Aftermarket barrels, good triggers, premium ammo and top-shelf optics will all help your rifle shoot well, but without regular cleaning you won’t ever realize your gun’s true potential. There are hundreds of products on the market that claim to keep your rifle in top working order and it seems that most everyone has their own routine and regiment when it comes to putting the spit and polish on their guns. Author Brad Fitzpatrick shares his own rifle cleaning routine here. We’d like to hear how you go about keeping your rifles clean as well! Share your process in the comments section below!
- Before you even begin cleaning your gun make sure that you have all of the necessary equipment and a proper workspace. It baffles me when experienced shooters buy expensive rifles, top them with premium optics, and then neglect to perform the routine maintenance that will keep that sub-MOA rifle shooting sweet little clover leafs. A good cleaning kit isn't necessarily an expensive kit, but it should include a sturdy cleaning rod with a stout handle, jags, brushes, patches, solvent and oil/lubricant. In addition, maintain a small kit with cleaning essentials for trips to the field or range.
Be sure to have your workspace clear and purchase an oil-absorbing mat that you can spread out over the surface of the area. This prevents oil and solvents from getting on to your table but, more importantly, it provides a soft surface for your rifle. Many shooters neglect finding a clean, ventilated area with good light and end up marring, scratching or dropping their rifle.
In addition to the basic equipment there are a few other essentials that make the cleaning process easier and more effective. First, I like to have a good bore light so that I can inspect the full length of the rifling after each cleaning session to be sure I've removed as much fouling as possible. In addition to a bore light, I want to be sure that I have a variety of brushes for the chamber, magazine and bore with bristles made of different materials. Gun cleaning brushes are typically available with nylon (soft), copper (medium), and stainless steel (hard) bristles. Keep away from the stainless brushes except for removing the most stubborn fouling.
The last essential piece of equipment is one that I rarely use when cleaning bolt-action rifles but an absolute necessity when cleaning lever-actions, slide-action or another other rifle where the cleaning rod cannot be inserted through the breech, and that is a muzzle guard. Muzzle guards are small, cone-shaped brass pieces with a hole drilled longitudinally through the center so that they slide onto cleaning rods. The cone shape prevents accidentally ramming the rod handle into the muzzle, which could potentially damaging the rifling.
I like to clean my rifles soon after shooting them in an effort to remove fowling before it has a chance to damage the barrel.