Cleaning is not
in itself a bad thing, but there is no bore guide I have seen on the
market yet that actually keeps the rod off of the throat, and this is
where the main damage occurs from cleaning. Most folks cannot, or do not,
conceptualize what happens when the rod strokes the barrel and are lured
into a false sense of security when they buy some gizmo rod guide that
does absolutely nothing to keep the rod off of the lands at the throat. I
would like to see the first such rod guide that does and would welcome
discovering one that did.
While a heavy build up of copper does cause problems with accuracy,
my concern is that it has become vogue to scrub the heck out of barrels and do
more long term damage with the cleaning rod than is helped by the cleaning.
There are many schools of thought on maintaining barrels. One
person I know who shoots almost every day of his life NEVER does any kind of
copper removal. He just runs a bore snake through his many barrels to keep them
from rusting. This fellow is routinely zapping groundhogs and coyotes at 400
yards and beyond with his Contenders. Go figure.
If he gets a barrel that fouls badly, he will sit and run several
hundred rounds through it WITH NO CLEANING AT ALL!
While I choke at the thought of it, I also cringe at the damage I
see done by cleaning rods. Which is worse?
No matter what the finish is inside the barrel as it arrives, with
shooting its interior finish will stabilize at whatever finish shooting
produces. I.e., rough barrels smooth up. Super slick barrels get rougher.
The objective to breaking in a barrel, ultimately, is to get it
roughed up or smoothed down inside without "coining" the inside of the barrel
from bullets overriding clumps of copper attached inside. But no matter the
barrel, and no matter what you do, there will be copper attached inside with the
very first shot, and even after doing a shoot and clean regimen for a hundred
rounds, there will still be some copper inside the barrel. So it is a question
of degrees of coining that occurs.
While perfection may be the goal, and one may get sterling results
with generous cleaning, has he really gained anything measurable? And what did
it cost him in terms of time and money that could be better spent on other
Take another individual as
an example, Don Bower. When Don and I put on a long range shooting clinic at
Claremore, OK in '99, I packed up all my cleaning gear and figured with all the
shooting for extreme accuracy at long range that I would be cleaning the heck
out of my barrels. Wrong. In three days of shooting I don't recall any cleaning,
at least nothing that would indicate any kind of regimen. Don simply SHOOTS.
And, he and his students shoot some mighty impressive groups at extremely long
ranges. For him, shooting does not even begin
until the distance is at least 500 yards!
Another case in point, and while it is a small case, when I shoot
my .22 K-Hornet on prairie dogs, a typical day was (it's been several years now)
AT LEAST 250 rounds. This barrel was a "junker" that was too rough inside to
sell, a more extreme case than most people will ever encounter. It fouled like
the devil to start with, but with use, it rather quickly got to the point where
you could look into the barrel at the end of the day's shooting, and the entire
circumference at the muzzle was black with virtually no trace of visible copper
at all. AND... it has zapped a lot of prairie dogs at distances way beyond what
a K-Hornet is supposed to.
Am I recommending that you go out with a $4-500 barrel and never
clean it? No way! I DO recommend judicious cleaning, BUT at the same time I am
trying to temper the reasoning of perhaps thousands of people I have talked to
at gun shows, the phone, and on the internet over the years who scrub the
daylights out of barrels and ruin them quicker than if they did more shooting
and about a fourth the cleaning.
As for a cleaning regimen, pick one from one of the barrel
manufacturers if you want, which is more like shoot one and clean for 5 or 10
rounds, then shoot about three for the next 50 rounds, then shoot no more than 5
or 10 rounds for the next 100. After that, for shooting the tightest groups
possible, perhaps clean every 20 rounds, but I would test it to see IF the
cleaning is actually benefiting group size and by how much. If this is your
goal, then I would also present to you that you need to apply many, many other
benchrest techniques lest your work be an effort in futility. I.e., standard
loading dies, presses, and chambers will only permit a certain level of
accuracy. So, for example, you need to dive into the realm of tight
chamber necks, turned case necks, inline size and seat dies, etc... we
just eliminated at least 95% of the shooters who would not be bothered
with this. But excessive cleaning is not the substitute for precision
chambers and ammo.
barrels routinely here at the shop where I shoot and clean and lap, shoot, and
clean, I see the copper that remains in even the finest Hart and Shilen lapped
barrels and can see what it actually takes to get it out. It takes an excessive
amount of cleaning to actually get it out, even with copper removers and
soaking. So what is your goal? To spend your life cleaning barrels or shooting?
If you get that much of a kick out of stroking barrels, come on up here and you
can clean all my barrels for me for free! I won't charge you a thing for it, and
you won't even have any ammo or barrel expenses!
What I am suggesting is to keep things in perspective and don't get