firearm cleaning

firearm cleaning

Advocate – Baton Rouge, La.

Date: Oct 19, 2000
Start Page: 14.C
Section: Outdoors


Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series about adjustments and care of a rifle to maintain or better accuracy.

Have a rifle?

Want it to shoot better?

Better yet, do you want it to shoot straight? On every shot?

What hunter doesn’t?

Like all other relationships you develop on hunts – and in life – there’s nothing like making a good first impression.

And, that’s something you have to do with your rifle, too.

In addition to checking out sights, trigger pull and overall workings of a rifle, gunsmith David Reynerson said accurate shooting depends on how you treat the barrel, especially if you’re using a new rifle for the upcoming deer season.

Reynerson uses several brands of replacement barrels for his customers. Shilen Barrels is among them.

“Shilen is a high quality barrel, but no matter how good it is, we all have to understand that rifling a barrel means the cutting tool isn’t slicing through the metal, it’s tearing it,” Reynerson explained.

When a bullet goes through the barrel, the nicks inside the barrel leave scars on the bullet, small gouges that can make the difference in down-range accuracy.


“If you look at the riflings through a microscope – riflings are the series of twists in the barrel that spin the bullet to make it more accurate – you’ll see jagged edges,” Reynerson said. “What you have to do is remove those jagged edges.”To do that, Shilen’s experts recommend cleaning, break-in and maintenance regimens for barrels.

The break-in steps include: For the first 5 shots, clean the barrel after each shot; For the next 50 shots, clean the barrel after each 5-shot group; For accuracy purposes, the barrel is now “broken in;” To maintain the quality and accuracy of the barrel, clean the barrel at least every 20 shots, but more often is preferred.

Shilen’s “cleaning the barrel” instructions are a more complicated process than what most hunters go through to clean a hunting firearm.

To properly clean a barrel, Shilen’s technicians recommend “using a plastic-coated cleaning rod, a bronze brush, flannel patches and a quality bore solvent.”"Saturate the brush with solvent and make 20 passes (10 cycles) through the barrel. Let the solvent soak in the barrel for 10 minutes, then saturate the brush again with solvent and make 20 more passes through the barrel. Then, push 3 patches through the barrel to remove excess solvent and loosen fouling.”Reynerson said “fouling” refers to the copper and lead residue left by the bullet in the barrel. The copper and lead must be removed.

“What this entire process does is smooth down the surfaces in the rifling … removing the jagged edges on the rifling,” he said. “This process takes time, but it’s worth it for the benefits it gives you at the target.”The problem for most hunters is this process takes a long time. Firing five shots, then working the brush, and sitting the rifle for 10 minutes could take as long as an hour and a half to complete Shilen’s recommended first step. And, as every good shooter knows, firing 50 shots through a rifle means spending a couple of days (or more) at a range just to break-in the barrel.

“It’s what bench-rest shooters do now,” Reynerson said. “And what they do takes about 10 years to get back to the rest of the shooters. What the bench-rest shooters are doing now will be what all good shooters will do in 10 years.”Bench-rest shooters, the men and women who strive for dead-on, dead-center accuracy on every shot have taught the shooting world about copper fouling, and how costly an excess of this metal in the barrel can affect the bullet’s flight.

The bench-rest folks believe in cleaning the barrel after every five shots – not every 20 – to maintain first-rate accuracy.


“We get rifles in our shop with so much copper in the barrel that we have to block an end of the barrel, fill it with solvent and let it soak overnight,” Reynerson said. “When it gets that bad, it will affect accuracy.”"It’s much easier to clean the copper after a few shots,” he said.

The copper on the riflings is coming from the bullet’s jackets, and the heat and gas when a bullet is fired is almost like burnishing copper on the inside of the barrel.


For Warranty Repair or to order guns and accessories, go to or call 225-261-4860.