View Full Version : Bore cleaners....ammonia vs. non-ammonia

April 15, 2008, 06:34 AM
I see that a lot of the bore cleaners have ammonia in them while a lot of them do not. Most of the bore cleaners that do not have ammonia in them are "especially proud" that they contain "no ammonia". What is the pluses and minuses with using a bore cleaner that does or does not contain ammonia? I realize that ammonia is used in these cleaners to help with copper removal, so why would a company be proud that their product does not contain ammonia? Does ammonia cause any kind of erosion or other problems with the steel in the bore?

April 15, 2008, 06:54 AM
Ammonia is corrosive I believe. I know if you leave it in a bore for a while the metal will rust.

April 15, 2008, 07:33 AM
I think Copper Cutter has ammonia, or at least stinks like it does. This stuff is great for getting copper out of your bore.

Run it through with a patch, let it soak for a while, then run a few more through, then oil.

April 15, 2008, 10:58 AM
I ain't smart so I had to learn from experience.It is all that I have going for me.

Ammonia works!Strong Ammonia works good at dissolving Copper!That is it plain and simple.Many of the "Miracle products" folk have come up with just don't do the job in a reasonable time.Some are better than others.I have tried many in my 62 years.I could not and can not afford to try them all.Some were just too expensive when I had a old cheap military gun collection and shot them all on a regular basis.

A gallon jug of strong commercial cleaning Ammonia is cheap and will last for ever.I have read every test I could find.I have seen no chemical that works better.If you can not follow the instructions and use Ammonia correctly and safely for you and your firearm,I believe you have no business using any type of cleaner,household or gun.This opinion is from working 40 years in chemicals to the point of the USA requiring my yearly re-training in them.I had the same training as your fire departments require before they are qualified as I was a "Emergency responder" qualified to respond with the fire department and to any and all chemical emergences and trained to contain and clean it up.This was because we had delivery trucks on site with mixed chemicals for a multitude of plants in South East Georgia and we knew the most about everything concerning our chemicals on site.

Ammonia is a great chemical like all others on earth used for cleaners,drugs and everything in our lives.It is destructive and even deadly if used carelessly.

Please REMEMBER.Many of the chemicals in many forms that are now so dangerous that they were taken off the market and some outlawed world wide,were considered completely SAFE in my lifetime and I along with millions of other children handled them!My just out of collage teacher in the second grade allowed us to make shiny pennies by coating them with Mercury and keep them!I retired from a chemical plant.I used chemicals for all of my 62 years.I am also terminally ill with a rare form of T Cell Lymphoma Cancer."No known effective treatment"."No known cure".Please don't take a chance.Some of the "safe" chemicals of today will be found dangerous in the future as they always have been.Also.When you mix cleaners,you do not know what chemicals you may be "producing".Think about this!

ALSO.With Ammonia,you don't have to worry about the family "dough head" stealing it to sniff with his buddies.Being it is a cleaner,they surly will not steal it to WORK!


April 15, 2008, 02:38 PM
I just read the instructions and contents on a old bottle of Hoppe's #9.It has Ammonia,Alcohol and Kerosene in it.It recommends leaving the bore wet with it for storage to prevent rust.

I think the smell is the only real thing going for the ones without it.The rest is Madison Avenue selling hype for most.

Think.Nearly all of the old guns with good bores that are still around have had Hoppe's #9 used on them.This fact alone should answer your question.

It is also a great after shave lotion for a young courting man.The girls that like the smell generally make good wives.The ones that don't are usually best at making men miserable.They are best left to marry the anti gunners.They deserve them.Believe me when I say that "I should have worn it".Bad,bad,very bad mistake!


April 17, 2008, 01:31 PM
i have a nickel plated model 36 that hoppes damaged. Smith and wesson recommends against using ammoniated cleaners. I wont use hoppes on anything but my springfield xd barrels when heavily fouled... CLP hasnt hurt anything that i own.

