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Bernie Kuntz: Cleaning rifle bores Part II

Three or four years ago I moved each of my firearms, one at a time, to a cleaning table where I had my gun vise and my green gun pad set up for cleaning. It took me more than two weeks but I finally got them all cleaned to my satisfaction.

Much of my gun-cleaning gear comes from Sinclair International, formerly located in Indiana, but now, I believe, has relocated to Montezuma, Iowa. I bought a pair of Dewey coated cleaning rods, one in .22 caliber, one in .270 to go with a coated Parker-Hale from England in .30 caliber. (Never use an aluminum rod or a brass rod in a rifle bore as foreign particles on the rod can "lap" the rifling, ruining accuracy.) I learned that years ago from a fellow I met at the range. He is named Vinny, an Army veteran who used to like to jab me for being a Marine. "You shoot three-thousand dollar rifles and use ten-dollar cleaning rods. What the hell is wrong with you?" He had a point. I ordered the coated cleaning rods from Dewey.

Next, I ordered adjustable rod guides to fit all my rifles. These can be locked into place after the rifle bolt is removed, and they prevent solvents from dripping from the cleaning patch into the rifle's magazine box and lug area.

Last, at Vinny's insistence, I bought a stainless steel cleaning tool kit that included a lug recess tool and a chamber swab and handle. This ingenious device is used to clean rifle bolts. The lug recess tool is particularly clever. The slotted head takes a small, cotton cylindrically-shaped swab that will clean the raceway of the bolt in a single pass. It fits into all the lug areas of all my rifles—Mark V Weatherbys, Winchester Model 70s, Sakos... After passing it through the raceway and into the lug area, simply spin the device half dozen times clockwise and pull it out.

You'll be shocked at how much dirty solvent, partially dissolved brass filings and the like that comes out on the swab. Wet it with solvent the first pass, run a dry swab through a second time to remove all but a trace of solvent.

Before I owned this tool I struggled with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners—even worn out dental tools and patches—to clean the lug area. Nothing worked very well.

Another important cleaning item is simply a gun vise. I got mine decades ago from Midway. Set on a sturdy folding table or workbench, it holds the rifle steady while you are cleaning the bore.

Here's how I do it: Run a properly-sized patch soaked in Hoppe's No. 9 or Shooters Choice through the bore, followed by a dry patch, another wet patch, finally a second dry patch. (I like slotted brass loops to hold the patch—not jags, which allow the patch to fall off.)

The next step can vary. For years I used a brass brush to loosen fouling and powder residue. I also used an abrasive paste called J-B Compound. Both work fine. Then about 25 years ago I tried an ammonia based solvent from Australia called Sweet's 7.62. It stinks to high heaven but dissolves copper wash very nicely. I also have tried ammonia based solvents like Barnes CR-10, Shooters Choice Copper Remover, and Hoppe's Benchrest. They all seem to work OK but I still prefer Sweet's 7.62.

Run a wet patch of Sweet's all the way through the bore, re-soak it when the patch pops out the muzzle. Then pull it back into the bore and scrub to and fro. Remove the cleaning rod and patch from the breech. Allow the stuff to soak for ten minutes before running another regular solvent-soaked patch through the bore. It probably will come out black/green. Repeat this process, alternating ammonia solvent, regular solvent and dry patches until the patch comes out relatively clean. I keep rifle bores in display cases or gun safe fairly dry so I don't have solvents creeping down the bore and into the action. Also, it helps to keep a kitchen waste basket on the floor and lined with a plastic garbage bag. Keep your rifle muzzle over the waste basket and it will catch the drops of solvent when you push the rod through the bore. Otherwise, you'll have dirty solvent all over your floor. Keep your windows wide open for ventilation.

Back to gun-cleaning: As a final step, brush the bolt face with an old toothbrush, removing any brass particles, dirt, grass, etc. Wipe down the exterior metal of the rifle with a rag lightly dabbed with Hoppe's MDL (Moisture Displacing Lubricant) or a similar rust preventative.

You now have a clean rifle!