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Managing Bore Conditions For Ultimate Performance

Most of us who consider ourselves serious shooters no matter the discipline can usually agree on one thing….we just cannot get enough time at the range! There is nothing better than getting out to the range and blowing off some steam target shooting. I know I look forward all week to getting out with friends and family getting some practice in and working on becoming a better marksman. Shooting for me is my favorite way to relax and not think about anything else but putting a round on target. That’s why nothing is worse than getting out to the range and having one of those “bad” range days. Those days that seem like you just cannot make hits on anything, groups just plain suck, or you find yourself spending more time clearing jams than actual shooting. Often I have found a lot of my “bad” range days stem from my own neglect of my guns. For me, one of the biggest things I’ve found that keep the range gremlins away has been keeping my firearms in a fairly clean state and ready to go at a moment’s notice just in case I’m able to squeeze in that last minute range trip at a moment’s notice. By keeping my cleaning fairly regular, I can make sure my limited time at the range is spend actually shooting and not diagnosing rifle problems.

I know there are a many people out there that that swear they have rifles that shoot better groups when dirty, or that consider it bad juju or almost blasphemous to clean a rifle believing that it might, “never shoot again!”, or “it wears your barrel out”. I’m not saying that this is wrong I just know that personally I have never found this to be the case with any of my rifles. I have witnessed personally where accuracy appears to be only so-so on a clean rifle and really start to shoot great after a couple of “fouling” shots. This perceived increase in accuracy is actually due to copper deposits being left on the microscopic imperfections inside your barrel’s bore which create a very uniform bore surface which can be conducive to improved accuracy. I believe this has led many people to believe that cleaning a gun hurts accuracy and their guns “shoot better dirty”, however this accuracy improvement after cleaning is not an ongoing process and your gun doesn’t just get to a point of shooting ½ MOA groups if you refrain from cleaning your guns long enough. Eventually your barrel reaches a point where the barrel will pick up enough copper that it can start to degrade accuracy and it’s time to get a good scrub in. Since most of my shooting is over long range I shoot over a chronograph fairly regularly to monitor my bullet velocities are consistent enough to make hits at longer ranges. I’ve found that for my rifle the tipping point of “copper equilibrium” ends at about 150-200 rounds. At 150 rounds I’ve noticed that my velocities start to get a little weird. I will start to see my average velocities change and the extreme spread from shot to shot get wider and my groups will start to open up. This is a sign that I need to clean my rifles after which everything usually goes back to normal.

My personal philosophy when it comes to cleaning my hunting and match rifles is that I’m not trying to remove all traces of fouling in the bore to a like “new” mirror finish. For me, I don’t need to have every last bit of fouling out of my bore since my barrel is really only clean for the first shot when I get to the range. Besides, cleaning every last bit of fouling takes a lot of hard scrubbing with a cleaning rod increasing the chances that I may damage my chamber or crown or that I use harsh chemicals that can chemically etch the bore of my barrels. I would rather shoot out a barrel than screw it up trying to clean it. That is why when I clean my barrels I always make sure to use a bore guide to help keep my cleaning rod, brushes, and cleaning jags centered in the bore and minimize risk from my often ham handed technique. I also use nylon brushes since they are chemical resistant and seem to hold up pretty well and since they are obviously a softer material than the barrel steel will not scratch my bore. Cleaning techniques in the shooting communities are almost as individual as the shooters that use them and when I first started researching into how to take care of an aftermarket barrel I could not nail down much definitive information on what was the best approach. The way I clean is to first run a few patches soaked with solvent to remove the bulk of the loose carbon and copper out of the bore until I can start to see the patches starting to get cleaner. From this point I know that I can run a brush soaked with solvent to get the last smaller stubborn bits. I usually follow this up with a few more soaked patches with some gun oil to get the last of the fouling out and to just get a little bit of corrosion protection. This may seem like a slow process or overly complicated but what I’m trying to accomplish is to keep debris loosened from cleaning small and hopefully soaked with solvent where it does not dig into the bore as I’m running my cleaning rod. By cleaning in this manner it has helped me keep a consistent bore condition and minimize my risk for self-induced damage to my rifles bore.

I’ve employed this method on both my hunting and match rifles since it has seemed to work for me very well. I’m by no means trying to imply that this is the best way either, I don’t think there is any wrong way to clean a barrel as long and you are taking steps to minimize accidental damage. As with most everything in shooting consistency is key and I don’t believe that consistency can be maintained when your rifles bore is constantly changing with thick layers of carbon and copper fouling. Influence from a dirty barrel also may not be obvious shooting at shorter ranges. For my long range discipline it is imperative to keep a routine cleaning regimen and this has been what I consider to be the most pragmatic approach to cleaning and bore maintenance. It has allowed me to keep my rifle’s bore in fairly consistent state which has led to more consistent velocities and better accuracy and better overall smoother function in my rifles. Most importantly it has reduced my “bad” days at the range, given me more time to enjoy shooting, and ultimately helping me become a better shooter and isn’t that what we’re all striving for to begin with?

Lance Olsen