Introduction: Cleaning a Rifle

Cleaning a bolt action rifle is a important part of maintaining your rifle. This instructable will cover the basics of cleaning your weapon in order to prolong its life and keep it from rusting. It should be cleaned every time you go shooting. Inadequately cleaning your gun affects accuracy and can cause permanent damage to your firearm. Cleaning is so important for accuracy, competition shooters often clean their weapons after a certain number of rounds at the range.

Before even gathering materials to clean your gun, you need to consider safety. A gun should always be considered loaded until you have personally checked to ensure it is not! Checking to see if it is loaded involves a two step process. First, check to see if there are rounds in the magazine and then inspect the chamber for a round. If both are empty, you may proceed. Remember, if you second guess yourself, or are unsure, always check again. In 2010, 606 people died from accidental firearm discharge in the United States. Do not become a statistic; always ensure the gun is unloaded.

Step 1: Gather Materials

In order to clean your rifle, you will need the follow materials:

  1. Clean place to work
  2. A place to set your rifle
  3. Rag
  4. Windex or spray bottle of water
  5. A bore cleaning solvent
  6. Clean motor oil or gun oil
  7. Cleaning Rod (There are many different options. Any rifle cleaning rod will work.)
  8. Attachments for patches and a brush
  9. Patches (You can cut your own from a cotton T-shirt.)
    • Your patches will need to fit snugly in the barrel of the gun, and thus their size will change depending on the caliber.
  10. (Optional) Latex gloves (Getting solvent and oil on your hands should be avoided.)
  11. (Optional) Sandbags or rifle stand (In the picture, I am using a rifle cleaning stand, but a flat counter can also work.)

Step 2: Remove the Bolt

After making sure the gun is unloaded, pull the bolt open. When it is open, press and hold down the trigger which will allow you to slide the bolt out of the back of the gun. Set the bolt out of the way on a clean dry surface or oily rag.

Step 3: Beware of Corrosive Ammo

If you shot military surplus rounds, you may have fired corrosive ammo. This ammo contains chemicals that can cause you barrel to rust. You will need to spray Windex or water down the barrel. This will serve to break down the chemicals found in the residue left by the corrosive ammo. Spray water till it runs out on the other side. Be careful to use a rag or towel in order to prevent a mess.

Step 4: Solvent

Screw the patch attachment onto your cleaning rod. Soak the patch in bore solvent. Then run the patch through the rifle from the back to the front. Do not run your cleaning rod through the barrel starting from the muzzle. If you do, you can easily scratch the crown which is important for accuracy. Use care when your patch goes out the muzzle; you need to be sure that the cleaning rod does not scratch the end of the barrel as you pull the patch back through. Repeat this step twice using a second patch. This will ensure that the solvent is properly applied. During this step, it is a good idea to take care to not get solvent on the stock of your rifle. The solvent is designed to eat away the metal fouling inside the barrel and will easily cause damage to the stock. You should use care to avoid spilling solvent on the stock, and if any solvent spills, wipe it up immediately with a rag.

Step 5: Brush

Screw your brush attachment on the cleaning rod, and run it through the barrel several times. Use care to avoid scratching the muzzle. This is an important step because it helps remove accumulated lead fouling in the barrel. Lead fouling is when lead builds up in the rifling inside the barrel. Because of the lead buildup, the bullet can no longer grip the rifling as well and accuracy is lost.

Step 6: Oil and Clean

This is the longest step. Reattach the patch attachment. Soak a patch in oil and run it through the gun in the same way as with the solvent patch. The patch will come out nearly black with lead and residue. Continue to run new patches through until one comes out clean. It order to conserve patches you can flip them to their clean side and use them an additional time. You will notice the patches slowly get cleaner as there is less and less dirt to pick up. It may take a while for the patches to come out clean. Do not get discouraged; it is worth the additional time.

It should also be noted the different cleaning rods can make this step much easier or much more difficult. A cleaning rod that is short can create problems because it can not reach all the way through the barrel. If this is the case, you have to run the cleaning rod through the barrel from both sides alternating between them and use extreme care to avoid scratching the muzzle end. On the other hand, if you have a cleaning rod that has slots for multiple patches and is long enough, your task of cleaning will be much faster.

Step 7: Clean the Bolt and Magazine

Using a oily rag, wipe down the bolt carefully looking for powder residue and dirt. Pay extra attention to the bolt face. The bolt face is the part where the round is seated against. This is the mostly likely spot to have power residue. Then use a oily rag and carefully wipe down where the bolt goes in the gun and the magazine. Although it is not necessary every time you go shooting, you should, on every third or fourth time, take apart the magazine and clean and oil the parts individually. This process, while relatively simple, varies from rifle to rifle and thus is not covered.

Step 8: Finishing Up!

Pull the trigger and slide the bolt back into place. Then wipe down all the metal parts of the gun you have touched. Make sure to store your rifle in a dry, safe place. You should consider getting a gun sock or case. Either will help prevent the oil from drying up and rust from occurring. Congratulations, you cleaned a rifle!