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Cleaning & Practical Accuracy

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 15:08
Graysteel View Drop Down
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I may be venturing into the area of heresy, but I have to ask...

Before I got into the military I was almost religious about cleaning my rifle. Power solvent, copper solvent, bore inspection, etc. each time I went shooting. All in the name of ideal accuracy.

Once I got in the service and shooting and maintenance was a daily affair I did a bit of of experimenting. After of bit, I got into the habit of not cleaning my rifles as well. (yes, I know - sacrilege) In fact, it seemed that I got as good if not better results if I cleaned the rifles consistently rather than completely.

I got into the habit of running a wet (bore cleaning compound) brush through the bore about 20 times to 'scrub' it - I would then spray WD-40 from the breach to 'rinse' the barrel out - And then I would run 2 or 3 dry patches down the barrel - And then 1 damp (not soaking) patch (again with WD-40) to protect the bore. This became my routine. It tended to leave a bit of copper in the lands, but it never seemed to build up.

This seems to work very well for accuracy, at least I never had any issues. Then again, I was quite happy to get 1/2 MOA and wasn't trying to get 1 hole at 300 meters like the bench rest guys. And it wasn't always practical to clean the rifle after every 20 shots, as they do. What is your experience? 

Edited by Graysteel
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 16:07
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Before I answer you question specifically, I would tell you to NEVER use WD-40 to "rinse" the barrel.  Your last patch should be gun oil...the same stuff you use on the outside.  I participated in a 16-hour rifle marksmanship class three weeks ago and got the same advice.

 

On the topic of gun cleaning more generally, I clean about every 50-75 shots out of a 30-.06.   Much, much less often with a .22LR.  In fact, I couldn't tell you the last time.  Have not experienced a drop off in accuracy one bit.

 

ND2000

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 16:12
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As you know, each individual rifle has its own fingerprint and/or individual characteristics. If your technique worked in your rifle, then you follow the characteristics that your rifle tells you. Your cleaning techniques may not work in mine or others...........I have never used WD40 in my bores after using solvent. After each firing session, I make sure that all the fouling is gone by using solvent, then followed by JB bore compound, then solvent again and more recently the addition of JB Bore Bright, then lastly, a light coat of oil............ I have a friend that uses carb cleaner as his solvent, followed with some patches and that`s it!!!.......If I were to have any accuracy issues using my methods for cleaning, then I would have switched the powders etc. around until the best accuracy would have been achieved. My cleaning methods would not have changed.......I achieve the best accuracy from my rifle`s individual likings in powders, bullets, primers and case combos, rather than based on any cleaning methods.    
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 17:04
Graysteel View Drop Down
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ND2000 I am not sure the reasons you were told to avoid WD-40, and I haven't been to the same 16 hour rifle marksmanship course, but I have had very good luck with the product. I think it has gotten a bad rap. I also avoid using non-evaporating gun oils in the bore as I have come to believe that they can cause first shot fliers.

I know there are some folks who don't like it and that is fine they should avoid it. I personally, have found that because the carrier fluid mostly evaporates, the product is very effective at keeping carbon build up down on high volume duty weapons. And, as for preventing rust - check out the WD-40 results there:

http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/GunTech/NewsletterArchive.a spx?p=0&t=1&i=503
A long time ago I ran my own tests and came up with the same positive results.

Now a word of caution... WD-40 (and other penetrating oils) can deactivate primers. This isn't a concern unless you don't wipe extra oil off the weapon. I suspect the failure to wipe off the extra may be the root of why some folks seem to dislike WD-40.

Other opinions?


Edited by Graysteel
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 19:35
RifleDude View Drop Down
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I personally believe many shooters get too obsessive about bore cleaning.  In fact, I've actually come to believe a small amount of copper fouling is beneficial, because I think it "conditions" the bore by filling in the micro-pores and small tool marks.  To a point, after the bore gets a bit of copper fouling, more copper buildup develops very gradually, so you have a long period of "accurate" fouling life between cleanings before fouling builds up to an excessive degree.

