View Full Version : How clean, exactly, is "clean"?

May 31, 2007, 12:34 AM
This has been bugging me a little since before Army basic training, and that was '78.

I was always told to clean until the patch comes out clean. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but when I hear "clean", I think of a nice, white patch with no trace of gray, brown, or any other funky color. To achieve that state of "clean" in any of my center-fire rifles (Sako Vixen .222, Remington 700 .22-250, Rossi .357) takes what seems to me to be an inordinatel amount of time and material. The last time I cleaned the .22-250, I think I went through a couple dozen patches and a measurable amount of a bottle of Butch's Bore Shine. I can run wet & dry patches through until they come out almost completely clean, then run a wet brush through a few times -- and the next patch is jet black. Sheesh, back to scrubbing.

Tonight I tried a Boresnake, with some BBS on the front end of it. After 8-10 passes I tried a wet patch to see how clean the bore was. Not even close. Sure, it looks nice & shiny, but the patch comes out black, and after a couple of passes with a wet bore brush it was REALLY black. A dozen wet patches later and now I'm down to a light blue color, so it's sitting for a while with a wet bore before I finish it off.

I've always thought "clean" meant that final patch put a light oil film on bare metal with no trace of carbon or copper on it. Is my idea of clean just way too anal, or is it reasonable to expect to use a couple dozen patches, half an ounce or more of solvent and a good 45 minutes of scrubbing to get the bore completely clean?

May 31, 2007, 12:40 AM
I clean mine until I can visibly not see any build uo on the surface of the metal and a patch comes out completely clean.


May 31, 2007, 12:57 AM
I can run wet & dry patches through until they come out almost completely clean, then run a wet brush through a few times -- and the next patch is jet black. Sheesh, back to scrubbing.I'm guessing it's the brush that's dirty.

May 31, 2007, 02:23 AM
I almost always clean until the patch has no gunk on it, but some guns are easier to get sparkling clean than others.

ARs give me fits. You clean them until there is no visible scum anywhere, put on a light coat of CLP, and 12 hours later the lube has discolored from the invisible residue hiding somewhere. I end up cleaning them two or three times before I am satisfied with the result.

May 31, 2007, 06:24 AM
When it gets down to the almost clean, but a patch still comes out a little grey, cleaning the bore brush between passes can make the final difference.

May 31, 2007, 06:37 AM
I also clean till the patch comes out snow white. I have the same problem with my 22-250. Evidently the velocity really melts the copper to the bore. It takes 10 times the effort and time to get it clean. I'm starting to experiment with different solvents to try and find the best just for this one rifle. Almost anything works well on my other guns. So far the only new one I've tried is GunSlick Foaming Bore Cleaner. I was not impressed. Two applications that I let sit for 30 minutes each and it was still badly fouled. Used Hoppes Benchrest Copper Solvent afterwards to finish it right and finally get it clean. I have been gleaning info from TFL for ideas on what to try. Plan to try; Boretech Eliminator, Barnes CR-10, Butches Bore Shine, Hoppes Elite and will be watching this post for more ideas and advice. This is a very busy time of the year for me so my tests might take all summer but if I ever find one that knocks my 22-250 cleaning time down to what I consider reasonable I will definitely be singing it's praises here.

May 31, 2007, 07:33 AM
KKB - The brush is clean as a whistle. I dunk it in solvent before making a pass. Checked it on a paper towel last night; it's clean.

Rgates, you may be right. The .222 didn't take nearly as much effort, though it also had fewer rounds through it. My revolvers always end up as clean as the day they were made. Last night I also tried switching back from BBS to the old faithful Hoppe's #9 when I cleaned the revolver - that seems to do a whole lot better on powder residue. I don't know about copper, but at least on the .357 it got the bore and cylinder clean a lot faster. The two smell completely different, but one's just as nasty as the other. BBS is a little easier to work with, but I think I'm going back to Hoppe's and see how that works out.

Really, what got me asking this question was reading a couple of other, older cleaning threads. There were a lot of guys saying they just make a couple of passes with a patch or Boresnake with some solvent or CLP and call it good. I'm not as worried about accuracy after doing that as I am about the remaining residue absorbing water from humidity and rusting the bore. Plus, I'd never been much for using a bore brush; I was shocked at how much crap it got after the patches looked "pretty good".

May 31, 2007, 07:41 AM
Strong bore cleaners will eat/dissolve a brass bore brush and dirty up your clean barrel. Try a nylon brush after you get the worst of the fouling out. Or do like I do and don't worry about the last little bit of fouling.

I don't dunk brushes in solvent either, it just contaminates the bottle.


Edited to add: Brass and bronze both contain copper.

May 31, 2007, 08:19 AM
One nitro solvent patch followed by two passes with a brush. Another solvent patch then a dry patch. An oily patch then a dry patch. Done. Military clean will just wear out your gun.

May 31, 2007, 08:26 AM
Well, there's clean, and then there's clean enough.

It's pretty tough to get a bore perfectly clean. If you think I'm wrong, clean the heck out of your bore, wait 48 hours, and then run another patch through; don't be surprised if you wind up with a slightly dirty patch.

