How to clean a rifle barrel
Learn about the best way to clean a rifle barrel
People spend a lot of time, especially on the internet, debating rifle loads and calibers, but experienced firearms experts know that a clean rifle is an accurate rifle. So let's take a look at best practices for how to clean a rifle barrel. Of course cleaning methods are always up for debate too, but here we combine some of our personal experience with some expert knowledge to develop the best way to clean a rifle barrel. Although you can clean your rifle without a borescope, we believe that the best way to guarantee repeatability of your cleaning process is to get a visual on the internal surface of the barrel with a scope.
Why should you clean your rifle barrel?
Basically, you don’t need to clean your rifle that often unless you’ve subjected your rifle to an extreme environment with dirt or sand and moisture or especially any salt. Otherwise, it usually is important to clean your rifle anytime you notice the accuracy falling off. If you pay attention to shot count you might devise a preventative maintenance schedule and clean every 100 or 1,000 rounds or so, but that shot count is up to you to figure out depending on what and where you are shooting.
Prepare before you start cleaning
If you are going to learn the proper way to clean rifle barrel then you have to start with the right tools and supplies as well as following basic gun-handling protocols. To start off you will need some sort of a bore guide, basically this replaces your bolt and helps you guide the rod and brush into the barrel.
The next thing you need is a cleaning rod, usually they have ball bearings in the handle so the brush can smoothly follow the lands and the grooves as you push it through the barrel. You always clean from the action towards the muzzle of the rifle. Never pull anything through the muzzle other than the empty rod itself.
Part of the process requires a brush to clean the barrel and we recommend a brass core phosphor-bronze brush because we want to make sure that the brush is softer than the barrel material.
There’s plenty of debate about what solvents to use to clean your barrel, but one of the most widely used products is the original Hoppe’s #9. This is used primarily to clean out the carbon deposits.
To remove the copper deposits we have had good results with the Bore Tech Cu2+ copper remover, but there are other products on the market as well.
It’s also handy to have some auto brake cleaner on hand to clean off your bronze brush. If you don’t clean off your brush you sometimes will see some false indicators on the patch from the brush being dirty.
Of course you also need cotton patches. We use patches made by Pro Shot. You also need a jag to go on the end of the cleaning rod. The brush, patches, and the jag need to be sized according to the caliber of the barrel that you are cleaning so always keep that in mind.
As for borescopes, Teslong makes a range of high quality and affordable borescopes. Some models are very simple and just connect to your own mobile devices via USB or WiFi connections. Stand-alone units include their own screen, battery, and lighting system to operate just about anywhere. Take a look at the lineup of their firearms products here: Rifle Borescope: Best Borescope for Rifle Barrels (iPhone + Android) | Teslong
How to clean the barrel of a rifle
There are many steps in how to clean the barrel of a rifle, but before you start be sure to safety-check your firearm. Remove the magazine, empty the chamber, and remove the bolt from the action.
Next place the bore guide in the rifle, it basically takes the place of the bolt. They usually have a little handle that locks them in place and holds them up tight against the chamber so solvent doesn’t leak into the action.
Next, it’s nice to have a stationary vice to hold the rifle in. It’s also fine to clean the rifle on a bipod, but usually you want to make sure the barrel is angled downward so any solvent drains out the front of the barrel and does not run back down into the action.
Now would be a good time to get a visual on what you are working with. If you shot 1,000 rounds since your last cleaning, then what does it look like inside the barrel? Take your borescope and insert it in the chamber of the rifle starting at the throat and the leade, which often experience heat damage first, before moving into the lands and grooves of the barrel. Take photos or video as you do the inspection so you can compare the next time you clean your rifle.
Now we’re going to take a cleaning rod and screw a jag on the end of it, then we’re going to put a patch on the end of the jag and squirt a little circle of Hoppes #9 on the patch - you don’t need to saturate the patch, just put a little circle of the fluid on it.
Then we insert the rod into the bore guide and push it through the breach towards the muzzle. Once it exits the muzzle, you remove the patch, which should have noticeable carbon deposits on it, and then you remove the cleaning rod out of the chamber of the rifle.
Repeat this operation - fresh patch on the jag with a squirt of Hoppes #9 and push it through the barrel - until your patch emerges from the muzzle with no more carbon deposits on it.
Next we’re going to put a brass brush on the end of the cleaning rod instead of the jag. Push the brush through the barrel three times. Each time you push it through we remove it after it exits the muzzle and then re-install the brush before pushing it through the barrel again. In between each of these steps wipe off the cleaning rod with a paper towel and clean off the brush with brake cleaner. You’ll notice it gets pretty dirty during the cleaning process and there’s no point in pushing that dirt back through the barrel.
Now, we are going to go back and install a jag on the rod and repeat the process with the patch and Hoppes #9 until the patch is clean. The brass brush will have knocked loose some of the carbon deposits in the barrel and you will see more carbon wiped up by each patch.
You can repeat this process of alternating back and forth from the patch with Hoppes and the brass brush. This is a good time to check that barrel with a borescope and get a visual on how much carbon you have actually removed. If you still see significant carbon deposits then you know you have to spend more time with the Hoppes, but if you no longer see any carbon you can feel confident about moving onto the next step.
Next, we are going to move onto removing some of the copper deposits in the barrel. First push a dry patch through the barrel to get it dry and clean. Now push a jag with a patch and some Bore Tech Cu2+ cleaner through your barrel and wait for a little bit. Go clean something else for about 10 minutes while you let the Bore Tech soak and do its job of cleaning out the barrel. After waiting for a bit, run a clean patch through the barrel, it should come out looking blue from all of the copper. You can keep cycling the Bore Tech and a dry patch if you want to remove all of the copper from a barrel, but usually it isn’t necessary to remove all of the copper. The copper acts kind of like a barrel conditioner so if you clean it all out you’ll probably have to shoot 15-30 rounds through that barrel before the accuracy comes back up again.
Now is a good time to take one final look with a borescope down inside that barrel and see if there is any visible copper. Make a visual note and also take some photos with the borescope as you progress through the cleaning process so you can repeat the process next time and compare photos - this is the best way to get confirmation of your cleaning procedure and guarantee the repeatability of your process. You can leave some copper in there if you decide to, but it’s always nice to get a visual on that and take photos so you can repeat the process next time.
If you are going to be storing your rifle for a period of time you should oil it. After you have cleaned your barrel you should run another patch through the barrel with a drop or two of oil on the cotton to lightly oil the barrel and prevent corrosion. Finally, if you are just taking a rifle out of storage, it’s a good idea to run a dry patch through the barrel to soak up any dust or oil before firing it.
How often to clean rifle barrel
Of course there is plenty of debate over how often to clean a rifle barrel, but If you pay attention to shot count you might devise a preventative maintenance schedule and clean according to what you observe at the range. Performing a visual inspection of your barrel with a borescope is always a good idea and if you do it properly you will be able to identify when to clean your barrel before the accuracy drops significantly.
Purchase a Teslong rifle borescope
You can learn how to properly clean a rifle barrel without a borescope, however we rather not guess what we are doing. There’s lots of debate about how to clean rifle barrel and how often, but it’s fairly well understood that a clean rifle barrel shoots more accurately than a dirty one. The best way to identify when to clean your rifle barrel is by inspecting it regularly with a rifle borescope and learning what excessive fouling looks like before your accuracy drops off.