 

Even though JB is reportedly harmless to bores (and from all I can tell, I basically agree), I do believe you stand a greater chance of bore damage if you clean too frequently.  Unless you're careful to keep your cleaning rod, patches, bore brushes, etc. extremely clean and never expose them to an outdoor breeze, it's really easy to pick up sandy grit from the wind that you can unintentionally drag through your bore with the cleaning rod/patch and scratch the bore.  It's amazing how much sand can blow into your cleaning kit just from shooting outside on a windy day.  Sand collects on wet patches, brushes, etc. like a magnet, and it will score your bore, silicon being harder than the steel.  Besides, even dripping water will eventually wear away a rock, so though occasional cleaning is good for your barrel, I honestly believe overcleaning is just as bad as not cleaning at all, maybe worse as it may actually reduces the life of your bore!  After a barrel is well broken-in, I don't clean my centerfires until after firing every 100 rounds or so, and I've not seen any reduction in accuracy with most of my rifles by doing so.  I don't clean my .22 rimfire barrels very frequently at all -- every couple 1000 rounds or so, and have seen no deterioration in accuracy.  .17 rimfires are another story, as they shoot jacketed bullets, unlike the .22LR.  Even when I do clean my barrels, I use JB and similar abrasive pastes very infrequently.  Most of the time, I just use a 50/50 mixture of Shooter's Choice and Kroil, and it gets my bores very clean with little effort.  I have done a lot of experimentation with various bore cleaning rituals and I have come to the conclusion that a squeaky clean bore isn't essential for superb accuracy.  In fact, I actually believe the opposite is true FWIW.  Accuracy is nothing more than the result of your rifle and you doing exactly the same thing, or as close to it, on each and every shot, i.e. consistency.  No other shot beyond the very first shot from a clean bore will be exiting the barrel under the same conditions as that first shot.  A perfectly clean barrel picks up copper fouling more than a slightly "fouled" barrel, because the fouled barrel has already had the tool marks in the bore filled with a little copper.  This is why benchrest shooters never fire "record" shots for groups until after they've shot a fouler or two.  It takes a couple shots to lay down a thin layer of copper fouling to fill in the tiny pores and imperfections in the bore so that each successive bullet traveling down the bore thereafter (up to a point) sees a more consistent bore condition.



Edited by RifleDude
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 20:32
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I shot one of my 308's for a year without cleaning.  that's about 4,000 rounds.

After alotta rounds fired that year the cold bore shot became alittle unpredictable toward the end.  The rest of the groups were Ok.  After cleaning the CBS became predictable.  That's why I clean my rifles.

 

Another time I shot 200 rounds through an aftermarket barrel, cleaned at the range, really thoroughly stripped it clean, sweets, butches, the whole deal. 

Let it sit to ambient for 2 hours timed ( was experimenting with a Shilen R&D guy atthe time) and after that cleaning placed a CCBS on a small target a long way away.  Follow up shot ws equally precise.

 

 I sure wouldn't put WD40 in a barrel for risk of hydraulic crazing, but  do what works for you.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 21:20
Graysteel View Drop Down
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Rifle Dude posted "It takes a couple shots to lay down a thin layer of copper fouling to fill in the tiny pores and imperfections in the bore so that each successive bullet traveling down the bore thereafter (up to a point) sees a more consistent bore condition."

That is what I was really going for in this post... I have found the same thing to be true. I didn't want to say it right away, but, I found that 'moderate' cleaning seemed to reduce the 'cold bore zero' problem. The first couple of shots no longer varied from the next couple. I suspect the same thing, that the very light copper fouling acts as bearing surface and actually helps consistency as opposed to a spotless bore that was beginning to foul. Any benchrest folks have strong opinions the other way?

