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Old November 4, 2008, 09:21 PM   #1
Big Caliber
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ammonia in the copper solvent

I use Sweet's all the time for copper fouling, always observing the instructions. I know ammonia is bad for or "hard" on steel, but I don't know why? Does it make the steel softer, or more brittle, or cause rust? Can somebody please educate me?
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Old November 4, 2008, 09:42 PM   #2
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It is not harmful on steel below about 10% solution in water. Small amounts actually protect steel from rust when in solution with water. Higher concentrations, though, like any strong alkali, can do some etching. I expect the main problem encountered is that it degreases so well that it will leave steel vulnerable to attack by rust after it is gone and if the bore is not oiled or otherwise left unprotected.

I used Sweet.s for many years. I have gone over to Boretech Elimenator. It is faster on copper and has no eye-watering fumes.
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Old November 4, 2008, 09:46 PM   #3
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I'm sure it's a matter of 'eating' the metal. Just for poops and giggles, since you asked the question, I'm going to purchase 2 or three amonia based solvents and add a 1/2" or 3/4" caphead bolt, or actual barrel nubs if local GS's have a couple laying around that they can spare. With careful measuring- I don't have much going on anyway. Heck, I might eventually try paperclips, copperwashed cases, staples and nails.
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I'm going to use the words "clip" and "Long Colt" every chance I get. It grinds my gears to see new members attacked when we all know dang good and well what's being refered to.
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Old November 4, 2008, 10:16 PM   #4
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You're neutralizing the Sweet's with Hydrogen Peroxide right?
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Old November 6, 2008, 11:39 AM   #5
Alleykat
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Quote:
You're neutralizing the Sweet's with Hydrogen Peroxide right?
Wrong. I'm doing what Sweet's instructions say.
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Old November 6, 2008, 05:55 PM   #6
Harry Bonar
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cleaning

Sir;
I just use old Hoppes and forget about it.
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Old November 6, 2008, 06:16 PM   #7
44Magnum
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I use Sweets on occasion to remove the copper buildup that Hoppes doesn't get. Just don't leave it in too long and oil the barrel well afterwards. It won't hurt anything if used properly.

I believe over time that ammonia corrodes steel.

Last edited by 44Magnum; November 6, 2008 at 06:22 PM.
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Old November 6, 2008, 08:14 PM   #8
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In any reasonable strength, ammonia is not going to have any significant impact on steel. But avoid ammonia-based solutions on nickel plated guns; it can dissolve the copper undercladding and the nickel will peel.

Jim
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Old November 7, 2008, 12:44 AM   #9
Big Caliber
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Thanks all. I didn't consider etching. I always immediately remove the Sweet's by going through a normal cleaning proceedure w/ Hoppe's and some Kroil.
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Old November 7, 2008, 10:20 AM   #10
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I'll explain what I put in my first post a little further.

Years ago I called and spoke with a chemist at the company that supplies Ace Hardware brand Janitor Strength Ammonia. It is a 10% solution, nominally. He told me that they often add small amounts of ammonia to steel drums filled with water to prevent rusting in the drum. But that was a tiny amount, and probably just enough to bias the pH slightly above 7.

The 10% solution is right on the borderline for etching steel. Back about 1990, I had a .308 Redding FL sizing die I'd got a case stuck in and that the head tore out of when I tried using an extractor. I set it in the 10% ammonia solution in a glass jar to eat out the brass. It took about three months. After that time, the surface of the die looked gray. It was clearly micro-etched and activated, as it rapidly formed surface rust. I needed to polish it lightly, but it worked fine. There was not enough etching to change its dimensions measurably, even after three months.

