Don’t laugh. One of my favorite parts about shooting precision rifle competitions is cleaning my rifle in the hotel or my house the morning after. I guess it helps me to connect with the gun and, care for it, protect it and get it ready for the next range session or PRS comp. Although there are some people that clean gun after every use, I usually only clean my rifle every 200 shots, so after every racegun competition.
But it’s not just my strange emotional attachment to my precision rifle that leads me to give it a after shoot bath. It’s also reassurance that, come the next shoot, no carbon buildup, powder residue or gunky oil is going to lead to light strikes or failures to fire. Proper rifle cleaning and maintenance will also prolong your rifle barrel life.
I’ve developed a pretty simple system for fast cleanup jobs that any hunter or shooter can use. But there is a disclaimer: Don’t perform a complete rifle teardown unless you must, like taking it out of the chassis or stock, and bolt and trigger disassembly I only do if there were specific instances that got dirt or gun in there. Stuff like shooting in rain, mud or snow.
My rule of thumb is to always shoot a practice range session or zero confirmation between a cleaning session and a shoot, just to make sure everything is functioning properly and to give the barrel it’s first and inevitable fouling to ensure consistent shooting thereafter.
Step 1 – Partial Tear Down
Depending on what kind of rifle you shoot, just break the gun down into its primary parts, so take off muzzle brake, take out the bolt. If it has been ages since you have done so, you can also take the stock or chassis off the rifle barreled action, but make sure you have a good gun torque wrench to put it all back together with when done.
Step 2 – Degrease
I use an aerosol powder solvent or de-greaser designed for firearms to clean areas with heavy buildup like inside the chamber, inside the bolt firing pin hole. If spraying into your trigger mechanism, make sure the trigger likes some lubrication if the aerosol leaves a residue, or if the trigger manufacturer recommend no oil or residue like a Bix’n Andy, then make sure to use only a fully evaporating aerosol cleaner like brake or carb cleaner that does not leave any residue.
My main priorities are the barrel, chamber, bolt, trigger and any areas with significant carbon build up like the muzzle.
Step 3 – Soak the Barrel
Use a cleaning rod with a jag on the front, put a patch on the swab and put some CLR on the patch, then slowly run it through the barrel. Repeat this with wet patches around 5 times.
Then you leave your barrel with wet CLR soaking inside it to loosen the carbon in the barrel and the lands. Go drink some coffee or clean your bolt, whatever, just leave it for at least 20 minutes. If you had carbon buildup problems in the throat of your barrel like carbon donuts / carbon rings, you can leave the wet CLR in there for an hour or more, and repeat this process two to three times.
Step 4 – Scrub the Barrel
Now put a nylon or copper brush on the front of your rod, and push it through your barrel a few times. Basically pushing it forward through your barrel and pulling it back, do this back and forth around 10 times to nicely loosen the carbon buildup that has now soaked from the CLR.
Step 5 – Polish and dry the Barrel
Now you put your jag back on your rod, then push a clean dry patch through your barrel. Keep going until the patches come out clean.
Step 6 – Wipe and Assemble
Finish with a visual inspection of the entire gun. Wipe with a cloth and spray with the aerosol cleaner where needed, and apply a thin coat of lube like Eezox to the exterior surfaces, and put apply small dabs of HP grease to the back of the bolt lugs and any other areas where there is metal on metal friction of the bolt and action, only small dabs with a toothpick will do. Tighten up any screws or hardware, and reassemble the rifle.
Take a minute to open and close the action, shoulder the gun, make a few dry-fires on imaginary targets to make sure everything feels right and is smooth.
Thanks to this gun cleaning 101, you now have a clean rifle, ready for your next range session. Remember, you do not have to clean gun after every use, but the more often you clean it, the less effort is required to get the carbon out of the barrel with every clean. Ensure to only use the best gun cleaning products for your precision rifle.