Mike points out the concern of hydraulic crazing. I might have been unclear earlier in my post that I am not leaving the barrel 'soaked', once it is rinsed, I run what a I called a 'damp' patch through the bore. Meaning a patch that wouldn't completely dry the bore, but dry enough to only leave a very thin film. Again, relying somewhat on the fact it evaporates rather quickly.  I preferred the WD over other protectents specifically because of the thiner film. In the end to protect the bore (some are still carbon) you have to have some sort of film or barrier.

But, I am not sure if the residue that is deposited is enough to still be an issue for crazing or not. I am not sure what all the factors are in this case, perhaps the residue has a higher viscosity and increases the issue?. Also, I don't know enough material science to know how much the relatively soft lead core of the bullet may buffer that process? Do you have any more insight into that Mike?


Edited by Graysteel
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 23:25
Big Squeeze View Drop Down
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

I personally believe many shooters get too obsessive about bore cleaning.  In fact, I've actually come to believe a small amount of copper fouling is beneficial, because I think it "conditions" the bore by filling in the micro-pores and small tool marks.  To a point, after the bore gets a bit of copper fouling, more copper buildup develops very gradually, so you have a long period of "accurate" fouling life between cleanings before fouling builds up to an excessive degree.

 

Even though JB is reportedly harmless to bores (and from all I can tell, I basically agree), I do believe you stand a greater chance of bore damage if you clean too frequently.  Unless you're careful to keep your cleaning rod, patches, bore brushes, etc. extremely clean and never expose them to an outdoor breeze, it's really easy to pick up sandy grit from the wind that you can unintentionally drag through your bore with the cleaning rod/patch and scratch the bore.  It's amazing how much sand can blow into your cleaning kit just from shooting outside on a windy day.  Sand collects on wet patches, brushes, etc. like a magnet, and it will score your bore, silicon being harder than the steel.  Besides, even dripping water will eventually wear away a rock, so though occasional cleaning is good for your barrel, I honestly believe overcleaning is just as bad as not cleaning at all, maybe worse as it may actually reduces the life of your bore!  After a barrel is well broken-in, I don't clean my centerfires until after firing every 100 rounds or so, and I've not seen any reduction in accuracy with most of my rifles by doing so.  I don't clean my .22 rimfire barrels very frequently at all -- every couple 1000 rounds or so, and have seen no deterioration in accuracy.  .17 rimfires are another story, as they shoot jacketed bullets, unlike the .22LR.  Even when I do clean my barrels, I use JB and similar abrasive pastes very infrequently.  Most of the time, I just use a 50/50 mixture of Shooter's Choice and Kroil, and it gets my bores very clean with little effort.  I have done a lot of experimentation with various bore cleaning rituals and I have come to the conclusion that a squeaky clean bore isn't essential for superb accuracy.  In fact, I actually believe the opposite is true FWIW.  Accuracy is nothing more than the result of your rifle and you doing exactly the same thing, or as close to it, on each and every shot, i.e. consistency.  No other shot beyond the very first shot from a clean bore will be exiting the barrel under the same conditions as that first shot.  A perfectly clean barrel picks up copper fouling more than a slightly "fouled" barrel, because the fouled barrel has already had the tool marks in the bore filled with a little copper.  This is why benchrest shooters never fire "record" shots for groups until after they've shot a fouler or two.  It takes a couple shots to lay down a thin layer of copper fouling to fill in the tiny pores and imperfections in the bore so that each successive bullet traveling down the bore thereafter (up to a point) sees a more consistent bore condition.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 23:29
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Rifle Dude makes a certafiable point. Mr. Macdonald backs it up with an EXTREME condition.  I am continually beaten silly using the same practice.  A good barrel will not suffer from this type of cleaning.  It wont bother me to leave copper in the bore of any of my barrels.  Regular price, 350.00 ea.   Ive been using good old # 9 and Kroil in a 50/50 mix forever.  Soak the barrel with a couple patches and put it away. Just patch the crud out just before my first shot and its personality is way more consistant than my old drudge I live with.  I also think that a "problem barrel" does benifit from a good coat of copper, try it.  Think about it in this way. When your weapon has just responded to its favorite load and is shooting that long awaited grouping, personally I wouldnt want to disturb this state of perfection anymore than is required.  Some of the best high-tech lubricants arround are "copper" based. The only thing that keeps me up at night is rust.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/22/2007 at 23:58
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I agree with your 1st paragraph. Bore conditioning IMO, is filling in the micro pores and small tools marks which is done during the bore break in process. As more time goes by, more copper build up will occur gradually in between the cleanings...........If for some reason a shooter is over obsessive about barrel cleaning, then a proper bore guide must always be used. A bore guide should always be used anyway regardless of cleaning frequency!....Over time, I believe that using a cleaning rod without a bore guide, will do more barrel damage than an over possessed clean barrel freak, that does properly and carefully use a bore guide..................From my experience, after proper new barrel break in, solvent and patches every 5 rounds during the range session and bore cleaning with solvent and JB prior to storage, will not decrease accuracy or harm the barrel.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/23/2007 at 00:01
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RifleDude.....................OOOOPS!.......... My last post should have gone under your post!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/23/2007 at 09:00
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Originally posted by Big Squeeze Big Squeeze wrote:

