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Barrel Cleaning question

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Robert101, Jan 1, 2012.

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  1. Robert101

    Robert101 Member

    May 10, 2010
    I'm confused on barrel cleaing options relative to copper removal. Some long range shooters say to not remove copper fowling and only remove the carbon residue for best accuracy. Then I see on many posts that removing both carbon and copper is necessary. This, I think, is the classic clean bore vs. dirty bore issue. So what is the best method for cleaning a barrel.

    For instance, I have a 308LR and use wet patches with CLP, then CLP wet bronze bore brush, then wet patches again, and repeat until the patches are clean after passing. With a bright light I see no evidence of copper fowling remaining in the barrel. Gun is cleaned after each range session.

    I don't use a copper remover. So is this above described process removing the copper fowling without using Hoppes or Sweets? What changing would do you make in cleaning your bore?
  2. bkb0000

    bkb0000 Member

    Nov 7, 2008
    Here's what I suggest:

    Shoot your rifle for groups dirty
    Clean the snot out of your bore
    Shoot your rifle for groups clean

    Cleaning threads never get anywhere. NOBODY here can even sort of help you answer this question, I'm afraid. But the above WILL answer it.
  3. rajb123

    rajb123 member

    Dec 22, 2010
    what is a "wet" patch? ...many cleaners such as Hoppes #9 has copper removing chemicals....
  4. Matthew Courtney

    Matthew Courtney Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Lake Charles, Louisiana
    You are removing the copper fouling. With most CLP products, the CLP penetrates between the copper fouling and chrome barrel lining to allow mechanical separation of the copper from the chrome by the bronze brush.

    With Hoppes # 9 and similar products, a chemical oxidizer such as ammonia causes rapid corrosion to occur to the copper and that process breaks the mechanical bonds holding the copper fouling to the barrel, allowing it to be removed by patches.

    There is no method which is best for everyone. What is best for you depends on many things. Fouled barrels do tend to shoot smaller groups, probably because there is a relatively smaller shot to shot variation in the level of fouling present for each shot.
  5. Strykervet

    Strykervet member

    Nov 16, 2010
    Okay, from the long range shooting aspect of it, the theory is that if you let the copper build up a little, essentially being burnished into the rifling, that this will fill in microscopic imperfections leading to a more uniformly smooth barrel. Some barrels are lapped to fix these imperfections, some don't worry about it. The better the barrel, the less the problem. I have a cut rifle Satern barrel on one AR and it fires sub-MOA groups with a clean barrel or a dirty one --but I don't let it get all that diry.

    When I clean, I run wet patches of plain Hoppes #9. They make a copper fouling formula, but I don't use it, and you'll understand why later. It has ammonia in it I think, and you want to try and get all that out no matter what you use if it has ammonia in it. Since I use Hoppes to clean the bolt and other parts, I just use the plain stuff. For the barrel, I pretty much only use the plain #9, and I use patches and sometimes a bore mop. I let it soak in a minute before running the brushes, then I go back behind with patches --they usually come out dark the first time. Then I repeat this until I can run the brush and follow it with patches and have the patches come out fairly clean. THEN I run a couple of oiled patches through to clean out the #9, then I run a clean patch through to "dry" up all the excess. This gives me a good clean barrel, and I know what to expect each time.

    But after one or two thousand rounds, I'll clean it up this way, but then I'll go through and use Sweets afterwards. You want the barrel clean and dry before putting the Sweets in it. I'll let it soak in for 15-30 minutes, then I'll run some patches through, some with more Sweets on it, and keep cleaning until I stop getting blue stains on the patches. If I keep getting blue stains with the patches with Sweets on them, then I'll go ahead and soak some more and run those through again and let it soak more and repeat until the patches come out with no stains. At this point, you'll have all the copper out but you aren't done yet.

