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"You never clean a .22 rifle"

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Trey Veston, Sep 11, 2021.

  1. Boattale

    Boattale Member

    Dec 6, 2012
    I can tell you with 100% certainty that a .22 WMR barrel will have copper in it after shooting JHP and it will shoot better when that copper is gone. At least this is true in my .22 WMR 77/22. Bore Tech Eliminator and no brass brushes and jags showed me the copper was there. When it was gone, the target showed me somewhat smaller groups. Don't see copper in .22LR.

    I'm a boresnake person between cleaning with the full on Bore Tech process. I only shoot bolt rifles so no worries about the action there but I still clean - thoroughly - mostly due to my USMC armorer OCD.
    Skylerbone and chicharrones like this.
  2. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

    Jan 10, 2010
    Northwest Coast
    Very good post. Yes, holes on target speak volumes ... Fact.

    And that's what I am illustrating with the two "real world" and soon bull barrel threads without cleaning the bore by capturing essentially all 10 shot groups shot from out of the box to several thousand rounds so we can watch the "holes on target" to trend how the group sizes are changing.

    At some round count, these two factory and one bull barrel will be cleaned and if the post-cleaning barrels all produce significant or even noticeably smaller groups that are measurable repeatedly, then we can bust the myth that 22LR barrels should not be cleaned. If the group size remain the same or get larger, then we can confirm the myth.
    .38 Special likes this.
  3. aarondhgraham

    aarondhgraham Member

    Sep 28, 2012
    Stillwater, Oklahoma
    I can't buy into the "seasoned like a cast iron frying pan" thinking.

    It's a flawed analogy at best.

    So I fry my sausage and eggs for breakfast,,,
    Do I put the pan right back on the rack,,,
    Oh "H-double-hockey sticks no"!

    I certainly don't scrub it down to the metal after each use,,,
    But I dang sure clean it well with hot soapy water,,,
    After each use!

    Same with my rifles/pistols,,,
    They get cleaned/lubed well after each use.

    Other than a few favorites,,,
    I have so many dang fiery-arms,,,
    Who knows how long it will be until I shoot it again.

    I just can't let a dirty gun sit in my cabinet,,,
    Call it an OCD thing if you want,,,
    I simply can not abide it.

    But that doesn't mean I "scour" the bore after every shoot,,,
    Traditionally I run a few swabs with a CLP solvent,,,
    Then a few dry swabs wrapped over a brush.

    My theory is this,,,
    If you clean often enough,,,
    You don't ever have to scrub and scour.

    Some shooters say,,,
    Don't clean until you see an accuracy loss.

    I would rather start with a "known barrel condition" every range trip.

    Just my (not so) humble opinion.


    Jeff62, LiveLife and trackskippy like this.
  4. AzShooter1

    AzShooter1 Member

    Dec 6, 2006
    Surprise, Az
    I make sure I clean the chamber area of my Ruger Mark IV pistols after each range session but the barrels only get a brush through them rarely.

    I've found that if I don't clean the breach area I will get jams.
    LiveLife likes this.
  5. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 20, 2006
    Right, wrong, or indifferent, I have never cleaned my 39A that I inhertited from Dad.
  6. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

    Dec 25, 2009
    Northern KY
    None of my 22 rimfires have ever had a cleaning rod down their bores.
    LiveLife likes this.
  7. drband

    drband Member

    Jul 2, 2014
    Hmmm... not a rifle but a very old and cheap RG .22 revolver I inherited from my FIL. It was his father's. Obviously had NEVER been cleaned. There were NO discernible rifling grooves. I pushed a few patches down and realized that it was completely leaded up. I used a bronze brush wrapped with a few copper chore-boy strands and some ATF and cleaned out all the lead. I found a nice barrel underneath all of that lead. I have not taken it out to shoot yet, but surely it will shoot better with exposed rifling than with a smooth bore. (yes, there was that much lead in it)
    My FIL told stories of his Dad striking a match stuck in a fence post with that pistol.
  8. DM~

    DM~ Member

    Jan 6, 2011
    upper mid west
    I damsure don't clean my CI with "soapy" water! I guess you haven't learnt that yet either... lol

  9. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

    Oct 12, 2007
    My grandpa was the same way and never cleaned his old Savage Model 15. What made his worse was the fact that he mostly shot bird shot shells through it. When dad got it after Grandpa passed, the barrel was so full of lead that I don't thing a solid 22 bullet would have went down the barrel.

