Written by Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf
Finally, it seems that 22 LR ammunition is starting to become more available. A couple of weeks ago I was able to purchase 600 rounds of CCI Mini-Mags from one of the major reloading supply companies.
So that weekend it was off to the shooting range to get a little trigger time with my Browning T-bolt. After a day shooting, I went home and gave my rifle a good cleaning, inside and out, and yes, that includes the inside of my barrel.
So you are probably wondering, why do I care if you clean your rifle or not? Well I was taught at a very young age that if you shoot your firearm you clean it before putting it away. In fact, my Grandfather had an old saying, “oil is cheaper than machinery.”
Now there are a lot of shooters out there that will tell you that you don’t need to clean the barrel on a 22 LR, but like most things you can’t really make a “one size fits all” type of statement for all firearms.
A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine brought his Ruger 10-22 over and asked me to take a look at it because he couldn’t hit anything with it. I took it apart and realized it hadn’t been cleaned in a long time, I mean this thing was filthy! When I looked down the barrel I couldn’t even see riflings, it literally looked like a smooth bore. So I broke out the Hoppes #9 and a bronze brush and went to work, but after about twenty minutes of scrubbing it was still leaded up pretty bad. I told him to leave it and I would get it back to him the next day.
That night I soaked the inside of the barrel with Kano Kroil and just left it to soak all night. The next morning I ran the bronze brush through it and started getting strips of lead pushed out of the muzzle.
I got the old 10-22 cleaned up real nice and gave it back to him the next day. When I asked him when the last time he had cleaned it, he said he never had because his father had told him that you should never clean a 22 barrel. He said his father had given him the rifle on his 16th birthday and he was 37 years old at that time, so that’s 21 years of shooting without cleaning his barrel. A few days later he called me up and said he shot his rifle and it was hitting better than he could ever remember.
There are a lot of people who claim you never need to clean a 22 LR barrel, but that is not always the case. Let’s face it, you are not going to get a hand lapped barrel on a two hundred dollar rifle and a lot of them will have rough bores that foul pretty easily. A fouled barrel will continue to build fouling until you can no longer hit the broad side of a barn.
Most 22 rifles do tend to shoot better with a fouled barrel. After cleaning it, it usually takes 10 or 20 rounds before top accuracy comes back. If you switch to a different brand of ammo, it can sometimes take another 10 or 20 rounds to get your barrel seasoned to that bullets particular lube, before accuracy comes back again.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to clean a 22 rifle barrel as often as you do a center fire, but eventually when accuracy starts to suffer, you better give it a good scrubbing, you may be surprised how well that old gun can still shoot.