The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Skunkworks > The Smithy

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old April 4, 2010, 05:53 PM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: November 13, 2006
Posts: 7,978
Is Ammonia harmful to bores?

Over in the "Gear and Accessories" column is a thread titled"I made this cleaning stand today"
It is a nice fixture to hold a bbl'ed action vertical .Thanks,OP,for the idea!
It leaves me with a question.Let me say first,no direspect to the OP of that thread,and I am willing to find out that I am wrong,and learn something.
The OP is using it to fill his barrel with ammonia to soak for several hours,to remove metal fouling.
Can we get some feedback as to whether this is good practice?
My impression from reading the labels of products like Shooters Choice or maybe Sweets is that 15 minutes or so is OK ,but prolonged soaks with ammonia may etch the bore.
My intent is not about a whiz contest.If this is harmful advise,it would be sad to degrade a lot of rifle if folks experiment.
If I am wrong,I'm happy to learn
HiBC is offline  
Old April 4, 2010, 06:12 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: January 19, 2009
Location: Wherever I may roam
Posts: 1,502
I use Non ammonia cleaners for two reasons. I don't like ammonia contacting the barrel of my rifle (especially stainless steel) and I'd rather not breathe or come into contact with Ammonia. I use Gunslick Foaming Bore cleaner, works better than anything I've ever tried, no Ammonia.
l've heard police work is dangerous. Yes, that's why l carry a big gun. Couldn't it go off accidentally? l used to have that problem. What did you do about it?
l just think about baseball. -Leslie Nielsen
riggins_83 is offline  
Old April 4, 2010, 06:51 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: May 4, 2001
Posts: 7,403
Ammonia can and will damage steel.

I've never understood WHY someone will spend large amounts of money on an expensive firearm, obsess over the "right" ammo to use, agonize over the "best" lubricant to use..... then dump God knows what down the bore to clean it.
Usually, their excuse is "It woks and it's CHEAP".

This is a real case of "Penny wise, Dollar foolish".
I've seen way to many guns damaged or ruined by this.
How much money they save over commercial bore solvents doesn't add up compared to the risk to the gun.

Ammonia as used in BORE SOLVENTS is a different chemical than the common ammonia they buy in grocery stores.
Yes, some bore solvents can damage a bore if you leave it in too long, which is why you should read the label on the bottle.
Some bore cleaners, like Hoppe's #9 can be left in the bore forever with no harm.
Bore solvents aren't so expensive as to cost you significant money versus the cost of the gun.

So, dumping household ammonia into a gun barrel isn't smart, may ruin the barrel, but man, it sure is cheap.
Dfariswheel is offline  
Old April 4, 2010, 09:47 PM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: February 18, 2005
Location: Central KY
Posts: 220
My hobby is my guns.

No household ammonia in the same room with my hobby.

The reasons stated in the earlier posts should be sufficient for anyone needing a reason to avoid the stuff.
bobelk99 is offline  
Old April 4, 2010, 10:05 PM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: February 13, 2010
Location: Kentucky
Posts: 993
I've used Montana Xtreme Boare Solvent for awhile now. It does have ammonia in it, but as stated earlier, it's not a formulation that will harm barrel metal. It is excellent on removing copper and carbon fouling from barrels, and I have seen some guys use it if they want to completely remove all of the moly buildup in their barrels after shooting moly bullets.

You really owe it to yourself to try it! It cuts down on cleaning time by 1/2. Also, if you shoot Military Surplus rifles it can do several things for you. It can easily clean out all of the residual cosmolene from a barrel. It neutralizes the corrosive salts in military surplus ammo, and it's great on Black Powder firearms.

As I stated earlier .... the ammonia in QUALITY gun cleaning solvents does NOT harm barrel metal. Can you imagine the fallout for a company that intentionally put metal corrosive chemicals in their cleaning agents?
riverwalker76 is offline  
Old April 4, 2010, 10:11 PM   #6
James K
Member In Memoriam
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 24,383
Once upon a time in the West (and East, too), lead bullets worked fine in rifles. But as folks, especially the Army guys, wanted to shoot bullets faster and further, lead bullets just wouldn't "take" the rifling (remember those funny barber pole things in the barrel?) and didn't shoot for beans.

