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Only light oil coating needed to clean gun

| Friday, Oct. 6, 2006

I've discussed gun cleaning in this column on several occasions, but many hunters still use the wrong approach.

Around this time of year, it's not unusual to be asked: "Have you got your guns well oiled?" -- the emphasis being placed on oil.

For some strange reason, gun cleaning for many hunters means dousing the innards of a shotgun or big-game rifle with oil. In many cases, the wrong type of oil is used, which only compounds the matter.

Oil in a firearm does not have the same duties as oil in a gear box or engine. In the latter two, oil acts both as a lubricant and a cooling ingredient. In a firearm, oil does help cut down on friction, but it has nothing to do with cooling. For the most part, a firearm will work flawlessly without a drop of oil -- that is if it has been cleaned properly.

I cleaned firearms for many years, and even had several air-operated devices to remove oil and grease. After the parts had been washed, and dried, a light coating of oil was applied with a brush. Putting a heavy coating of oil back in the firearm defeats the purpose. Excess oil is a harboring agent for field dirt and grime.

Through the course of a hunting season, every firearm, especially shotguns, accumulates dust and bits of grass as the hunter pushes through the brush. It's this accumulation mixed with oil that makes a firearm inoperative in a hurry.

I don't advise taking any gun apart down to the last screw. That's a job for a gunsmith. However, this should be done every three or four years. A gunsmith has the proper tools and lubricating agents to clean a firearm from the recoil pad to the muzzle. Still, any hunting firearm needs attention several times during a hunting season, and this means the owner has to know how to "field-clean" his or her hunting gun.

Most hunting guns can be field stripped, which means that removing several screws or pins breaks the hunting gun down to three or four pieces. In fact, every new hunter should be taught how to take a hunting gun apart for field maintenance.

Compressed air is the best method for getting dust and bits of grass and wood out of a firearm, but care must be used if the air is under high pressure. A small spring can disappear forever if hit with a blast of 80/100 pounds of air pressure. Camera owners use small cans of compressed air for blowing dust from lenses. A can of compressed air should be in every shooter's gun cabinet.

After the working parts of a hunting firearm are free of field dirt, spray a light coating on all the parts. It's wise to blow the oil through the parts with compressed air. This helps get oil to parts that are deep inside the gun. Keep in mind that too much oil is far worse than too little.

Rifle barrels have been subjected to improper cleaning methods for decades. A brass brush is pushed through the bore a few times followed by several dry patches. When a patch comes out fairly clean, it's assumed the bore is clean, and an oil-soaked patch finishes the job, but the bore is far from clean, and that's doubly true in a rifle.

Fouling (powder residue, smoke, lead and jacket material) builds layer upon layer in a rifle's barrel. Eventually, it has a detrimental impact on accuracy. High spots build in a bore and tear off jacket material as a bullet passes over them. This destroys a bullet's balance and its accuracy. A light brushing followed by wiping out the bore with patches gets only the loose residue. The embedded fouling is still there. It takes a chemical agent to soften fouling so a tight-fitting brass brush can dig it loose.

There are several ways to do this. Outers (RCBS) offers their Foul Out II device which strips lead and copper deposits from the bore using a reverse electroplating process. It works on both AC and battery power, which means it can be taken to a range. I'll spare the details on how Foul Out II works, but it removes fouling right down to the original bore metal. It isn't a quick method because it takes four to six hours to clean a bore.

Using a bore cleaner such as Shooter's Choice is a quicker method for cleaning a bore. Bores that haven't been cleaned properly for years should have the chamber corked. The bore is filled from the muzzle (I run a thin wire up and down to remove air pockets while filling). On really dirty bores, allow about one hour for Shooter's Choice to penetrate the fouling.

I always pour the solution into a small glass to check its color. It will be a dark green or dark bluish-green if the bore is really fouled. If the bore isn't fouled badly, the solution will have a weak bluish or green tint.

After removing the solution, use a tight-fitting brush. It's best to have the barrel clamped in a vise. It's also wise to use a bore guide to keep the cleaning rod from rubbing against the throat. Brush vigorously for five minutes while adding Shooter's Choice to the brush. Wipe the bore clean with a series of patches. It might be wise to repeat the process. The last patch should be lightly coated with gun oil to protect the bore from rust.

Spray the brush with Shooter's Choice "Quick Scrub" to neutralize it. Shooter's Choice Bore Cleaner also softens brass and will weaken the brass bristles. However, Shooter's Choice Bore Cleaner will not attack or damage barrel metal.

A properly cleaned hunting gun enhances a hunter's chances regardless of the weather. That's true.

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