It's tempting, I know. You've got a brand new rifle and you can't wait to grab it out of the box and head out to the range and crank out some rounds sighting it in and, well, just cranking out some rounds to see what the shooting iron can do.
Don't be in too much of a rush. Plan on investing some serious time in breaking in, or seasoning, the barrel on that first outing. That is, if you want to extend the life of the rifle and increase its potential for consistent accuracy.
The breaking-in process is important because it will smooth any imperfections left in the bore from the manufacturing process, according to Cabela's gunsmith David Orten. If not dealt with properly, the imperfections can adversely affect your rifle's performance.
Before you fire the first shot you should thoroughly clean the rifle to rid it of lapping compound in the barrel and to get the manufacturer-applied rust preventative out of the bore and chamber, Orten said. The cleaning process outlined below should do the trick.
Being properly equipped will help assure the breaking-in process is done efficiently and correctly.
Orten's equipment recommendations are:
A sturdy vise makes it much easier to clean the rifle at the range, holding it securely while you're cleaning the barrel. This can be a vise designed for rifle cleaning and maintenance or most shooting vises can double as cleaning vises.
A fitted tube inserted through the action and into the rear of the chamber, the guide will precisely align the rod with the bore and prevent
the rod from wearing the rifling at the front of the chamber. It will also prevent fouling-laden cleaner from dripping into the trigger mechanism and magazine. Some bore guides feature solvent ports, which make it easy to apply solvent to patches and brushes with less mess.
Use a strong, one- piece plastic-coated steel cleaning rod. Aluminum jointed cleaning rods should only be used in emergency field situations when no other rod is available. Aluminum tends to become impregnated with foreign material that can scratch the bore of your rifle. Also, the joints may not fit exactly, allowing edges to protrude and scratch the bore. The sharp muzzle crown of the barrel has a tendency to strip pieces from aluminum rods, which can get into the barrel and cause damage.
Spear-pointed cleaning jags of proper caliber will hold the patch securely against the bore while you're pushing and pulling it through the bore.
Cotton Flannel Patches:
You can cut your own to proper size for your caliber or purchase them pre-cut for a perfect fit. Pre-cut patches are inexpensive time-savers, something you'll appreciate in the field.
Make sure you have a bronze (not stainless steel, which can damage some barrels) brush of proper caliber. Brushes do the dirty work during cleaning, scrubbing powder and copper fouling from the bore and rifling. While scrubbing, never reverse direction before the brush passes completely out of the barrel. If you do, the bristles are forced to reverse directions against the bore and can cause damage.
Use a high-grade cleaning solvent designed to remove copper and powder fouling.
THE CLEANING PROCESS
Saturate a cotton patch with solvent and, using the cleaning jag on the rod, push it through the barrel to remove loose fouling. Repeat it once or twice. You can reverse the patch-covered jag in the barrel to produce a scrubbing effect. Give particular cleaning attention to the six inches or so of barrel just ahead of the chamber.
Use an eye-dropper to saturate the bronze brush with cleaning solvent. Do not dip the brush into the solvent container or you'll contaminate the solvent. Push the brush completely through the barrel and pull it completely back out, making 20 passes (10 in-and-out cycles). Let the solvent soak in the barrel for several minutes. Clean the brush by spraying with a top-quality cleaner/degreaser and re-saturate the brush and make 20 more passes through the barrel.
When pulling the rod back through the barrel, be careful that the jag or brush is properly aligned as it enters the muzzle so the back of the jag or brush does not damage the muzzle crown.
Again with the cleaning jag, push a dry cotton patch through the barrel. Repeat until the patch comes out clean, then run a larger dry patch into the chamber to clean out all the solvent before shooting.
THE BREAKING-IN PROCESS
Clean the barrel after every shot for the first 10 shots and then after every second shot up to the 20th shot. Some hard-cores recommend cleaning the barrel after each of the first five shots and after every five shots for the next 50 shots.
As you can see, this is a slow, methodical process. Don't rush it. Allow plenty of time for thorough cleaning.
Set up a comfortable, organized cleaning station, preferably somewhere other than on your shooting bench. Use a tailgate or take a portable bench or table, where everything can be organized without interfering with the shooting process. You'll save time, be more efficient and clean more thoroughly.
When you are done cleaning for the day, be sure you remove cleaning solvent from the bronze brush with a spray cleaner/degreaser. If you don't, your brush will be much smaller the next time you take it out. Cleaning solvent will eat the bronze bristles.
During the cleaning process, frequently wipe solvent and fouling from the cleaning rod to prevent it from re-contaminating the bore.
Before beginning to clean the rifle, make sure scope covers are in place to protect lenses. Brushes, particularly, have a tendency to spray solvent as they are worked in and out of the barrel.
Finish the final cleaning after the break-in process by running a patch saturated with a rust-preventing lubricant through the bore to protect it and the chamber during storage.
You can accomplish preliminary sighting-in during the break-in sessions, but save the fine-tuning for after the barrel is properly broken in. And, remember, don't shoot so much that the rifle barrel gets hot to the touch. Overheating the barrel can cause irreversible damage. Go slow and allow time for the barrel to cool between shot groups.
Once the barrel is broken in, don't neglect it. It should be cleaned regularly. Particular shooters recommend cleaning the barrel after no more than 20 shots. Ten or 15 is more likely with competitive bench-rest shooters.
Cabela's Shooting Catalog features gun-cleaning equipment and hundreds of other items for shooters. For your free copy, call toll-free 1-800-237-4444. You can also find an extensive selection of Shooting Accessories on-line by clicking here
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