    I am just the opposite, I always clean my rifles after every range trip. With that said, I don't use bore brush every single time either. Depending on how much I shoot and the barrel dictates how often I run a bore brush down the barrel.

    And with any of my rimfire guns, I always shoot 5-10 fouling rounds after each cleaning before testing for accuracy or doing any kind of precision shooting.
  10. CraigC
    • Contributing Member

    CraigC Sixgun Nut

    Jan 27, 2006
    West Tennessee
    Leading is bad. Luckily, out of 60 rimfire guns, I’ve only had it happen one time, in one gun, on one occasion and never again. IMHO, leading is something that either happens quickly, over a couple hundred rounds or not at all.

    Dirty and working is a known condition. Disassembled, cleaned and reassembled is not.
    .38 Special and drband like this.
  11. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

    Oct 19, 2010
    East TN
    My father grew up in the age when many primers were corrosive. So, cleaning firearms after shooting was instilled in me.

    With current cleaning protocols, I do not clean my 22 rim fires as much as I might have under the tutelage of my father.

    In general, if I think a firearm will be stored unused for for a while, I try to get I cleaned and lubricated.

    If I did shoot one of my firearms with known corrosive components, I'd clean it religiously after the shooting session.

    P.S. My Brit son-in law was visiting from the UK in August. We shot some 22 RF while here he was here. I still need to clean the guns. We decided he did not need to smell like Hoppes #9 while going through TSA.:)
  12. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

    Jan 10, 2010
    Northwest Coast
    There is a BIG difference between routine/regular cleaning of barrel vs removing leading.

    One analogy I could come up with is rotating tires vs fixing a flat/slow leak. As long as tires are wearing even with no obvious wear pattern, would rotating tires more frequently on monthly, even weekly basis necessary or practical? But if there is a flat/slow leak, I would have that fixed right away.

    So I think the same for 22LR barrel cleaning. As long as there is no leading and rifling remains clean, would more frequent cleaning of the bore help with accuracy? But if there is leading or gunk build up in the chamber or muzzle crown, I would have them cleaned right away after the shooting session.

    I think that's what we are talking about.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
    drband and .38 Special like this.
  13. Sniper66

    Sniper66 Member

    Jan 22, 2012
    NE Kansas
    In my experience....(at age 75 I've been shooting for around 65 years).....some guns shoot well clean and some prefer a fowled barrel. All guns like the bolt and other innards to be clean. My most used 22 is a Remington 541S that I've owned for over 40 years. I've killed 100s of squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, etc. and run 1,000s of round thru it. I've generally kept it clean including occasionally giving the bore a good scrubbing, using standard rifle cleaning chemicals and lubricants. It has never failed to shoot as good as the ammo I put thru it. Other guns I own, like my Anschutz 17HMRs and Anschutz 1502 17Mach2 like a clean barrel. Have a .223 that likes a fowled barrel. With experience and careful listening, the gun will talk to you about what it likes.
    WVRJ, taliv and John Joseph like this.
  14. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

    Jan 10, 2010
    Northwest Coast
    I have a feeling we may need to do another myth busting thread on cleaning barrel vs not cleaning barrel.

    I happened to have two factory barrels with 3000/1000 rounds that have not seen a bore brush. :D

    Stay tuned.
    .38 Special likes this.
  15. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

    Jan 8, 2011
    I shoot .22 benchrest. When and how often to clean is heavily debated. I generally shoot mine until accuracy falls off and then clean. I have gone several bricks before it happened. I believe I have had a carbon ring form just ahead of the chamber before. It caused accuracy problems. Cleaning it was difficult,but once I figured out the technique my accuracy came back.

