To clean or not to clean?

lancetkenyon

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Jun 3, 2013
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Arizona
I have an honest question for the guys that dont clean "Until accuracy goes South". How do you know that your not going to find out your accuracy is degrading on that 700 yard shot at a trophy animal? That would be unlucky. I usually like to have a little more control over things that I can directly affect than "Guess I'll wait and see what happens".
I clean about a month before my hunts. Then shoot 10-20 rounds through it to foul the bore. One final 1 or 3 shots the weekend before my hunt.

But other than that, I go 100 to 600 rounds between cleanings. That could be a month or 6 months. But I also know about when accuracy is going to start falling off from experience.
 

Hard Head

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Jun 30, 2015
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53
I have always cleaned every time I come home from the range,I have always wandered what happens if there is copper and powder fouling left in there say till the next weekend ,will moisture be trapped from the cooling ,heating process. I do know that when I return from the range here in Wi. in the winter where it is often -5 out while shooting and when I bring the rifle out of the case, it might set for 60 seconds and it is saturated outside on the metal,so knowing that the inside is too,soooooooooooooooooooo it is cleaned thoroughly inside and out but not before the metal reaches room temperature,so I might as well clean the bore too,which I do I think the next time I will clean like always but dry patch till dry then a light coat of oil,then the morning I shoot will push so patches soaked with None Chlorinated Brake Cleaner down, the dry and head out , and see if the first shot prints the same place on the last target I fired on.Pete
 

37L1

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Jan 25, 2009
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114
I think you can approach it this way and kind of get the best of both worlds. As has been said, the process is evolving.

After each range session, I will inspect my rifle and it will tell me what it needs. Most of the time I will not put away a weapon after firing without doing some sort of clean/maintenance. For those rifles that are not approaching the time for a deep clean, I will just put a couple of patches through of CLP and then several dry patches after, until they come out semi clean. I do this to help protect the bore from any chances of rust forming if I do not shoot the rifle again for a while. Since it has not been deep cleaned, I have found that the next time I shoot the rifle with a cold bore it will be right on where it was at the end of the last session with the ambient temperatures being relatively the same.

It is of value to know your rifle. You should have some idea of the round count that is needed before a deep clean is required, that way you will not take the chance of losing your animal because it was shot 205 and your barrel needs cleaning every 200. Some can go a long time between cleans, each rifle and caliber is different.

Before I go into hunting season I always have a range session with my rifle and leave it with a fouled barrel. This is right before not 2 months before.

With semi-autos (AR) I always disassemble, clean and oil the BCG group after each session. The barrel gets the CLP/dry patch treatment until it starts to lose accuracy and that can be a long time depending on whether the barrel gets fired hot or not.

So to summarize, I wouldn't recommend putting away a barrel that may sit a long time without doing something to help prevent the possibility of rust forming. It only takes a few minutes and your firearm will reward you with years of service.
 

Whitesheep

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Aug 22, 2010
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Phoneix
Great conversation on a never ending topic. It would appear from the comments here, which my experience validates, that each firearm does best with a different cleaning regimen.

For my main bolt gun (Nosler 48 .280AI) I generally clean to the "white" with both powder and copper solvents at the end of each shooting session. These sessions usually are for a box of 50 hand loads during a silhouette session. I don't need any fouling shots and any opening up I attribute to barrel heating, not a dirty bore. However, a friends .243 T/C Venture likes a copper lined bore and if all copper is removed it takes 20 rounds to get accuracy back.

My perspective is to learn what works with each firearm and stick to that. I may not be the same for everything in your collection.
 

wonderman4

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Oct 7, 2013
Messages
193
Location
South Texas
The only thing I can add to all the other posts is I have seen more barrels ruined by not cleaning than I have with cleaning.

Hunting rifles, I clean after the season is over unless I am out in adverse conditions. My target rifles get cleaned after each outing.
 

JohnMill

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Apr 4, 2011
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Location
NE IL. Behind enemy lines
Everyone will have their own opinions and regimen. Some guys are very old school, and clean and wipe-down their guns after EVERY outing, whether they shot it, or not. Some clean it only if they shot it. Some don't clean them but before and after season. Some don't clean them at all if they've been sitting in the safe, and haven't had enough rounds through them until it throws a shot. And some folks are lazy and just never clean a gun at all, and don't know why one season it works, and then in the off-season they shoot it a bunch, and then come next season it's not hitting in the same place... :rolleyes: Used to deal with this at the gun store alot. "My gun won't shoot, but it did last year, what's wrong with it?" Well sir, have you cleaned it? "No...How's that gonna help?" o_O

I clean my barrel right before hunting season, then I go to the range, and make sure it doesn't need any fouling shots to get it back on zero. Once I determine all is well, nothing goes down that bore except a hot piece of copper-covered lead until after the season is over with...Unless something happens, that warrants cleaning, like tripping, or dropping the gun and, the barrel getting dropping into the dirt, or mud, or something to that effect. Usually in my truck and/or hunting pack I carry a bore snake coated in RemOil (sealed in two ziplock bags) for field emergencies such as that. Then when you get back home, a thorough cleaning is in order.

