Bore Care & Basic Firearms Cleaning

Bore care starts with a few required basics, a good quality cleaning rod, cleaning solvent, a stiff non-metal cleaning brush, and a LOT of elbow grease!

Cleaning Rods,
You should always use a one piece cleaning rod. There isn't one single commercially available jointed cleaning rod I would use on my rifles.

Some people prefer plastic or nylon coated rods, others say the coating allows hard carbon and metal to imbed in the coating, putting the particles in position to scratch the bore.
Wiping the rod down with each stroke should put most fears to rest, and keeping the rod wiped down should be part of your cleaning practice to keep dirty cleaning solvent from getting everywhere.

Some people prefer aluminum rods, believing aluminum will not scratch the bore.
If the imbedded particle theory is correct, particles will imbed in the aluminum just as easily as Nylon, Teflon or high density polyethylene coatings.
Aluminum rods will also transfer aluminum to the bore & crown. The idea is to remove foreign substances from the bore, not apply aluminum to the bore.

Some people prefer highly polished stainless steel rods.
The idea here is the stainless is hard enough not to imbed or transfer to the barrel, and the polish job keeps it from scratching.

Personally, I have both coated and polished stainless, And I can't really tell if one is better (less damaging) than the other.

NEVER use a sectioned rod. The joints NEVER line up correctly, and will scratch, nick and metal transfer.
Section joints are hell on muzzle crowns, and don't do chamber forcing cones any good either.

Bore Guides...
Never stick a cleaning rod down the muzzle if you can clean from the chamber.
Rod wear on the muzzle crown will seriously affect accuracy.
If the rifle is made where you can't clean from the chamber (like some semi-auto and lever actions), purchase and use a muzzle bore guide.
They are cheap, live forever, and will save you hundreds of missed shots and a $100 recrown job.

Bore guides are normally inserted in the action of the rifle, and the barrel is cleaned from the breech or action end.
A good bore guide for a bolt rifle or AR-15 style rifle will run around $20.
A bore guide will keep the rod and attachments from scratching the receiver, chamber and barrel.
Many of the current bore guides help keep the mess to a minimum, let you use less solvent, and help keep you from ruining the finish on the dining room table!

Click on image for larger version.

This second set of guides are ones I made in a pinch when $$$ were running low...
I drilled through the primer hole of brass from the barrels I was wanting to clean, soldered to thin wall 1/2" steel tubing.
They are ugly, but they work well, protect the chamber well, and cost next to nothing, proving once again, you don't have to have cubic dollars to have the correct tools.

Click on image for larger version.

Brushes, Swags & Swabs...


Steel tipped 'anything' has no place in your barrel or action!
Brass or Bronze Swags & Swabs are OK. Aluminum & Plastic are OK. NEVER STEEL!

Stiff nylon brushes will actually clean your barrel faster than brass or bronze brushes.
Stiff Nylon cleans faster, won't scratch, keeps it's shape longer (and lasts longer), won't transfer metal to the barrel rifling, and won't be attacked by the bore cleaning solvents.
That's right! The bore cleaning solvents you use to attack the copper from bullet jackets attacks the brass & bronze.
Here are some brushes. I personally prefer brushes that are wound with brass or aluminum wire rather than steel. The top two brushes are for cleaning bores, and the bottom brush is for cleaning AR-15 chambers. The larger bristles in the rear are for cleaning the bolt to bolt locking lugs without using a seperate brush.

Click on image for larger version.

Swags or Jags are those little tips you use to push patches through the barrel with.
I normally use bronze jags. They last longer, and since there is always a patch around them when they travel the bore, the bronze never gets a chance to transfer to the barrel.
Plastic is fine, but I don't find them as durable, and if a patch is really tight, they want to bend too easily.

Click on image for larger version.

Swabs can either be those little tips with the 'eye' for patches to fit into, or they can be actual mop that looks like a brush, only with cotton or wool material instead of stiff bristles.
I don't recommend using metal of any kind for the 'eye' type swab (some are stamped metal, some are twisted wire, don't use either).
The metal is going to come into contact with the bore, and for that reason, plastic or Nylon is recommended.
Most people don't use actual bore mops, sized to fit the bore of the barrel they are cleaning.
Mostly because they are more expensive than patches, are cleaned instead of thrown away like patches, have to be sized for the bore you are cleaning and don't just pop up on those generic displays at the local wally-mart big-box stores.
Mops sizes for both the chamber, chamber throat, and barrel are a good idea.
I also keep some in sizes to do the receiver on AR-15 style rifles. (1 inch receiver diameter)

Click on image for larger version.

Bore 'Snakes'...
There is an alternative to the long fixed rods and assortment of several brushes, bore guides, ect.
I was first introduced to a 'Bore Snake' in the military. The steel cleaning rods were in sections, and as you can well imagine, they were hard on the chambers and bores, not to mention the damage they inflicted on the muzzle crown!
Bore snakes were much lighter, stored and travled much easier, and made things much more simple for field cleaning.
They don't take the place of a thorough bench cleaning, but they will keep you accurate in the field.

Click on image for larger version.

