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How often should you clean an airgun barrel?

Mat Manning advises

air rifle pest control

Make sure you read, understand and adhere to the rules set out by relevant general licences when controlling pest birds with an air rifle.

Q: How often should you clean an airgun barrel?  I’ve just cleaned the barrel of my air rifle and, rather than improving its accuracy, it seems to have had an adverseeffect on grouping. I used a proper cleaning kit but I’m concerned that I may have caused permanent damage to the barrel. (Read our advice on the best air rifle pellets.)

A: If you used a cleaning kit that was designed for airgun barrels it is very unlikely that you’ve caused any damage. The most likely cause of the loss of accuracy is your barrel being too clean, as pellets seem to run best when there’s a fine film of lead in the bore. I’ve known it to take as many as 200 shots to get a barrel suitably leaded for optimum accuracy to return after cleaning, so you probably just need to put more pellets through yours. For the record, I never clean the barrels on most of my airguns, and they still shoot accurately — after tens of thousands of shots in some cases. So the answer to how often you should clean an airgun barrel – in my book very rarely, if ever.

Are felt cleaning pellets any good?

Q: A friend has given me a tin of felt cleaning pellets to clean an airgun barrel. Do they work and is there any risk of them damaging my gun?

A: Although not as effective as a pull-through for removing stubborn dirt, felt pellets are excellent for clearing grime from your airgun’s rifling. Being so soft, they are unlikely to do any damage, though it is worth loading them directly to the breech if possible because they can sometimes get stuck in magazines.

There is no need to clean an airgun barrel unless you notice a decline in accuracy or want to experiment with different ammo. When the time comes, put a drop of light oil on five or six felt pellets of the correct calibre and fire them through the barrel. You may need to run more through if they are still coming out dirty. Follow with two or three dry cleaning pellets to clear any excess oil, and the job is done. Don’t panic if accuracy appears to deteriorate straight after barrel cleaning. The barrel can need leading in and it may take 30 or 40 shots before groups tighten up.