Cleaning a Rifle

Cleaning a rifle

What’s the best way to clean a rifle, with what, and how often ? Those are questions frequently asked and, like so many others, the answer is, ‘it depends’.

Military rifles are designed with pretty lax tolerances in order to cope with fouling, adverse weather and infrequent cleaning. The days of chivalry being long gone, it’s not really an option on the modern battlefield to ask Johnny Foreigner if he wouldn’t mind taking a short break so one can pop a jag and several different concoctions of patent snake oil through a barrel to clean it before resuming hostilities. In many cases, if a quick squint through a barrel shows it to be clean then it is clean enough.

However, one aspect that should be considered is the use of military surplus ammunition that may contain corrosive primers. Though most western countries moved on to non-corrosive primers in the 1950s, the Russians and their allies stuck with corrosive, usually mercury fulminate based,  primers for what they consider to be very sound reasons: they are more reliable and don’t degrade with age and thus useful if you plan to mass produce ammunition and stockpile it until Doomsday. The residues these primers leave behind in a barrel are hygroscopic, that is, they attract and absorb moisture from the air and thus if not removed can quickly lead to pitting corrosion. Cleaning them out is quite easy: they are water soluble and so pouring a kettleful of boiling water through the barrel dissolves them away very rapidly. I use a funnel and a short length of plastic tube that can be inserted into the breech, then pour about 3 pints of boiling water through the barrel and allow it drain away. After a few minutes, when the barrel is virtually dry but still hot, I spray Forrest Bore Foam into the barrel from the breech and leave it to stand for about half an hour. After that one or, at the most, two pull throughs with a Viper boresnake has the barrel  has the bore mirror bright and dry. A final pull through with a drop of oil on a patch or the end of the boresnake is all thst is required before the rifle goes back into storage.

Modern sporting and target rifles are made to tighter tolerances and thus appreciate a regular clean to remove fouling. They don’t need the boiling water treatment but a squirt of Forrest Bore Foam and a pull through with a bore snake are usually all that is required to keep them in good order. If you want to take things further I’d recommend an occasional clean with an ammonia based solvent to dissolve away any accumulated copper fouling. There are plenty of proprietary solutions on the market for this, but a squirt of Mr Muscle glass or oven cleaner is just as good as most and far cheaper. For the Olympic class shots amongst you, I’d recommend C2R, the combined carbon and copper remover used and sold by Tim Stewart. He knows a thing or two about shooting and his solvent is the best out there ! It’s available from The Shooting Shed –

SC. Training Officer SPR&P Club