To use this little gadget, remove or lock back the bolt, drop the brass weight down the barrel, treat the head of the snake with solvent, and the tail with oil, and pull it through the bore.
There is a built in bronze brush on the beginning of the thick part of the snake, so I don't recommend ammonia based bore cleaner.
I do wish the manufactuer would put a screw thread end on the brass weight so I could attach an oil mop to that end...

Solvents & Oils...
There are several good bore solvents out there, and there will be more every day.
Bore cleaners are cheap (around $5 a bottle) so if you see one you want to try, have at it!
The cleaners that have worked best for me have ammonia (to attack the copper fouling) and are pretty hard on skin, so keep that in mind, and watch where you are dribbling.

I have people disagree with me all the time, but for my money you simply can't go wrong with the old military L.S.A. oil.
It's cheap, available in any army surplus store, and a little goes a long way.
I've used LSA on everything from brass black powder pistols to polymer framed semi-autos, from 19th century shotguns to 1,000 yard match rifles, from F. 100+ degree tropic and desert environments to F. -25 degree extreme cold weather, and I have yet to be disappointed with it.
It stinks, stains cloths, and will discolor untreated wood stocks.
It will also protect those same wood stocks right along with the firearm they are attached to...

If you want to use one of the commercially available 'Gun Oils', be my guest.
I've not heard about any that would ruin the firearms' finish for quite some time, and all should protect the finish, for at least a short period of time.
Any of the commercial oils should be tested on an unseen part of the wood or synthetic stock, just to make sure it's compatible with your stock.
Under the butt plate or in the barrel channel are two places you can test without being seen.

Remember, more oil doesn't mean it's protected better!
For internal parts of your action, oil lightly, and if you have drips, wipe them away.

NEVER use 'Penetrating Oils', (Such as WD-40).
These petroleum distillates are designed, and have additives to, remove grease, varnish, rust, ect., and they do a wonderful job of removing gun bluing, parkerizing (a type of metal finish on firearms), and in some cases, it removes gold leaf, silver and nickel plating, and will discolor case hardening, wood stocks and remove stock finishes.
I've even seen it soften and separate layers of laminated stocks and dissolve plastic stocks, and melt the foam core in composite stocks. A most expensive shortcut...
Gasoline, diesel fuel, MEK, Perk, ect will accomplish exactly the same thing, be a lot more dangerous, and in some cases, land you in jail or the hospital...

You Should Never...

Never Store a dirty firearm. Gunpower releases salts and acids when burned, and the carbon produced holds them against the metal of the firearm.

Never Use 'Penetrating Oil' to clean a firearm.
See Above.

Never Fail to IMMEDIATELY oil the bore and metal surfaces after cleaning.
Cleaning solvents strip all protection from the metal, and oxidation (rust) starts immediately.

Never Use improper tools to disassemble or assemble the firearm.
The fastest way to ruin accuracy, and sometimes the firearm it's self, is to use incorrect tools.
If you don't have the correct allen heads, sockets, wrenchs or screwdrivers, go get one to fit correctly and leave it in the gun cleaning kit.
The cost is negligible, and once purchased will probably never have to be replaced.

Never Use cleaning solvents, oils or metal treatments around furniture that will be affected by spills, or around people or pets that might be affected by toxic chemicals or fumes.
Some people have SEVERE allergies, and pets will 'taste test' anything they can get a tongue on.

Other Accessories

I prefer using a cleaning stand to hold the rifle and all of the stuff needed to clean correctly. I never seem to be able to grow that third arm, so a cleaning stand is a big help.
If you are handy with a jig saw and a screwdriver, you can build your own for next to nothing, or you can buy one of the commercially available models for $15 to $100, what ever fits into your budget.
Here are a couple of the commercially available models, both under $25.
This first one is pretty generic, and will hold just about any kind of long gun.
It has some storage for small parts, but I find the storage poorly designed. The firearm cradle works very well.

Click on image for larger version.

This little stand doubles well as a shooting stand, and is actually somewhat adjustable.
This stand has a compartment you can fill with sand or lead shot to add weight and stablize the stand.
No storage, but compact and very stable.

Click on image for larger version.

I think 'V' notches cut into a couple of hunks of 3/4" plywood and screwed to a 10" wide base will work as good as anything. You will just have to remember to use rags (or an old leather belt) between the firearm and the wood.
Until just a couple of years ago, I had my first stand. It was made out of a high school kids wood shop project book rack, and cost $0.50 at a yard sale.
The thing was designed to sit on a desk top hand hold books standing spine up, and after a couple of 'V' notches were cut into the uprights on both ends, it was perfect.

I have a favorite brush for the outside of my hardware that is kind of unconventional...
It's a bristle type shaving brush. Sounds stupid, works great!
The only problem I had with it was oil seeping out of it when it was not being used, and a quick sloution to that is a $0.25 plastic pill bottle from the pharmacy.
Take a look at the image below, and you'll figure it out pretty quickly.
A couple of small screws keep the cap attached to the brush head, and the child proof cap keeps the cap on the bottle.
It's great for getting into tight spaces, under optics mounts, inside trigger guards, ect.
It also proves once again you can build useful tools for next to nothing.

Click on image for larger version.

Once the firearm is seated solidly, it's time to start with actual cleaning...

Bore Care & Basic Firearms Cleaning