5. Skinny Shooter

    Skinny Shooter Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all of the responses so far. goodgrouper, I followed the break-in for my new Trailblazer because an engine has steel on steel parts. Copper on steel seems hard to imagine as being an abrasive.
    So when the new VSF arrives I'll give the break-in procedure a try. There's a bottle of CR-10 somewhere in the bunker. I'll be curious to see if there is any fouling or accuracy difference from my VLS. Plan on using the Black Hills 175 SMK load to do it.
     
  6. philgood80

    philgood80 Member

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    If I have my gunsmith lap my factory barrel, is there still any need for a break in period? It seems that it would still be needed because there have not been any shots fired, so the barrel has not been subjected to high heat/pressure. If I would still need to break in the barrel, should I skip the hand lapping and save some $$, or do both?

    Philip
     
  7. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    Philgood80,
    I would still break the barrel in if you let your gunsmith lap it.
    I would also be very informed on his process as hand lapping is a "feel" job and it takes a great deal of experience to do it right. Dan Lilja of Lilja Barrels says that he only has a few guys lap his barrels and they have to build up years of experience to get the "feel" of it. I would talk to a few other guys that have had him lap their barrels and see if they're satisfied. It would really suck to have a 270 barrel turn into a 7mm!
    Another way you could go is to use the great fire-lapping bullet kits from David Tubb(not the ones from Neco)as you break in the barrel. I have seen these bullets put a mirror finish in many many factory barrels without making them one caliber larger like the ones from Neco!
    Just my two cents.
     
  8. philgood80

    philgood80 Member

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    Goodgrouper,
    Thanks for your advice. I bought a Rem. 700 BDL from the same smith about 6 years ago. He bedded the action, did a trigger job, and hand lapped the barrel. That 300 win-mag shot into just over an inch at 200 yards out of a sporter barrel. He is really good at what he does and has my full trust. I understand what you are saying and if I did not know the gunsmith personally, I would not allow him to touch the barrel at all.

    Thanks again,
    Philip
     
  9. jb1000br

    jb1000br Well-Known Member

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    SS et al.

    The MAIN purpose for barrel break in is to smooth out the transverse "grooves" left in the leade when the barrel is chambered.

    the chamber reamer, no matter how sharp, lets grooves perpendicular to the bullets travel at the beginning of the lands, and needs smoothed off a bit.

    Dave tubb uses, i believe his finest grit, FF bullets to expedite the process even on custom barrels.

    Most coppering during break in comes from the rough new cut lands causing vaporized copper to get deposited in the bore.

    FWIW,
    JB
     
  10. BountyHunter

    BountyHunter Writers Guild

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    NO way would I lap a factory barrel or let anyone tell me he can do it without damaging the muzzle end of the barrel.

    Dan Lilja makes a cut across the blank about 3/4" down from the muzzle ends of the blanks he sends out. Lapping will wear out the ends of the barrel blank and enlarge the bores. On one end you chamber it and on the other you cut off 3/4-1".

    Now if Dan Lilja and every other barrel mftr cannot hand lap without enlarging the bore end with the number they lap daily, do you really think a local gunsmith who laps a barrel once a month can do it without damaging the muzzle end????

    Fire lapping if carefully done will help but got to watch throat erosion.

    BH
     
  11. brian b

    brian b Well-Known Member

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    [ QUOTE ]
    I would suggest you listen to yourself and your intuition.

    Barrel break in is full of urban legend that getting a clear answer is a big waste of time.

    Mechanically, all that is being done is to remove any rough spots. Whether it is with a bullet or lapping compound really doesn't matter.

    The most recent rifle I have is a Savage 110 in 270. Rds 4,5, and 6 went into 1/4". All I did before firing was to clean out the oil in the bore. I would suggest barrel is broken in.

    Personally, I don't bother with barrel break in. I just shoot and see what happens. If accuracy degrades quickly, then I hand polish with some JB bore polish and non embedding compound. This just takes the 'edge' off the lands. About as gritty as toothpaste so removing metal would take a lifetime.

    A bit more shooting and a barrel will settle down, IF it is ever going to. A mis manufactured barrel is never going to improve. A well made barrel will shoot from the get go.

    I really don't see the point of breaking in a match barrel. If this is a quality lapped barrel, any thing I do is only going to degrade the finish and cause wear. I would just shoot it as is. If a match barrel looses accuracy quickly due to fouling, I got a lemon and its back to the shop.

    My 2 cents..

    Jerry

    [/ QUOTE ]
    This is the biggest crock I have ever read on this forum ,I tried not to respond but I can not let this pass.
    If you have ever really done a barrel break-in correctly then this quote is absurd.
    Every barrel manufacturer on the planet suggests a barrel break -in, it is more than just smoothing out the rough edges it is just like seasoning a new dutch-oven, dont do it and things dont turn out quite as well.
    Doing a barrel brake-in makes your barrel copper foul less and clean up easier for the life of the barrel with better accuracy.
    I have tested guns over the years on doing break-in or not ,I will never NOT break-in again factory or custom.
    B
     
  12. demarpaint

    demarpaint Well-Known Member

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    Here is an interesting post I had saved re: the break in of a barrel. From Gale McMillan. I guess this debate will never end.

