How Often Should You Clean Your Rifle Barrel

Rifle maintenance. Some basics on cleaning your rifle barrel. 

riflecleaningThis is a contentious issue and a subject on which there are numerous opinions and many thousands of lines of text. Ask a dozen rifle shooters and you will probably get a dozen different answers.

(Left: A basic cleaning kit; copper solvent, cloth and wire brushes on a rod) 

First of all why is it important to clean your barrel? Well put simply if you don't then your rifle barrel will become worn, pitted and inaccurate. It is essentially the lead and copper fouling from the firing of a bullet that causes minute deposits to build up in your rifle barrel. These deposits particularly the copper can cause a tiny narrowing of the bore which combined with any moisture will also eventually cause pitting. This is particularly so for those who use a moderator.

So we have established that it is important to clean your barrel, the next thing to establish is how often should you do it? Well recommendations vary enormously and depend on what it is that you require of your rifle. If you are a target shooter cleaning is often conducted as routine on a regular, and mind numbingly, frequent basis however for Deer Stalkers there are other considerations.

It is an unfortunate fact that oiling the bore of your rifle or using any kind of solvent in the bore will result in your first couple of shots being off target. Admittedly not by much maybe a couple of inches, however this is enough of a margin of error to be a consideration, especially at longer ranges. This therefore means that most deer stalkers who have recently cleaned their barrel will want to have fired a couple of rounds through their rifle before setting out, and for many who operate over relatively small parcels of land the associated noise of discharging a rifle on your ground prior to stalking a wary quarry is far from ideal.

cleaningrod

(Above: A wire brush passed through the bore on a rod, this can be done more frequently than a full clean if required)

So what do I suggest? Well the first question to ask yourself is how often do I use my rifle? If like me you are out and about almost daily then a once a month thorough clean with a copper solvent is probably sufficient, personally I intersperse this with a more basic clean using a wire brush and dry cloth pushed through the bore maybe every other week.

Clearly if it has been wet, or you have been blasting away on the range, then this should be more frequent. If on the other hand like most you are an infrequent stalker then I would suggest that you would want to clean the barrel prior to putting it away for any length of time. If you have fired a round and know that you are out again in the next few days, then I should leave it. If on the other hand you do not have an outing booked until the following month then give it a clean.   

Personally for me the answer is not to become too obsessed with it. We are not target shooters who require infinitesimal degrees of accuracy. If our rifle looses a tiny fraction of an inch in accuracy over several years, then it is not the end of the world, in my view it is instead your ability as a marksman that will have the greatest bearing on how cleanly you dispatch your quarry rather than how clean your barrel is.

One further word of caution about cleaning, those that use a moderator should always remove the moderator after firing the rifle and putting it away, there is a build up of gases in the moderator when the rifle is fired which condense into moisture, and will corrode the inside of your barrel rapidly if this is not done. The moisture will also cause the threading at the end of the barrel to rust. You should always remove and wipe clean the threading every visit.  

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