I agree with your 1st paragraph. Bore conditioning IMO, is filling in the micro pores and small tools marks which is done during the bore break in process. As more time goes by, more copper build up will occur gradually in between the cleanings...........If for some reason a shooter is over obsessive about barrel cleaning, then a proper bore guide must always be used. A bore guide should always be used anyway regardless of cleaning frequency!....Over time, I believe that using a cleaning rod without a bore guide, will do more barrel damage than an over possessed clean barrel freak, that does properly and carefully use a bore guide..................From my experience, after proper new barrel break in, solvent and patches every 5 rounds during the range session and bore cleaning with solvent and JB prior to storage, will not decrease accuracy or harm the barrel.

Personally, my strategy is the same as Rifledudes for the same reasons.  As far a a bore guide, I think that is a great idea, but with the carbon fiber, one piece Tipton rods that I use, going in from the chamber and dropping the patch with a single pass, I have not purchased one.  Maybe in the future I will get one of the ones that allows for use on multiple calibers.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/23/2007 at 11:09
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unless your shooting bullets with large amounts of copper in the jacket and little zinc, such as military surplus, copper fouling's  worst effect is the visuals at the end of the barrel. carbon fouling is by far the worst culprit in accuracy, and many cleaning methods exist. As far as wd40 or kroil, remember that all oils are hydrocarbons subject to oxidation when the hot gases hit them, and form oxidized ketones, alcohols, and sulfides (sludge) and solvents for the carbon residue of combustion from the powder, mix this with the ammonia from the combustion = mess. one swipe thru the bore after a shooting session does wonders just to get the ammonia. At the least one should think about cleaning the chamber after each session, especially in gas guns. most break in routines are looking at the small ridge created by the chamber reamer in the usual last step of the barrel process, and insuring the removal of the "copper" that is skimmed off the bullet at this point, this is really apparent when you have a barrel "cut back and rechambered".
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/23/2007 at 16:54
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Originally posted by Dolphin Dolphin wrote:

Originally posted by Big Squeeze Big Squeeze wrote:

I agree with your 1st paragraph. Bore conditioning IMO, is filling in the micro pores and small tools marks which is done during the bore break in process. As more time goes by, more copper build up will occur gradually in between the cleanings...........If for some reason a shooter is over obsessive about barrel cleaning, then a proper bore guide must always be used. A bore guide should always be used anyway regardless of cleaning frequency!....Over time, I believe that using a cleaning rod without a bore guide, will do more barrel damage than an over possessed clean barrel freak, that does properly and carefully use a bore guide..................From my experience, after proper new barrel break in, solvent and patches every 5 rounds during the range session and bore cleaning with solvent and JB prior to storage, will not decrease accuracy or harm the barrel.

