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Q & A: how often do airgun barrels need to be cleaned, and what’s the best way of cleaning them?

PUBLISHED: 13:58 03 August 2015 | UPDATED: 13:58 03 August 2015

I have always preferred to use a brass brush to scrub it out

I have always preferred to use a brass brush to scrub it out

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Q How often do airgun barrels need to be cleaned, and what’s the best way of cleaning them?

A solvent would make the job quicker, but you need to check the ingredients before useA solvent would make the job quicker, but you need to check the ingredients before use

GURU SAYS: I must be honest and start by confessing that I rarely clean airgun barrels, and then only in certain circumstances. Occasionally, I clean a barrel as a last resort before a complete rifle strip down when trying to pin down the cause of inaccuracy, but mostly, I clean them prior to switching to a different pellet.

Pellets leave minute traces of lead in the barrel, and the lead builds up as more pellets are shot, until it reaches a certain level when no more lead is added, at which point, the barrel is said to be ‘leaded’. If you change pellets for one that is harder or softer, the pellet will not give the best accuracy until it has built up its own leading pattern, a process which will take a lot longer if the barrel is already leaded for a different pellet, and so the leading process for a new pellet can be speeded up by thoroughly cleaning the barrel first.

There’s a wide range of ‘lead solvent’ barrel cleaning products on offer, but I have always preferred to use a brass brush to scrub it out. I push the cleaning rod down the barrel, then screw on the brush, and then pull it back along the barrel; repeating this two or three times usually does the trick. A solvent would make the job quicker, but you need to check the ingredients before use. Some contain petrol distillates that will ignite when spring guns are shot, and others may be harmful to seals. After cleaning, the barrel needs to be leaded for the new pellet before any serious shooting takes place.

If a spring rifle is dieseling, the products of the combustion can build up in the rifling grooves, and the less efficient the burn, the dirtier the barrel. For such barrel cleaning, a pull-through, or cleaning rod kit and patches, does the job just fine, or a cleaning felt backed by a pellet (to soften the shot cycle of a springer) is a good alternative. In either case, it may take several attempts before the patch or cleaning felt come out clean.

The one thing you do not want to get out of a barrel bore is rust. If a rifle is kept in a damp environment, or taken from a cold environment to a warm and humid one, moisture will get inside the bore, and a pull-through with a little oil on the patch will prevent rust from gaining a foothold, although if the rifle is a springer, use a clean, dry patch to get the oil out before using the rifle.

There is more advice on cleaning your airgun here.

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