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My Favorite Products and Techniques for Cleaning My Firearms

By: Tom Claycomb

I read an article a while back, and the author said something to the effect that there are a lot of good gun cleaning oils/solvents on the market nowadays. It is not like this one or that one is the only good one. I kinda have to agree.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t favor certain brands and products though. And to further complicate things, there are different products for all the different tasks we need to accomplish. So actually, I need to list good products for each individual task that we do. For instance, non-gilding metal ammo will not shoot as accurately after shooting gilding metal ammo. So, you’ll want to use a product such as Barnes CR-10 to remove copper, brass, and lead fouling.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let me back up and start at the beginning. There are different classes, or maybe I should say levels of gun cleaners. Years ago, I was prairie dog hunting with some guys over in northeast Wyoming. One of the shooters from Washington would run about 20 patches through his rifle every 40-60 shots (And believe me, we shot a lot. I shot over 750 rounds and only had two rifles, so I spent a lot of time letting my rifle cool off.) He would run a patch down his rifle until it came out spotless.

Then on the other end of the spectrum was my old 94-year-old bear hunting buddy Roy Snethen. One weekend I’d taken him up bear hunting. A bear stepped into the middle of the trail. I told him to shoot. Even though he was 94-years-old Roy, was a good shot, so it surprised me when he hit a good 4-feet under the bear.

I asked him what the heck had happened? He said his gun had hang fired. A hang fire is when you pull the trigger and the bolt is gummed up and the firing pin doesn’t pop forward for a few milliseconds. Roy had pulled the trigger, and nothing happened. So he started to lower his rifle, and it shot off, surprising him and missing the bear.

We were in camp with a buddy who knew a bit about firearms. He took home Roy’s rifle and gave it a thorough cleaning. He said it was the dirtiest bolt he had ever seen. I asked Roy when was the last time he had cleaned his rifle. He replied, “On smokeless rifles you don’t have to clean them.” It didn’t take a genius to figure out this one.

So with the above said, I’m somewhat a middle-of-the-road cleaner. There will be some of you who howl in protest that I didn’t recommend enough absolutes, and half will say I over-did it. With that said, let’s get started.

I don’t always use it, but sometimes I will use a heavy-duty solvent such as Barnes CR-10. This will really remove any heavy fouling. To begin, I will probably run a patch down the barrel with a few drops of Otis Firearm Protectant oil on it to remove any easy-to-remove fouling. Then I will run a patch down the barrel saturated with Barnes CR-10. I will then run a brass brush down the barrel a couple of times and let it set for 10 minutes. I will then run some patches down the barrel and repeat once more.

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You want to run your patch from the breech so you don't mess up the crown. Also, clean all new rifles in case there are any shavings left in the barrel from the factory.

Anytime you use an ammonia-based solvent, you want to make double sure it is all removed so it doesn’t set in the barrel while stored and hurt your barrel. I will run some patches down the barrel and then a few more with oil on them before storing.

I will then use a Swab-It with a couple of drops of Otis Firearm Protectant to reach up in the chamber, along the stock and other hard-to-reach spots. Next, I will apply a few drops of Otis and wipe the barrel. I will also wipe down my bolt. Spray oils are also good to clean the bolt with to prevent a situation like Roy encountered.

When I was a kid on a paper route budget, I saved worn-out flannel shirts and cut patches out of them, but it is a hundred times easier to use an Otis pre-cut patch. You don’t have to keep trimming your homemade patch to make it work. Using a factory patch is a lot easier.

Next will be cleaning your scope, but that will be a whole article in and of itself. Sometime soon I’ll try to talk the editor Teresa into letting me do an article on that. Until then, clean those guns and be ready. It’s crazy to go to all of the trouble and expense of putting yourself in the place to have a shot and then your gun misfire due to being dirty. Don’t let that happen. And if you properly clean your guns, they will last for generations to come.

Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.