How to Clean a Rifle in 10 Easy Steps: An Illustrated Guide
by PJ DelHomme
Why clean your rifle? Quite simply, a clean rifle is an accurate rifle. Each time you touch off a round, tiny deposits of copper and lead from the bullets are left behind in the rifle’s bore—not to mention gunpowder residue. If left unchecked, those deposits can cause pitting, which is essentially corrosion. Over time, this corrosion will cause your shot to land just about anywhere—except where you’re aiming.
So, clean your rifle. It’s not hard, time consuming or expensive. Start-up costs are about $100 for basic cleaning supplies and gear. In this illustrated guide, we’re going to walk you through the basics of cleaning your barrel, which takes about an hour. Besides, it gives you an excuse to hang out in the quiet of the garage after dinner.
Supplies to Clean Your Rifle
- Cleaning rod
- Jag—holds the patch on the end of the rod
- Brass bore brush—scrubs all that copper out of the barrel
- Cloth patches
- Wire brush to clean the tiny crevices in the bolt
- Bore guide—keeps the cleaning rod from hitting and gouging the inside of the barrel
- Bore-cleaning solvent—loosens copper, powder residue and other nasties that, when left in your rifle, will ruin accuracy.
- Secure gun cradle or padded vise
10 Steps to Clean Your Rifle
1. Make sure the rifle is unloaded, and remove the bolt.
2. Place the rifle in a vise or cleaning cradle and lay a rag over the comb.
3. Soak a patch in bore solvent, place it on the jag, and run it through the barrel to coat it. Don’t pull it back through. Remove the patch at the muzzle.
4. Soak a brass brush in solvent and then run it from the breech out the end of the muzzle, making sure the brush goes all the way out of the barrel. Only then should you pull it back toward you. Do this 10 times.
5. Run dry patches from breech end to muzzle, removing with each pass. Do this until the patch comes out clean—or at least darn close.
6. Finish by running one more patch with oil or lube through the barrel.
7. Don’t forget to clean the chamber, which will catch the bore gunk from your brush during cleaning. Do this by gently spinning a clean patch or Q-tip around the chamber. Do the same with a lightly oiled patch. A little oil goes a very long way.
8. Clean the bolt with a wire brush and lightly oiled Q-tip as well.
9. With the bolt still removed, I look down the barrel as I point the heel of the buttstock toward a light source. I like to see those glistening grooves and lands from muzzle to chamber. If I see any debris, I’ll repeat steps five and six until glistening.
10. Before you head out to hunt, send one or two bullets downrange to “foul” the bore and ensure zero.