Cleaning carbon build up


September 18, 2012, 10:04 AM
I have a Ruger Security Six, stainless. I get a lot of carbon build up on the surface of the cylinder. I've tried about every king of cleaner/solvent and can't get it to come off. I've tried soaking it in solvent overnight as well to no avail.

Any suggestions?

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September 18, 2012, 10:33 AM
lead removal cloth

made exactly for this

removes all the blemishes - not just the lead

September 18, 2012, 10:38 AM
What WEG said. Also, not all solvents are equal.. some focus/target lead.. it goes on. I've never really had a problem but I'm sure someone will provide you some good info
Also, a little black never hurt nothing unless it's actually built up enough to bind things up.

September 18, 2012, 01:55 PM
If you're referring to the carbon scoring on the cylinder face, leave it alone. You can potentially do more harm than good trying to remove it. It won't hurt anything and will be right back there next time you shoot it.

removes all the blemishes - not just the lead
It also removes metal. Long term use will alter dimensions and for no good reason.

September 18, 2012, 02:05 PM
What CraigC said.

September 18, 2012, 02:16 PM
A white ink eraser will erase it right off and do no harm.

September 18, 2012, 02:23 PM
I just soak the cylinder face in a little BreakFree Carbon Cutter for a day or so. It softens the carbon and it brushes right off with a nylon brush. Can't hurt your gun.

September 18, 2012, 02:58 PM
Lead-Away cloth works like magic. BUT, never use it on a Blues gun, you will remove the finish. It's perfectly safe on Stainless...

September 18, 2012, 03:55 PM
I just scrub mine down with Hoppes #9 til the patches aren't black anymore....anything else can stay there. Shows my gun is well loved and put to good use.

September 18, 2012, 04:36 PM
Don't try to keep the front of the cylinder "like new". If there is some that won't come off with a rag or plastic brush, forget about it. Breakfree has a really good bore solvent with carbon cutter that takes 95% of it off. If you're gonna shoot it, it's gonna get funky.:scrutiny:

September 18, 2012, 04:45 PM
It's perfectly safe on Stainless...
It removes metal. If it removes bluing (not chemically), it removes metal.

Coal Dragger
September 18, 2012, 08:05 PM
I use an ultrasonic cleaner and it works great. I did use flitz once with a q-tip before I thought of using the ultrasonic. It might take the ultrasonic 5-6 cycles to get it all off and or loosened up but it will get the job done.

September 18, 2012, 08:20 PM
"bar keepers friend" cleaning powder takes it right off.

September 19, 2012, 09:52 AM
I've had good results removing unwanted carbon rings on stainless guns using either a lead removal cloth or a little Flitz polish on a cotton patch.

Be careful of using the Flitz though. No, it won't hurt your gun, but using it to polish your stainless gun to a nickel-like mirror shine can be addicting. :)


September 19, 2012, 04:46 PM
i use the lyman polishing cloth on my 686 revolver.
it really works great !

Hondo 60
September 19, 2012, 06:23 PM
Flitz paste works wonders.

September 19, 2012, 06:59 PM
i had some pretty heavy build up on my SP101......a little bit of lighter fluid took it right off

September 19, 2012, 07:52 PM
Carburetor cleaner.

Chuck Perry
September 19, 2012, 10:06 PM
JB Bore Paste on a cleaning patch works well too.

September 19, 2012, 10:10 PM
Barkeeper's friend and Fitz are abrasives that remove surface metal as well as the grime

September 19, 2012, 11:55 PM
JB Bore Paste on a cleaning patch works well too.
That's another abrasive.

Chuck Perry
September 20, 2012, 12:10 AM
True, but so what? It's marketed as a bore paste, and has been used for years and years as such. If it's not destroying rifling I don't think that rubbing down the exterior of the cylinder till clean is going to cause any measurable wear.

September 20, 2012, 12:51 AM
If you say so. I'm not rubbing my cylinders with an abrasive of any kind every time I shoot. Regardless of marketing hype, it WILL remove metal and in time it WILL alter dimensions. All for absolutely, positively no good reason.

September 20, 2012, 02:04 AM
That's why I suggested Lead-Away cloth above. It removes the Carbon but leaves the steel.

September 20, 2012, 08:55 AM
That's why I suggested Lead-Away cloth above. It removes the Carbon but leaves the steel.
The lead removal cloths are also abrasive. If it removes bluing mechanically, it's also removing steel. I performed a little test, where I took a 400grit brushed finish down to a fine bright polish in only a matter of minutes. It is abrasive and I wouldn't use it.

September 20, 2012, 09:36 AM
Not starting an argument; can anyone post documentation that the lead-free cloths actually remove the steel when the carbon rings are removed. I respect the opinions representing this to occur, but would like to see some facts as I like my guns clean but not damaged.


September 20, 2012, 09:55 AM
I took a half inch stick of aluminum rod and chucked it in my lathe at its lowest speed, just a few hundred RPM. I masked it off and put a 400grit brushed finish on it in just a minute or two. I then masked off half of that and put the lead removal cloth to it for 1.5-2mins. Which simulates about as long rubbing by hand. As you can see, it took the 400grit brushed finish down to a bright polish. You can't do that without removing metal. Like I said before, if something removes bluing mechanically, it's removing steel. If it'll do this to aluminum, it'll do it to steel. It will take longer than 2mins but it's scary to think what 10yrs of weekly shooting and cleaning with one of these things will do.

September 20, 2012, 10:00 AM
Abrasives abrade/work by removing wearing away material.
I'd imagine that were a competitive shooter or lifelong plinker to polish the face of his revolver cylinder after each outing, measurable wear would have occured.
Using one of those cloths carefully on the outside of a stainless revolver cylinder wouldn't bother me (staying away from the bolt cuts) but on a blue gun, I'm sure it'd wear the blue off pretty quick.
If you're going to shoot the gun a lot, just leave that black discoloration alone, not to be confused with "build-up".

September 20, 2012, 10:03 AM
This is one of my favorite sixguns. It is a custom Ruger Super Blackhawk and is one of my prized possessions. It represents an investment of about $1300 but would cost more than that to replace. It also shoots into 2"@50yds. I would NEVER use a lead removal cloth to remove the carbon scoring from its cylinder. Nor would I buy a used gun that had a squeaky clean cylinder face.

September 20, 2012, 10:04 AM
I didn't discover the lead-free cleaning cloths until the mid 70's, so I've only been cleaning carbon rings off the faces of my stainless cylinders for over 30 years now with the lead-free cloths. Hasn't made any difference in the flash gap on any of them yet that can be measured with a .001" feeler gauge. They're all the same as when they were new.

I knock down the price I'll pay for a used gun pretty severely if the owner doesn't care enough about it to keep it clean.

September 20, 2012, 10:06 AM
Also, a lot of the scandium and titanium guns have some sort of coating.. the factories warn not to wear that coating away or accelerated wear of the underlying metal will occur.

September 20, 2012, 10:14 AM
This comes up every 6 months or so, I guess if craigc is going to post his old pics again then I might as well post mine again too.

I've been using the lead remover cloths on my revolver cylinders since 1975. The flash gaps I just measured are the exact same as they were new, within the accuracy of a set of feeler gauges of course.
I don't have anything with an aluminum cylinder (looking for a nice pre-lock 617 if anyone has one ...) so I repeated your experiment with a piece of 1.125 (inch and an eighth) stainless that I had lying around. Didn't bother to pull out the micrometers, but using dial calipers it measured 1.1250 before I started, and 1.1250 after polishing it for a little over 15 minutes at 800 RPM.

Before polishing:

After polishing:

I believe that I'll keep using the lead remover cloths without worrying about my cylinders.

September 20, 2012, 11:09 AM
If you had started with a smoother finish, the results would've been more evident. That's why I put a 400grit polish on mine before starting, to better simulate brushed stainless steel. While I'm sure you think you've proven me wrong, it should still be painfully obvious that it altered the surface of the steel. It should also be painfully obvious that the marketing hype about them being non-abrasive is just that, hype. The change in luster and the black on the cloth is proof of that.

I never said it would open the cylinder gap to any measurable degree. I said it would alter dimensions. Especially rounding off corners, such as those at the chamber mouths. I'll leave everyone to look at the pics, read the text to come to their own conclusions. It's enough for me to know that folks understand that these products are NOT non-abrasive. If you want to take the chance for no good reason, satisfying only your own need for what you perceive to be "clean", that is your prerogative.

Personally, I treat my stainless guns and blued guns no differently. So if it removes bluing, it doesn't belong on any of my guns.

September 20, 2012, 11:26 AM
CraigC, that's one fine looking revolver!

September 20, 2012, 11:28 AM
Thank you! :)

Chuck Perry
September 20, 2012, 11:33 AM
Looks kinda dirty to me :evil: Seriously, that is a very nice pistola Craig.

September 20, 2012, 12:38 PM
Worrying about faint carbon rings on your cylinder is like worrying about the inside of your car's exhaust pipe. Is combustion. Is messy.

September 20, 2012, 12:40 PM
I trained a bored snake to scrub mine. lolz

September 20, 2012, 07:15 PM

Coal Dragger
September 20, 2012, 07:27 PM
The obvious solution is an ultrasonic cleaner. As I stated before, not only loosens up the carbon but cleans eveything else as well. Plus it requires almost no effort on your part.

September 20, 2012, 08:53 PM
a little bit of carbon on my stianless revos never bothered me much none.

September 20, 2012, 09:22 PM
The obvious solution is an ultrasonic cleaner. As I stated before, not only loosens up the carbon but cleans eveything else as well. Plus it requires almost no effort on your part.
Look at post #29. That's how a clean revolver should look. If you used flourosulphuric acid in your vibrocleaner, it might get it cleaner. Don't do that though.

September 20, 2012, 09:29 PM
I used to have a problem with removing carbon from my S&W 686+,until I used Mothers wheel polish to remove it.It's as easy as polishing the gun,no heavy scrubbing needed.

September 20, 2012, 09:55 PM
Yes but, polish is a fine abrasive. Over time you're cutting metal. Carbon rings are our friend. They tighten up your cylinder gap at no cost to you. Think of them as a free muzzle velocity upgrade.

September 22, 2012, 12:01 AM
I'm trying to imagine how many cleanings it would take to remove a measurable amount of metal. I'd guess that after firing that much ammo to result in that much cleaning, it would be time to put the gun out to pasture anyways.

That said, I prefer to leave the rings on. Makes the gun look meaner that way.

September 22, 2012, 12:43 AM
Don't really have a dog in this fight but using Frog Lube on my revolvers and other firearms dramatically improves carbon removal....especially noted in barrels both rifled and smooth bore. Seems to get them slicker with repeated use. Dunno how it works but really improves cleaning efficiency.

September 22, 2012, 01:42 AM
Hmmm, if Lead-Away cloths were abrasive why would they waste the money using such a soft cloth? It's not abrasive, it's the chemicals that remove the carbon and that's also why you don't use it on a Blued revolver.

In any event, I'm not going to get into this pissing contest. I'm so tired of all these posts where everyone tries to out do the other guy instead of trying to find out the right answers so everyone benefits.

September 22, 2012, 12:05 PM
It's not abrasive...
It IS abrasive, this is undeniable fact! If it weren't I wouldn't have been able to take a 400grit brushed finish down to a bright polish. You cannot polish metal without removing some. It is a physical impossibility! How much it matters and whether or not to take the risk is up to the individual. Can't be any more clear than that. You are welcome to PROVE me wrong but wishful thinking does not make it so.

