I AM ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT for a good used gun. Over the years I have found some truly marvelous old guns that were in fantastic condition. One thing, though, seemed to be consistently wrong with them. Almost without exception, they were so dirty that they simply could not shoot to their full potential.
One in particular was sold to me because it was "shot out," or so thought the previous owner. I bought it to use as a basis for a custom rifle. After I spent several days, off and on, cleaning the gunk out of the barrel, I found that it was practically new, mechanically.
Just last year I bought an old Remington Model 700 in .22-250. Again I was told that it was old and very used. Nope. I cleaned it up, took it to the bench, and shot a series of groups that would turn heads at a bench rest match. It was hardly used, at all. After I cleaned all the metal fouling out of the barrel it will consistently shoot three-shot groups of less than an inch.
So, since it seems that cleaning a gun is a lost art, what is the proper manner of cleaning Ol Thumper?
First you need a supply of cleaning patches of the proper size, preferably cotton, but certainly absorbent; brass brushes, also of the right size; a good cleaning rod, preferably one coated with some material to prevent picking up grit and ruining the barrel; some rags, old tee shirts will work; solvent for metal fouling and powder solvent, or something that does both at the same time, and high grade gun oil (not WD-40, which, according to a chemist friend of mine, can turn into a gummy mess over time. I use almost exclusively products by Birchwood Casey, but there are many quality products on the market); a good cleaning cradle of some kind; and if it is a bolt action, a bore guide that fits your rifles action; and last, a jag on which to put the patches.
If you are cleaning a gun from which you cannot remove the barrel or bolt, you must clean it from the muzzle. This is a poor way to do it, but is better than no cleaning at all. Placing a rag between the chamber and the action parts will catch most of the grit and gunk that comes out of the barrel.
If it is a break-action gun, like a side-by-side or over-under shotgun, you can remove the barrels from the action and clean both without difficulty.
A bolt action rifle or shotgun is cleaned by removing the bolt, inserting the rod guide into the action (a rod guide is not necessary with a shotgun), and then cleaning through the rod guide, thereby preventing the cleaning rod from rubbing against the side of the bore, which can cause it to be worn into an oval, which ruins accuracy.
Now for cleaning:
First dampen a patch with solvent, place it on the jag, and run it through the barrel. Let the solvent soak in for a few minutes and then repeat the process. I usually do this 3 times, but will continue if the barrel is especially dirty.
Next I run one dry patch through the barrel. After the dry patch, I replace the patch jag with a brass brush, dip the brush in the solvent, and brush the bore, thoroughly. I usually brush the bore both ways 5 times - that is 10 passes through the barrel with the brush. Then I replace the brush with the jag, dampen the jag with solvent, and run it through the bore, followed by a dry patch. If the dry patch comes out reasonably clean, I will run one more damp patch and one more dry patch through the barrel and call it good.
However, if the bore still shows signs of being dirty. I repeat the process from beginning to end until it is clean.
Metal fouling is another, more insidious problem. Some perfectly good barrels will be prone to collecting metal from the bullet jackets. I have a Pac Nor match grade barrel that for all appearances is perfect, but that metal fouls more than most. I must really work to get the fouling out of it. Heres how:
First get a solvent that will remove metal fouling. Most of them today will do this. I use Hoppes Number 9, and it works very well except in the most aggravated cases. If you prefer something else, thats fine, but make sure it will not damage the bore, as some more aggressive solvents can do.
First clean the barrel as described above. Next wet a patch with the solvent and scrub the barrel, again. Wait 10 minutes and repeat. Continue this until the patches quit coming out with the telltale blue stains. When the patch comes out clean, run two dry patches through the barrel, wipe the muzzle with a dry cloth, and stand the gun muzzle down on a cloth or towel somewhere to allow any excess solvent to run out. Do not leave the solvent in the barrel; it can cause damage, which can destroy accuracy. When you are satisfied, wipe off the external metal parts with a rag and a rust preventive lubricant. Birchwood Caseys Barricade is good, so is Rusteprufe, and I expect there are other good products on the market.
If this process does not get the job done, then you will need to learn Cleaning 201, but that is for another article.
There are many variations of the cleaning process, and you may find that some other method works best for you. I have found through many years of trial and effort that the above keeps my bores in great shape. I have rifles that I have been using for more than 40 years that are still bright and shiny, with the lands and grooves as crisp and sharp as the day they were made.
Just the other day I shot a few test groups through a Model 70 Winchester that I got as a graduation gift when I graduated from the Border Patrol Academy in 1980. It shoots better today than it did the day my brother, David, gave it to me.
Take care of your guns and they will, literally, last lifetimes.