So someone thought of using a tough metal to cover the old lead bullet so it would spin instead of just pushing straight down the barrel. Sure enough, accuracy got better and ranges got longer. They tried a lot of different "jacket" material, and hit on the idea of using an alloy called cupro-nickel. As you might guess if you try, it was a mixture of copper and nickel. It was fine for bullet jackets, as it didn't rust like those steel jackets the durn fool Yuropeens were using.

Oh, but cupro-nickel had a small problem. As velocities increased, it kind of melted and a lot of it stuck to the inside of the barrel, in kind of clumps. And accuracy went to Hades again. The average hunter didn't care too much as his old Winchester 94 would still get "minute of deer" accuracy, but the army match shooters with their fancy Krags had a real problem.

How to get rid of the cupro-nickel stuff? Well, ammonia dissolves copper and with the copper out of the way, the nickel would just wash out of the barrel. And so, the ammonia bore cleaner was developed. There were a bunch of them and they worked and the folks who used them knew enough not to leave them too long in the barrel. Some of them are around today and the smell of one old mixture has been known to have an effect not unlike Viagra in old time shooters

Well, eventually, somebody came up with a jacket material called gilding metal, which was copper and zinc, and which left only a thin wash in the barrel. No lumps and clumps and when another set of chemical type geniuses came up with non-corrosive priming, there really was no need to clean barrels at all any more.

Of course some shooters, being well trained (as in almost killed) by generations of Marine Corps "old gunnies" who demanded perfection in rifle cleaning, believe that every vestige of any substance except steel has to be religiously removed from the barrel or the "gunny's curse" will get them. So they scrub and douse, and pour all sorts of noxious compounds into their rifle barrels, usually doing more harm than good.

Then they go to the range and the first thing they do is fire "fouling shots" to put back in the very fouling they so laboriously removed.

Go figure.

James K is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 01:28 AM   #7
Junior member
Join Date: March 31, 2010
Posts: 151
Jim gave you the history very well. they also smeared Mobil Chassis grease on the Cupro bullets (has a lot to do with the "low # 03' myth")

Buy the rifle, clean it out with Wipe out, shoot it (forget break in BS) until it stops grouping well, then get out the wipe out again.

"More rifles have been ruined by cleaning than by shooting."

Marlin XLC 270, first 5 shot group out of the box after Wipe Out, glass bedding action and free floating barrel.. Never been cleaned again yet.

Brandy is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 02:33 AM   #8
Senior Member
Join Date: November 13, 2006
Posts: 7,978
I am the OP,and,myself,I have just begun using "Patch out" the non-foaming version of wipe-out.(gas guns).Before this,Hoppe's Bench rest was my coppr solvent.Slow,but mild.I have found in hi-vel tighter twist rifles,like my .257 AI,and my 7 Rem Mag,metal fouling starts to degrade accuracy after 40-50 rds.I do reduce it periodically.
As I said,I wrote this thread to pass on some info to those who may hurt their bores with an ammonia soak.Now I will add a comment to the other thread,look here.Thanks.
HiBC is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 09:00 AM   #9
F. Guffey
Senior Member
Join Date: July 18, 2008
Posts: 7,249

moving to the 50s B&N had an article in their reloading manual about cleaning barrels (before the Internet), plugging the barrel and filling with receipt, not a problem, receipt will not harm a bore, UNTIL it is drained, then the CAUTION! Rust begins as soon as atmosphere comes in contact with the metal if the receipt is not removed, no mention of water, just atmosphere.

F. Guffey
F. Guffey is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 11:22 AM   #10
Join Date: March 4, 2005
Location: Ohio
Posts: 20,331

Usually the ammonia issue comes down to concentration. It's actually a gas that won't harm metals, but we dissolve it in water to from ammonium hydroxide (aqueous ammonia) whose highly basic OH- ion can attack metal. You hear various estimates of what a safe concentration for barrel steel is, but there seems to be general agreement that over 10% ammonia dissolved in water is bad. Less so for stainless than for chrome-moly. Some say 5% or less is totally safe. I talked to one chemist at an ammonia manufacturing operation years ago who said they would actually add several drops of ammonia to water stored in steel drums because it inhibited rust. So a little bit can be a good thing.