April 18, 2008, 05:44 AM
Ammonia and water will clean copper fouling out of a bore better than anything.

April 18, 2008, 08:24 AM
Ok, I've decied I want some commercial ammonia for cleaning.

1. Where do I get it?

2. What ratio do I mix with water to get a good "soaking" formula?

April 18, 2008, 10:04 AM
Ease on down to the grocery store- it ought to be in the household cleaning aisle. I don't know about the mixture concentration.

Everybody else,
Somebody educate me- for the past 10 years, I've never used anything but Kroil, except on very heavily fouled, carboned, gooped up, and WD-40 varnished parts I might use "Cleaning Compound, Rifle Bore NSN: 6850-00-224-6657". I do a fair amount of shooting at hunting, varminting, service rifle & running target match shooting- I don't see where copper fouling is putting a very big hurt on me. Is today's copper jackets made different, or is my Kroil just that good?

April 18, 2008, 10:30 AM
I know about grocery store ammonia - but that isn't industrial strength. I remember years ago, I had a friend that was a civil engineer and he had a giant printer that needed some kind of industrial strenght ammonia for cleaning. That stuff would put a hurtin on you if you sniffed it.

I imagine the grocery store ammonia is probably already thinned out with water. Maybe I could use it just straight.

April 18, 2008, 10:57 AM
I wish somebody else would chime in- it sure would be good to get some other opinions on this. Either way, I'll stick with using only my Kroil until somebody comes up with something just amazingly convincing.

April 18, 2008, 12:35 PM
Other opinions? You came to the right place! :)

Ammonia, NH3, is a gas. It is dissolved in water to ionize it to ammonum hydroxide, NH4-OH, which is one water molecule sharing its two hydrogens and one oxygen atom with the ammonia. The molecular weights of ammonia and water are 17 and 18, respectively, so if you got perfect ionization, the maximum ionized solution would be about 48.5% ammonia. You can get up to 70% or so, commercially, but only part of that is ionized and the rest is ammonia gas in the water in the way carbon dioxide is dissolved in beer. This stuff is pressurized, like beer, too.

If you go to a chemical company to buy unpressurized ammonium hydroxied, you can get the strongest stuff, which, solution inefficiencies included, is usually about 44% maximum strength. 28-30% percent is a more common reagent form. The household stuff is usually around 3%-5% or so, and the stuff you get from Ace Hardware as janitorial strength ammonia is 10%.

That's OK. 10% is a kind of magic number. At 10% or above, ammonium hydroxide can etch steel. You don't actually want it that strong. Bore cleaners should not have that much for this reason.

I once spoke with a chemist at the company that provides Ace Hardware with that janitorial strength ammonia. He said that in small quantities ammonia can actually protect steel from rust, and that his company would add a tiny bit to some aqueous solutions in steel drums to protect the drums. I assume this is due to its ability to neutralize acid radicals.

The idea stated in some ads that ammonia compounds need to be neutralized is a bit odd. Ammonium hydroxide is basic, so you'd need an acid to neutralize it. Better just to pour boiling water down the bore if you are worried about it? That will drive the ammonia out with the hot water. Then apply dry patches followed by a water displacing oil.

All that said, modern chemistry has been getting ahead of the curve in copper removal. Many water-base bore cleaners now exist. Boretech eliminator and others now seem to contain chelating agents that act very rapidly on copper and don't hurt a bore. Chelation is what is used to clean metals from blood by combining it into organic compounds your body can elimenate. It should not be hazardous. Boretech's product also etches lead, slightly, if you plug your bore and let it sit overnight. The most amazing copper remover looks to be the European KG-12, which Jim Owens sells at jarheadtop.com. Scroll down through the test result here (http://www.jarheadtop.com/KG-12_Test_Results.htm), and you will see it leaves the ammonia containing chemistries in the dust.