    Once you dissolve the copper, you'll expose more carbon, but the Sweets won't dissolve that. So you have to clean the barrel over again from step one using the plain #9. You need to do this for two reasons, one is to clean out the Sweets because you don't want to leave any of that behind, and two is because once you remove the copper, you will uncover more fouling. You may be surprised when you go to clean it that the patches start coming out black again after running the brush. But this only illustrates the burnishing effect the bullets going down the barrel have on the copper and carbon fouling in the barrel. When thin layers of copper and carbon are burnished in a barrel, layer on top of layer, it is possible to clean it with CLP and have it LOOK clean when it isn't. But these layers build up and change in thickness and uniformity with each shot, thus affecting consistency. Accuracy is dependent upon consistency.

    If during the cleaning process you take note of your groups with clean vs. dirty and find that the diry barrel after so many shots gives you better groups, I would suggest getting a small jar of JB Bore Paste. That stuff does wonders for cleaning and polishing a barrel. It doesn't do anything that will affect a warranty either. It is also good to use after the Sweets to get all that tough, old, dry and burnished carbon out. You can get a barrel spotless with it with time and patience. And if you have microscopic flaws in the barrel, this stuff is just abrasive enough to fix that. Good, good stuff; a little goes a long way and a tiny jar lasts forever.

    Some folks think their clean barrel shoots worse than their dirty barrel because some don't actually have a clean barrel. They cleaned it, but they didn't remove the burnished in stuff. By cleaning, they may have made the barrel surface uneven by cleaning out softer areas but not harder ones. Remember, burnished in carbon and copper look like shiny steel when you shine a flashlight down the bore. Firing a few more rounds will fill those places back in first, and then they get their accuracy back. I'd argue a thorough cleaning would be superior. Others did clean it well, but they uncovered the imperfections in the barrel again. Now they have to fire more rounds, which will build up around or in the imperfections first, thus "fixing" it.

    By the way, I've seen 'em so dirty that I could get 'em wet, put 'em away overnight to soak, clean and repeat --over and over and over again-- and not get it clean. Magnificently dirty, but it had been cleaned with CLP only for years. This particular one was a SAW with two barrels. I finally got clean barrels, but it took a long time, and I was surprised to find that my rifling wasn't worn, no, it was fine, it was that the grooves were filled in with copper and carbon!

    There ain't no magic fix and guy on here is right, nobody can tell you the right thing to do regarding this, but what I say is the truth, and if you clean your barrels well and do it right (there are a few right ways, this is one of them and what I use for rifles) then you'll at least get a consistent barrel to work with, a predictable one, and that is VERY important in my book. If you have to tune it with fouling, something is wrong, find a better barrel maker or use your warranty on that one.

    I hope this helps, Happy New Year!
  6. velocette

    velocette Member

    Jan 21, 2008
    Ft. Lauderdale Fla
    Correct answer to your question: It depends.
    BKB00000 has it right. Rifles are like women. Each one is a law unto itself. What works with one, will not work with another.
    Some things work well most of the time. (eg: chocolate, champagne, flowers, diamonds), (Hoppes, CLP, Butches, clean bores, fouled bores) You must try to find out what YOUR rifle likes. One thing for certain, MOST rifles need two to five rounds to "stabilize" the bore before any accuracy testing should commence. After that, how long and how many is up to your woman - - Oops, rifle.

    Happy new year fellow shooter.

  7. BrocLuno

    BrocLuno Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Kalif Kollective
    I remove copper w/o ammonia via KG12. I flush with water and compressed air after and then use Browning gun oil to keep it pristine until the next range session. Dry patch and shoot. After about 3 round, the group seem to be stable out to about 50~60, then they start to open up a bit. When they do, do it all over again.

    I'm shooting 22-250 in a Shilen #8 tapered heavy barrel. This round will copper foul and it will affect this rifle.

    KG12 is as pleasant a copper/carbon/lead solvent as I have ever found. I've left it in old mil-surp barrels for better than a week with a cork in the muzzle full to the chamber and seen no corrosion or chemical etching on steel. Catch it in a cup and use it to wet bore brushes as I'm cleaning those old beasts. It'll do the trick - I'm a convert :)
  8. taliv

    taliv Moderator

    Oct 23, 2004
    the problem with copper fouling is that copper can keep sticking to it and build up, eventually raising the pressure and causing an unsafe condition. i have experienced this first hand.

    once a barrel stops copper fouling, it's rarely an issue again.

