Written by Sierra Bullets Product Development Manager Mark Walker
Sometimes when you have done something so often, you take for granted that it will work for all equipment. In this case, I had used my cleaning process and equipment for years with no problems however a new barrel on a rifle caused me to rethink how I clean.
Last year, the barrel on my mid-range benchrest rifle decided to give up the ghost. After doing some research and asking fellow shooters, I decided to purchase a barrel that had rifling with “canted” lands. The barrel arrived and after looking it over, everything looked great.
Threading and chambering went very well with the barrel indicating in very straight and cutting very smoothly. After torqueing the barrel to the action, I went about loading some ammunition to break the barrel in with. At the range, the barrel shot as good as any I have ever had. Even with loads that were thrown together with no tuning whatsoever.
During the break in, I would clean the barrel after every five shots or so just because that’s what everyone says to do. The barrel cleaned up extremely well, however I noticed that the first patches down a dirty barrel would cause the cleaning rod to vibrate as I pushed them down the tube. It was something that I had never experienced before so I was a little concerned about what might be causing it.
After looking at the barrel with a bore scope, everything looked clean and no indication of what might have caused the vibration in the rod. I did notice some surface marks in the bore that traveled perpendicular with the bore. Usually when a barrel is lapped, all marks follow the rifling twist so these marks parallel to the bore where another phenomenon that I had never seen before. The mystery was getting deeper.
After another range session where the barrel shot lights out, I brought it home to clean it as before. The first patches down the barrel again caused the strange vibration in the rod. After stopping and thinking about the vibration and the strange marks in the bore, I checked the bearings in cleaning rod handle to make sure it was spinning freely and everything seemed to be in working order. I then decided to mark the cleaning rod to make sure it was actually turning when it went down the barrel.
When the first patch went down the barrel and the rod didn’t even attempt to turn, the light bulb went on. The patches and even the bronze brushes were simply skipping over the tops of the rifling and not following the rifling at all. I tried tighter patches and larger brushes, but the only thing that seemed to fix the problem was pushing them down the bore as slowly as possible while watching the mark on the rod to make sure it was turning. Had I continued to clean as I normally do, I surely would have ruined the barrel!
Once I figured out the problem, the barrel shot great and my cleaning process worked just like every other barrel I have ever owned except for having to go slow with the rod. This just goes to show that even though you may have done something a thousand times before, you should always be aware of what your equipment is telling you.