How to Clean a Rifle
You must clean your rifle regularly to keep it in top condition.
A quick cleaning routine after 50-100 rounds, depending on the rifle, can help remove carbon fouling and rust along the barrel for reliable and accurate performance.
A deep clean, usually after about 1,0000 - 3,000 rounds, can help maintain the moving parts, stop your rifle from jamming and extend its lifespan.
So, how do you clean a rifle?
Well, there’s no “universal” gun cleaning procedure. Still, there are a few things you need to know before you start to clean your rifle.
- You need a borescope to help you look down the barrel. That way, you gauge your rifle’s condition and the amount of work required.
- Bore cleaning involves two separate tasks; removing powder fouling and copper fouling — to properly clean your gun, you must complete the two jobs.
What you Need to Clean a Rifle
As a rule of thumb, assemble the right tools and products from the get-go. It'll make your work easier. Here's a rundown of the products and tools needed:
- Dewey Nylon-coated cleaning rods for patches and brushes. The rods are available in .22 and .30. Dewey rods feature a large, ergonomic handle for a firm grip and are least likely to scratch your rifle's barrel.
- Hoppe's phosphor-bronze brushes. Keep off a stainless steel or nylon brush unless you want to damage your rifle's barrel. Choose a brush set that matches your gun's caliber.
- Break Free CLP bore solvent to remove carbon, lead, and fouling from your rifle's bore. Break Free CLP is a high-pressure cleaning solvent that strips away carbon residue effectively.
- Birchwood Casey gun degreaser for removing dirt deposits and oil from the moving parts of your gun, enabling you to create a fresh, clean surface to apply a lubricant.
- Lubricant to lubricate parts and protect your gun against rust. We recommend Hoppes 9 Elite Gun Cleaning Kit with a 14.9ml precision lubricator.
- Mossy Oak Gun Oil gun protectant for repelling water, preventing corrosion and rust. Musky Oak is an all-weather protectant usable in temperatures as low as – 65 degrees and as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cleaning patches. We recommend Hoppes Cleaning Patches or Kroil patches to clean and wipe through the bore.
- Cleaning brush. This pack by Otis Technology comes with 10 brushes designed to remove stubborn carbon deposits and light cleaning.
- Gun utility brush. You can use the Star Bright Utility brush with a heavy-duty scrubber to help you reach all the nooks and crannies. Utility brushes are great for cleaning slide grooves and trigger parts.
- Bore snake to prevent build-up in your rifle. Pick a bore snake that matches your rifle's caliber.
- Jags. For starters, jags are small attachments that go onto the end of your cleaning rod. They help hold the cleaning patch in place as you push the rod through the bore. Consider this jag by Tipton featuring a brand-exclusive process shield for improved cleaning.
How to Clean Your Rifle in Six Easy Steps
Here’s a six-step cleaning process to help you eliminate dirt and grime from your rifle.
Step 1: Work on the Bolt
Start by unloading your rifle. Then clamp it in the gun vise and detach the bolt face. Wet a 12-gauge patch with a few drops of the Break Free solvent. Wipe the bolt using a solvent-soaked patch.
Immerse the bolt’s Q tip in powder solvent, then clean off the face. While you’re at it, clean below the extractor.
Step 2: Apply the Powder Solvent Along the Bore
Grab three wet patches and dip them in powder solvent. Pick the first patch and dart it on the jag. Make sure it fits firmly. Run the patch up along the bore to apply the solvent. Repeat the process with the two remaining patches.
Step 3: Scrub the Bore
With the powder applied to the bore, it’s time to scrub. Dip a clean bronze brush into the solvent powder and move it up down the bore at least 15 times. Remove your brush, hose it down and leave it to dry before wiping the cleaning rod with a paper towel.
Step 4: Remove the Powder Fouling
Put three solvent-soaked patches up your rifle’s bore with a patch rod. Move the rod up and down the rod until the last patch comes out white. Now, put a dry patch up the bore to complete the procedure.
One more thing — wipe off the gun muzzle using a paper towel. The idea is to remove any gray gravy stuck on the front end.
Step 5: Apply the Copper Cleaner
You’ll need a Kroil patch for this. Start by placing the patch up the barrel. Then get an old, slightly worn-out bronze bore brush and wrap it with a 12-gauge patch. Apply your cleaning compound around the patch.
Place the patch, now soaked with the cleaning compound, inside the bore and give it 20 strokes up and down. Make sure the patch doesn’t get clear of the muzzle. If you’ve followed this cleaning technique properly, the patch should turn color to black.
Step 6: Remove the Copper Fouling
At this point, you’ll want to run a solvent patch and a dry patch up your gun’s bore. Then, use your borescope to examine the bore.
If you’ve followed the cleaning process described above, you shouldn’t see any copper residue. If there’s some residue left, you’ll want to repeat step 5.
What if you don’t have a borescope?
In that case, you can run a solvent patch up your rifle bore and allow it to sit for a few hours. Then, run a second patch through the bore. It should come out clean. If it doesn’t, repeat step 5.
…before you go, here are some pointers you need to know.
- Copper fouling varies from barrel to barrel. Generally, the more time you spend removing copper on a barrel, the smoother it will be.
- Avoid ammonia solvent. While this solvent works, you don’t want to leave it in your bore for more than 15 minutes lest it damages the bore.
- When you remove the bolt for cleaning use, use the Break Free solvent sparingly. Also, ensure the solvent doesn’t get close to the trigger guard. Further, use grease to lubricate the trigger instead of oil.
- Refer to the user manual before dismantling your gun. You want to ensure the cleaning process you want to follow can work for your rifle.
- Clean your gun in a well-ventilated area. Some cleaning products emit noxious fumes known to cause headaches, vomiting, and dizziness. You don’t want to be a victim.
- It would be best to wear gloves to avoid contact with bare metal and chemicals and residue.
- After cleaning, fire 2-3 shots to get all the cleaning fluid out of your barrel before you recheck your zero.
Take care of your gun, whether it is a hunting rifle, handgun, or shotgun. Clean it and inspect it regularly. That’s what a responsible firearm holder does. And, with the steps highlighted in this article, removing all the gunk stuck in your rifle barrel shouldn’t be a problem.
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