    As far as hunting rifles and plinkers go, I don't think barrel cleaning makes much of a difference.
  16. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    I am at the point where if my .22 leads I figure there is something wrong and I'm either going to fix it or sell it.
    DM~, LiveLife and ColtPythonElite like this.
  17. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Moderator Staff Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    DFW Area
    The gun will tell you if it needs to be cleaned. If you can see the accuracy drop off then it's time to clean.

    For example, my CZ bolt .22LR has a bore so smooth that with the ammo I use in it, it just doesn't seem to foul. I can put several hundred rounds downrange and there's no change in accuracy. The first patch out of the bore comes out so clean it tells me that cleaning would be a waste of time. Maybe there's a loading out there that would foul in that rifle, but I have no incentive to experiment. :D

    On the other hand, I've had .22LR pistols that needed to have their bores cleaned fairly regularly or accuracy would start to suffer.
  18. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

    May 10, 2005
    Kingsport Tennessee
    I have heard:
    _ more .22 barrels have damaged by improper cleaning than have been damaged by neglect
    _ with non-corrosive primers, smokeless powder, and waxed bullets, the barrel residue from ordinary shooting protects the barrel.

    I have never heard "never clean a .22 barrel".

    I have also heard the history that
    _ black powder and corrosive priming in early .22 ammo required frequent cleaning
    _ the introduction of smokeless powder in .22 ammo still using corrosive priming resulted in less powder residue
    _ people cleaned their .22 barrels less often but the priming residue was less diluted and barrels rusted
    _ until the priming compound was recognized as the corrosion problem, smokeless powder was blamed and "nitro powder solvents" and obsessive cleaning was the answer
    _ noncorrosive priming for .22 ammo with smokeless powder and wax lubed bullets eliminated the need to clean after every shooting session
  19. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

    May 30, 2017
    My Remington 241 specifies smokeless powder and greased bullets...

    chicharrones and Walkalong like this.
  20. Dale Alan

    Dale Alan member

    Jul 25, 2017
    I clean my New 22 rimfires before I shoot them . Never have I had a rifle shoot terrible from that bare metal barrel . Just saying. I also knew a guy that never used toilet paper or bathed much , he stunk and was a terrible shot . I bet he never cleaned his 22s either . But who am I to judge ?:)
  21. johnmcl

    johnmcl Member

    Apr 1, 2005
    Northern VA
    This is an interesting read so far. I have two motivations for cleaning rimfire barrels.

    #1 for me, across a number of 22RF platforms, the guns are gently cleaned with CLP in the actions, and then they take an Otis cable with a soft small Hoppe's oiled patch in the barrel. They look and smell great when done. Even old man Volquartsen himself told me once that nothing rough nor hard should ever go into a RF barrel.

    #2 is that if I ever put away a dirty rifle, my Gunny is coming back from the dead to smack me around for lack of attention.
  22. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

    Dec 29, 2006
    There are a lot of outstanding replies. My OCD cleaning behaviors are shaped by my experience of living next to the salt water in Florida. This is my Dad's car, and boat.


    Corrosion is unbelievable next to salt water. Everything rusts, deteriorates, and falls apart rapidly. Items must be cleaned, painted, oiled and even then, they must be re inspected for corrosion. The insulation on electrical wiring crumbled, fiberglass surfaces turned into white dust.

    So, my bias is to keep my firearms clean, and that includes the barrel. I know that the deposits put down by 22lr bullets is waxy, but that wax will have imbedded in it powder residue, which attracts and holds water, and then there is primer residue. Primers are made of a mixture of components


    Thankfully the chlorate primers are not used in 22lr anymore, but I am going to claim that some of the by products of combustion of these compounds will react with humidity and cause corrosion. I have cleaned a few very old 22 lr’s which were never cleaned out till I pushed a cleaning rod down the tube, and the interiors were black and pitted. I do not trust bullet lube mixed with primer residue for long term storage.

    By the way, that primer residue can be very heavily erosive. I have one BSA MKIII, purchased it from Eddy the original owner.


    Eddy said it had less than 650 rounds through the tube, and that it developed an “Eley ring”. Well, it was hard to see, but there is a ring forward of the chamber. The primer compounds back then had a lot of “glass” as a frictionator, and that stuff would erode the barrel forward of the chamber. I have a very high mileage Anschutz barrel, which came on a stipped action, and it has a very noticeable ring in front of the chamber. I would be curious to know if the 200,000 round Rem M37 has a ring in front of the chamber.


