How to properly clean your rifle.

I have a very particular way of cleaning my rifle, which an old-school bench-rest shooter taught me. Some may think this is a bit overkill or outdated, but I can tell you it has worked well for me for decades.

All the tools you use need to be made of a material that is softer than the steel the barrel is made of, such as brass, aluminum, copper, or plastic. That way, if one of your tools inadvertently comes in contact with the rifle bore, there will be far less risk of scarring.

Be sure the rifle is unloaded, and there is no live ammunition in proximity.

I like to start off after ensuring the rifle is unloaded is securing it in a cleaning cradle. This makes it quite a bit easier to access and clean the rifle.

For bolt action rifles, I strongly recommend using a bore guide. This tool is made of aluminum and takes the place of the rifle bolt during cleaning. The bore guide centers your cleaning rod as you enter the more. This will lessen the chance of the cleaning rod touching the bore during brushing or patching. Another function is the bore guide to prevent excess solvents from dripping into the trigger group. Elevate the butt of the rifle higher than the muzzle to keep any solvent from running back into the trigger.

For brushing the bore, pick your favorite solvents, such as Hoppes 9 or Butch’s Bore Shine, and a copper, brass, or plastic bore brush designed for your caliber rifle. These are .22 caliber for cleaning any .22 caliber rifle such as a .220 Swift. As for your cleaning rod, I prefer a one-piece carbon fiber rod for its strength and the handle on bearings so it will spin with the lands during brushing and patching. If you must use a steel rod, be sure it is coated with plastic.

I will pour my solvent into a separate container to prevent it from contaminating the solvent in the original container. Dip the brush into the solvent and brush the bore with a single stroke in and out. Be sure the brush exits the barrel before you pull it back through. Do not attempt to scrub the bore while you are brushing. Wipe your cleaning rod after each stroke to wipe away any solvent or fouling the rod picked up. Brush the bore ten to fifteen times, keeping the brush damp with solvent. You may require more brushing than this if you have neglected your rifle. Let the solvent set in for fifteen or twenty minutes before you patch the bore.

The next tool is a brass jag, which I prefer over the old-style eyelet. Using a tight patch affixed to the jag, brush the bore again, watching for the patch to exit the muzzle and drop off. Again, do not attempt to scrub the bore with the tight patch. Don’t forget to wipe your cleaning rod after each stroke. You will want to look over the patches as it exits the muzzle.

Green on the patch is copper fouling and black is powder fouling. Continue to patch the bore until the patches come out clean and dry.

At this point, I usually switch back to my brush, brush the bore a few more times, and then repatch, watching the patches become clean and dry.

Once you are satisfied that the bore is clean, use a lightly oiled mop pushed all the way through the bore to coat it with a light film of oil.

I use a 12ga shotgun bore brush and a light coating of solvent to clean the action where the bolt would be. Once that is brushed and the solvent has sat for some time, I wipe the area down well with a clean rag or paper towel.

For any areas that need special attention, use a brass brush and solvent to clear any fouling, paying particular attention to the bolt. Be sure to get around the locking lugs and bolt face. Any areas that have been brushed need to be wiped down and a light coat of oil wiped on.

I understand this may seem a bit redundant and overkill, but I believe this is a solid method for basic rifle cleaning. I prefer this over the bore snake, as once you have pulled the bore snake through the bore once, it is contaminated. Pulling it through again will risk reintroducing any fouling back into the bore. That is why I prefer using a new, clean patch after each stroke. That also allows you to monitor the amount of fouling left. Cleaning is an excellent time to inspect your rifle.  While I used a bolt action rifle for this article and video the techniques can be used to clean about any other rifle. When possible brush from chamber to muzzle, keeping any solvents from running back into the action or trigger group.

All of this text is to supplement or clear up any questions from the video.

By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *