How frequently should a precision rifle be cleaned?


March 20, 2013, 09:21 PM
I just put forty rounds of decent (but not match grade) .223 ammo through my Savage target rifle, is it time for a cleaning?

If not, how many rounds can I go without a good cleaning?

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March 20, 2013, 09:22 PM
With a good barrel you won't see copper fouling for a very long time.

March 20, 2013, 09:23 PM
shoot it til the groups open up

March 20, 2013, 09:53 PM
If you shoot it say 90 rounds between cleanings I suspect you will see groups start to open considerably about 2500 rounds.

Then again if you clean often, don't run lots of rounds getting barrel hot you will probably see 4000+ rounds.

When propellant is burned it leaves carbon residue in barrel and you can see it. When the carbon cools down it becomes quite hard and left in the barrel for a while and fired without cleaning the carbon tends to embed in the copper jacket of the follow on round and acts as an abrasive.

March 20, 2013, 10:01 PM
Shoot it till the groups get larger, the gun gets wet or is put into storage long term.

If you care about accuracy you'll likely make the same discovery most of us did. Accuracy and anal cleanliness typically don't mix. There may be some merit to cleanliness being tied to lifespan on a rot gut factory bore. In my experience this is much less a factor with a hand lapped tube. The real conondrum is wich us more important to you. A theoretical 1000 round or so extended lifespan for the bbl or shooting the absolute best groups the barrel can possibly produce.

This said each barrel is its own individual. Its going to be up to you to decide what care regime your bbl requires. For me I let the target tell me the story.

posted via that mobile app with the sig lines everyone complains about

March 20, 2013, 10:19 PM
i cleaned my 223 service rifle once a year after camp perry whether it needed it or not. i'd guess it saw 2 matches per month average from march - august. matches were either 50 or 88 rounds.

my bolt guns... after barrel break in, i never clean. but that's because most barrels will shoot to a different point of impact after cleaning until fouled again and i'm shooting in practical/sniper type matches where i might not have an opportunity to clean between every during a 200-300 round competition. so i value consistency and 1st round hits. (we don't get sighters)

if i shot benchrest, i might scrub the crap out of it after every string. who knows?

like dale said, let the barrel tell you what to do. if groups start opening up and you know it's not you, then try cleaning it. if they magically shrink back to where they were, or if they don't... well, what have you learned?

March 20, 2013, 10:54 PM
Since I started long range "precision" shooting a few years ago, I have followed the cleaning methods of two or three friends and folks I have talked to...anything from cleaning every 40 or 50 rounds to hardly ever cleaning to just about any other combination you can imagine...I know a fellow who is very addicted to cleanliness and will actually clean his barrel during an F-Class match between strings of 20 rounds.

I have found that after a really good cleaning I have to put 20 or so rounds through the rifle to get it back to the same POI and group size it had before I cleaned it. FWIW I clean really well when I do so, but don't do so very often. If you shoot the rifle often, not much of anything will collect in the barrel anyway.

Everyone has their method...decide what yours is and be consistent with that method.

Cee Zee
March 21, 2013, 01:59 AM
I bought my Savage 12 LRPV .223 about 3 years ago. I'll let you know when I decide to clean it. I've put maybe 1500-2000 rounds through it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If anything my groups have gotten much tighter from the time I first got the rifle but it had barely been shot then. It wasn't broke in yet. Now it is.

Until my groups open up I see no good reason to risk losing the accuracy I have. I don't think it could get much better to be honest. I'm not saying I have the best rifle on earth. I'm saying I don't think this rifle would ever shoot any better than it is right now.

March 21, 2013, 02:10 AM
agreed. If your groups dont open up any or start to do so leave it dirty. Clean all aspects but the bore if the round count isnt hurting accuracy. Mine might get scrubbed over winter. But it may have anywhere from 100-1000 rounds through it. Only you can answer this truly. I wouldnt clean it after 40 rounds. But thats my opinion. YMMV

March 21, 2013, 05:39 PM
You all make really valid points. I clean my rifles after shooting them, it is an old habit. But then I am only a hobbyist in this realm. Seems after the first two shots all fall into the same pattern.

When I used to compete I had friends who would shoot "dirty guns," cleaning only when they failed to cycle. Such an approach used to give me fits. Maybe it is OCD or something, LOL.

One can justify anything he desires when it is his own property.

Cee Zee
March 21, 2013, 06:13 PM
Every rifle is different stubbicatt. Some shoot better when they're clean. And the bench rest guys clean an extremely high number of times. They want total consistency and that means totally clean all the time. If they aren't getting tight groups they figure the barrel isn't tight enough or the crown one. It might be something not set up right with the action and trigger but mostly they think it's the barrel. They buy new barrels often to get consistency too.

But for someone like me who basically just likes to plink at long range fouled barrels are a good way to stay fairly consistent. But you can get a sudden change from that kind of treatment too. A sudden change is a problem for BR shooter.

March 21, 2013, 06:25 PM
As Cee Zee said, they are all different. You just have to get to know the rifle.

My Savage 10FP will have it's best groups between round #3 all the way up to round #75.

It'll group right at half an inch (100 yards) easy with a clean bore or after 76 rounds...but well below half an inch if the shoots are fired after a fouling shoot and before it gets to about 75 rounds.

March 21, 2013, 06:37 PM
I used to clean the barrel every 15 to 20 rounds. Then I got smart. I shoot it until the groups are opening, or every about 100 rounds.


March 21, 2013, 07:01 PM
I'm not a precision guy. I clean my chamber, barrel, bolt and carrier, before any match. The fire control group and whatnot, once a year weather it needs it or not.
I think it's up the gun and the person shooting it. If you have confidence in your preventative maintenance it makes you shoot better.
You can concentrate on shooting not on your gun.

March 21, 2013, 07:52 PM
The last 260 barrel on my match was never cleaned past the first few shots for break in, until the time it was rebarreled

March 21, 2013, 08:03 PM
My target rifle gets some hoppes in the barrel and patched out. No brushes or anything just patches. This is in between outings.

My hunting rifles get a deep clean every year after hunting season and are not cleaned again until after the next hunting season.

Keeps my rifles consistent and accurate.

March 21, 2013, 09:32 PM
Don't own any precision guns but clean what I have every time it is fired.

March 21, 2013, 10:41 PM
I have a savage 10BA which I cleaned every time it was shot.
The groups would visibly get smaller as I would shoot it throughout the day.
I didn't clean the rifle one day to see if it was my shooting or the rifle that was shooting better.
It turns out the rifle likes to be shot dirty.
I now hide the bore guide so that I don't get tempted to clean it.

March 21, 2013, 11:02 PM
I know you have a .223 but you want to clean a target .22 LR every ten shots.

Heh, just kidding.

Cee Zee
March 22, 2013, 01:08 AM
You hit on a good point. The kind of ammo you're using makes a big difference. There's a lot of 7.62 x 39 ammo around that's corrosive too not to mention 7.62 x 25 but there aren't many rifles that use that. The thing is those 7.62 x 39 rifles aren't really precision rifles and they usually aren't bolt action. 7.62 x 39 ammo is not generally accurate enough to be called precision.

BTW I would never hit anything with my .22's if I cleaned them every 10 rounds. It takes 35 to 40 rounds to foul my barrel on my best shooting .22. Some barrel makers suggest you only clear as much as absolutely needed. Trust me I've tried every combination of ammo you can think of and every method of cleaning and torque pressure and which bullet batches. And a fouled barrel is an accurate barrel on pretty much any rifle unless you're talking bench rest where things are done differently. But even those guys generally shoot a fouling shot or two before they start a target or after any time they clean their bore.

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