Want to know the truth? I hate cleaning my guns. My friend Fred cleans them like he’s preparing to operate on his own spleen. You could literally eat off his fine hunting rifles, polished and oiled. Me, I do the bare minimum. I admit it. And while some people think you don’t have to clean your airsoft and pellet air guns because they don’t fire cartridges, which deposit propellant debris down the barrel and into the action, they are dead wrong. Air guns require as much maintenance as regular firearms, just of a different type.
While the exterior metal parts of firearms and air guns should be wiped down with a lightly oiled cloth (using RWS Spring Cylinder Oil, for example) to prevent rust, their power plants are very different. The air rifle or pistol is mechanical, and for the most part the engine of an airsoft gun is electronic. Therefore, with airsoft guns, normal cleaning is augmented by maintenance of the internal gears and motors, which I won’t cover here.
Most high-end spring piston and pre-charged pneumatic air guns have steel, rifled barrels. These barrels are made of a softer kind of steel than centerfire barrels are, because they don’t have to withstand the pressure of a fired cartridge. Lower cost air guns may have barrels made of actual brass or instead lined with brass-rifled sleeves. In both cases, use of the traditional rod-and-patch method of cleaning the barrel will quickly wear out the shallow rifling.
Since unburned powder and action lubricants are not being deposited in the barrels, most air-gunners (even competitive shooters) don’t bother cleaning their barrels at all. They rely on the next pellet down the chute to clean the bore. Since high-velocity hunting pellets are harder than match pellets, it won’t hurt to pull a patch through the barrel occasionally when you’re primarily using hunting pellets. If you have a heavy steel barrel you can use one of the pull-through cleaning kits like the .177-.25 caliber Flex Cleaning Kits sold by Otis or the air-gun-specific Quick Bore Cleaning Rope made by Stoeger.
I personally clean my barrels by firing Beeman’s Quick Cleaning Pellets through the barrel every 100 to 150 shots. Available in .177, .20, .22 and .25 calibers, these hard felt pellets weigh just one grain and allow you to use your gun’s power to clean the barrel. If I am planning to store my air gun for a while, I will fire a cleaning pellet soaked in a good gun oil to protect the bore. Cleaning pellets by Beeman, VFG and RWS, as well as all the other air-gun cleaning supplies mentioned here, are available at pyramydair.com.