Whether your rifle is brand new or passed down through several generations, regular and proper cleaning is imperative to keep it in good shape and shooting accurately for hunting seasons to come. It all starts with the right tools and a solid understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish.
When you fire a rifle, burnt gunpowder and residue from the bullet will accumulate in spiral grooves in the barrel called the rifling. These grooves make the projectile spin, which means any moisture and debris that sneaks in during the process of hunting or shooting can negatively affect accuracy. This can lead to rust, fouling, and ultimately a continuous drop in performance as the rifling degrades. It’s a good idea to clean your rifle barrel after every time you shoot. It doesn’t take much time and it can do wonders to extend the life of your gun.
The tools are relatively simple as well. You’ll need: a cleaning rod, a caliber-specific nylon or copper bore brush and bore jag, a nylon bristle brush, a bore guide, clean cotton swabs, bore solvent, and a few Q-tips. A good gun vise is very helpful for keeping your gun stable and secure, but you can get away with using the same sandbags you use at the range for support.
Before you begin the cleaning process, make sure the rifle is unloaded by taking a look in the chamber and the magazine. Run your finger through once or twice to physically confirm that there are no cartridges present.
The rifle I’m cleaning in the video is a Weatherby Vanguard MeatEater Special Edition chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The bolt release button is on the opposite side from the bolt handle. On some rifles it’s inside the trigger guard, so consult your owner’s manual to make sure.
Once you’ve removed the bolt, insert the bore guide in its place and lock it down. The bore guide is meant to direct your cleaning rod and bore brush and protect the lands, the important point where the rifling grooves begin, so you don’t damage them with a wire brush or metal jag.
The first step to actual barrel cleaning it to push a patch completely soaked in bore solvent down the barrel with the jag. Here’s a cool tip: Keep a small glass container in your cleaning kit with a dozen patches inside. When you apply solvent to a patch, pour it over the container. That way you won’t waste solvent and you’ll always have soaked patches ready to go.
The first pass with the solvent-soaked patch will begin loosening the fouling within your barrel, as well as pushing out any debris. Stick the patch on the pointy end of the jag, soak it in solvent, and push it through the bore guide and the barrel with steady pressure. Make sure to wipe away any drips of solvent that might fall on your gun stock because it can eat through the finish.
With your first few passes through the barrel you’ll likely see both black and blue fouling on the patch. The blue is from copper residue reacting to the solvent, while the black is just powder fouling. As you clean, both colors will start to go away.
Next, screw your bristle bore brush into the cleaning rod, coat it with solvent, and run it back and forth through the barrel. I usually do about a dozen strokes and finish on the out-stroke so I’m pushing everything out of the barrel. Unscrew the brush and pull the rod back out. It can be helpful to occasionally run a paper towel over the rod and brush to remove solvent and fouling.
I repeat those two steps—pushing a jag with a patch, then bristle bore brush—again and again until the patches start coming out without much or any fouling. This might take a little while, but you’ll get to the point where you’re only getting light streaks of powder fouling. You can spend hours trying to clean every last grain of powder out of the rifling, but I’m not that particular these days. After 10 or 20 patches, I’m usually feeling pretty good about it. When you’re satisfied that you have it pretty darn clean, push through one or two dry patches to get rid of any solvent left in the barrel.
Taking a few minutes to clean powder out of your barrel—as well as moisture and any debris that might have snuck in while hunting in the mountains—will make your rifle shoot more accurately and last longer. It doesn’t take much time and can quickly become a vital part of your shooting and hunting routine.