Personally, my strategy is the same as Rifledudes for the same reasons.  As far a a bore guide, I think that is a great idea, but with the carbon fiber, one piece Tipton rods that I use, going in from the chamber and dropping the patch with a single pass, I have not purchased one.  Maybe in the future I will get one of the ones that allows for use on multiple calibers.

 

I agree with both of you on the use of a bore guide.  If nothing else, it helps keep solvent from running down into the action and stock inletting, in addition to it's primary purpose of initially aligning the rod.  I also agree with Dolphin on using 1-piece rods.  I would never recommend using a jointed rod, as the joints can scrape the bore and also can pick up tiny amounts of grit.

 

One other thing -- I ALWAYS use the pointed jags to hold my patches instead of patch loops.  With the jag, the patch stays evenly distributed around the inside of the bore and never becomes bunched up more on one side of the bore than the other, potentially scraping the rod against the bore.

 

I don't think you're hurting anything by thoroughly cleaning your bore as you describe, Squeeze, provided you're careful about using a guide and not picking up grit/contamination, but I also don't think it's necessary for maintaining best accuracy.  I also think cleaning after every 5 rounds is a bit excessive, but probably many things we shooters do out of force of habit provide little actual benefit beyond giving us confidence, which isn't always a bad thing.

 

I've heard more than one prominent gunsmith say something to the effect that "more barrels are worn out from excessive cleaning than from excessive shooting."

 

It's worth noting that at least one rimfire barrel manufacturer I'm aware of -- Volquartsen -- will actually void their warranty if they know you used a cleaning rod in their barrels, and they don't recommend you clean their barrel very often to maintain best accuracy.  Of course, there's a big difference between rimfire and centerfire barrel conditions, but the point is that they felt so strongly that improper use of a cleaning rod can cause bore damage that they just made it a condition of warranty.



Edited by RifleDude
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/24/2007 at 19:44
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i have always found that for me after a range session i clean my barrels down to bare metal. using "wipe out" it is a foaming bore cleaner. i spray it in and leave it for a couple hours then i push one patch down the barrel and spray the "wipe out" in there again. then wait 2 hours then 2 patches to clean the "wipe out" and thats it. it has a rust preventative in it so there is no need for other oils. and when i had my barrels scoped  there was no indication of rust or pitting. although in my .308 it does take 2-3 fouling shots to stabilize velocitys. but then it is good for 62 rounds  before accuracy falls off again. number of rounds will vary with  different loads but the load i use most lasts 60-62 rounds. i find that if i dont clean my barrel compleatly then i have no idea when the accuracy will fall off.  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: October/25/2007 at 02:45
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Before I became interested in shooting at paper, my only interest in accuracy was for hunting purposes. That meant being able to hit a deer-sized target at 200-300m consistently. It also meant hitting a rock or a stone before the other fellows could during those "fun shoots" after a hunt. I then used to clean my rifle twice a year, once before the hunting season and once after the season. I averaged about 100 to 150 rounds per season. The rifle stayed accurate enough.

In the last couple of years I have become interested in shooting small groupings in paper. The same rifle proved to be very accurate under target range conditions. I then started a new cleaning regime of cleaning and cleaning, using all kinds of copper and carbon solvents. I cleaned the copper out to the point where no more copper was present. I then noticed the accuracy level of my rifle going South. I would say from a consistant 1/2 MOA to 1.5 MOA.

I now follow a regime of "washing" my barrel out for carbon and powder residue (copper brush with lots of Shooters Choice followed by a jag with lots of Shooters Choice) and then a light gun oil for rust prevention. I will only use copper solvent sparingly every 75-100 rounds.



Edited by 8shots
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