HOWTO: How to clean a rifle (solvents, equipment, method)


After you get your first rifle, it’s important to clean it - DO NOT shoot a brand new gun or any gun that you are unsure of before it has been cleaned.

For most part, cleaning a rifle is no different to cleaning any other mechanical machine. No more, no less. Remove the dirt, wipe with oil, maybe lubricate. The end.

With firearms it is a very contentious issue and if you ask 5 people for advice, you’ll get 15 opinion. Some are excellent, vast majority however is just folklore and stupidity, based in nothing more than imagination.

Essentially, there are three ways to think about it cleaning a rifle…

  1. Practical. I shot my gun, I cleaned my gun, I am going to put it away and I know it won’t rust.
  2. Field clean. I am hunting, it’s raining and I stuck the muzzle in the dirt. It needs a quick clean before I I can shoot it again.
  3. Competitive shooting. These people are what you could consider ‘on the spectrum’ (sorry @sungazer) and big time OCD (again, sorry @sungazer lol)! 99% of the time, 99% of shooters don’t really need this approach. F class shooters of course look for competitive advantage and will chase 1%, assuming everyone is on 99%.

So, rather than giving you my opinion, I found a few videos that I think are amazing and teach you everything you need to know about:

  1. Cleaning solvents
  2. About firearm cleaning
  3. About firearm lubrication.

The presenter is a walking encyclopaedia of gun. Unfortunately he doesn’t post often, but this is one of my favourite YouTube channels and he really knows his stuff (read his bio)!

Grab a coffee, sit back, you have bout 2 hours to kill…

How to Clean Your Rifle Professionally (1hr 11min 11sec)

How to Oil and Lubricate Your Gun (and how NOT to)

How to Prepare, and Care for a New Gun

After you get your head around that, the conversation below will make total sense!

1 Like

Cleaning a rifle has been a bit of a contentious issue even more so due to the internet with every self proclaimed expert giving there Products and Procedures as the best and coming up with all sorts of theories as to why it should be done like that.
There are those that think a brass brush will damage the barrel either just passing it down the bore or pulling it back over the crown.
The current F-class world teams coaches believe in cleaning the rifle at the end of each days shooting and I mean they want it clean.
It is best to be able to get onto the cleaning as soon as you can after shooting preferably while the barrel is still warm. Using a one piece cleaning rod and a Rod guide patch it out with whatever solvent, current ones in use are Butches bore Shine, Boretech Eliminator, Hoppes Bench Rest copper remover, Sweets any of these or one or more after each other patched dry between changing products can be used and if time allows left in the barrel for extended periods being re-patched with new solvent every 12 hours. The use of a Nylon brush with or without a patch over it is good for applying the sweets brushing vigorously to get it working. Also the use of a Brass brush is used between applications of the solvent to help loosen any substance. Once the rifle is cleaned if it is being stored the solvent is patched out and Hoppes no 9 is used.
An important step before using the rifle is to clean out any oils and solvents starting with a dry patch and then using a brake or Carby cleaner which helps remove all the Hydocarbons although these evaporate quickly use another dry patch to remove any fluids.
It sounds like a lot but in addition to this every 200-300 rounds or if you have a borscope look for any copper and more importantly any carbon build up in the throat and first several inches of the barrel. To remove this stubborn buildup the use of JB or Iosso bore paste is used by using a Nylon brush with a lightly oiled patch over the brush and the bore past applied. The first six inches of the barrel should be short stroked several times before several complete long strokes of the barrel. The bore paste must be completely removed using solvent and Carby Cleaner.
If the gun has been allowed to fowl for some time and or hard to remove and the barrel is cold. The barrel can be heated by poring boiling water down it. This has two benefits the solvents tend to work better when warm and the expansion of the barrel is different to the copper fowling which can loosen it and also any carbon ring or buildup.
The above is information I have gained from talking to the people shooting in the State and Australian teams also several Gun Smiths, of course not every target shooter follows this or has the same thoughts on the subject. In the end all that matters is the results and how long you can get good results from your barrel the target never lies.

@sungazer, questions:

  1. Why do I need to clean my bore, rather than just running some oil through it?
  2. Why would I use carbon solvent at all, when I can simply use copper solvent from the start (assuming I remove all traces of copper solvent when done)?