    Frank D


    From: Gale McMillan <" gale"@mcmfamily.com>
    Newsgroups: rec.guns
    Subject: Re: Barrel break-in necessary?
    Date: 7 Jan 1997 20:40:25 -0500

    Mike Sumner wrote:
    > ...

    As a barrel maker I have looked in thousands of new and used barrels
    with a bore scope and I will tell you that if every one followed the
    prescribed break in method A very large number would do more harm than
    help. The reason you hear of the help in accuracy is because if you
    chamber barrel with a reamer that has a dull throater instead of cutting
    clean sharp rifling it smears a burr up on the down wind side of the
    rifling. It takes from 1 to 2 hundred rounds to burn this bur out and
    the rifle to settle down and shoot its best. Any one who chambers rifle
    barrels has tolerances on how dull to let the reamer get and factories
    let them go longer than any competent smithe would. Another tidbit to
    consider, Take a 300Win Mag. that has a life expectancy of 1000 rounds.
    Use 10% of it up with your break in procedure for ever 10 barrels the
    barrel maker makes he has to make one more just to take care of the
    break in. no wonder barrel makers like to see this. Now when you flame
    me on this please include what you think is happening to the inside of
    your barrel during the break in that is helping you.

    Gale McMillan
    NBSRA IBS,FCSA and NRA Life Member


    Search for Google's copy of this article
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    From: Gale McMillan <mcmillan@getnet.com>
    Newsgroups: rec.guns
    Subject: Re: Good barrels for Rem 700 in .308?
    Date: 10 Feb 1996 12:50:53 -0500

    Consider this, every round shot in breaking in a barrel is one round off
    the life of said rifle barrel. No one has ever told me the physical
    reason of what happens during break in firing. In other words to the
    number of pounds of powder shot at any given pressure, is the life of the
    barrel. No one has ever explained what is being accomplished by
    shooting and cleaning in any prescribed method. Start your barrel off
    with 5 rounds and clean it thoroughly and do it again. Nev Maden a
    friend down under that my brother taught to make barrels was the one who
    come up with the break in method. He may think he has come upon
    something, or he has come up with another way to sell barrels. I feel
    that the first shot out of a barrel is its best and every one after that
    deteriorates until the barrel is gone. If some one can explain what
    physically takes place during break in to modify the barrel then I may
    change my mind. As the physical properties of a barrel doesn't change
    because of the break in procedures it means it's all hog wash. I am open
    to any suggestions that can be documented otherwise if it is just
    someone's opinion forget it.

    Gale McMillan

    Search for Google's copy of this article
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    From: Gale McMillan <" gale"@mcmfamily.com>
    Newsgroups: rec.guns
    Subject: Re: Remington 700 break in
    Date: 8 Aug 1997 00:01:07 -0400

    Arthur Sprague wrote:

    # On 29 Jul 1997 22:50:26 -0400, whit@cs.utexas.edu (John W. Engel)
    # wrote:
    #
    # #This is how (some) benchrester break in barrels, and it does work.
    # #The mechanism is that the bore has pores in it (microns in size).
    # #If you simply shoot a box or two through it without cleaning, the
    # #pores fill up with gilding metal, and stay that way. If you
    # #follow the above procedure (and they mean *clean* between shots!),
    # #the pores are "smoothed over" with each successive shot. A barrel
    # #correctly broken in is MUCH easier to clean than one that is
    # #not. If it is a good quality tube, it will also be more accurate.
    # #Regards,
    # #whit
    #
    # Well, the range hours here are quite limited. On my first trip I
    # managed to fire a whole fourteen rounds, with a thorough cleaning
    # after each round. It couldn't hurt! Fun gun! Difficult to think of
    # .223 as a battle round after experience with .30-06 and .45ACP, but it
    # surely going to be a pleasure to shoot.
    # Thanks to all for their advice.

    This is total hogwash! It all got started when a barrel maker that I
    know started putting break in instructions in the box with each barrel
    he shipped a few years ago. I asked him how he figured it would help
    and his reply was If they shoot 100 rounds breaking in this barrel
    that's total life is 3000 rounds and I make 1000 barrels a year just
    figure how many more barrels I will get to make. He had a point it
    defiantly will shorten the barrel life. I have been a barrel maker a
    fair amount of time and my barrels have set and reset bench rest world
    records so many times I quit keeping track (at one time they held 7 at
    one time) along with HighPower,Silloett,smallbore national and world
    records and my instructions were to clean as often as posable preferably
    every 10 rounds. I inspect every barrel taken off and every new barrel
    before it is shipped with a bore scope and I will tell you all that I
    see far more barrels ruined by cleaning rods than I see worn out from
    normal wear and tear.I am even reading about people recommending
    breaking in pistols. As if it will help their shooting ability or the
    guns.
    Gale Mc.
     
  13. goodgrouper

    goodgrouper Well-Known Member

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    If all of what you just said is true, than how do you explain it when on the ??teenth shot the cleaning time gets cut in half and the patch feels like it is going in and out easier?
     
  14. demarpaint

    demarpaint Well-Known Member

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    All I did by posting was share something I had saved, that was of interest to me. Gale McMillian was one of the most respected names in the firearms industry, and those were his thoughts. This is not science it is opinion, my intention was to share info, and see how others feel about it.

    Good question: /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smirk.gif
    Frank D