    I do believe the story of the 200,000 round Rem M37, and I sat across from a small bore prone shooter in the Shooter’s Mess at Camp Perry who claimed he had 600,000 to 700,000 rounds through the barrel of his rifle. He had been shooting the same rifle since the 1970’s. Those sort of round counts are unusual, two shooters I know claim their barrels lasted 65,000 rounds and then they noticed the occasional flyer. Barrels do wear, especially in front of the chamber with highly erosive ammunition. I asked the Lapua ammunition tester in Mesa AZ about high mileage 22lr’s, and he had lot tested ammunition in them. He said those guns were “loose”, and did not shoot as well as “tight” rifles. I can believe that. Kenyon sold the service of threading Anschutz replacement barrels, and Anschutz receivers, which would make the assembly mechanically tighter. Anschutz barrels are pressed and pinned into the receivers, and I think other brands do that too.


    I have asked older shooters who “never” cleaned their barrels, and was told they cleaned their barrel when the barrel told them to do so. They would see things on target they did not like and then cleaned their barrel. But, these never cleaners are rare on the ground today. At the regional’s I attend, I regularly see three former National Champions taking their rifles to their truck, putting the rifle in a rest, and cleaning the barrel after every match. I see a lot of frequent barrel cleaning. Can’t say that the guys who pack up their rifles and go home are cleaning the things, but both of these ex National Champions regularly clean their barrels at the end of every day




    One of these guys damaged the barrel of his rifle when he was a teenager. The gunsmith who rebarreled the rifle looked down the tube and saw evidence of cleaning rod damage. I have never seen a competitor clean their barrel without having a bore guide inserted in the receiver. It think it is good practice on match barrels to use a bore guide and keep the rod from rubbing the throat of the barrel.

    I will clean my barrel on the second day of a four day match, primarily to keep the chamber clean. My BSA rifles are finicky about clean chambers, the round will not extract positively from a dirty chamber, and I keep a bent 22lr brush on the mat to swab the chamber when rounds don’t kick out. Dual extractor Anschutz rifles are not very finicky in this regard, but a shooter who had an early single extractor bolt, said his was.


    I have noticed that the first shot from a clean and oiled barrel will print to a different location than a fouled barrel. So I blast two shots into the berm first thing with a clean barrel.

    Due to my experience in youth, next to saltwater, you are never going to convince me that not cleaning a barrel or gun is desirable, and I don’t have the evidence to prove it one way or another. But I will continue to do what I do, as I don’t want rust.
  23. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

    May 30, 2017
    I don't understand how a brass or aluminum bore cleaning rod can damage a steel bore. I know the cleaning kits I got in the US military were steel, but the flash hider helped reduce damage from those.

    But I see a lot of posts mentioning damage from cleaning rods, and I have never seen a cleaning rod that wasn't made out of a softer material than what the barrel was made of.

    So, how are they damaging the bore, crown, and rifling? Not saying it doesn't happen, but I'm not understanding the science.
    I6turbo and Seedy Character like this.
  24. usaral63

    usaral63 Member

    May 30, 2021
    Judging from the stuff I've seen in used racks at one local dealer I'd observe that from all appearances cleaning one's rifle (or whatever) is anathema! I hope to God those same folks change their underwear more frequently.

    Once owned a really nice .257, custom '98, full stocked piece, Douglas bbl.DST's........beautiful piece. Wiped her down,packed that bore with rig and hung her on the wall at home while I did my army time...........came home to find that my bbl had developed pitting.........it seems the electrolytic mix of copper and steel did the job.......could not stand to look at it after that and gave it to a relative.