Driftwood Johnson
September 22, 2012, 01:17 PM

I'm with CraigC on this. Completely unnecessary to scrub off the carbon rings on the front of a cylinder. Of course, I'm just naturally lazy, so I never bother to scrub them off. They don't hurt a thing. Once you have a couple of dozen revolvers, you'll stop trying to scrub them off too.

September 22, 2012, 11:07 PM
Soooooooooo!if I were to have a dozen kids I COULD PUT THEM TO BED DIRTY?.If I were lazy.

September 23, 2012, 12:39 AM
When cleaning my Vaquero, I pour a puddle of hopps in a small plastic dish, clean the chambers, scrub the front with a brush, and then set the cylinder face down in the dish. I leave it there while I go to work on the rest of the gun. Once I'm done, I take a rag wrapped around my finger and give the face another good scrubbing. For my non single actions, it's just the brush and the finger technique.

I've used led away cloths in the past but stopped some years ago. It was not the gradual metal removal that stopped me from using them (I just found out about that a few years ago) but the smell and the way it made my skin dry and itchy when I came in contact with it. If you've never used a cloth before, I'd recommend wearing gloves.

I think that if there is the slightest chance of altering dimensions they should be avoided. If you plan on shooting the gun once then putting it up for good or selling it, by all means get rid of the rings. However, I can't understand why people go to such lengths to get rid of something that's just going to be right back the next time you shoot.

The carbon rings won't affect accuracy or function but an a abrasive that removes metal and alters dimensions could. I'd rather have the carbon rings and the metal that goes with them than a squeaky clean gun.

September 23, 2012, 10:04 AM
Soooooooooo!if I were to have a dozen kids I COULD PUT THEM TO BED DIRTY?.If I were lazy.
We're not talking about kids. Kids need cleaning every day. Guns don't. His point is that while it might be okay to obsess about these things if you have 2 or 3 revolvers and shoot once a month. When you have a few dozen and shoot all the time, you learn that having all your guns squeaky clean all the time is more trouble than it's worth. I don't believe in cleaning guns every time you shoot but scrubbing these carbon rings off cylinders of stainless guns every time you shoot is way beyond that. If you don't do it to blued or plated guns, then what is really the point in doing it to stainless guns??? All you're really doing is satisfying your own compulsion. It is unnecessary effort.

September 23, 2012, 05:04 PM
"bar keepers friend" cleaning powder takes it right off.

BarKeepers Friend is great for my kitchen sink and stainless steel appliances but not my guns it is very abrasive .

I was told S&W says not to try and remove the dark rings .from the cylinder face as they have a titanium alloy on the cylinder face of the 7 shot.

Driftwood Johnson
September 23, 2012, 07:29 PM
Thanks Craig

September 23, 2012, 07:33 PM
All comments understood.Just kidding about the kids.

Coal Dragger
September 23, 2012, 07:39 PM
I know they don't hurt anything, but being a lazy man I will still use the ultrasonic cleaner with steel cleaning solution as offered by Lyman on my cylinders for my FA. Shot the .45ACP cylinder yesterday with some loads that should probably not be run through a semi-auto. At any rate a 255gr hard cast semi-wadcutter over a very stout (as in I'm not going to tell you how much powder!) charge of power pistol, left lots of carbon rings and unfortunately fairly heavy leading too.

All it took to get all the carbon off the cylinder face was running the cylinder in the ultrasonic with the tank heater on while I cleaned the rest of the gun. I then took the cylinder out, and dried it off (not real hard since the solution is pretty hot and it air dries quickly). Then I patched all the chambers out, and wiped the front of the cylinder off with a solvent soaked patch and all the carbon that was left came off.

Is it necessary to clean it off to that extent? No. Is it easy for me with the equipment I have? Yes. In fact it is probably easier for me to clean it this way than by hand, and it does a better job.

Now I need to consider the issue of leading in that barrel. I am considering an experiment with fire-lapping since there is a slight constriction at the threads, and I'm pretty sure if I got it out this barrel wouldn't lead at all.

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