There are a couple of things that deposit on you bore when you fire your gun. One of those is a thin deposit of carbon the entire length of the barrel. Just like what would be left if you lit a small pile of powder on a clean piece of metal. The second part of this carbon is when the gun is fired (I have read that it reaches temps hotter than the sun). I haven’t fact checked that as yet but it does get really, really hot in those first two inches and under high pressure. Under these circumstances the carbon actually sticks or bonds with the steel and the pressure turns it into a ceramic layer normally in a ring shape.
So what effect does this have? The build up will change the speed of the projectile, the POI and the accuracy. An example is a Remington 700 I bought I was told it had only fired 100 rounds anyway I used it for a while and was cleaning it as I thought at the time well. I was not getting the accuracy I expected out of the gun. One on the guys in my club took my gun home for fitting a rail. Anyway he bore scoped it and found it really dirty he did the full monty clean on it. when I got it back he said I think it will shoot 3 MOA high. I really didn’t think that was possible and adjusted the scope to allow for one MOA, it shot another 2 moa higher than my adjustment he was right on the money. So from dirty to clean was 3 MOA if I did the numbers on what that would of been in velocity it would be a pretty big number.
This ring of carbon that builds up right in the throat bonds to the steel if it is allowed to build up, eventually bits break off. This can take a bit of the steel with it and it will break off unevenly and this is a cause of accuracy problems as well as premature throat wear the main issue for barrels.
Second part of the first question about oil, again a couple of things. As everyone is aware liquids are used in hydraulic systems, like brakes on cars, as the liquid does not compress like air. So if there is any liquid in your barrel when that projectile starts hurtling down there, under pressure in every direction if it hits a spot of liquid something has to give and it can cause deformations in your barrel. Hence why all gun cleaning instructions advise you to dry patch out before shooting. If it is only just a small trace of oil inside the barrel that doesn’t cause any hydraulic lock, when that high temp fire blast comes down the barrel you now have another contaminant that is going to burn and cause more fouling.
The Term Carbon Solvent is not a technically correct term as there is no solvent that dissolves carbon. There are products that will help dislodge or put into suspension the carbon. The Black Powder carbon responds well to hot soapy water and / or a mixture of water, alcohol, detergent commercially available as windex. The modern smokeless powders are burning hotter and under greater pressures. looking to other environments that have these conditions is in automotive and marine engines here we find products claimed to remove carbon they typically contain Alcohol, Acetone and water. Brake cleaner is another one and that contains a liquid Hydrocarbon. These product are better at the carbon removal and are cheaper and less corrosive than the copper solvent. The second question is really for economy and a product that is more suited to the particular fouling. So a lot of shooters first go after the carbon which is indicated by black on the patches and then the copper which leaves a blue on the patches. When you can run a brass brush down the barrel then a patch and it comes out without any black or blue you know you are done.

Thats really interesting. I have obviously ran a clean wet patch after cleaning and it always alcame out clean. However, I’ve never got it to the point that the patch comes out clean after brushing. Almost an impossible task.

I agree JS it is something I have been trying to work out for a long time. Its the main reason I have asked so many people about the topic. One of the causes is there is a amount of carbon stuck in the brush. I give them a bit of a squirt with the carby cleaner and a light roll on a piece of patch material towards the end of cleaning. I would say that I stop on most occasions before it is totally clean. When I do the 300 aprox round maintenance clean with the bore paste I try to do a better job going through a process of using most of the cleaners.

I started doing this too, after noticing that a lot of it is coming in, back from the brush. I swirl it in turps and then a squirt of degreaser…

When you say carby cleaner, I assume you just mean a degreaser or am I missing something?

Yes there is a difference if you go to Super Cheap Auto and look for the Nulon Throttle Body and Carby Cleaner. They are quite different the degreaser is more a petrochemical formula the carby cleaner more a Alcohol based. When the Carby is used on built up oily crap it cleans it heaps better than the degreaser, degreaser is cheaper though. It is great for removing adhesive stickers as well. Also get a can of Brake cleaner that is even stronger when it comes to adhesive sticky stuff, texta, all sorts of things test on anything first just to check it doesn’t dissolve it. It will affect a lot of plastics so caution is needed.

So would you say that carburettor cleaner is better than Hoppes9; or brake cleaner; or Hoppes9?

I assume carby and brake cleaner are used just to listen all the stuff up, before using Hoppes9, which is expensive, all things considered. So I guess the question is:

carb or brake cleaner, before hopes gets used?

Yes the carby before the Hoppes 9. I always use Hoppes 9 last before putting the guns in the safe. It has some oil for protecting. I havent used Sweets Oil but it comes highly recommended by some knowledgeable people as the stuff to use if the gun is not going to be shot for a while. Then the carby again before shooting to remove any oil or gum the Hoppes will turn a bit gummy when it dries out.

Will have to pick a can up and give it a go.

What about copper?

I generally use coper solvent every 500 rounds or so.

A lot of the solvents have some copper removing ability ((Butches bore Shine, Boretech Eliminator, Hoppes Bench Rest copper remover) the first two have ammonia in them and the Boretech I would not leave overnight it has a lot of water as well.) so this kind of keeps it in check but then at every several hundred rounds I use the Sweets 7.62 and I leave it for a good hour and do the procedure a couple of times.
All guns fowl at different rates so a Borescope is great but at close to a Grand or more I just do the keep cleaning until I can see no more colour.

@WSobchak start at the top and watch the videos, this is pretty much what you want to know :slight_smile:

Man that second video was an hour of forced watching over about three sessions he could of condensed the content into two sentences. No Spoiler watch it yourself. :grin:

I disagree. I think you with your decades of experience take a lot of things for granted. Someone with a new gun, who hasn’t done any of this before… It’s all new and very informative. In fact, I think, after watching it, you’d (as in, the person watching) be more informed than 90% of shooters.

I guess you are right. Dont get me wrong I really like this guy. He is a straight talker down to basics no BS and he really knows his stuff. Your title is correct he is more about dispelling the myths and advertising and pushes just down to earth methods. @juststarting and anybody else that watches the video the big QUESTION ? Will you switch to Baby Oil?

I wasn’t telling fibbies though, LOL. Coffee and couple of hours to kill, lol.

cleaning rifles is so bloody involved, Its one of the reasons I love about shotguns, LoL!

Hahahaha, no I don’t think I’ll be switching to baby oil, but I do have my kid’s change table now as a portable reloading station :slight_smile: I’ll post it when it’s done how I want it.

That said, my dad has been a mechanical engineer all his life, designing machines to process steel and what not. Same response, use whatever oil, even olive oil. Old school motherfuckers are practical AF. LOL