Pro tips for cleaning your firearm

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 firearm you use, you will follow the same broad principles to keep it in its optimum performance range.
1. Clean out the carbon and other foreign matter
2. Check the firearm thoroughly for loose screws, cracks or broken parts
3. Clean out the copper from the bore (or lead for lead bullets)
4. Lubricate the firearm based on environmental conditions and requirements for serviceability and to protect the bore
5. Follow a maintenance schedule for replacement of key parts before they break or wear completely out

Maintenance Procedures
Here I will go through my procedures for rapid — yet thorough — gun maintenance. Remember to always wear eye protection when cleaning your firearms. Light weight vinyl gloves can protect your skin from chemicals and other contaminants. Some fumes are toxic so clean your firearm in a well-ventilated place.

Remove the Powder Fouling and Other Debris
Disassemble your firearms according to manufacturer’s directions. Then use a good solvent to loosen the carbon buildup on various surfaces.

Use 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 don’t hurt your barrel’s crown and destroy 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. Then, use a brass brush to scrub the bore and remove most of the powder fouling.

For precision rifles, I use a product called Carbon Killer manufactured by the same folks who make Slip 2000, to get rid of the hardened carbon just ahead of the chamber area. Dan Dowling, a hall of fame benchrest shooter, told me that IOSSO bore paste is used by a lot of benchrest and precision shooters to break up this hardened carbon buildup.

For AR-15 Bolts, firing pins, and bolt carriers, you can use the Carbon Killer and a dental pick to scrape them off. I use a new tool, designed by a good friend of mine, that is built specifically for this purpose that takes them to “tactical tolerances” in a couple of minutes if you need to clean them in the field and then can be used to take them to inspection clean when out of the field.

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.

Now 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
Now that we have most of the powder fouling out, it is time to remove copper fouling if we are shooting copper bullets.

I prefer chemically stripping the copper as opposed to using an abrasive on my bores. Use your cleaning rod, with the appropriate jag on the end, and soak a patch in a good copper solvent. I like Barnes CR10, Butch’s Bore Shine, or Montana Xtreme for this process.

Now run the patch down the bore and wet the bore 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 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 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 folk lore, your bore doesn’t need to be squeaky clean. In fact, excessive cleaning in rifles can take away accuracy from a properly conditioned bore that has been broken in properly. Just get the majority of the copper fouling removed.

Now, 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 the 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 as well as the combined experience of a great many shooters and trainers that ALL guns benefit from the proper amount of lubrication. The key is to use the right kind of lube and to 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. It works. Pat Rogers gets the kudos here for making me aware of this product.

Now, with your barrel nice and clean, take a patch and run a very light coat of oil down your bore. Then 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. I find that it doesn’t matter for carbines that are used for general purpose shooting as it doesn’t affect the accuracy standards required of them for that mission.

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 as well. For my pistol magazines, I 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. Use a very thin film. This will not affect your ammunition. For really fine dirt/sand conditions in desert environments etc., a light film will still work.

You’re done! Your weapon is now in optimal condition and ready to bet your life on.

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