The reason for removing copper is it can build up just ahead of the throat to the point it causes a constriction that raises pressure and deteriorates accuracy by narrowing the bullets so they are loose the rest of the way down the bore. They seldom stay properly centered in the bore when that is happening. It can fool you into thinking the barrel is shot out before its time. If you read back through Howe, you'll learn it was once a common gunsmiths job, with the old gilding alloy, to have to use mercuric compounds to strip a large accumulation of copper out of a bore just to restore basic accuracy. Today, the deposits usually don't build up as fast, but some barrels will foul rapidly with jacket metal, anyway. My M1 Garand's original G.I. barrel would start to get innaccurate after about 40 rounds; always in the middle of the 600 yard slow fire portion of the National Match Course. I stopped that with moly bullets, originally, and with firelapping later. You might do best to rid yourself of a large deposit with an Outers FoulOut so you can see it on the rod and weigh how much came off? Find out how bad your problem really was?

Kroil is commonly used by benchrest shooters, but the hand-lapped custom barrels don't foul too badly to start with, and even then those shooters typically use a couple of patches of Kroil first, followed by a couple of patches wet with Remington 40X or other mild abrasive bore cleaner (I use Iosso Bore Cleaner) that removes the copper mechanically. That is then followed with a couple more patches of Kroil, and then a last patch wet with gun oil if they are putting the gun away for more than a day. Kroil ceased to contribute significant corrosion resistance after about three days in one test I saw.

James K
April 18, 2008, 02:38 PM
Here is the scoop on ammonia and nickel plating. Nickel does not plate well on steel, so manufacturers of nickel plated guns first plated the gun with an undercladding of copper, then nickel plated over that.

Ammonia cleaners have little effect on nickel itself. But if you clean a nickel plated gun with an ammonia-based cleaner and there is any place, such as a scratch, the end of the barrel, or anywhere the ammonia can get to the copper undercladding, it will dissolve the copper, leaving the nickel plating without support. The nickel will peel and the result is not very nice looking.

Ammonia won't hurt steel, but I think S&W is wise to recommend against it. Hoppes No. 9 was originally developed in the days of cupro-nickel jackets, when jacket fouling built up in great lumps in the bore and had to be removed for accuracy. But unless you have suddenly found a cache of WWI vintage ammo, that is not a problem any more, as no cupro-nickel jackets have been made in this country for 60 years. Some European ammo has a light cupro-nickel wash over steel jackets, but that is no problem.

The light copper wash left by gilding metal is no problem and does not require aggressive cleaning.


April 19, 2008, 05:26 PM
As I mentioned in my previous post, I've had the experience of modern jacket alloy being a problem in one barrel of mine, and so, presumably it is an issue in others, at least on occasion. I didn't have a borescope when I got my DCM Garand in '86, so it may well have had a pretty rough throat. I later figured out that it had a constriction under the asymmetrical portion of that gun's barrel contour. Both factors undoubtedly contributed to the problem.

I accurized that Garand, doing everything short of putting a new barrel in, just to see what the original could do? In testing, it would shoot hand-rolled match loads into 0.7" at 100 yards from prone, which was just dandy for the National Match Course. So, I decided to shoot the original barrel out before changing it. But while it would shoot well through the first match phases, after about 40 rounds it would start to loose accuracy, noticeably.

I have score book I bought to keep with that gun after I first fit it up. I have the following record from the first match I shot with it at Camp Perry after doing the accurizing work, and it is pretty typical of how that barrel behaved. Keep in mind that 30 rounds of the 50 round National Match Course had already gone through it in the other stages before I fired these:

600 yd SF, Memorial Day 1987 leg match, Camp Perry:

1st string: 10, 9, 10, X, X, 10, 9, 10, 9, 9
2nd string: 8, X, 9, 8, 9, 7, 10, 8, 8, 9

The wide shots did not have a particular pattern. It appears, from the notes, I was poorly disciplined about not chasing the spotter with my sight settings, so I made things worse. Still, the groups got bigger through the second string, even after relocating the recorded shot placements to ignore my sight changes. I don't believe Jim Owens's book,Sight Alignment, Trigger Control and the Big Lie (http://www.jarheadtop.com/books.html), had been published at that point? If so, I hadn't seen it, or I would have realized I was oscillating.

