One aspect of buying a brand new match grade rifle is correctly breaking in the barrel. When rifling is cut at the factory, there are very minor and microscopic flaws that are left behind by the cutting tools. This is a common occurrence and is easily mitigated by breaking in the barrel when brand new. If you elect to skip breaking in the barrel, the minor imperfections can accumulate jacket and powder fouling causing accuracy problems and prolonged cleaning procedures and possibly shortening barrel life.
This is the method I was taught for breaking in a brand new match grade rifle barrel, I am sure there are other sound techniques as well, but this one has proven to work well for me.
Anytime I run a cleaning rod down the bore on a bolt action rifle, I use a bore guide. This helps center the cleaning rod and lessens the chance of contact between the rod and bore. I also recommend a one-piece coated cleaning rod, or if you must use a cleaning rod that can be assembled, be sure it is coated in a solvent-resistant rubber or plastic coating. That way, if the cleaning rod does make contact with the bore, the coating will prevent metal on metal contact. Some folks use an uncoated brass rod, and while this is better than an uncoated steel rod, it is not as protective as the coated rod so go with the coated option. While cleaning the bore be sure to wipe off your cleaning rod every couple passes.
The first thing I do before shooting the brand new barrel is to clean it and run a clean mop soaked in isopropyl alcohol down the bore. The reason for this is all barrels have a bit of fouling and shipping/packing oil in them. This will remove any leftover fouling and oils. If the bore is really nasty, then you may need to run a brass brush and a few patches through it to get it clean, then the mop and alcohol down it to remove any oil and/or solvent.
Once you have the bore clean and dry, fire a single round downrange.
After your first round downrange remove the bolt and reinstall the bore guide. Using a brass brush and solvent, push the brush down the bore, if it is really nasty you may need to reapply solvent and push the brass brush down the bore again. Once you have brushed the bore, it is time to patch it. Remember, always clean from chamber to muzzle, never push the rod in from the muzzle. You do not want to risk damaging the crown or pushing all that fouling into the action.
Once you have brushed the bore, swap your brass brush in for a brass jag. I like the jag much better than the eyelet that comes with many cleaning kits. It does a better job cleaning the bore and is entirely covered by the patch. The eyelet has blind spots with the patch that will miss parts of the bore and some of that eyelet will be exposed to the bore. Remember when pushing any attachments through the bore, push all the way through in one complete stroke, never try to “scrub” the bore. Keep patching the bore until it is clean. Now you are ready to fire another round.
It is essential to clean the bore with a brass brush and patch after every round for the first ten rounds when beginning the break-in. The bullet moving through the bore will help wear away any of those minor imperfections, but those imperfections are also stripping away jacket material and holding fouling. If you shoot another round before cleaning it, you will just be building up jacket material and fouling. Once you have shot ten rounds and cleaned after every round, you should notice the patch is a bit easier to push through and less dirty than the first few times. Once you have gotten to here, shoot a few two-shot groups cleaning after every two shots. This is an excellent time to begin bore sighting and checking your dope if you have not already. After several two-shot groups, I will then start shooting three-shot groups, cleaning after every three shots. You should now also begin to be getting your scope or iron sights dialed in. On average It will take fifty to sixty rounds to break in your barrel. With quality barrels, it may not take as many, and if you are using this technique for mil-spec barrels, it may take more. You can judge your progress by how dirty the patches are between rounds or groups and how easy it is to push the patch down the bore as compared to the first time. Once you are completely done and have cleaned the barrel, you should push a mop or patch down the bore with a quality oil on it; this will add a fine film of oil to the bore and help prevent any corrosion. When you are ready to shoot again, run that mop with isopropyl alcohol on it to clean and dry the bore before you commence live fire and clean and reoil when you are done shooting for the day.
The rifle I am using is the Remington VSF in .220 Swift. This is a rifle I am reviewing and should have the review done in the next few weeks. While I do not have all the data yet, I can tell you I am at the end of the break-in procedure for the barrel and have easily gotten half-inch three-shot groups at a hundred yards with Hornady and Remington factory ammunition. The rifle is proving to be very reliable, quite accurate even with factory ammunition, and a lot of fun to shoot. As far as the .220 Swift, well, my friend Larry Case and I are bringing it back, as it is the king of speed and superior to the .22-250 in every aspect. For all the new cartridges that are being introduced, don’t overlook the old ones that still get the job done, often better with way more cool points that the new hotness.
You can read part two of the Remington 700 VSF .220 Swift by following this link.