Note that you don't want to confuse aqueous ammonia with ammonium oleate. The latter is a compound in Shooter's Choice and in blue Flitz and other products that dissolve copper more slowly than aqueous ammonia does. In general, the oleate will patch out green, while aqueous ammonia patches out blue.

I thought I saw some signs of bore etching from long exposure to Sweet's 7.62 years ago. It has some concentration of aqueous ammonia plus water miscible oils and possible other powder fouling solvents to prevent corrosion. But it may have been little more than just exposing an already rough bore. On the other hand, long exposure to Butch's Bore Shine caused me to see no problem. I could plug bores and let them soak in it overnight with no issues. From the smell, I would guess Sweet's has more ammonia, but I don't know for sure or, if so, how much more? I spoke with the inventor of Butch's on the phone when it was new. He said he'd submerged a piece of steel in the stuff for six months and microscopic examination showed no etching. So that product clearly doesn't do damage even in a plugged bore.

There is no question that non-stainless gun barrels treated with aqueous ammonia alone can rust because, as your grandma knew, aqueous ammonia is a fabulous degreaser and will even strip floor wax. It will remove any petroleum-based protection from airborne humidity the steel might have had in it. That's why Sweet's and Butches Bore Shine and other aqueous ammonia containing bore cleaners have water miscible oils in them. They leave the bore protected after the ammonia gas evaporates.

Some people like sudsy ammonia because the soap in it offers some bore protection. If I were charged with creating an ammonia-based bore cleaner today, though, I would look at establishing the safe concentration first, then adding something like radiator lubricant or water miscible cutting fluid concentrate to get some protection for the steel.

I used Butch's for several years, but currently use Boretech Eliminator. Eliminator has no ammonia. It has no noticeable odor at all to my aging nose. It's water-based and attacks copper so fast it leaves ammonia in the dust. I can't use brass jags with it because it attacks them so fast they color the patches, so I can't tell when the copper is gone form the bore. It also attacks the tin in leading to help break it down, though that is slow. The package doesn't say what the chemistry is, though I expect it may be a chelating chemistry of some kind.

As to the need for cleaning, that varies with the bore. When I got my first Garand from the old DCM, it came with a thick layer of well-oxidized copper visible from the muzzle. The WWII era military bore cleaner did not remove copper, so it's obvious the military didn't worry about it, but this gun would just build up too much. Starting the 50 round National Match Course with the bore clean, it worked fine until about the last 10 rounds of slow fire at 600 yards. Right in the middle of that last 20 round slow fire string, every time, the group would open up dropping two to three times as many points in the last 10 as it did in the first. It would take hours of repeated 15 minutes rests between patches wet with Sweet's to get the copper out, then the next day it would do the same thing over again. 40 rounds was its limit before the copper got too thick for it to shoot straight. That barrel just needed more cleaning than the match schedule would allow. So, I went to moly bullets in it some time in the early 90's. Then it would last over 80 rounds with no problem. Moly is probably what the old cupro-nickel bullets needed.

In the end, I firelapped that M1's old military barrel before I completely shot it out. Then it needed neither moly nor frequent cleaning.
Gunsite Orange Hat Family Member
CMP Certified GSM Master Instructor
NRA Certified Rifle Instructor
NRA Benefactor Member and Golden Eagle

Last edited by Unclenick; April 6, 2010 at 04:31 PM.
Unclenick is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 11:36 AM   #11
Mike Irwin
Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 41,208
Years ago in Precision Rifle magazine there was a LOT of debate and discussion about ammoniated solvents and their effects on barrel steel.