After any match with that gun, it would take about four hours of wet patching with Sweet's 7.62 with five or ten-minute waits between patches, before the dark blue coming out finally tapered off. Eventually, switching to moly-coated bullets stopped that accuracy deterioration during matches, but cleaning still took some time.

Only after firelapping did that barrel finally start to clean well after shooting uncoated bullets. A record I made of the firelapping process shows the effect:

After firing the first five lapping loads (these were pulled M2 ball bullets) I blasted the powder residue out with Gun Scrubber, then put a couple of patches of Shooters Choice through. These came out a pretty bright turquoise. Next, I inserted the cleaning rod with an undersized bore brush in through the muzzle bore guide. At the breech, I wrapped two patches (for tight fit) around the brush by turning the rod at the other end, and loaded the outside patch with Iosso Bore Cleaner (an abrasive cleaner like J-B Bore Compound). I gave the barrel 20 strokes with that, and tested the result with another patch of Shooter's Choice. It took two more sets of patches, a total of 60 strokes with Iosso Bore Cleaner, before the shooter's choice showed no substantial green. This was followed by slugging the bore to check progress on the constriction, but all that cleaning after just five rounds!

I repeated the cleaning and slugging process every five lapping rounds through unitl 20 rounds of coarse lapping compound (240 grit, this was a NECO kit) had been fired. It took all of that to remove the constriction. Then came two sets of five with 400 grit compound. Then two sets of five with 800 grit compound. Finally, there were four sets of five with 1200 grit compound. The process steadily improved the cleaning. By the end of the coarse grade lapping bullets, only two patches of IOSSO were needed for a total 40 strokes. By end of the whole process, it required only 10 strokes with one patch to completely clear detectable copper. Roughly 1/6 the effort.

Unfortunately, I had no way to know how many rounds had been through that barrel before I got it? Firelapping moved the military throat wear gauge out from a 5.5 to a 6.5. One thousandth of an inch forward. Maybe 1500 rounds later, groups started picking up increasingly frequent unexplained fliers; the standard indication of a shot-out barrel. I thought of re-lapping the throat, but decided to replace the barrel with a match grade one that had no constrictions or rough spots. That new barrel has always cleaned reasonably well.

April 19, 2008, 06:50 PM
I use janitorial strength mixed 50% with water. Might could use household straight, never tried it. I let it sit for 30 minutes or so.

April 21, 2008, 10:56 AM
I use 10% amonnia. I get it at the drug store.

When I used it the first time, I couldn't believe what came out of my "clean" rifles.

April 21, 2008, 11:57 AM
Kind of surprised I haven't seen Ed's Red mentioned (or maybe I missed it). Well maybe not the original Ed's Red but a beefed up more powerful (Tim the Tool Man) version.

I have experimented with 50/50 standard Ed's Red and 10% Ammonia (from Ace Hardware). I have had wonderful results. I usually place a rubber stopper in the barrel and then fill it with the 50/50 mixture. After several hours of soaking I scrub it out using a NYLON brush. DO NOT USE a bronze brush unless you don't want it anymore. It leaves the barrel extremely clean even after being previously cleaned by any number of the commercially available cleaners.

I have Not had any adverse reaction to any firearm finish but I am very careful to remove any gun cleaner from any non-stainless steel surface immediately.

I would like to know if anyone has a secret weapon against lead fouling? Although Ed's Red works wonders when soaked there is always that abused specimen that only scrubbing to death with lead removal cloths seems to take care of. Anyone come up with a chemical solution for this? Consistent use of Ed's Red does help prevent leading .... but it is "getting the lead out" the first time I need help with.

