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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Regular cleaning of firearms will help protect your investment

With hunting season underway, rifles and shotguns are coming out of storage in gun cases or gun safes in preparation for trips afield.

The question that every hunter needs to ask is: How long has it been since I thoroughly cleaned this firearm?

Rifles and shotguns, purchased new or used — or inherited — represent a significant investment. Routine cleaning is needed to maintain best performance and accuracy, and to ensure a long life. The frequency of cleaning depends on several factors, but as a general rule, firearms should be cleaned after every target shooting outing or sight-in session, and hunting trips afield, especially if they get wet or dirty.

Modern bolt-action rifles, both rimfire and centerfire, should always be cleaned from the breech to the muzzle. Never insert a cleaning rod from the muzzle because it will damage the barrel lands at the crown of the muzzle, affecting accuracy. (Photo by John Lander)

And always clean firearms at the end of the season, before putting them away for the year, just as you would change the oil in a high-priced zero-turn lawnmower when the grass stops growing in the fall.

High-quality cleaning gear, and proper cleaning techniques are the best way to protect and maintain your investment.

Start with the firearm’s barrel, and work your way out to the action and stock.

Modern Bolt-Action Rifles

Modern bolt-action rifles, both rimfire and centerfire, should always be cleaned from the breech to the muzzle.

A one-piece cleaning rod of the correct length and diameter should be used. Remove the rifle’s bolt and insert a rod guide that centers the cleaning rod in the bore. Never insert a cleaning rod from the muzzle because it will damage the barrel lands at the crown of the muzzle, affecting accuracy.

To clean the rifle’s bore, soak a bore brush in a quality bore cleaner and run it through the barrel. Then, soak a cotton patch or two, and run them through the barrel with a patch jag. Finally, run several dry patches through the bore until one comes out clean.

A patch sprayed with a light lubricant for rust prevention is recommended, especially at the end of the season. Use only bronze bore brushes because steel brushes will damage the bore.

Patch jags should be made of brass or plastic, and soft cotton cleaning patches should be of the proper diameter for the caliber.

Be wary of generic, inexpensive cleaning kits with metal cleaning rods that screw together. If the sections of the cleaning rod aren’t precisely aligned, there will be sharp edges where the sections screw together. Over time, these sharp edges will shave down the rifling (barrel lands), that bullets ride on, affecting accuracy.

Bore Tech, Inc., of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, in business since 1997, produces a full line of firearms cleaning supplies. Telephone (267) 347-4436 for customer service, or visit their website at: www.boretech.com.

Since many centerfire rifles shoot their tightest groups through “cold and dirty” barrels, a good pre-deer season regimen is to sight your rifle in with the load you are going to hunt with, then thoroughly clean the rifle’s bore. Let the rifle cool down to air temperature, then shoot one fouling shot.

When your deer shows up this season, your rifle will be ready for optimum accuracy.


Shotguns are easy to clean, especially side-by-side, or over-and-under shotguns, popular with dove and quail hunters. This is because these shotguns have actions that break open, with good access to barrels.

But pump-action shotguns, popular with waterfowl hunters because of their reliability in extreme conditions, can be taken apart easily for cleaning, too. The Remington 870 is one of the most popular shotguns for duck and goose hunting because there are few moving parts and the barrel can be removed in seconds.

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

When shotgun powder burns it produces lots of fouling so it’s important to clean shotgun barrels frequently.

The first step is to soak a bore brush with solvent and give the barrel a good scrubbing. Then run a swab or patch through the bore to clean it.

The Swab-its line of foam swabs, made by Super Brush LLC, are ideal for shotgun maintenance. Washable and reusable, the swabs are sold in packages of three, in 12 and 20 gauge.

Simply screw onto a cleaning rod with a 5/16 – 27 thread. They are tough and economical, fit the bore tightly for precision cleaning, and can be used with solvents or oils.

The product line also includes foam swabs for popular rifle and handgun calibers from .22 to .45, that screw into cleaning rods in the US standard 8/32 thread.

For cleaning those hard-to-reach areas in firearm actions, try their Gun-Tips, foam swabs that come nine to a package in three shapes.

The swabs are lint-free and reusable. Visit their website at: www.swab-its.com.

A properly maintained firearm with last a lifetime afield and can be passed down as a family heirloom.

1Art Lander Jr.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

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