Cleaning your Precision Rifle will be a multiple part lesson. This introduction will get you started down the right path, but there is several ways to accomplish this as well as many factors that determine how and when to clean your rifle. The key take away from the lessons, don’t over do it.
When it comes to cleaning the rifle, less is better. The old saying is true, “more barrels have been ruined by over cleaning then by shooting” so don’t over clean. However there is a mental component much like barrel break in. Some people just have to clean, so if it makes you feel good, clean it. The point is, you don’t have to over do it. When you see guys at the range with a pile of dirty patches, 25, 50, more, and they profess how they can’t get the barrel clean. Understand something, that is their bore they are removing not carbon, or copper but the steel from their barrel. Solvents are stupid, they don’t know the difference, sure copper is softer so it will attack that first, but given the chance, they are happy to eat stainless steel.
My one rule of thumb when it comes to solvents, if you can’t put your nose over the bottle, don’t use it. There is no reason to use overly harsh solvents. We have good copper and bad copper in our bore. The good copper wants to be there and helps with accuracy. Like seasoning an old skillet, we want to just knock the big stuff off. Remove the excess build up. With some barrels, that may not become an issue for hundreds of rounds. For other barrels, it might be much sooner. My advice to you, shoot your rifle without cleaning until accuracy falls off, and record it. Don’t just let one group open up, but try at least 40 rounds after to be sure it was the barrel and not the shooter. Then use that to determine when you have to do a complete cleaning. In most cases, you can make do with a light cleaning, just removing the carbon. Brushless solvents are best for this. When you see that accuracy has fallen off, then do a complete cleaning with a copper solvent, still not going crazy with it. Less is better.
Let the rifle dictate when it needs to be cleaned. There is no reason to have an arbitrary schedule because you saw it on the internet, or because your buddy “Bob” cleans his rifle after every 25 rounds.
Use a bore snake, and when using it, use it dry. Don’t coat the snake with any chemicals. If you have to, you can clean the snake to remove any grit and grime it might collect.
When looking back fondly like many will do regarding their rifle cleaning in the military, understand it wasn’t necessarily a punishment, but it was clearly to keep 20 somethings from sitting idle. You didn’t clean it because it needed it, you cleaned it because they needed something for you to do during the day.
There is no voodoo, no witchcraft, it’s pretty straight forward. Let accuracy dictate.