I use enough Hoppe's and patches until the patches are coming out almost clean, then a light film of oil, and I'm done. I might do a spring cleaning once a year to work on copper or just to get things very clean. Otherwise, for regular cleaning, I just clean it up well (not perfectly spotlessly clean) and oil.

May 31, 2007, 09:30 AM
For me. I'll run about 5 patches through, no more.

May 31, 2007, 09:33 AM
When I'm finished cleaning I pour champaign down the barrel an into one of my wife's high heeled shoes.

Then I pour it on cracked corn fer hog huntin'. Hard to argue with success.

john in jax
May 31, 2007, 09:56 AM
I'm another one of those who goes for "clean enough".

May 31, 2007, 10:40 AM
On an issue rifle I don't bother going for a snow white patch, I just clean until the bore has no gunk visible for either end.

On my bolt rifles I clean until the copper is out, then I run a wet patch through and let is sit for a few minutes to suspend as much carbon as possible, then I follow up with a few more patches and call it good.


May 31, 2007, 01:51 PM
I clean mine until I can visibly not see any build uo on the surface of the metal and a patch comes out completely clean.

It's either "clean" or it's not clean. Period! There is no "almost clean." Almost clean is NOT clean, it's dirty.

Take care of your weapon, and your weapon will take care of you! Yeah, it's still true today!

May 31, 2007, 02:28 PM
Heres a link to an interesting article. The author believes cleaning to perfection can be bad for the rifle.


May 31, 2007, 05:51 PM
I'm finding myself more and more in the "clean enough" camp. It is not like a rifle barrel is a surgical instrument or astrological telescope. Reasonable bore care to eliminate corrosion with no noticable decrease in accuracy fits my bill. I don't see the need to clean for clean's sake. Foam and about 4-5 patches with a nylon brush in between works fine for me and I have several 0.5 MOA rifles. The AR's get some Brake-clean through the bolt and gas tube though.

Ammo Junky
May 31, 2007, 05:58 PM
I let the bore soak with hopes 9 for at least an hr and sometimes overnight if I get back late. Then I run wet patches untill they are pretty clean. Then one pass with a brush. The next patch after the brush is filthy. I then run wet patches untill mostly clean, usualy less after each brushing, then brush agian. Some guns only need burshed a couple of times before the brushing stops turning the next patch much dirtyer than the one before. I usualy judge by the second patch after the brush more than the first, becaus on some guns the first patch will never, ever come clean. This seems much worse on some guns than others and offten worse on newer guns. I have even found powders make a difference. H322 seems to take much longer to clean out than H335 in my .223. Bullets make a big difference in copper fouling. Remington bullets shoot very well, but leave a lot of visable copper in guns where sierras doesnt. ten minutes with sweets and its gone. Hoppes will turn patches green, but not your barrels clean. :D At least not if you have copper fouling. Youll need amonia for that. Some guns can go along time and not loose accuracy from copper and some go down fast.
I get my guns as clean as I reasonable can, but there is an extreme where one can do more harm than good. You can scrub the tread off your tires if you scrub long enough.:D

Shane Tuttle
May 31, 2007, 06:13 PM
"It's either "clean" or it's not clean. Period! There is no "almost clean." Almost clean is NOT clean, it's dirty." Cheygriz

I understand your point, Cheygriz, but I disagree.

I used to clean, brush, clean, patch, clean, clean(well, you get the point).:)

But, since coming on board, I've done a lot of reading and experimenting on my own. Some benchrest shooters claim that you need some type of fouling in the landings of the rifling to provide accuracy. I also believe if you get the immediate loose gunk and run a wet patch of your favorite rust preventative when you're done for storage, you won't provide damage to the bore.

May 31, 2007, 06:56 PM
I run a bore snake maybe three times. Use my bore chamber brush. Swab bore with CLP. Brush off bolt Assy. spray with CLP. Wipe out everything I can reach with a rag. More CLP. Maybe some CLP Lub oil on lower items. I don't get into killing my self or over doing things. It has worked for me.:)

May 31, 2007, 07:14 PM
I run patches and the occasional brush through until the patches go from filthy to just slightly gray. I've never been able to get a patch to go through a barrel and come out snow white. And I take my time to carefully clean my guns after each shooting session (about an hour for an AR or AK).

May 31, 2007, 08:30 PM
It is not like a rifle barrel is a surgical instrument or astrological telescope

But sometimes it is...

You don't want to shoot a match with a freshly cleaned bore, though. "Seasoning" the bore with at least 50 rounds is standard procedure, but you don't want it too dirty either. It has to be just right.

Shane Tuttle
May 31, 2007, 08:46 PM
"You don't want to shoot a match with a freshly cleaned bore, though. "Seasoning" the bore with at least 50 rounds is standard procedure, but you don't want it too dirty either. It has to be just right."

Thanks, Chief. That's basically what I was trying to say...:)

May 31, 2007, 08:48 PM
My pistols I always clean well, My ak gets very little attention but never fails, my ars give me fits they are so hard to get clean and my remmy 700 gets cleaned twice before going into safe. I am never satisfied until i get a clean patch. I use a spray of break free at the range to come home with and hoppes then copper cleaner then dry patches until clean and no blue then one with oil and finish with one dry. I never use corrosive ammo. Probably too much but its what i feel good with.

