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Rifle Bore Cleaning
subject of cleaning a rifle barrel is quite complex. There are an number of
questions that are frequently asked with regards to barrel cleaning.
1. How should I clean a barrel?
2. When should I clean the barrel?
3. How often should I clean a barrel?
4. How many shots should I fire between barrel cleans?
5. How clean does a barrel need to be?
6. How do I run in a barrel and is it necessary?
I will attempt to answer these and other questions in this article, but before I start it must be noted that every rifle is different and different procedures may be required for individual rifles.
To begin with lets look at a new Stainless Steel Tikka T3 rifle. This model of rifle is very popular in Australia and generally offers excellent accuracy right out of the box. The photo above is of the muzzle crown on a Tikka T3 in .338WM. It has had 10 rounds fired by the owner and has been cleaned 5 times.
The first clean was before the first shot was fired, to clean out the residue from the factory proof firings. This removed both oil, carbon and copper. It was then cleaned after the first, second a fourth shot. Each time until no copper could be seen on the patches or at the muzzle.
Finally it was given a light clean just enough to take the photo above to show the bright copper streaks on the rifling lands. Even though the Tikka barrel is quite smooth on the inside, large amounts of copper have stuck to the lands. This seems to be common with a lot of new rifles and it takes some time before this stops happening. Sometimes with a new hammer forged stainless barrel, copper streaks can be difficult to remove from the smooth surface of the lands.
In contrast to the photo above, the photo to the left is of a Chromolly, .30-06 barrel made by Savage Steven's using a different barrel making method.
Now this brand of rifle is very cheap and sells in Australia at the moment, new for $399 if you can still find one.
As you can see from the photo, the bore is very rough and the machining marks from the barrel making process are very evident.
Now you would think that this barrel with its rough bore would foul up very quickly and be quite hard to clean. However this barrel has fired about 500 shots in total and is actually plenty accurate enough for hunting purposes..
These very fine machining groves at right angles to the lands tend to fill with fouling and have no effect on accuracy.
Cleaning out all the fouling from these micro groves is pointless as the projectile rides on top of these groves. However it is important to keep the surface above these groves clean.
I just cleaned this barrel prior to the photo being taken and it had about 50 shots down the tube since its previous clean. Cleaning out all the fouling from these micro groves might actually make the barrel foul badly next time it is shot.
This is what makes barrel cleaning so unpredictable. You just never know how a barrel will behave until it has settled down and fired a number of shots.
Most barrels settle down after between 20 and 80 shots. Accuracy improves and the amount of "hard to remove" fouling becomes less.
The photo below right show another image of the smooth Tikka barrel insides with its streaks of copper. The photo below left is of a hand lapped "Hart" barrel in .308 calibre that has just been cleaned.
The "Hart" barrel has just fired well over 1000 rounds in total and it has been 350 rounds between its last clean. It is a competition rifle and is very accurate.
When the Hart barrel was cleaned it came up clean easily and required very little work. Almost no copper fouling was evident. This shows that it is not always necessary to clean a rifle barrel that often. You need to get to know your barrel and discover how often it needs to be cleaned.
If you clean your barrel more often than necessary then you could actually be doing more harm than good. The process of cleaning a barrel can damage the barrel if not done right.
Corrosion protection is different to cleaning a barrel to remove fouling. Even stainless barrels can rust depending on the grade of stainless steel used. Tikka T3 Barrels a such barrels and should be protected when stored against rust.
Spare barrels should also be protected against rust. I had a spare Pac-Nor barrel that was sitting in the safe for a couple of months. When I pullet it out for inspection, I could see slight corrosion marks from finger prints on the outside of the stainless steel barrel. This was a warning to me to get some oil into that barrel, otherwise when it came time to use it there may have been rust pitting inside the bore and no one wants a new barrel with a pitted bore.
Different barrels and
different types of rifles will require a different number of shots between
cleaning. You just need to work out for yourself what is best for your
particular rifle. The important two things to consider are accuracy and how
easy it is to clean.
I don't bother with
much serious load development until a new barrel has about 70 rounds in
total down the tube. That's when they seem to settle down and are properly
run in. True load development can then take place.
If the rifle gets wet, I always give it a thorough clean to avoid corrosion. I don't like to clean too often if it is not needed..
More to come
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