Happy shooting.

April 21, 2008, 12:24 PM
Does it stay mixed after you mix it, or do you have to give it a shake before dispensing?

Tip: I start with 6mm brushes, and after a weekend of match use, they become .22 brushes.

April 21, 2008, 02:00 PM
Does it stay mixed after you mix it, or do you have to give it a shake before dispensing?

If you're asking about the 50/50 mixture of ER and ammonia - It does require a good shake before and during use if you are using it for an extended period of time.
Good question ... I should have mentioned that in my post. Sorry.

April 21, 2008, 02:14 PM
I use Ed's Red after using the amonnia - I don't mix them.

Harry Bonar
April 21, 2008, 02:59 PM
I just like the smell of Hoppes.
Harry B.

April 21, 2008, 03:30 PM
Do you use straight ammonia?

What strength and how do you apply?

I just like the smell of Hoppes.

Who can argue with Harry? Burnt gun powder at the range and Hoppes in the basement (insert Tim the tool man Taylor grunt here) is there anything that smells quite so nice? ;)

April 21, 2008, 04:00 PM
The Wipe-Out bore cleaner seems to work good and i'm quite sure it doesn't have any ammonia in it....it is very easy to use as well.

April 22, 2008, 09:36 AM
Pure ammonia can also be obtained in gas cylinders as 'anhydrous ammonia'.

It is used as a fertilizer by farmers, and also in making methamphetamine.

It is very dangerous if not handled carefully, since breathing it allows it to dissolve in the liquid in you lungs and destroy the lung tissue.

It can also destroy you cornea if it gets in your eyes.
The cornea turns opaque and the only treatment is a corneal transplant.

It is used in older 'blue line' processes to make drawings, but the large plotters and copiers have made it pretty obsolete.

It would be effective at copper removal but is just to dangerous to handle.
Sweets reportedly is about 5% ammonia.

April 22, 2008, 10:07 AM
It is very dangerous if not handled carefully, since breathing it allows it to dissolve in the liquid in you lungs and destroy the lung tissue.

It can also destroy you cornea if it gets in your eyes.
The cornea turns opaque and the only treatment is a corneal transplant.

Well that pretty much talks me out of EVER trying that for copper fouling.

And I ain't even gonna ask about and also in making methamphetamine....:cool:

Think I will stick to the stinky stuff I get from Ace Hardware. If I get a big snort on accident it is a little uncomfortable but I won't have to have my lungs or eyeballs replaced anytime soon....:D

April 22, 2008, 12:17 PM
to gorgon24:

The stuff I use is 10%. I don't think I could stand the smell of anything stronger than that. I get it in the same type of bottle that rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide comes in.

April 23, 2008, 07:50 AM
Watch out even with the weak ammonia solutions.

Caustics (bases) are very damaging to the cornea compared to even acids.

The base saponifies the fat in the cornea creating an acid and a soap.

This makes the cornea cloudy and there are no treatments to make it clear again.

April 23, 2008, 08:07 AM
And here I thought I was going blind from reading all this good information on the Firing Line Forums.

But Noooooooooo

It is from cleaning my handguns!

Bummer. What's a shooter to do?

Looks like I got to re-think some things.

Well it is decided .... No more reading! I sure as heck ain't giving up shooting! Even if it causes me to go blind.

But then what to do?

I will have brickeyee replace my corneas and start all over again!

I love modern day technology!

brickeyee Seriously .... Thanks for the Warning! One can't be to careful with chemicals.

April 24, 2008, 09:29 AM
PhD, not an MD.

Many years ago I worked as an EMT/Paramedic, and since then have been involved in all sorts of things involving chemicals, radiation, and electronics.

April 24, 2008, 10:13 AM
P - Post
H - Hole
D - Digger

Keep it in the garage with my shovel and hoe. :eek:

Hey with some of the MD's I have had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting I would rather have a EMT/Paramedic cut on me!

