Article reposted with permission from Frank at Bartlein Barrels. This is meant as a guide only. In some cases, there are no hard and fast rules on how to clean or break in a barrel but there are things that should not be done.
Always use a good one piece cleaning rod. I prefer a coated Dewey or Bore tech rods. A nice quality cleaning rod with bearings in the handle so the handle will freely rotate with the brush and or cleaning jag etc…if you don’t have a cleaning rod with a free rotating handle you can cause damage to the bore of the barrel.
Use a good bore guide. Anything is better than nothing. Excellent examples are the Lucas Bore guide, Sinclair, Proshot, Possum Hollow are some examples.
Never mix solvents whether in the bore or in the jars etc… unless you’re a chemist and you know how the chemicals are going to react to one another and how there are going to react with the steel and copper from the bullets and the carbon residue etc…. don’t do it. Some cleaners and mixing are known to cause pitting/etching in the bore of the barrel. Also, some cleaners should not be left in the bore for extended periods of time. Some cleaners say it’s safe to leave in the bore for extended periods of time but I do question some of them.
I use Parker Hale type cleaning jag. Cut your patch to the length of the jag (see our website) and roll the patch like you roll a cigarette (this will keep the tip of the rod centered in the bore as it goes down the barrel and with the help of the rod guide you have minimal chance of rod contact with the bore) get your patch soaked with your solvent (if not in a hurry I just use regular Hoppe’s #9 solvent not the copper solvent) run the patch down the bore and just let the tip of it poke out the muzzle. Not the whole jag tip. This will keep the rod from dragging over the crown and damaging the crown of the barrel. Pull the rod back through the barrel and remove the patch and put on a fresh one on the jag get it wet and down the bore and back again. I do this until the patches come out clean. With Hoppe’s, I will leave the gun sit overnight. Repeat this process until the barrel comes out clean. I store all my guns with Hoppe’s. It will protect as good as any oil. Before shooting run a couple of fresh wet patches down the bore and dry patch thoroughly. Dry patching the bore includes wiping the chamber out as well.
If the patch is squeaking/squealing going down the bore and or the cleaning rod is flexing a lot the patch is too tight! The dirt, carbon particles, etc.. have nowhere to go but potentially scratch the bore of the barrel. The very first patch might squeak a little bit because the bore is dry but if it’s doing it on any subsequent patches it’s too tight.
I don’t use a brush for this reason as well. The hard carbon deposits lay in the brush and can scratch the bore.
If you insist on using a brush. I suggest one caliber smaller or an old worn out one and roll patch around it like a cigarette. Push it breech to muzzle and come all the way out. Remove the brush from the rod before pulling the rod back thru. Why? The crown is the last thing the bullet sees/touches when leaving the barrel. And damage to the crown affects the accuracy right away. Pulling the brush back over the crown the bristles have to fold very abruptly and this will wear the crown unevenly and damage it etc… (a lot of people say the bronze brushes are softer than the barrel steel. I do agree with this statement but then why can water erode rocks!) you also get crown wear/damage from the powder gases exiting the barrel. This is known as gas cutting. Sometimes some shooters think their barrel is junk but the crown could be damaged or just worn. In some cases, you can re-crown the barrel and you can see the accuracy come back. If in doubt take it to a competent gunsmith and have it inspected.
If I’m in a hurry I clean my barrel with Sweet’s 7.62 solvent. Again one patch wet one after another until they come out clean looking (I don’t let the barrel soak for an extended period of time) and once they come out clean dry patch completely the bore and chamber. Then get one patch soaked with Remington 40x cleaner (use to be Rem. Bore cleaner and before that, it was called Gold Medallion). Stroke the barrel with that one patch 10x (again don’t completely exit the muzzle). This patch will eliminate any leftover Sweet’s solvent and will tackle any leftover carbon fouling. The 40x cleaner in opinion is fine and not aggressive like some of the bore pastes that are out there. After the patch of 40x cleaner dry patch thoroughly. Run a patch of Hoppe’s #9 down the bore and back. Before you shoot again the next day just dry patch the bore and chamber thoroughly. (This is my hurry up method) and only use it when shooting in matches where I have to shoot in days back to back etc…. again if I’m not in a hurry to clean the gun all I use is regular Hoppe’s #9 and nothing else.
No fire lapping kits should be used in our barrels. This can damage the barrel and we will not warranty a barrel in any way.
Your barrel should never be lapped by anyone else other than us. Any individual or gunsmith lapping our barrels also voids the warranty.
We do not recommend using most paste type cleaners. These can be aggressive and like lapping etc… and if you don’t remove all of the paste before shooting you might as well have sand in the bore when the first round goes down it. It will damage the barrel. Also using paste type cleaners can keep polishing to the point and if overused will actually remove/change/effect the bore dimensions. The lands will take the most beating/wear to them. There are concerns that you can make the barrel too smooth and this also leads to copper fouling issues. Once something like this happens to the barrel it is usually damaged beyond the point it can be saved. Also using a past type cleaner with a brush is guaranteed damage to the bore. Paste cleaners like Losso, Witch’s Brew, KG2, etc….and we’ve seen the damaged caused with these.
Breaking-In the Barrel
The age-old question, “Breaking in the New Barrel”. Opinions vary a lot here, and this is a very subjective topic as well. For the most part, the only thing you are breaking in is the throat area of the barrel. The nicer the finish that the finish reamer or throating reamer leaves, the faster the throat will polish/break-in. A rough throat can take longer to break in and also cause copper fouling. Some shooters think it’s the barrel has a problem but it could be from when it was chambered.
Shoot one round and clean for the first two rounds individually. Look to see what the barrel is telling you. If I’m getting little to no copper out of it, I sit down and shoot the gun. Say 4 – 5 round groups and then clean. If the barrel cleans easily and shoots well, we consider it done.
If the barrel shows some copper and or is taking a little longer to clean after the first two, shoot a group of 3 rounds and clean. Then a group of 5 and clean.
After you shoot the 3rd group and 5th group, watch how long it takes to clean. Also, notice your group sizes. If the group sizes are good and the cleaning is getting easier or is staying the same, then shoot 4 – 5 round groups.
If fouling appears to be heavy and taking a while to clean, notice your group sizes. If groups sizes are good and not going sour, you don’t have a fouling problem. Some barrels will clean easier than others. Some barrels may take a little longer to break in. Remember that throat. Fouling can start all the way from here. We have noticed sometimes that even up to approximately 100 rounds, a barrel can show signs of a lot of copper, but it still shoots really well and then for no apparent reason, you will notice little to no copper and or it will start to clean easier.
It’s been said that you don’t have to clean the gun/barrel
I don’t agree with the above statement. I shoot them… I clean them. Why? The biggest reason is carbon build up/fouling. The carbon fouling will keep building up and can cause pressure issues/problems. Also as the barrel wears over time it won’t hold accuracy as long between strings of firing like when it was new. This is due to the throat area right in front of the chamber will get rougher over time. When this happens it will cause fouling to go up. Also, some calibers for an easy comparison of .308win. vs. .300wm. Over bore capacity cartridges will lead the fouling to build up faster. Same goes for other calibers like 6BR vs. .243win. Etc…
Is there a set number of rounds to go in between cleanings? No, not really. Again, it kind of goes with what the barrel is chambered in, etc… as my rule of thumb I try not to let the barrel go more than a 100 rounds in between cleanings.
The shooter has to learn how to pay attention to the gun/barrel. It will tell you how often it needs to be cleaned etc… but you have to learn how to read it.
Any questions or problems a customer might have we would prefer you call before you start doing things to the barrel you shouldn’t do.
Best Regards, Frank