There’s an old saying that “more rifles are ruined by cleaning than are by shooting,” and it’s likely true.
Cleaning rod wear, caused by the rod excessively contacting the rifling, is a common cause of barrel damage. This is particularly true when a cheap rod is used to clean from the muzzle. A soft aluminum rod picks up and embeds grit to become, in essence, a file that grinds away at the muzzle crown.
If it’s possible, always clean from the breech and use a rod guide. The best guides not only keep the rod aligned with the bore but also protect the action from dripping solvent and crud. Bore guides also make it much easier to start a patch.
Some rifles, such as semiautos, lever actions or pump actions, must be cleaned from the muzzle It’s important in that situation to use a rod guide to align the rod with the bore and to protect the crown from cleaning rod wear. Also, put a rag in the action to catch the crud you push out of the barrel; you must keep that gunk out of the action.
The Proper Procedure
It’s always best to hold the rifle in a cradle of some sort when cleaning it. For a workbench, it’s hard to beat the Decker Gun Vise. For fieldwork, such as at the range and also for the workbench, Midway offers a range box that serves for a multitude of chores in addition to carrying gear for the range. The box comes with a complete set of cleaning tools as well as a built-in cradle to hold the rifle. Those who have one of the ubiquitous MTM Shooter’s Boxes might consider the MTM Portable Rifle Maintenance Center that will fit on top of the box for field cleaning.
Start cleaning the bore with a general bore solvent, making several passes through with a wet patch. Use each patch for only one pass before replacing it with a new solvent-soaked patch. You might want to let the gun soak a few minutes between patches to allow the solvent to work.
Leaving the barrel wet with solvent, use a properly fitted brush soaked with solvent to make several passes. Bronze is the best; nylon doesn’t have the scrubbing ability, and stainless steel can gall and ruin the barrel very quickly. Keep the brush wet with solvent, reapplying after every couple of passes. Follow with one wet and several dry patches to remove all traces of solvent. After using the brush, always clean the solvent from it with a spray such as Outers Crud Cutter. This is to prevent abrasive debris from accumulating and also because some solvents will eat the bronze bristles.
Now scrub the bore with a patch soaked with a good copper solvent. Be sure to read the instructions on the label because these are harsh chemicals. Let the bore soak for a few minutes, then follow with another patch wet with copper solvent. When you have patches coming out white with no trace of green or blue (it might take a while if the fouling is extensive), dry the bore with several clean patches.
Scrub the bore again with the general solvent, again using patches and brushes. Then dry and repeat the copper solvent treatment. Sometimes metal fouling can be trapped under layers of baked-on powder fouling that you must remove to allow the copper solvent to get at the metal fouling. Keep repeating this process until you have no sign of blue or green on any patches.
Cleaning the bore is made easier by the Foul Out Electronic cleaner from Outers. This device uses an electric current to activate a reverse-plating process that removes the fouling from the bore and deposits it on a metal rod, speeding up the process a great deal. The system is not terribly expensive, and anybody with several guns and interest in the shooting should have one. Use it where you would use the copper solvent.
Finally, dry the bore with several clean patches and apply a rust protector such as Outers Metal Seal. Before shooting again, run a dry patch through the barrel to remove any residual rust preventive. Often the first shot might be off from the group—usually high—so a fouling shot is not a bad idea before hunting.