April 25, 2008, 10:36 AM
BS Bull S**t
MS More of the Same
PhD Piled higher and Deeper

General practitioner: Knows less and less about more and more till finally they know nothing about everything.

Specialist: Knows more and more about less and less till finally they know everything about nothing.

have you ever seen the plastic 'mushrooms' on rebar at a construction site?
Ever wondered what happened to folks when they fell or jumped onto the rebar before OSHA required those?
We cut the rebar off and took it and the patient to the ER.
Luckily it did not hit anything terribly important on the way through.

The Lovemaster
April 25, 2008, 11:40 AM
Funny you mention OSHA. I read an op-ed co-authored by Robert Crandall (ex-CEO of American Airlines) that the FAA and many other agencies (OSHA being one) have actually not improved safety. Example - FAA got wood for American and forced it to cancel thousands of MD-80 flights, thus forcing many people to take cars on a trip originally planned for planes. Driving being much more dangerous than flying, the FAA actually made things less safe.

Regarding the mushroom caps, have you ever actually seen anyone trip and fall onto a rebar? Not me, not in 22 years in this here bidness.

Count me among the guys who like the smell of Hoppe's No. 9. Heck it's so sexy, I even turn myself on!

Now back to the topic. Sorry.


April 25, 2008, 12:09 PM
"Example - FAA got wood for American and forced it to cancel thousands of MD-80 flights, thus forcing many people to take cars on a trip originally planned for planes. Driving being much more dangerous than flying, the FAA actually made things less safe."

The back story is that the FAA gave American months to perform the inspections.
American just did not get around to the work, and when congress starting breathing down the FAAs back they told American to get the checks done NOW.

"Regarding the mushroom caps, have you ever actually seen anyone trip and fall onto a rebar? Not me, not in 22 years in this here bidness."

The story I have above is true.
A worker jumped/fell from one deck of a building to another and impaled himself on a piece of #4 rebar.
It entered in the perineum and exited in the lower back.
Tore up the intestine pretty bad, but missed all the major blood vessels.
We arrived to the guy just standing there unable to get himself off the rebar since it extended about 3 feet above his head.

I saw a couple other smaller impalements also, usually a forearm or hand.

April 25, 2008, 12:10 PM
I had occasion, some years ago, to get a .308 case stuck in a Redding die. None of the conventional removal methods worked. The casehead got seriously torn up when trying to use the drill and tap and puller method. With nothing left to get hold of, I put in in a jar with ACE ammonia. after several months it finally dissolved the case. However, the steel was discolored reddish and left with an activated matte surface that got surface rust easily. It never quite cleaned up.

So, it is possible to damage steel with strong enough ammonia, though it takes a long time. Using it with a rust inhibitor would be a good idea. You could mix it with a little of one of the water-soluble coolant oils sold for machining. Even a water soluble radiator lubricant might work? Use the ACE ammonia instead of half of the water it is normally diluted with. Despite the slow action on the steel, if you clean a bore with it, I would recommend you put some Flitz on a patch and lightly polish the bore after using it to prevent after-rust. The barrel steel is a lot softer and its grain structure is easier to attack chemically than steel is. For myself, I will continue using the newer water-base non-ammonia cleaners with rust inhibitors. They work a lot faster.

April 25, 2008, 01:39 PM
I had occasion, some years ago, to get a .308 case stuck in a Redding die. None of the conventional removal methods worked. The casehead got seriously torn up when trying to use the drill and tap and puller method. With nothing left to get hold of, I put in in a jar with ACE ammonia. after several months it finally dissolved the case. However, the steel was discolored reddish and left with an activated matte surface that got surface rust easily. It never quite cleaned up.

You made a battery with the brass (copper-zinc alloy) and steel.
Galvanic corrosion is a nasty thing to see.