May 31, 2007, 09:25 PM
As I mentioned before I clean untill the patches come out spotless. The evidence to support this belief is a 35 year old Winchester 190 that I bought as my first rifle when I was 15. This rifle has had hundreds of thousands of rounds through it. Always cleaned it till spotless. The bore still looks almost new as does the rifle. After recently replacing the recoil spring it still shoots like it did when fresh out of the box. No, I don't enjoy spending an hour or more just on the bore of my 22-250 but untill I find the perfect solvent I'll continue the procedure as long as it takes.

I just today read some very good reviews on Midway's web site on Sweets and Barnes CR-10. Sounded like the only complaint was the fumes but the work went a lot faster. Boretech Eliminator sounds good but it better be. Man, that stuff is pricey.

June 1, 2007, 05:56 AM
I know a couple of guys who shoot in High Power rifle competition a little bit, and they use a mixture of Kroil penetrating oil and Shooter's Choice bore cleaner. If you patch the bore with this mix heavily and let it soak for a while, the Kroil gets under the copper fouling and makes it easier to remove.

I've found it works well to clean recoil compensators as well.

arizona hunter
June 11, 2007, 10:40 AM
I can relate to Dbotkin.

I always clean after as shooting session. Heck, at the range I even run several patches through after about 12 rounds, until they "come out clean". But like the author of this Post, I follow the directions using either Butch's or most recently CR-10, and soon the patches come out white...then I put on a NEW nylon brush with solvent and waited 5 min. then push a patch through and it's black. Repeat with patches, it's "clean" again. Do the brush thing-and it's still darn black and green. Soon the blac kis gone but green is still present after brushing.

Even after 60 minutes of this, after the brushing (even with a new brush, be it nylon or bronze) patches still come out with some green.

I have struggled with this for years and have finally decided that as long as no more "black" comes out after the brushing and there is a little green, it's ok. I can sleep at night. And in the morning, when I shoot any of my rifles they all shoot the same lovely little groups with their favorite load.

June 11, 2007, 07:20 PM
I use Hoppe's #9, and have for 40+ years. I clean until I get a clean[white] patch and clean again in 3 or 4 days. Letting the bore sit seems to bring up some pressurized fouling. 22-250s are high speed overbore rounds, and I've owned several. They ALL took more patches and effort to get to a "clean" patch. I've tried half a dozen powders and a dozen different Mfg. of bullets over the years. Different jacket alloys leave more or less copper fouling depending on the mfg. Clean is clean, but you'll have to make your own standard for yourself. Why do you think they're called "fouling shots?

June 11, 2007, 08:24 PM
I take Voltaire's advice:

The best is the enemy of the good.

In othe words I clean till its good enough and leave well enough alone.

Ammo Junky
June 11, 2007, 08:43 PM
My ak gets very little attention but never fails, my ars give me fits they are so hard to get clean :confused:

I used to grease the ar and it was a mess. I switched to mobil 1 and it all wipes out with a patch and solvent. If I kept it oiled I could go many many rnds before cleaning was mandatory.

June 13, 2007, 04:59 PM
Firearms with low sentimental value: Has it stopped working? Does it look like this:
If not, it's fine. :)

Firearms with high senimental value: clean gently but thoroughly.

Dave in AZ
June 13, 2007, 05:24 PM
most of mine have been pressure fire lapped and on my fal after 100 rounds at the range, cleanup is about 5 patches till barely grey. my sw686 is 3-5 patches every time and my kimber (not fire lapped) is 10+ patches plus scrubbing.

I don't clean until its perfect white but rather until there is barely a gray mark on the patch.

If I get one that cannot be cleaned in short order then I use a misture of kroil and tsi 301 and let it sit for an hour or so - nothing survives that.

June 14, 2007, 04:58 AM
I sometimes take three centrefires to the range and give them all a good workout. After the euphoria of shooting, I used to drive home, getting more and more sombre contemplating the cleaning process. I used to use up twenty or so patches per gun until my mate Gazza taught me the worlds best cleaning method. Put the gun in a stand that lets the barrel tilt down.
-Get solvent (Tetra Gun for me)
-Get your swab and give the bore a good coat of solvent.
-Go inside and have a beer.
-Get a bronze brush and give the bore a good couple of minutes scrub.
-Go inside and have a beer.
-Dry patch until no more black or copper showing
-Run an oily patch through.
-Go inside and reward yourself with another beer :)

This method works with all my CF rifles .303, .308, 6.5, 7.5. No worries. And when they make their next expedition to the range, they shoot super little groups and make me happy.
When my Grandfather was teaching me to use a wood saw he pulled me up for going at it like a demon with my little muscles popping out all over. "Let the tool do the work" he said and showed me how to cut a piece of wood with seemingly no effort in a couple of strokes. I think it's the same with cleaning a rifle. I don't use up a zillion patches just to get a clean one come out of the barrel, that's wasteful in my book.