    on the other hand, barrels seem to be self-cleaning from carbon fouling. i've never managed to get one dirty enough from carbon that it affected accuracy, function or pressure. however, i have had issues with carbon building up on the muzzle (esp with suppressors) and i've gotten chambers dirty enough that they caused issues.

    personally, once i break a barrel in, i don't clean it again unless i get some foreign object in it, or a lot of water or something. i don't shoot benchrest, but i do shoot at a lot of 5"+ targets at 1000+ yards, and not cleaning doesn't seem to be holding me back much.
  9. carbine85

    carbine85 Member

    Jul 1, 2007
    Southwest, Ohio
    There is too much information out there on the "The proper way to clean your bore"
    Cleaning a precision bench rested rifle is one thing, cleaning your sport rifles is another. Clean your bore with something like Hoppes, dry it out, and store it a very light coat of oil and put the rifle away. If your accuracy is dropping off go to the next step and remove the copper. Use a 1 piece rod and follow the directions on the bottle of your favorite cleaner.
    CLP is a good overall cleaner and lubricant. IMHO it's not intended to be used as a complete cleaner like Hoppes.
  10. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

    Feb 10, 2008
    North Texas
    What are you trying to do with the rifle? Plink, hunt, shoot 100 yd. targets or shoot 1000 yd targets? If it's one of the first three, I wouldn't sweat over it too much as long as accuracy is acceptable to you.

    Like someone else said, it's going to depend alot on the rifle. Some rifles, those with hand-lapped extremely smooth bores, foul very little. But like taliv said, if the stuff starts building up, you're going to have problems.

    Regarding cleaning methods, I'd follow the instructions on the bottle of cleaner to a "T". They produce and bottle the stuff, so they ought to know the best way to use it. If you really want to remove copper, you're probably going to best off with a copper remover. I've used nearly all of them and they all seem to work about equally well.

    As far as frequency of cleaning goes, my match rifles get cleaned after every match (90-100 rounds), and my hunting rifle get cleaned after season. If I'm out at the bench shooting something like an AR or Mini where I may shoot 40-50 rounds in a sitting, I clean them when I'm finished shooting.

    Hope some of this helps.

  11. jpwilly

    jpwilly Member

    Aug 10, 2007
    Phoenix AZ
    A quality cut rifle barrel that has been hand lapped will shoot very well with little cleaning needed because there's very few places for copper and carbon to build up.

    Rough bores will often go through cycles of shooting well then not sometime back again as conditions change in the bore. If it's predictable then you know when to clean. If not, life is too short, get a better barrel or new rifle.

    My cleaning schedule is 250 rounds + - with my Savage Mod 10 factory barrel that can be shot between cleanings without accuracy being noticeably affected. Above that and groups can begin to open up. The bore on this rifle is a little rough and I can see the chatter marks from the button rifling process in the bore begin to fill in with copper as I shoot more and more. As they fill in more and more they create tight spots in the bore one is about halfway down the bore the other at the muzzle end. When I get these knocked back down the rifle shoots constantly again.

    Cleaners I use are (in no particular order) JB Bore Paste, Sweets 7.62, Hoppes #9, and Butches Bore Shine Copper Remover with a quality one piece cleaning rod and bore guide.

    I start with a soaking of Hoppes and a vigorous bore brushing. Then some dry patches then back to Hoppes and bore brush until the patches are clean. Then over to copper remover until clean. Back and forth between hoppes and copper cleaners until no dirty patches. That will take some time.

    With the Savage Mod 10 heavy barrel on my 308 I'm not able to get all the fouling out with chemicals. I've tried soaking etc. But the rifle shoots good groups it's just not ever going to be clean. This picture is after cleaning it on and off for a few hours. I even took sweets on a qtip and applied liberal amounts of it to the copper fouling at the end of the barrel and it didn't come out.

    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  12. Robert101

    Robert101 Member

    May 10, 2010
    Thank you all for the great information and Happy New Year. I have been using my DPM
    S LR308 for range shooting so far only out to 100 yards. I believe my cleaning methods are consistant with those posted and will continue to clean as suggested here. I'm one of those clean it after each range session guys. Adjusting my reloads for better grouping is the next phase. Time to reload.
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