I also spoke with the maker of Butch's Bore Shine a few years back. It's ammonia is not as concentrated as Sweet's, but it is still pretty strong. He told me they had put a bar of 4140 steel into a jar of Bore Shine for six months and inspected it for surface etching under a microscope afterward and found none. So it is either safely below the etching threshold, or its additives control it better. It is a good copper cleaner that I can recommend if an ammonia cleaner is how you want to go. I used it for a number of years with no problems. I have pretty much switched, now, to the Boretech Elimenator for metal fouling simply because it works faster and leaves a corrosion inhibitor behind when it dries, so, even though it is water base, you can leave it in a bore. I also use Gunzilla wherever carbon is the main problem, such as in shotguns or in detail cleaning. It is vegetable oil based. It is also one of the few cleaners I've ever seen actually soften carbon cake over night, such as you see on a Garand op-rod. Neither product is toxic nor do they leech oil out of your skin. Gunzilla leaves a thin, dry lubricating varnish-like surface behind. The military has apparently adopted it enthusiastically because that feature reduces malfunctions.

Sweet's, on the other hand, is what I had been using until I found surface rust in my M1A barrel one day, also in the early 90's. I don't know if that is because I'd failed to follow up with my usual patch of LPS-2 (Birchwood-Casey sheath is the same thing) or what? Some error of mine was clearly involved, as that was not normally a problem. So, Sweet's may be a tad too strong if it isn't removed. I also experimented with a lot of cleaners back then, so it is possible I mixed a couple by using one then the other in the bore when I should not have. I didn't keep records of that, and was kicking myself afterward when I tried to figure out what had happened? So, I can't blame Sweet's with any certainty.

You can take PDGXS's suggestion to follow up ammonia with a patch wet with hydrogen peroxide solution. That will drive off any remaining ammonia as gas, but it also supplies oxygen which will promote oxidation if there has been any surface etching. I think a better way to insure all the ammonia is gone is to use the black powder shooter's method of pouring boiling water down the bore to drive the stuff out. After that, flood it with WD-40 (Water Displacing formula number 40) to remove the water. Then remove the WD-40 with a couple of dry patches and finish with a patch wet with gun oil or the storage lube of your choice. WD-40 gets a bit tacky and attracts dust if you leave it on something.

If you discover you've got a bore that rusts easily, use Flitz on a patch or use JB bore compound or Remington Bore Cleaner or Iosso Bore Cleaner, or any of the slightly abrasive cleaners to polish it lightly. That will clear off the activated surface.
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Old November 10, 2008, 05:35 AM   #11
Big Caliber
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Thanks, Unclenick. Very enlightening. I never heard of using hydrogen peroxide. I just drench the bore with a 1/2 & 1/2 mixture of Hoppe's solvent and Kroil on patches several times after pushing the Sweet's out with a dry patch. Been doing that for 10 years now w/o any problems.
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Old November 10, 2008, 06:31 AM   #12
F. Guffey
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Big Caliber,

You can plug one end or the other (muzzle/breach) and fill the barrel with an ammonia solution and let it set, this ammonia solution has no appreciable action on the steel.

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Old November 10, 2008, 08:30 AM   #13
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The hydrogen peroxide tip came from a USAMU shooters information posting wherein team members describe the care and cleaning of their M14/M1A and ARs- particularly when using Sweet's.
There are a bunch of great tips and videos on USAMUs website here:
http://www.usaac.army.mil/amu/Servic...vicerifle.html
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Old November 10, 2008, 08:34 AM   #14
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I've always started with alcohol on a loose mop to cut the powder fouling, clenaing copper cleaner, then finish with a fresh mop and alcohol rinse. Oil as usual. The alcohol will rinse out the barrel and not leave behind anything, just a clean bore. TF
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Old November 10, 2008, 09:27 AM   #15
F. Guffey
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PDXGS, thanks for the link, some have short memories, they can not remember where or who furnished the information and fail to give credit for the contribution, they just use others to add to their repretwa.

The information below came from a B&N reloading manual in the late 50s.

