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To clean or not to clean a .22 for accuracy?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by H. Faversham, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. H. Faversham

    H. Faversham Well-Known Member

    What do competition shooters do? I've read that they clean down to bare metal, then season the barrel with the particular .22 LR ammo they will be using in the match. That kind of cleaning requires a good brush.

    On the other hand, some folks say they seldom if ever use a brush to clean their revolver barrels.

    So, what's the truth for obtaining one ragged hole (not counting flyers) accuracy? I am not talking about merely swabbing out barrels and cylinders with Hoppe's or other liquid cleaners, which of course is a must.
  2. BCRider

    BCRider Well-Known Member

    My experience has been that my .22's all require a good brushing out to remove traces of leading at some points in time.

    The term "seasoning" implies that a thin varnish like coat is built up. I seriously doubt if this is the case since folks go to great lengths to remove leading and copper fouling and any sort of powder residue "seasoning" is going to be washed or scraped away along with the lead, powder fouling and any copper fouling cleaning.

    All that I've read about one hole "groups" is based on the muzzle crown being ideal and pristine. Then feed the gun with match grade ammo which has far higher tolerances on bullet and case measurements and mass as well as carefully controlled priming and powder measurements using tested materials to provide closely controlled speed and final pressure of burn so the internal ballistics are the same within far tighter tolerances than any regular ammo.

    And if all that fails then borrowing that guy standing over there that has the Olympic class eyesight and steady nerves.... :D
  3. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    I clean my 22 revolvers when I notice the barrels are dirty, there is significant amount of powder residue on the cylinder, they aren't functioning correctly, or I notice a drop off in accuracy. I seldom shoot 22 revolvers with extreme expectations of accuracy. The majority of the shooting would qualify as plinking or casual range shooting. I treat 22 rifles and 22 semi-auto pistols differently.

    I do not use brass brushes on 22's except as a result of extreme leading which is rare. Years ago I did when I didn't know any better.

    Some light swabbing of the barrel and cylinder chambers should be all that is necessary.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  4. Canuck-IL

    Canuck-IL Well-Known Member

    Not sure where you might have read the "clean down to bear metal..." stuff.
    For 2 S&W Model 41's used in Bullseye (1 with a dot, 1 with irons), I use a 25 cal brush in the chamber only. I use a patchworm and Hoppe's, Ed's Red or KG on a patch for a couple of passes, then a couple dry patches. Clean thoroughly with a q-tip around the breech face and extractor.

    I do it about every 500 rounds ... that's with decent ammo - perhaps I'd do it more often if shooting bulk quality catridges. I've never put a brass brush down either barrel.
  5. H. Faversham

    H. Faversham Well-Known Member

    BCRider, by "seasoning" I mean "fouling" the barrel with a few shots of the ammo to be used in the match. Fouling eliminates the difference in POI between the first shot or shots from a clean barrel and the subsequent shots which form the main group. I know from experience that fouling is a must in all my revolvers, semi-auto handguns and rifles in order to avoid the group-killing POI from the first shot or shots from a clean barrel. I've never shot organized competition.

    Per 22 rimfire: "I seldom shoot 22 revolvers with extreme expectations of accuracy." Nor do most of us, 22-rimfire, but that's the challenge! Heck, anyone can get ragged holes from a S&W 41 or a good Ruger, etc., but only a very few can get 3/4" groups (or less) from a revolver with iron sights at 25 yds off bags. Do those few clean with a brush, etc., then foul with a few shots and only then shoot for record? I suspect they do because .22s are dirty little buggers and I've never owned or even heard of a .22 revolver barrel that didn't foul badly with lead, copper wash and powder residue after a box or so. After just two boxes, it takes hours with a brush, solvent and "lead cloth" getting lead out of the rifling groves, trying to get down to "bare" metal and regain the great accuracy of a barrel fresh from the factory, after proper fouling.

    So I suspect that the answer to my question is that clean, completely lead-free .22 revolver barrels are far more accurate than barrels which never see a brush. But, I don't know that for a fact. Guns are mysterious things.

    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  6. BCRider

    BCRider Well-Known Member

    I know that the bench rest guys shooting rimfire all seem to agree that they need to shoot a couple of fouling rounds from a clean barrel just as you say.

    The only other place where I suspect such accuracy and consistency is needed would be in Olympic or similar handgun bullseye shooting. I don't know what their methodology for cleaning is. But I suspect that they are certainly shooting match grade ammo just like the bench rest guys. And I can see where they would shoot a couple of fouling rounds to get the barrel into a condition which should be more consistent for the duration of the match.

    That's certainly not the message I'm getting from the other responses. They clean the barrels but not with brushes.

    For myself I prefer to just push a few patches down the barrels and then check the results. If I see patches of buildup, be it lead or fouling, in the grooves I'll try another few patches of solvents and dry. If it's not gone I'm not above running a couple of passes with a brush to sweep the buildup out of place. So while my barrels have seen brushes it's not a regular occurance.
  7. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Well-Known Member

    I clean them as they need to be cleaned.
    My Mark II never leads regardless of ammo, so I never use a brush in it, just patches wet with FP-10, no solvents, don't need them to get the bore clean.
    Had a S&W revolver that leaded terribly, sold it, now I'm going to fire lap it for the guy I sold it to (he was aware of the problem).
  8. doubleh

    doubleh Well-Known Member

    I don't clean any 22LR barrel until the accuracy starts falling off. That translates into seldom and in some cases never. Yes, I will clean the action of semi autos and the cylinders of revolvers once in awhile.

    I would like to hears some of the reasons NOT to use a brush in a dirty bore.

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