Rifle Barrel Cleaning

One of the essentials for maintaining an accurate rifle is proper cleaning of the barrel.

Following is my technique which I have used for a long time.  It is a distillation of the instructions by solvent manufacturers and the cleaning practices observed by target shooters.

With a brand new rifle barrel I follow a shooting in sequence to ensure that the barrel starts its working life in the best possible condition.  That sequence is as follows.

Cleaning a Brand New Rifle Barrel

Fire the first shot then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

Fire the second shot then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

Fire the third shot then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

Fire the next three shots then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

Fire the next five shots then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

Fire the next five shots then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

Fire the next ten shots then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

Fire the next ten shots then clean the barrel fully, as per below.

From then on treat as a normal, shot-in barrel.

Cleaning a Rifle Barrel

For a hunting rifle I like to clean it after about thirty rounds.  That is just a guide and not a hard and fast rule.  A well shot-in varmint rifle with a premium barrel may give you much more that than without losing accuracy.  However, firing a lot of rounds before cleaning will mean a longer eventual cleaning session.  If you have only fired one or two shots from a clean barrel and will not be using the rifle for some time then a full clean is good sense.

Firstly, place the rifle into a cleaning rack.  The rack should hold the rifle firmly and have the barrel pointing downwards so that any excess solvents will run down the barrel and not back into the action area where it can damage the bedding.

Aussiehunter rack for rifle cleaning

Having two cleaning rods is much more convenient that one as you can have a wet rod and a dry rod.  Assemble your solvents.  I use Windex wipes, Sweets 7.62 and Hoppes No 9.

Aussiehunter chemicals for cleaning a rifle

You will also need flannel strips to use for barrel cleaning.  I get my wife to cut these from old bed sheets for me.  Her craft rotary cutter means that in ten minutes we can cut enough cleaning strips to last me for a year.

Aussiehunter cutting old flanel into cleaning strips

Remove the carbon fouling first.  For this I use strips cut from Windex window-cleaning wipes.  Somebody discovered that the chemical solution used by Windex is virtually identical to a proprietary chemical solvent used by the military for cleaning machine gun barrels.

Aussiehunter cut the windex wipes into strips

(1)   Push a Windex patch down the barrel and then discard from the muzzle end.  Do this three times, more if the patches are still coming out with excess black fouling.  Then take a Windex a scrub the barrel back and forth.  Do this three or four times until the Windex wipe is showing only slight grey fouling.

Aussiehunter windex wipes clean the carbon fouling from rifle barrel

(2)   Wrap a strip of flannel around your jag so that is a loose fit in the barrel, and then saturate it with Sweets 7.62.  Push the wet jag slowly right down to the muzzle, stopping when the tip of the jag just shows.  Do not push the jag all the way clear of the barrel.

Aussiehunter soak the cleaning jag in solvent

(3)   Take about a minute to slowly retrieve the jag back down the barrel in a series of short strokes to and fro.  A loose fitting jag and well saturated jag will then generate a solvent foam in the lands of the barrel.  This is why the wet jag should not be a tight fit.

(4)   Retrieve the wet jag from the breech end of the rifle.  Give the barrel up to ten minutes to soak.  It is advised to not leave the solvent in the barrel more than fifteen minutes.  Sweets 7.62 is a very effective solvent and rather aggressive.  Leaving it in the barrel for an extended time is reputed to risk causing some damage to the steelwork in some circumstances.  Mind you, I know some high ranking benchrest shooters who sometimes soak their barrels in Sweets 7.62 for lengthy periods.  Rather than take a chance I simply set the timer on my i-phone for ten minutes.

(5)   Taking a tight-fitting dry patch push the solvent foam out at the muzzle.  Remove the dirty cleaning strip from the jag before drawing the cleaning rod back up the barrel.  Repeat with another dry patch.  The first dry patch will exhibit a deep blue foam on the cleaning jag.  This is the dissolved copper fouling being removed from the barrel lands.

Aussiehunter blue coloration on cleaning jag is dissolved copper fouling

(6)   Repeat step (4) after applying more Sweets 7.62 to the wet jag.

(7)   Repeat step (5).

(8)   Remove the wet cloth strip, which will be showing significant blue colour, from the jag then put on a clean dry strip.  Soak it with Sweets 7.62 and repeat steps (4) and (5) until the dry patch no longer shows the deep blue foam.  It will be wet and very pale blue, which means that the bulk of the copper fouling has been removed.

Aussiehunter barrel is clean when blue coloration disappears from cleaning jag

(9)   Remove the wet Sweets patch and put a new clean dry strip on the jag.  Soak this patch with Hoppes No 9 solvent and push all the way down the barrel.  Remove and discard the wet patch from the muzzle end.

(10)                       Take another clean patch strip and soak in Hoppes No 9 solvent.  Work this patch up and down the barrel, taking your time.  After scrubbing the barrel for maybe a minute, remove the wet patch from the muzzle end.

(11)                       Let the wet barrel soak for ten minutes.  Hoppes No 9 is not as aggressive as Sweets 7.62 and you can leave it in the barrel longer if you wish.  However, in order to avoid any confusion, I never let any solvent soak for more than ten minutes.

(12)                       Dry patch the barrel using a tight-fitting dry patch.

(13)                       Wind a large dry patch onto the jag.  This will be too big to fit in the bore.  Rotate this large patch in the shell chamber to clean up any residual solvents that may be present.  Do not try and force the patch into the bore.

(14)                       Wind a loose-fitting clean strip onto the jag and then soak with gun oil.  Rotate this around the shell chamber walls then push it all the way through the barrel, working back and forwards.