Steve Bowers is an expert in the field of ballistics and the construction of both stalking and target rifles, is meticulous and methodical when it comes to cleaning a rifle after use.
Here he explains the routine he adopts when attending to a stalking rifle that has been used on the hill on a day of constant rain.
We?ll assume, said Steve, the rifle in question is in a standard calibre, for instance a .308 or .30-06, and has been brought home from the hill and is now soaking wet.
The first step towards restoring it to a dry and clean condition is to take out the bolt and, if you are competent and sufficiently confident, to remove the metalwork of the breech from the stock. This is really not too difficult.
Most rifles are screwed together with two screws, one at the back of the trigger and one in front of the trigger-guard or the action.
These screws can usually be undone easily, but I would emphasise that this really only needs to be undertaken if the rifle has been drenched with rain.
Under these conditions, water will seep between the metal and the woodwork, so both must be cleaned and dried.
I should point out, too, that disassembling the rifle can affect the zero on some of the older models, especially those where the bedding is not perhaps as good as it should be, so only remove the stock from the action in dire circumstances (i.e. when sodden with rain).
If the rifle has only been lightly rained on then there is absolutely no need to disassemble it.
In order to dry the rifle thoroughly, place both it and the bolt on a sheet of newspaper at room temperature and let them dry slowly, and if the stock is made of wood never, under any circumstances, place it in an airing cupboard or near a heat source as it will warp.
Obviously this doesn?t apply if the stock is made from a synthetic material.
CLEANING THE BARREL
Assuming that the stock and barrel are now dry and all excess water and moisture have been removed, the first part of the rifle to be cleaned is the barrel.
The bolt has been removed and the bore should then be cleaned with either a phosphorbronze or a nylon brush.
Copper solvent should be applied to the brush and this can then be pushed through the bore using a bore guide if you have one.
Failing that, the rod can be supported by your fingers so that the brush is not rubbed into the breech or throat of the rifle.
The brush will now emerge from the crown or muzzle of the barrel and a few drops of solvent can be applied to it.
The cleaning rod should be pulled back and worked up and down along the length of the barrel several times to make sure an adequate coating of solvent is deposited in the rifling.
REMOVING COPPER DEPOSITS
The rod and brush should then be withdrawn and the barrel left to soak for 10 to 15 minutes so that the copper solvent can do its work.
Then the bore is cleaned either with a pull-through using a clean cloth or else a rod with detachable cotton patches to remove the solvent.
Each patch I use is placed on a Pro-Shot jag with a point, screwed on to the rod and then gently pushed through the barrel. As it exits the muzzle, the rod is withdrawn and the patch drops off.
One can then carefully withdraw the rod, place another clean patch on the point and push it through.
Keep on pushing patches through the bore until they appear relatively clean and dry. Now soak a patch in degreasant and push that through to remove all grease from the barrel.
Finally, clean again with a dry patch. Don?t forget to wipe the crown of the rifle when you have finished as solvent will gather there.
I must emphasise, however, that in the case of a stalking rifle, one only needs to clean with copper solvent after about 30 to 50 rounds have been fired. If you are stalking and only fire one or two shots, then use a bore snake to clean the loose fouling from the barrel, and simply push a dry patch through.
I always use a bore snake to remove any fouling simply because after 24 to 48 hours the loose fouling will glue itself to the inside of the barrel.
When the next round is fired, the bullet has to grind out the fouling and this will cause more wear than the passage of the bullet.
If copper is left inside the bore, particularly if the barrel is molychrome steel ? as opposed to stainless steel ? the residue can be quite corrosive and will eat away the metal. A layer of corrosive deposits will form between the copper and metal and this is a major cause of pitting in barrels.
Copper deposits must be removed from the bore, otherwise they will build up over time.
Once a coating of copper appears in the barrel, then it will attract more copper until quite a thick layer appears in certain parts of the bore and this will, of course, affect accuracy.
As far as copper solvents are concerned, they all contain much the same constituent ingredients, though my personal choice is KG12.
CHECKING THE CHAMBER
Having cleaned the bore, one now needs to check the chamber as withdrawing and pushing patches through the barrel can cause deposits of solvent to become attached.
Either put a large patch on to a brush or use a chamber brush or mop to clean inside the chamber and soak up any excess fluid, dirt or brass particles from cases, which can also be deposited.
Last, check the section immediately behind the barrel in the action where the bolt locks on to the abutments and where the lugs go.
This needs to be cleaned to make sure there is no residual debris. Under no circumstances must you leave any oil or solvent in the barrel. This should always be dry unless the rifle is to be stored for a long period without use.
Then the bore can be oiled. The barrel is now clean and the action must be attended to.
A build-up of debris can appear in the well a little in front of the bolt lugs so, using a cotton bud bent at a 90° angle, any dirt here can be poked out.
If you have access to an air-line this can also be used to clean this area. Wipe the barrel and the action body over with a lightly oiled rag to clean the metal surfaces and prevent any rust.
Never pour any oil into the trigger mechanism, the safety catch or any bolt holes.
These areas should only be cleaned by a professional gunsmith on an annual basis when the rifle is serviced.
The woodwork can also be wiped over with a rag.
STORING YOUR RIFLE
Now the rifle is clean and can be stored in its cabinet. It makes no difference whether it has the muzzle or butt resting on the ground, though if the muzzle is pointing down, make sure it rests on a soft pad to avoid damage to the crown.
As mentioned above, if the rifle is to be stored for a length of time without use, a light film of oil can be left in the bore, but it must be cleaned out with methylated spirits or a degreasant before it is next shot.
If there is any oil in the barrel when the rifle is used, the first few shots will be way off target.
If I have fired between 30 and 40 shots from my own .30-06 stalking rifle then I will give it a complete treatment with copper solvent and clean it with a bore snake and shoot as normal, because most barrels like to be slightly fouled to give them optimum accuracy.
I?ll give the rifle a complete clean, then take it to the range, fire two or three shots and clean it with a bore snake before putting it away.
HERE’S THE PROCESS IN PICTURES:
2: Work a phosphor-bronze brush through the bore. Clamp the rifle in the soft jaws of a vice so both of your hands are free.
3: A few drops of solvent can be added to the phosphor-bronze or nylon brush as it emerges from the muzzle.
4: Clean any residual solvent from the rod and leave the barrel to soak for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the solvent to do its work.
5: Place a clean cotton patch on to a jag with a point that is placed on to the rod. This is then gently pushed through the barrel.
6: Push the rod through and withdraw so the patch falls off. Keep replacing with fresh patches until they appear clean and dry.
7: Once patches are clean, soak a patch in degreasant and remove grease from the barrel. Then clean once more with a dry patch.
8: Use a .410 sheepskin mop or similar to clean the chamber which may have solvent from the barrel.
9: The .410 mop removes any solvent residue and also any dirt or brass particles from cases.
10: Clean in front of the abutments where the bolt lugs lock, with a cotton bud or use an air-line.
11: Wipe the bolt with a lightly oiled rag to clean the surface and prevent rusting.
12: Smear a little grease on the cocking cam and any area which may incur any friction.
13: Apply a small drop of oil to any moving parts such as the extractor claw.
14: Using a lightly oiled rag, wipe over the faces of the action, including bolt rails and guide.
15: Finally, using a rag, wipe over the woodwork and any other metalwork.