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Old July 16, 2018, 10:31 PM   #1
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do .22 barrels "break in"?

I've often heard about centerfire rifles getting more accurate as they break in (whether through a deliberate process or simply though use), but does that also apply to .22 rifles? The reason I ask is that centerfire barrels can eventually be "shot out" while I've never heard of that happening with a .22 barrel. That makes me wonder if putting rounds through a .22 can have much affect on the barrel at all.
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Old July 16, 2018, 10:56 PM   #2
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Oh, most definitely

Making a firearm is a complicated process and barrels are not always "hand lapped" at the end of the process to save costs. Every time you shoot a bullet down a new barrel, microscopic edges get smoothed down. The end result of this polishing is a more finished, smoother barrel that usually shoots better in the end. So yes, barrels for rimfires do break in. There are lapping kits to embed abrasive on 22 LR bullets in speed up the process. Doing it naturally would probably take thousands of rounds rather than a couple of dozen.
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Old July 16, 2018, 11:20 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. That makes sense, and that's what I figured happened with jacketed centerfire bullets. I just didn't know if typical lead bullets were hard enough to alter a steel barrel.

What prompted the question is the Traditions Firearms Crackshot 22 I bought. It's a cheap single shot and probably not hand-lapped as you described. I couldn't get decent groups with any kind of ammo at first, but it's slowly gotten better. I wasn't sure if the barrel itself was improving, or if I was just getting more used to the gun's light weight and so-so trigger, and thereby getting steadier when shooting it.

I've probably put about 200 shots through it. Could that be enough to see barrel improvement?
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Old July 17, 2018, 06:15 AM   #4
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22 bores foul-that's a fact of life unless you spend a lot for a "lapped" bore. Quite often, there is a level of fouling that actually improves accuracy even with "good" 22LR bores. After a thorough cleaning, it may take a few to a few dozen rounds to get back to that "sweet spot" of fouled bore that produces optimum accuracy.
When I shot small bore on an ROTC team, the bores were cleaned and "reconditioned"days before an important match so there was an expectation that the accuracy would stay consistent throughout the match.
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Old July 17, 2018, 06:46 AM   #5
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If you go to different barrel makers they all have a different take on this...some say yes, some say no. People will be the same with many also sying it depends on the condition of the new bore. There are also various ways to do it. I've never really seen a conclusive study on this that covers numerous makes of 22LR rifles.

I would probably go so far as to say it wouldnt hurt a barrel if you properly cleaned it more often for your first 50 shots and thats what many of the break ins are composed of.
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Old July 17, 2018, 07:05 AM   #6
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It takes a brick or two to realize the full potential of a decent quality rimfire barrel.

Try different ammo in your crackshot. You will find it prefers a certain type or brand. Try standard velocity if you are looking for accuracy. Its almost always better.

Depending on the rifle, clean once a year, every brick or few thousand rounds.

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Old July 17, 2018, 10:08 AM   #7
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My 22 is the only rifle that is cleaned with a bore snake. And that is not what I call a cleaning as more a fouling reduction pass. I noticed if I cleaned the barrel it took a good 100 rounds to get back to my tiny holes accuracy. By just passing the bore snake through twice, I knock out the heaviest fouling but leave enough dirty to keep the expected accuracy to enjoy. Just my findings and what seems to work for me..YMMV
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Old July 17, 2018, 10:46 AM   #8
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I never use a bronze brush in my .22LR bores. Cleaning may take several patches, but it's usually not necessary to scrub much. The only rimfire bores that I've used a brush in are those that are pitted...and .22LRs don't often pit unless they're cleaned and stored them in a moist location, like a damp basement.

The biggest problems with .22LR bores are at the chamber end. If you shoot a LOT of .22 shorts, it's possible, especially on really cheap ones, that the chamber will be eroded between the mouth-length of the shorts and the mouths of LRs. I did that when a kid, using a really cheap Remington single-shot. Eventually, the LRs wouldn't extract because the fired LR cases would expand to fill the eroded chamber.

Apart from the chamber erosion, I've seen many .22LRs that were never cleaned and allowed to get wet. The exteriors get really corroded, but the bores were usually quite good, due to the bullets' wax coating.

If you feel the need to clean a 22LR bore, it should be done from the breech end and preferably with a rod guide made to fit the rifle. If it's a semi-auto, a pull-through cleaning rig is good. One can be made from trimmer string, melting and drawing one end to a point and the other, melting and making a blob slightly smaller than the bore, that will allow a patch to fit the bore well.

If you wish to use a rod from the muzzle, you should buy a rod guide that fits over the muzzle. I wouldn't use one on a target-quality barrel, however.
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Old July 17, 2018, 11:18 AM   #9
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I agree with Mobuck and bfglowkey. I use a boresnake to clean my .22. Any more than that and it's get too clean and accuracy drops. Mine needs a little fouling to maintain accuracy. And if I clean the heck out if it, it takes at least 100 rounds before accuracy improves again.
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Old July 17, 2018, 12:11 PM   #10
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I am still figuring out my CZ, need to clean it as accuracy did drop off last time.

I did buy a .17 caliber cleaning rod vs a .22, it is looser and I think that is more better for the patches.
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Old July 17, 2018, 09:22 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the input. I have a .22 bore snake as well as a typical barrel cleaning kit. I'll try the bore snake and make note of before and after group sizes.
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Old July 21, 2018, 09:32 PM   #12
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Thanks for the reply. That makes sense, and that's what I figured happened with jacketed centerfire bullets. I just didn't know if typical lead bullets were hard enough to alter a steel barrel.
Probably not. Long ago there was a Remington ad for the then new Nylon 66 and after firing 75,000 rounds the barrel was removed and checked and still measured as new. I think a lot has to do with how well the barrel was made to start with. I have never looked down the barrel of a Traditions 22 rifle.

But 22's DO need to be cleaned. They will foul and the will build up lead especially at the chamber end. Plated bullets can also leave fouling. Plus when most shoot a 22 they shoot 50 to 500 rounds at a time. You would never shoot that many rounds through a center fire rifle without cleaning.

I would at least use a nylon bristle brush along with wet patches. I never thought a bore snake was a good barrel cleaner.
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Old July 22, 2018, 07:45 AM   #13
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.22 barrels

As a gunsmith, I have seen more .22 barrels damaged by improper cleaning than lack of cleaning. Lack of cleaning in high humidity environments can cause rusting of the barrel, but more commonly the buildup of lead then oxidizes and creates a difficult cleaning issue.

As to shooting out a .22 barrel, the late Al Freeland, top .22 rifle competitor of the 1950's and 60's put his number one target rfile away after documenting over 450,000 rounds through it and switched to his backup rifle, not because it had stopped shooting well but because he was worried it might begin to lose accuracy during an important tournament.
Most .22 rifle competitors clean their rifles occasionally, but not after each shooting sesson.
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