Did you know dirty barrels are among the top reasons a good long-range rifle turns bad? Understandably, cleaning a gun may not be the most fun activity.
But to ensure it’s safe and functions accurately, you have to clean it often. Learn how to clean your long rifle and the necessary tools to get the job done.
For similar reading see our post on the best long range rifles on the market today.
How to Clean Long Range Rifles
The key is to go forward with a solid understanding of the process before starting. Follow the steps below to learn how to clean a long range rifle, and you’ll soon have a properly cleaned firearm that’s accurate and ready to go.
First, find a clean and well-lit working area. A decent workbench will do. Cleaning a rifle involves solvents, oils, and contaminants like carbon, copper, and lead. You don’t want to clean in an area you drink or eat from.
Once you have a safe and clutter-free working space, unload your rifle and detach the magazine or empty it.
Wipe Away Visible Dirt
Start by wiping away visible dirt and grime. A soft damp cloth will do, especially if your rifle has dried blood or mud. Wipe all the surfaces thoroughly.
You don’t need to worry about oiling at this stage. You’ll get back to it once you’re done with cleaning. Finish off by wiping with a towel and move on to the next part.
Clean the Bore
This step is a bit longer than the rest but also the most important. You can place the rifle on a gun vice or rifle cradle so that both your hands are free to do the job right.
Start by installing a bore guide in the chamber or action to protect the bore’s throat from damage.
You’ll also need a high-quality cleaning rod to avoid damaging the bore and a brass cleaning jag and bore brush for the caliber. Attach the jag to the cleaning rod, then wrap the jag with a cleaning patch, wet it in your solvent, and run it through the barrel.
When the patch comes out on the other side of the barrel, remove it and gently pull the rod and jag towards you. You’ll do this a few times to eliminate all the dirt.
Next, attach the brush to the cleaning rod, soak the bristles in the solvent, then run it through the barrel about twenty times (ten times down the barrel and ten times up).
Next up, pass a patched jag through the bore, and when it comes out from the other side, remove the patch from the jag. When a patch comes out clean, you have successfully cleaned your bore.
Once you have a clean bore, you may want to check for copper fouling. Certain projectiles deposit copper, so it’s good to check.
Dampen a patch in copper solvent and run it through the barrel. If the patch comes out blue, you have copper fouling, which you can clean with a copper solvent.
If you’re planning to store your long range rifle for a long time, you can apply gun oil to the barrel. But if not, then best avoid lubricants as they can lead to misfires. (Reference 1: How often to clean your gun)
Clean the Action and Magazine
Apply a small amount of standard solvent to the cloth and wipe the action and magazine. You may need to use a toothbrush to access those hard-to-reach corners. Finish by cleaning the entire outer surface with a clean cloth.
If you’re looking for a visual guide, take a look at this video:
Which Direction Do You Clean a Gun Barrel?
You should clean a gun barrel from the chamber to the muzzle. Experts advise against sticking anything from the muzzle end unless it’s an emergency. Making that mistake can damage the crown and compromise rifle accuracy.
Also, clean the rifle with the barrel facing down to allow the excess solvent to run out of the muzzle instead of flowing back into the bedding, action, and trigger area.
It’s best to clean your barrel after about 250 to 300 rounds. This will prevent the carbon particles from accumulating inside the barrel, keeping your rifle in great shape.
Now, another important tip is to use the proper cleaning kit and solvent. While there are many types of kits in the market, a kit should have the following items:
- Cleaning rods and bore brushes suitable for every caliber
- Cleaning patches and cotton bore swabs
- A tiny utility brush (an old toothbrush can work as well)
- Cleaning solvent and gun oil
A comprehensive kit is likely to have everything you need.
How Often Should You Clean a Rifle Barrel?
Although this question is often asked, I think the better question is: after how many rounds should you clean your gun? And as I mentioned, you must clean your rifle after about 300 rounds.
Each time you fire a bullet, some copper residue is left on the bore. Usually, the higher the cartridge velocity, the more fouling builds up, which degrades performance. So, how often to clean copper fouling from a barrel will depend on the bore.
Smooth bores with less machining and tool marks require less cleaning before accuracy decreases. But once you notice the accuracy has reduced, consider cleaning the fouling.
Also, can you clean a rifle barrel too much? Yes, it’s possible to overclean a barrel and shorten its lifespan. You don’t need to clean the barrel every time you’re at the shooting range, especially if you just shot a few rounds. (Reference 2: Long Range Rifles)
Gun Barrel Cleaning Solvent
A gun solvent spray helps keep your rifle in good working condition. It easily removes residue buildup and ensures the gun performs when you want it to.
However, if you can’t access a store-bought gun solvent, you can make a gun cleaning solvent substitute at home.
You’ll need to mix equal parts of kerosene, transmission oil, and mineral spirits. The transmission oil will eliminate metal particles and clear carbonization. This substitute works almost as well as the store-bought one.
Rifle Barrel Cleaning Kit
There are a few barrel cleaning kits on the market that can make your work easier. Here are some options you can check out:
- Wheeler Compact Tactical Rifle Cleaning Kit: It has all the necessary tools for cleaning a rifle, plus some extras like an ergonomic T-handle for easy cleaning.
- Gloryfire Elite Cleaning Kit: This kit is comprehensive and can clean different types of firearms. It comes with steel brushes, patch puller attachments, and cotton swabs.
- Allen Ultimate Universal Cleaning Kit: This kit is more comprehensive, containing 65 pieces of cleaning material. If you have the budget for it, it’s the best.
My Personal Notes and Findings
Just like your computer and car, you have to clean your long range rifle from time to time. It’s best to use the right tools and solvents to avoid damaging the barrel, and I’ve found it’s less of a hassle just to get a kit similar to the ones mentioned above. Also, pay attention to the direction of cleaning the barrel to avoid damaging it.
For more on long-range rifles, see our guide to the Barrett Model M468.
Should I clean my long range rifle?
Yes, you should clean your long range rifle from time to time to ensure it maintains accuracy.
What is the best method of cleaning a rifle?
The best method of cleaning a rifle is by eliminating the dirt and grime, then cleaning the barrel with a cleaning solvent and finishing with the rifle’s outer parts.
How does the military clean their rifles?
The military clean their rifles using a wet lubricant called CLP which cleans, lubricates, and preserves the rifle.
- Development of ergonomic gun barrel cleaning method: Automation and its advantages, Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318179900_Development_of_ergonomic_gun_barrel_cleaning_method_Automation_and_its_advantages
- Extreme Long-range Shooting: What is it, why do people do it and how does Garmin help?, by Rehan Nana, Retrieved from: https://www.garmin.com/en-US/blog/fish-and-hunt/extreme-long-range-shooting-what-is-it-why-do-people-do-it-and-how-does-garmin-help/
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material for over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world, including Russia, and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American West and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Big Horn Mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems TM.
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