Cleaning bolt action versus semi auto


March 15, 2009, 09:46 AM
Sorry for the newbie question but how much easier is it to clean/maintain a bolt action rifle over a semi auto? I'm wondering in terms of time as well as effort, also field cleaning as well as at home.

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March 15, 2009, 11:27 AM
Semi autos in general take a little more effort and time to clean. It's not that difficult other than having to clean a few extra parts. In general, you really only need to clean the bore and bolt.

For a semi auto, say a gas operated one, there are more parts to clean. All my semi autos are gas operated, but I only clean the gas system once every other range session.

It really doesn't take much more effort, but it does take a little more time to clean a semi over a bolt gun.

March 15, 2009, 12:33 PM
What is needed to answer the question is "What type of semi-auto?".

For the older style (Remington 740, BAR), it is usually a fairly difficult job to remove the bolt and the rifle is usually cleaned without performing this level of disassembly. As you can't clean from the breach end, most recommend a guard of some type to protect the crown when cleaning from the muzzle. You also have to worry about dripping dirt-laden solvents into the action. The good news is that this older style doesn't use direct gas impingement.

For the more modern style (AR-15, DPMS), the action breaks open and you clean it from the breach. There is more to clean, and I understand this type of rifle likes to be kept clean for reliable operation. Direct gas impingement tends to get a lot of the internal parts dirty.

For bolt-actions, you can use a bore guide in the action which protects the critical start of the rifling and helps keep dirty solvent out of the action. The bolt removes, so it is relatively easy to clean.

A lot of shooters use pull-through cleaning systems in the field, like a Boresnake or Otis, as these are easier to carry than cleaning rods. I continue to use a cleaning rod, but it's a 5 segment affair that is short enough to fit in a range bag or day pack.

March 17, 2009, 07:26 PM
Thanks. I heard that a boresnake works real well. Right now I'm thinking between a Browning BAR or Remington 750 versus a Remington 700 or maybe a Ruger international. Any thoughts?

March 17, 2009, 07:56 PM
The primary difference is that you'll have to clean the gas system (tube/valve) in addition to the bore/chamber and bolt face, though perhaps not as frequently.

The only semi-auto rifle I own is an AK-pattern, which has a very large gas tube and forgiving tolerances, so it's probably no more difficult or time-consuming to clean than my bolt actions. Essentially, I swab out the bore as usual (chrome lining makes it very easy; most of the soot doesn't stick), spray a bit of solvent into the gas valve assembly and onto the end of the gas tube piston, clean the bolt face and the underside of the bolt carrier, and lube all of the various contact points, especially the bolt channel and the rails where the bolt carrier rides the receiver. There's seldom a need to mess with anything else inside or around the receiver (I haven't seen any soot collecting in there), so the whole job takes about 10-15 minutes. Every once in a while I'll also swab some light solvent through the gas tube itself.

March 17, 2009, 08:36 PM
The BAR has its fans, and it is believed to be a step above the Remington in reliability and accuracy, for a little more money.

I had a Remington 742 and got disgusted with it and went to bolt-actions and single shots.

However, if you only shoot 1/2 box of cartridges through your BAR each year to verify your sights, and 1 or 2 shots for a deer (or elk), you really aren't cleaning very often. Perhaps the added complexity of a BAR wouldn't be important with that style of shooting.

For "rifle cranks" that aren't happy unless they are at a bench working up a better load with a better bullet, the bolt actions are generally preferable. They are easier to maintain and, generally, are capable of better accuracy if they are "cleaned up" by a knowledgeable gunsmith.

March 17, 2009, 09:38 PM
However, if you only shoot 1/2 box of cartridges through your BAR each year to verify your sights, and 1 or 2 shots for a deer (or elk), you really aren't cleaning very often.

Where I live, in the steamy swamps of Alabama, if I don't clean out the powder fouling from just one cartridge, I am going to get rust.

So I clean the gas system, the barrel, the chamber, the bolt, and wipe very thing down with GI bore cleaner before applying oil.

It takes 20 minutes to properly clean a match M1a, without removing it from the stock. Once a year I dismount the action from the stock and give a detail clean, and a wipe over with a oily rag. The combination of continual oil and grease applications that I paint on rubbing surfaces protects the internal parts (underside of barrel, underside of operating rod) until the detail clean.

A bolt gun, wonderful thing to clean. Just clean the bolt, chamber, and barrel, a wipe over, oiling, and I am done.

The Deer Hunter
March 17, 2009, 10:04 PM
Bolt action: remove bolt, clean, drink beer.

Semi auto: spend 8 hours taking everything apart, drink beer, fall over, clean rifle next day.

March 17, 2009, 11:06 PM
I have a BAR in 30-06. I've never fully taken it apart just cleaned it out the best I can. Compared to my experience with Remington guns I'd for sure pick the Bar.

It seems reliable and I like it. The only complaint I have had is accuracy or the lack of accuracy that is. I've thought seriously about selling it and may end up trying to sell it still.

For a semi auto I really like it. At 100 yards I couldn't get the best groups with it but maybe it's a little of me. I had a buddy shoot it too and he couldn't get the best groups either. It seems really ammo picky. It seems to do the best with the Federal Fusions. I get about a 2" group at 100 yards with them. With the Federal Soft Points I get about a 3" group. Now that's fine for hunting but it's not great when target shooting. I think some of it may be me though as a buddy had a vise I put it in and I shot one big hole with 6 shots at 50 yards. He didn't have a setup for 100 yards though so I couldn't test it out for 100 in his vise. I shot a lot better in his vise though.

I don't however thing it's all me. Reliability wise it seems great though and it shoots good enough to hunt with. Some guys get super tight groups with these guns and others are like me that don't seem to be able to.

I've talked to some people that have said theirs only likes handloads and others whose likes just any ammo like Core Lokts.

Overall I can't say I wouldn't recommend this gun but if you want it for target accuracy I'm not sure a semi auto is the way to go.

I have mixed feelings I like the semi auto better than a bolt action but I think most bolt actions are more accurate. It just comes to down if you want a semi auto or a bolt action more.

That being said I still would pick the Browning over the Remington hands down.

March 23, 2009, 03:24 AM
Ok. I think I'll go for the bolt action. As I get older I like maintenance less and less. I may go for a mini 14 as I hear that they don't need as much.

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