As far as typical cleaning regimen for my target/fun rifles that I don't particularly hunt with, when they need cleaning, I scrub them down to the white, and then when it's clean, I run a couple of wet patches coated in RemOil down the barrel to soak into the metal while it sits in the safe. Then I shoot, and shoot, and shoot it some more, and when it finally starts throwing shots, I know it needs cleaning. Then I take it home, and I start over, and scrub it completely again.

The reason I treat my hunting rifles differently, is because they are precision instruments that I use to dispatch living things. The animals I shoot feel pain, and the steel targets and paper I shoot at the range, don't. And if I'm dispatching an animal, the least I can do is be as precise as I can, and give it as quick and painless and humane a death as possible.
I clean after every range session and store with the bore wet with bore cleaner. Clean with Butches, store with Hoppe's No 9.
 

J E Custom

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Jul 29, 2004
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Location
Texas
Just a comment for those that are interested in trying something.

When at the range, shoot one round and then push a clean patch through the bore. Look at the amount of powder fouling on the patch from just one firing. Most of this fouling is carbon and it is harder than the barrel material. When a bullet is fired on top of it, It acts like an abrasive and can scratch or wear the bore reducing the barrel life. the soft jacket of the bullet gets imbedded with this fouling and pushes it down the barrel.

This is the main reason that a shoot and clean brake in procedure is used because the fouling is behind the bullet and if removed before the next shot, controlled/normal wear is the results. Longer barrel life is the results of frequent cleaning if done correctly.

Any fouling reduces barrel life and accuracy. The more frequent the cleaning regiment, the longer the barrel will perform. For hunters That may shoot less than a box of ammo a season it will probably never effect there barrel enough to matter.

Barrels that have copper fouling tend to wear in the unprotected areas where the copper does not exist, but the copper fouling does protect the areas covered from wear. this condition causes un even wear in the bore also reducing barrel life and accuracy. Many may disagree but the bore scope doesn't lie and all of my best groups were shot with new barrels with Less than (100 rounds)that had been properly broken in and cleaned.

I'm not pushing an agenda just stating what I have learned over 50+ years of shooting and working on guns. Proof of this is one of my match rifles that has over 23,000 rounds through it and is still capable of 1/2 MOA accuracy with Iron sites. It has always had a strict cleaning regiment and the only wear I can see it is the lead surfaces. (They show signs of minimum wear but not enough to set the chamber back).

Cleaning a barrel, is like a babies diaper it doesn't take long for it to get bad if left unattended.

J E CUSTOM
 
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JDBraddy

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Oct 18, 2013
Messages
25
I'm certainly no expert, but just wanted to share my personal experience. After polling three bench-rest hall of fame shooters, every one of them told me to buy a bore scope and learn how to use it. So I did! They're not such a big investment anymore, $200-$250 for the Lyman, after a few quick classes on how and what to look for, what causes various things, and what those things meant, I was horrified at the condition of most of my barrels. Many shooters simply ruin a new barrels accuracy potential in the first 100-150 rounds by not cleaning effectively. The only way to tell if you are cleaning effectively is with a borescope! Baked on carbon is hard, harder than steel, and each time another bullet comes roaring down that barrel under pressure, and hits that carbon deposit, it's like hitting the lands and grooves with a hammer and chisel leaving a tiny dent in the steel underneath. Do this a hundred times or more, and the interior of your barrel looks like a lunar landscape, all that high-end machining and hand lapping is gone. Sure the rifle will still shoot, and send the bullet in a general direction, but the true accuracy potential 1/4 minute or better of that new custom barrel is gone forever! They all told me they clean after ever 10-20 rounds, and will never shoot more than 40 without cleaning. They have a different regimen at then end of each range session, to remove copper deposits. A tutorial on how to clean properly can be found here: http://bulletcentral.com/how-to-clean-a-rifle-tutorial/ After starting with a new barrel, and following this advice, years of frustration and not being able to shoot any better then 3/4 to 1.0 MOA ended, I'm now getting group sizes in the 0.2's to 0.3's and sometimes better! I was frustrated for decades, wasted thousands of dollars and countless hours trying different loads, hold techniques, etc.... with rifles that fowled quickly and just wouldn't shoot, because the barrels where ruined! Hope this helps somebody!
 