The bore scope pictures of progressively worse damage that occurred as the baume went up convinced me that there was more to it than just happenstance or water damage.
"The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind" -Theodorus Gaza

Baby Jesus cries when the fat redneck doesn't have military-grade firepower.
Mike Irwin is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 12:41 PM   #12
Senior Member
Join Date: September 15, 2009
Location: Phoenix, AZ. 30 miles from water, two feet from Hell.
Posts: 355
I still use ammonia

In the form of ammonium hydroxide.
26 degree ammonia works great. there is no corrosion caused by the use of ammonia. Unclenickis right.
When I was working on my M.S. in Chemical Engineering I did some in depth research in it while working at Rock Island.

It came from General Pershing, he used anhydrous ammonia which stripped the bore's of their rifles the next day there was rust. Result ammonia is bad.
the ammonia even removed all oils from the barrels and were not treated afterwards, exposing them to humid atmosphere of the southern United States and Panama. his guns would be washed until there was no more "BLUE" in them. The men would need to wear gas masks while working.
The old two grove 30-40 krag rifle would then shoot with amazing accuracy.
Some of the bores would turn black but had no other ill effects. “ later proven to be a alloy mixture in the steel during manufacture.
It was later decided to drop the ammonia wash because it was impractical on the battle field to wash then shoot , trying to beat out the rusting of the barrels.
Back then oils were blended, usually fish oils, that did not protect that well. If they were lucky oil from the sperm whale was preferred for bores.
Saying ammonia causes corrosion is like looking at the planet Venus “this really happened” and seeing clouds and thinking rain. Well if there is rain on Venus there must be jungle and if there is jungle on Venus there must be dinosaurs on Venus.
Conclusion Venus has dinosaurs.
Conclusion of General Pershing, ammonia causes corrosion.
edward5759 is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 02:29 PM   #13
James K
Member In Memoriam
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 24,383
I probably shouldn't question the experts, but I don't believe any two-groove Krag barrel was harmed by any cleaning solvent. Why? There were no two-groove Krag barrels unless they were made from two-groove M1903A3 barrels.

James K is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 03:35 PM   #14
Senior Member
Join Date: September 15, 2009
Location: Phoenix, AZ. 30 miles from water, two feet from Hell.
Posts: 355
the krag had a run of two groove

The rifles were less than several hundred and were rejected by the war department by several "crates" did make there way into the system.
Pershing did his best to remove them but did include them in his test.
they did have a lot better luck in the M1903A3 which had better steel and manufactring process.
edward5759 is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 03:43 PM   #15
Senior Member
Join Date: September 15, 2009
Location: Phoenix, AZ. 30 miles from water, two feet from Hell.
Posts: 355
Buy the way

I’ve only seen one with the two groves that was not refitted and it was at the VMI If I remember correctly.
edward5759 is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 06:49 PM   #16
Senior Member
Join Date: September 9, 2006
Posts: 424
Ammonia Based Cleaners

I use Sweet 7.62 Solvent. It has an ammonia component and is a foaming and viscous liquid. I've used this in guns from M40s to Cheytacs and have absolute faith in it. However, I always degrease and then apply something like MilTec.
1911rocks is offline  
Old April 5, 2010, 09:38 PM   #17
James K
Member In Memoriam
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 24,383
Hi, Edward5759,

I have been trying to track any reference to those Krag two-groove barrels, without success. Can you cite a reference for that info? I know there was an experiment with the oval bore, which could be called two-groove, but never heard of more than a handful being made.

I do know that some Krags were rebarrelled with M1903 barrels and after WWII with M1903A3 barrels, some of which were probably two-groove, but not of any government issue Krag barrels made with two grooves.

James K is offline  
Old April 6, 2010, 02:32 AM   #18
Senior Member
Join Date: January 21, 2000
Posts: 1,298
It would not shock me at all to see a Krag with a 2 groove barrel as I even had a 2 groove barrel 06 SAFN 49 with a Edgptian crest on the action. Back in the 50s and early 60s it was prety common to machine a cheep GI 3 buck 03A3 tube to fit most anything when machine work and fitting was cheep vs now.
As for the ammonia idea I really dont have anything against that as it does work well with valve grinding compound if properly applied in a pitted crupo nickel gunked up bore that shoots min of a barn and can help get a bore to shoot a group that wont.
radom is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:19 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2021 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Page generated in 0.10743 seconds with 7 queries