When it comes to cleaning a precision rifle, unfortunately, the trend seems to be that people get way more carried away with it than is actually necessary. This movement can probably trace it roots to the military, where weapons are continually broken down after every firing session, cleaned to a spotless state, and reassembled for use. There’s nothing wrong with that and I’m not going to fault our Armed Services for teaching our troops to keep their weapons clean. However, we’re talking about two different things here. High rate and volume of fire with a less accurate weapon system versus low rate of fire and volume on a highly accurate weapons platform.
Cleaning a Precision Rifle Too Much!
Just don’t do it. That’s the take away message here. Unless you are going through a shoot school, or teaching one, or in a war zone where you are literally burning up several hundred rounds a day over a period of days in a row, it isn’t necessary. Bolt action rifles are extremely reliable and have to be really gunked and gummed up to the extreme before you will experience issues with feeding or extraction and ejection.
The principle concern on a precision rifle with regards to the weapon being dirty is the effect the dirty gun can have on the accuracy of the rifle. That’s what everyone worries about. Unfortunately, its like worrying about alien abduction, lots of people worry about it way more than they should.
Cleaning a Precision Rifle – The Process
This is the part everyone wants to know, exactly what are the steps. Having read many posts and discussions written by people far more knowledgeable than myself with regard to how barrels break in and wear out, this is what I do. Use some WipeOut foam or some Butch’s Bore Shine. I run a few patches wet through the chamber and down the barrel. When I say a few, probably a half dozen maximum. I’m just looking at how dirty the first patch comes out, and then how dirty the subsequent patches are. When I notice the gunk coming out the other end has dropped off, and that’s usually within about three or four patches, I’m done with the wet patches.
Next I’ll run some dry patches through just to wipe down the chamber and the inside of the bore. The main objective on the chamber end is getting anything wet and slick out of the chamber so the brass is able to expand and stick to the chamber wall. On the barrel end maybe it will catch just a touch more dirt or grit as the dry patches slip through the barrel. That’s really about it for the process that I use. Some people will use lots of solvents and a half package of patches on the gun. All you are doing is using abrasive chemicals on your barrel and prematurely wearing things out. There isn’t a huge buildup of carbon or grime in the barrels to begin with, so it doesn’t take a lot to remove it. Go easy!
Cleaning a Precision Rifle – Frequency
This is the next often debated part of the discussion on cleaning a precision rifle. How often should you clean it? I’ve literally put hundreds of rounds, from 500-700, through the barrel of different precision rifles I own without any degradation in accuracy. The easy rule of thumb is clean the barrel when you start to see issues with the accuracy. Personally I’d prefer not to reach that point in the middle of a match and have to suffer the consequences. So what I do is I will clean the gun up a bit when I notice accuracy decline, or if its been around 300 rounds since the last time I cleaned it up.
This way I know if I haven’t cleaned the rifle in around 300 rounds I can realistically double that round count and not see any accuracy degradation. That would be my suggestion for you guys reading this. Find the point where the rifle loses accuracy, halve that round count, and that’s when you clean the rifle if you haven’t already. This way if you don’t get to it or you don’t have time to clean and check zero before a match you can get through the match’s course of fire without landing on the magic point where the accuracy starts to drop off when it matters most.
Wrapping Up Cleaning a Precision Rifle
Less is more guys. Just keep that in mind, you aren’t running belts of ammunition on full auto through your bolt gun. It doesn’t need to be religiously clean as a whistle to function properly. Just run a couple patches with your favorite solvent through it to break things up. Follow that up with a few dry patches and call it good. Don’t forget to fire a few rounds through it and verify your zero afterwards. A clean bore and a fouled bore will often have different points of impact! As always if you have questions or comments leave us one below!