How to clean a Gun
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- Last updated: 31/10/2019
After shooting, cleaning your gun can be a real chore, but using the right equipment and techniques can make it much less so, and help maintain the accuracy of your gun. When you finish shooting, and before you put your gun in its bag for the trip home, it is worth giving it a quick clean before the deposits in the barrel and any moisture on the outside get a good grip. A quick run through with a soaked cleaning patch will give the cleaning fluid time to get to work during the journey and make the proper clean on the bench much easier. For this purpose a ‘bore snake’ type pull through device soaked in a quality cleaning fluid works very well.
To be able to clean a gun properly it really needs to be held securely in the upright position, placing it on its side on the bench is not ideal as it is lying in the dirty deposits that you are cleaning from inside the barrel. There are several makes of gun vices or ‘gun rests’ available or you can simply make your own. This needs to be positioned on the workbench with enough room to be able to insert the cleaning rod into the barrel unhindered, so a space that is at least the length of your cleaning rod and gun is required. The work surface should be suitable to resist damage from any of the cleaning products that you are using, so the dining table is definitely out.
A good cleaning rod will hopefully serve you for life, so it is worth investing in a quality one. Opinions do vary as to the best type of cleaning rod, and each is supported by articles on the internet, but the author’s own preference is for a stainless steel rod with a suitable coating. This is the strongest and most durable type of rod combined with a protective coating to stop it damaging the gun’s rifling. The cleaning rod should be just long enough to allow effective cleaning of the entire length of the barrel, if it is too long then the section left outside the barrel is likely to bend excessively and cause the rod to clang in the inside of the barrel.
To get the more stubborn deposits out of the barrel you will need a good quality bore brush. These are usually made with bronze bristles and are purchased in calibre-specific sizes. A thick and generous arrangement of bristles, with loop-ended bristles to reduce scratching of the bore, gives a good tight fit and the most effective clean. The tornado brushes from Pro-shot have a spiral arrangement of bristles and this seems to make them much more effective at cleaning the barrel, well worth a try.
Cleaning jags hold the cleaning patches used to clean the bore and they also come in calibre specific sizes. Slotted patch holders are used to pass a soaked patch down the barrel to get it where it needs to be. Spears-tipped jags hold the patch centrally on the pointed tip and have ribbed sides to maximise the amount of surface contact between the patch and the bore. They are used to get the barrel clean and remove any deposits loosened in the cleaning process.
Cleaning patches should be the correct size for your gun and be made of a good-quality material which will not pull apart during the cleaning process. A good tight-weave cotton flannel works best as it will absorb and hold the fouling that is being removed from the gun.
With the gun held securely, the action opened and, with boltaction guns, the bolt removed the first step in getting the barrel clean is to introduce cleaning fluid into the bore, enough to cover the entire surface of the lands and grooves but not so much that it might flow into the action of the gun. There are various bore-guides on the market which fit into the action of some types of gun and are designed to prevent cleaning fluid getting into the action.
Opinions vary as to which end that it is best to clean your barrel from, with the chamber end being favoured by most. In practice, with lever action and semi-auto guns, cleaning from the muzzle end is necessary (unless you want to disassemble the action each time you clean the gun) so there is no reason why the same process cannot be adopted for all rifles including bolt action.
Using a slotted jag, a cleaning patch soaked in solvent is introduced into the barrel to well and truly wet the entire internal surface of the barrel. The solvent should be the correct one for the type of bullets you have been using; copper solvent for jacketed bullets, etc. The gun is then left to stand for a few minutes to allow the solvent to work before a bore brush is introduced into the barrel. The brush is worked back and forth over the full length of the bore and allowed to exit fully at the muzzle end and pass into the chamber at the other end each time. This process should free all of the deposits from the bore so it will be loose enough to remove. Next, dry patches are run through the barrel on a spear-tipped jag to remove the dirt that has been loosened up. Several clean patches should be passed through the bore until one comes out of the barrel completely clean. You might get through a few patches with this process but it is necessary to make sure the barrel is properly cleaned.
To clean the chamber of the gun it is recommended that you use a dedicated chamber brush, which again will be the correct size for your gun. The cleaning process is pretty much the same as for cleaning the barrel but, as you are that much closer to the guns action, take extra care to not drop any dirt in there. For lever action guns, where accessing the chamber is more difficult, Pro-Shot have a dedicated ‘flexible chamber cleaning tool’ which is a short flexible cleaning rod that allows you to introduce a chamber brush in through the side (or top) of your lever action without the need to disassemble the gun. This is a great little item for lever-action shooters and makes cleaning much quicker and easier.
The action of the gun will also need to be cleaned and the process will vary according to the type of gun being cleaned. The basic principal is the same and the purpose is to remove any deposits from the accessible surfaces of the action, if the bolt can easily be removed it can be cleaned thoroughly with solvent and a suitable brush. The firing pin hole on most guns can be cleaned out easily with a fine pick or brush.
The stock and forend should also be cleaned and the product used must be suitable for the stock material, wood in particular can be damaged by using the wrong cleaning fluid, so care is needed to select the correct product. A good wipe over with a good-quality cleaner is all that is required.
Once everything is clean the surfaces of the gun then need to be coated with a protective product to prevent rust, particularly if they are going to be stored for any length of time. Many cleaning products can also be used to protect your gun or alternatively separate oil can be used. All of the surfaces should be coated, with particular attention to the bore where a jag and cleaning patch are used to apply it. For the outside of the gun a good-quality cloth impregnated with a protective material is the best option.
The key to cleaning and protecting a gun properly is to use goodquality materials, the tools and the ‘consumables’ should be the best you can afford and be the right ones for your gun. Cleaning patches must match the calibre of your gun and you should avoid scrimping on the number of patches you use. Repeatedly passing patches through the bore until one comes out clean is the only way to get all of the dirt out. The final protective cost is just as important as the cleaning process and it ensures that the next time you take the gun out of the cabinet it is not rusty!
ProShot Cleaning Products – Viking Arms Limited. vikingarms.com