    I'm convinced of the merit in cleanin' her up......................hey, imagine the shape those unwashed shorts's be in after 3 years!
  25. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

    Jan 10, 2010
    Northwest Coast
    Same here on the west coast. We bought our retirement properties in 2014/2015 and one is several blocks from the beach and the other is about a mile away from the beach. After moving here, I found everything rusted, even stainless steel and since have replaced about $3000 worth of tools and new rollaways with tools are kept inside the house - https://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-41-in-x-24-5-in-D-16-Drawer-Gloss-Black-Tool-Chest-and-Cabinet-Combo-HOTC4116B13S/312145943

    Yes, salt water mist is unbelievable when it comes to corrosion and everything metal, even stainless steel gun parts have rusted here. Now all of my gun parts are cleaned and well oiled more frequently. As to tools, especially those used outdoors, get regular spraying with WD-40 Specialist tested to be corrosion-free up to a year in salt water conditions (They make several versions of "Specialist" and I use the one that specifies "... up to a year in salt water conditions") after coming out on top on this extended salt water test - https://dayattherange.com/?page_id=3667

    Here are the finalists from outdoor corrosion test where all the other commercial products rusted.


    This is an interesting point we may be able to shed some light during my upcoming myth busting threads (Bull "match" barrel vs factory barrels and now cleaning vs not cleaning barrels).

    Consider this.

    During my 25,000+ round testing with several 10/22s and Take Down and several thousand round testing with new 10/22 Collector #3 and T/CR22, each range session was tested by shooting several hundred rounds of various lead/copper washed/plated ammunition averaging 300-500+ rounds per session. Both 10/22 and T/CR22 barrels were untouched til 1000 round mark (after several hundred rounds of copper washed/plated ammunition for initial "burnishing" of rifling) then they were mopped with Hoppes #9 and patched dry. And thereafter, subsequent range session of 300-500+ rounds, barrels are mopped with Hoppes #9 and patched dry.

    For many shooters/plinkers, 300-500+ rounds could represent several range sessions without "cleaning" and 1000-3000 rounds could represent lifetime of shooting.

    So let's break down what "cleaning" really represent.

    Because my shooting and reloading mentor was an OCD bullseye match shooter who emphasized "cleaning" and this notion of "cleaning" was further hammered in by US Army of keeping our M16s cleaner than plates we ate off of, I amassed box full of various caustic bore cleaning chemicals and bore brushes. So TO ME, "cleaning" of barrel meant removing everything other than bare metal with use of caustic chemicals and bore brushing.

    Quite a few years back when cleaning of barrel threads discussed how often to clean barrels, moderator Walkalong posted Schuemann Barrels article on cleaning barrels that especially for 416 stainless steel, they discouraged use of harsh chemicals and aggressive bore brushing as they found evidence of rifling surface pitting and erosion that affected accuracy and quicker end of life of the barrel.

    Since then, my various pistol and rifle barrels only got mopping of Hoppes #9 and patching til dry. I guess to some, this qualifies as "cleaning" but to have barrel mopped with Hoppes #9 only 3 times during 3000 range sessions could also represent almost no "cleaning" during life of the barrel.

    My borescope inspections of barrels show clean rifling without leading although I have shot mixture of copper washed/plated and lead bullets at around 95/5% ratio so unlike match shooters who mostly shoot lubed lead bullets, I am essentially continuously burnishing the barrels with more concern for copper deposits.

    My 25000+ round testing was done mostly with commercial bulk boxed and loose ammunition and keeping the chambers of 10/22 and T/CR22 ensured reliable feeding from magazine and extraction/ejection. This was the primary reason why I decided to go with Keystone Sporting Arms bull barrel as it has larger Ruger Target chamber to better accommodate commercial bulk ammo that would choke with tighter Bentz match chambers - https://www.stockysstocks.com/barrels/rimfire/micro-groove-ruger-10-22-barrels-920-bull-standard-or-fluted-blued-or-stainless-with-or-without-threaded-muzzle.html

    I think we may be on the same page as salt water corrosion but differ slightly in our definition of "cleaning". BTW, "burnishing" the 10/22 and T/CR22 barrels to 1000 rounds before mopping the bore with Hoppes #9 and mopping after subsequent range session has not produced any rust of the bore that I could see.

    As to cleaning vs not cleaning affecting accuracy, I plan to do another myth busting thread with my 10/22 barrel (3000 round count) and T/CR22 barrel (1000 round count) along with KSA bull barrel. So stay tuned.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2021
    Trey Veston and Slamfire like this.
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