"Modern jacketed bullets have aided materially in making metal fouling of rifle barrels less common. Cupro (cupio) Nickle jacketed and especially some lots of service bullets made hurriedly during the World War offend in this respect. Roughened bores will metal even when the bullet and other cartridge components are correct. in most instance, it will be found passable to remove these lumps or patches if the process of metal fowling has not been permitted to progress to a very great extent or the cleaning not delayed too long. Barrels which have a tendency to metal foul should be watched closely and cleaned frequently.

When it is imposable to remove cupro-nickel metal fowling by the use of a good brass brush the following formula will be found very effective. This solution can be made up by any druggist and should be ordered in small quantities as required. since it quickly loses strength.

Ammonia Persulphate 100 grains
Ammonia Carbonate 50 grains
Strong Ammonia (26%)
Water 1/2 ounce

The solution should be kept in a tightly corked bottle. No portion of it may be used more than twice. The used portion must not be mixed with the unused solution but should be bottled separately. It should be used within 30 days from the time mixed and should not be used in a warm barrel.

To remove metal fouling from a barrel, plug the breech with a rubber stopper and fit a short piece of rubber over the muzzle. Fill the bore through this tube with the solution and let stand for more than 20 minutes. This solution will be a deep indigo blue when it is poured out and the treatment should be repeated as long as the spent solution shows this color.

This ammonia solution has no appreciable action on the steel when not exposed to the air but, if allowed to evaporate on steel will attack it rapidly. The barrel therefore must be thoroughly washed with water and dried as soon as the solution is poured out or it will be spoiled with rust. Care should be taken exercised to avoid the spilling the solution in the receiver. After the treatment, the bore should be coated with a smokeless powder solvent and gun oil."

Trigger word, 'Rust', only in the presents of water (moisture), the above article says "when not exposed to air" atmosphere. Article does not say brass brush with solution, meaning they had it figured out back then some of the blue was coming from the brush, an either or but not both.

John Wayne, John Wayne toilet paper and Hoppy #9, are all alike, they do not crap off of anything or anybody. Hoppys #9 works if the barrel is smooth and not dirty, if the barrel is seriously fouled and not smooth, using Hoppys is a waste of time.

For long time storage of brass cases the B&N author recommended diluted H2S03, for a short time, then wash and bag, and they said not to be alarmed, the brass will come from the solution in a black state, I use vinegar 3 to 5% for 15 minutes for brass with a heavy patina, it works and saves days of tumbling.

I am told by the experts on some forums the druggist will report any one to home land security for ordering the above ingredients, they did not follow me home, they just said 'no' they said they did not have some of the ingredients.



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Old November 10, 2008, 09:29 AM   #16
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they do not 'TAKE'

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Old November 10, 2008, 07:51 PM   #17
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Wow. Someone still shoots cupro-nickel jackets (silver/gray colored alloy)? I was trying to remember when the military dropped it for the modern 5%:95% zinc/copper gilding metal? The fouling problem was the reason for the change. Typically, match shooters reported accuracy loss in as little as five rounds owing to the lumpy fouling it makes that builds on itself. I have no clue how machine guns dealt with it? Old timers would grease those bullets.

I recall reading that the 1921 National Matches debuted cupro-nickel with tin plating, something Col. Townsend Whelen came up with to reduce the fouling. I also seem to recall Hatcher mentioning that some old timers at that match insisted on greasing the tinned bullets despite warnings not to, and that resulted in a couple of burst guns. I don't think those tin bullets were around for too many years, so the military must have switched over not terribly long after that.

Howe's 1941 edition of Modern Gunsmithing also included several formulae for removing the old jacket fouling, but I recall they included some pretty hazardous mercury compounds. The bullets were probably around and used by handloaders for a long time after the military changed over. Howe listed removing that fouling as a profitable activity for gunsmiths to restore accuracy to guns.

These days I would opt for the Foul Out electrolytic cleaner over harsh chemicals for really heavy fouling, just for handling and disposal reasons. The Foul Out patent has expired and you can check out a build-it-yourself design along with other copper removers at Father Frog's web site.
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