Barrel break in, giving me a headache


January 31, 2012, 06:15 PM
Well, I broke down and bought my first truly new rifle. All of my other guns this far have been hand me downs or surplus purchases. Went into the gun store with the intention of buying a CETME or HK G3 clone or possibly a Garand...

After a brief temptation to pick up the M14 with national match barrel I ended up walking out after putting a Savage 110 ba in .338 Lapua on layaway :o I've been devoting the past few days to scope research and the like when I came across an article mentioning barrel break in. I've heard of it, I've never had to worry about it however.

I've broken in car engines, my motorcycle engine... Never had to break in a barrel though. Looking it up online I hear arguments for and arguments against, even bullets that will help speed the process? This board has given me tons of information regarding my chosen hobby so I'm hoping I can call on your guys generosity once again.

One of the guides lay's out the method as the following.

Bore guide is necessary
1 Patch of Sweets, soak for 30 seconds

Pass brush through until just the end is exposed, douse with Hoppe's Nitro solvent

Brush the barrel another 9 times

Let soak for a bit when done

1 Patch of Sweet's

Dry patches until the barrel is clean

Fire First Shot, then clean barrel

Shoot another 4, then clean barrel

Shoot Another 9, clean

Shoot another 14, Clean.

Don't get me wrong I don't mind cleaning any of my rifles. I shoot corrosive and go over all of them with a fine tooth comb, but man this just seems a little... Overkill? But again I could be wrong and have the wrong mentality coming from the world of Surplus guns lol.

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January 31, 2012, 06:18 PM
You'll get the same arguments for and against as you've heard everywhere else... Nobody really knows for sure, as nobody's done a seriously thorough and scientifically conclusive evaluation. It's all just opinion for now.

January 31, 2012, 06:20 PM
it's very simple. you just need to keep the copper from building up in the bore, which happens because of the tooling marks in the throat when the rifle is new. So clean the bore with a copper solvent until it stops copper fouling.

that's it. nothing magic about the number of times or process or whatever.

you should use a bore guide to protect your action and trigger, and solvents need a few minutes to work. you can tell when copper is coming out because of the color of the patches.

after you stop getting copper fouling, you should be able to just use a carbon solvent for your regular cleaning (assuming you choose to clean regularly)

January 31, 2012, 07:35 PM
It's all just opinion for now.

Actually, it's my opinion that the OP is cutting the break in process short. The initial 20 rounds are the most important in a barrel that wasn't lapped, and I don't believe Savage laps their barrels, but I could be wrong.
A fresh stock barrel will lay down a bunch of copper initially, as mentioned by taliv, including flecks of copper cut by the burrs in the rifling. You'll see these on the patch.
For the first 5 rounds, clean every shot, then clean once after the next 5 shots up to the 20 rounds. Inspect the throat for copper and clean accordingly after that.
The 338 Lapua is a stout load, and burns a lot of powder and can be a bit rough on throats, so keep after it.


January 31, 2012, 07:38 PM
For the first 5 rounds, clean every shot, then clean once after the next 5 shots up to the 20 rounds

That's one of the usual suggested break-ins for new barrels. What I meant was that whether or not it was worth doing in the first place was entirely opinion. There's a thread floating around somewhere on another forum where a very highly respected barrel maker, Gale McMillan, goes right out and calls it BS, saying one of his friends came up with it as a way to wear out barrels faster in order to sell more. I'll post it if I find it.

January 31, 2012, 07:43 PM
Don't waste your time....Clean it before your initial range session and then just shoot it and clean it as you normally would. Regular shooting will take care of anything that a break in will just won't be wasting time and money in the process.

Just my opinion. But I'll put any of my factory rifles up against anyone's broken in factory rifle any day as far as ease of cleaning and accuracy goes......

January 31, 2012, 07:51 PM

Here it is, old TFL thread.

January 31, 2012, 08:08 PM

Here it is, old TFL thread.
Excellent read...Thanks for posting.

January 31, 2012, 08:14 PM
More Information (

I've never done it and never plan to do it and all my rifles shoot just fine.

January 31, 2012, 08:28 PM
Literally, your bore will tell you what, if anything, it needs. I know that Charlie Sisk's rifles do not need break-in, and neither to many others. OTOH, some need it badly.

Copper will be deposited at rough points with the first bullet. The next bullet will lay down another layer of copper. Your bullets only remove roughness if there is not a layer of copper covering it.

Clean the barrel out with solvent, like Hoppes. Then fire a shot. Clean with a copper cleaner. Sweet's 7.62 is just ammonia and liquid detergent, and you can make your own for about $.30 per bottle. The recipe is 1/3 10% janitorial ammonia and 2/3 cheap, uncolored, unscented liquid detergent.

If the patch comes out blue, you left copper in the barrel. Get the copper out, and shoot another round. Repeat firing one shot and cleaning until you are getting very little copper. Then switch to shooting three and cleaning. Then switch to shooting 10 and cleaning.

If the first patch shows clean, shoot three and clean. If the patch is clean after three, shoot 10.

I have a wonderful 1917 Karl Gustavs 6.5x55 that copper fouled pretty badly. I cleaned it down to bare steel and, after all these years, broke it in. Now it hardly fouls at all.

The point of the exercise is to extend the interval between copper cleanings. Some rifles maintain excellent accuracy for only 5-10 rounds. That's inconvenient. It's nice to be able to go for 50-100 or more. And, as I said, some hardly ever need it.

January 31, 2012, 09:05 PM
Thanks for the information everyone. Seems copper is the big culprit more then anything else. I didn't even think about it to be honest. Like I said with the surplus background I can honestly say I've only run into copper fouling on a notable scale two or three times. And each one of them was around 150-200 rounds through each rifle, on a hot day when I couldn't really let the barrels cool as much as I wanted.

I'll do some more reading tomorrow, after I pop some more asprin. Found this on the Savage web page

Guess I should just stick with the surplus stuff after this gun, just so much simpler lol

January 31, 2012, 09:34 PM
I do 100 round break ins for nice, new barrels. I clean after every round for the first five or ten, then after every group for ten or so groups, then after a few groups for a bit. During that time I familiarize myself with the new gear, get rudimentary zeroes, etc.

I've heard to stay away from lapping rounds and some stuff like that can void warranties. I've never used Sweets to break in a rifle, I just use the Hoppes, but if the point is to get ALL the copper out of the barrel, that is what does it. I generally don't use Sweets but every so often or if the barrel is fouled. I like to use JB Bore Paste in my shooters too.

Do they need it? I don't know, I haven't been able to figure it out. But it seems worth it to do it in case it does, and it doesn't hurt anything to do a conservative break in like I do.

I do notice that some barrels will fire groups that tighten up during this time that have nothing to do with familiarization or the shooter, so it make sense to me to baby it during this period. Like I said, it won't hurt it.

If I were you, I'd either do it like Savage says if they have a schedule, or do something conservative and not too brash. Just my .02.

January 31, 2012, 10:18 PM

January 31, 2012, 10:19 PM
you should use a bore guide to protect your action and trigger,

bore guide protects the riffling and crown against cleaning rod damage by keeping the rod aligned down the middle of the barrel.

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