tnek13

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Feb 26, 2012
Messages
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Location
NW Indiana
I follow JE Customs philosophy. Why? because my dad taught me to 62 years ago when he gave me my first 22 rifle at 10 years of age. Two months ago I gave that rifle to one of my 10 year old grandsons, it looked brand new even though it has had thousands of rounds through it and it still holds a one hole group at 25 yards with ammo it likes. I also taught my grandson how to clean the rifle and gave him quality tools to do the job. The Marine Corps also taught me to clean guns but that was more a matter of survival and the fact you did not want the thing to jamb, nobody worried about getting copper out, you just needed it to work. Today, I clean guns because I want too, I like nice things that work, I shoot a lot, I hunt and I clean after every time I take the gun out of the safe, the degree depends on the use.
 

ScottMc7

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Jan 17, 2018
Messages
30
A strict regular cleaning isn't necessary. Let the gun tell you when it needs cleaning. If you feel that accuracy starts to drop off then that's the time you should do the cleaning.
 
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23ELKHUNTER

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Oct 18, 2015
Messages
52
Well here is my 2 cents worth... hahaha
Had a factory new rifle, shot just under 3/4 of a minute for first 60 rounds. Opened up to we'll over 1 moa. Cleaned it throughly , shot very close to 1/2 moa for next 100 rounds, opened up again, cleaned it , back to almost 1/2 moa....
Rifle will tell you when it needs cleaned. ..
If you're not going to shoot it for several months would not hurt to clean , coat with light rem oil and then couple dry patches..... verify zero next time out with several rounds. Good to go.... abrasives only when gun has opened up....
 

WildRose

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Feb 3, 2011
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12,066
Location
N. Texas and S. Africa
Looking for input on barrel cleaning. I typically been a traditional clean it after shooting pretty much everytime. Is there any advantage to leaving it dirty or is cleaning after each range session the way to go?
I clean them when accuracy starts dropping off or at the end of the season. Other than that unless I've been doing so high volume range shooting I tend to leave them pretty much alone.

Even after a thorough cleaning I'll fire 2-3 fouling shots just to keep it consistent.
 

J E Custom

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Jul 29, 2004
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Texas
I just wanted to add my experience with two of the comments that frequently come up . This is not to start a heated debate just more opinions and beliefs.

First= When shooting matches, I found the same thing as everyone else did that accuracy fell off after 4 to 10 shots, depending on the barrel.
Shooting 100 shot matches with no time to clean it, created a problem by the time we got to 600 yards. I always started with a clean barrel and also did my accuracy load development with a clean barrel. I couldn't figure out what to do to get better accuracy, especially at 600 yards where it could mean the difference in winning or loosing.

Once the barrel was fouled it shot fairly consistent, but just not as good as when clean. so I decided to try something different and it worked. I let the barrel get fouled with close to 50 rounds and then began working up new accuracy loads in this condition. with a few changes to the load I was able to improve the accuracy noticeably. What I was doing was working up an accuracy load with the barrel in one condition and shooting in another condition.

I never quite got the accuracy that I did with my "clean barrel load" but my scores improved greatly and I became very competitive. Not wanting to stop trying to improve, I tried using my clean load in the beginning of the match and switching to the fouled barrel load for the other half of the match. Once again my scores went higher. This could have all been avoided if I had time to clean between relays but prep times did not allow for this luxury.

When I hear that a rifle gets better when it gets fouled, I believe that load testing was done with a fouled barrel and that the barrel had to reach the same state of fouling before the load started to work its best.
I clean often, and do my load development with a clean barrel for consistent results (I clean between every load tested so each load has the same, or near the same barrel condition for a proper evaluation.

For my hunting rifles, I clean after each load test because this is the normal condition of the barrel when hunting and I want first shot accuracy/consistency. SO, my recommendation is if you want to shoot a fouled barrel, Work up your loads with a fouled barrel, If you clean often work up your loads with a clean barrel. My experience has been that best accuracy was with a clean barrel or one that has had one fouling shot down the tube . then at some point accuracy starts to degrade (Normally 4 or 5 shots depending on the barrel, This is also the reason it seams hard to shoot that fifth shot in the same hole as the first 3 or 4). Then the barrel settles in to slightly larger groups once it is fouled.

The other point that you should wait to clean until accuracy falls off before cleaning is something that I don't want to happen to me. I want/need my rifles to shoot their best ALL THE TIME because I need all the help I can get, so I don't make a poor shot. Once I find the point that accuracy is effected, I avoid letting my rifles reach that point before something happens.

Everyone should shoot and clean the way that works best for them or best suits there needs and philosophies. But as everyone has stated, at some point fouling effects all firearms. I chose to control it rather than to live with it or adjust to it.

Just my opinion for what it's worth.

J E CUSTOM
 
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