Pro Tips for Cleaning Your Gun
Originally published on policeone.com.
Keeping your firearms running in less than optimum conditions, from below zero temperatures to temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, as well as preserving and protecting the bore, requires both knowledge and the right tools for the job.
Principles of Gun Maintenance
No matter what firearms you use, you will follow the same basic principles to keep them in optimum condition:
- Clean out carbon and other foreign matter
- Check for loose screws, cracks, or broken parts
- Clean out the copper from the bore (or lead for lead bullets)
- Lubricate based on environmental conditions and requirements for serviceability
- Follow a maintenance schedule for replacement of key parts before they break or wear out
Remember to always wear eye protection when cleaning your firearms. Light-weight vinyl gloves can protect your skin from chemicals and other contaminants. Some solvent fumes are toxic so be sure to clean your firearm in a well-ventilated area.
Remove Carbon Fouling and Other Debris
Disassemble your firearms according to manufacturer’s directions and then use a good solvent to loosen the carbon buildup on affected surfaces. I recommend using a toothbrush or AR-15 nylon cleaning brush with the solvent to break loose the carbon fouling from the slide, frame, outside of barrel, and miscellaneous parts.
Next, clean the barrel. Always try to clean from the breech, not the muzzle. If you must clean from the muzzle side, remember to use a muzzle protector so you do not hurt your barrel’s crown and diminish its accuracy. For the inside of the barrel, use a quality cleaning rod with some solvent on a patch to soak the powder and other fouling in the bore. Use a brass brush to scrub the bore and remove most of the powder fouling.
For precision rifles, IOSSO bore paste is used by many benchrest and precision shooters to break up hardened carbon buildup.
For AR-15 bolts, firing pins, and bolt carriers, you can use a dental pick or similar tool to scrape off the buildup. As a final step in the removal of the powder fouling, take a can of gun scrubber and blast out all the loose particles of debris and clean off the firearm.
Next, inspect your firearm closely for loose screws, cracks and excessive wear patterns so you can stay ahead of the curve and take care of small problems before they become big problems.
Copper removal is an individual thing when it comes to cleaning. For my competition pistols, I almost never bother with trying to remove it after I clean my bore of any powder fouling. The reason is; it is not needed. There is very little and it does not affect accuracy to any appreciable degree in my match barrels.
I have spoken to many rifle shooters who tell me the same thing. Once they have conditioned their bores, they do not do a lot of copper removal unless something unusual occurs.
However, if you do wish to proceed I will give you what I like to do. I prefer chemically stripping the copper as opposed to using an abrasive on my bores. Use a cleaning rod with the appropriate jag on the end, soak a patch in a good copper solvent.
Now run the patch down the bore to wet it with the copper solvent. Let it soak per the manufacturer’s instructions. After the required time, run a dry patch down the bore. You should see your patch come out the other side with bluish streaking. Depending on the amount of copper, you may repeat this procedure or move into the next step.
You will need to use a nylon brush because copper solvents will eat your copper brushes. Put a few drops of copper solvent on your brush and run it through your bore from breech to muzzle several times. For extreme precision rifles, you can spray the brush as you exit the muzzle to remove the foreign matter before retracting it. Now let it soak for a few more minutes and then run a few dry patches through the bore.
Examine your bore and see if there is any telltale streaking down the grooves that indicate fouling is present. Contrary to popular belief, your bore doesn’t need to be squeaky clean. Excessive cleaning in rifles can actually take away accuracy from a properly conditioned bore that has been broken in. Just be sure to remove the majority of the copper fouling.
You can also use a product called Wipeout with their accelerator to do this process. It is fast and relatively simple to do.
Finally, take your regular solvent, put in on a patch and run it through your bore several times to get rid of the copper solvent. Take a couple of dry patches and clean the solvent out of the bore.
Gun Cradles and Bore Guides
For precision bolt guns, always use a bore guide to keep the chemicals from getting down into the action area and dissolving or loosening the bedding material. Some shooters use them for their AR-15 precision carbines as well. A well-designed gun cradle is a great aid to cleaning long guns.
Lubrication and Protection
While you are waiting for the copper solvent to work, you can put a few drops of lube on a q-tip and run it lightly over all working surfaces. If there are any surfaces that are shiny or exhibit wear marks, they will benefit from a very light coating of lube; this would include the outside of the barrel and the hood. I also very lightly lube the surface of the chamber ramp to avoid any possible bullet stoppage there.
Some manufacturers claim their firearms don’t need lubrication. It has been my experience that ALL guns benefit from the proper amount of lubrication. The key is to use the right kind of lube and not use too much. I use Slip 2000 and have tested it extensively in the field from 27 below zero to well over 100 degrees in all my weapons systems.
Once your barrel is clean, take a patch and run a very light coat of oil down the bore. After coating the barrel lightly, run a couple of dry patches down the bore to remove all but a very thin sheen.
For true precision rifles, if you are trying to achieve a good cold bore shot, you will want to test how this affects your first shot. Only testing will show how your particular rifle will perform after cleaning it. For my precision rifles that need to have a good cold bore shot, I clean the rifle at the range and then fire one to two rounds on target to lightly foul the bore. Then I run a dry patch down the bore to remove the powder granules and leave it alone.
Don’t forget to disassemble your magazines and clean out the powder fouling there as well. For pistol magazines, use a very light trace of oil on the sides of the magazine and follower to make sure the ammunition doesn’t hang up in the magazine tube; this will not adversely affect the ammunition. For very fine dirt/sand conditions in desert environments, a light film will still work.
You’re done! Your weapon is now in optimal condition and ready to bet your life on.
Ron Avery, co-founder
Tactical Performance Center