Cleaning a firearm doesn’t have to be a chore. With the right tools, it’s actually a short, simple process. If you can designate a cleaning station on your workbench, or at least keep your tools organized in an accessible location, the cleaning process will be much smoother—and faster. Before you begin the actual process of cleaning, you must take every precaution to ensure safety. A high percentage of firearms-related accidents occur while cleaning. By following a few simple rules, you can greatly reduce the chances of having an accident.
SAFETY FIRST: The most important aspect of safety is ensuring the firearm is unloaded. First, make sure the safety is on and always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Then, open the action of the firearm and look into the breech of the barrel and confirm the firearm is unloaded. Always keep your finger away from the trigger while doing this.
LOCK IT UP: Once you have taken the above precautions, begin the cleaning process by placing your firearm in a solid vise. Different styles of firearms require different methods of cleaning. For this article, we are going to use a bolt-action rifle as our example.
A solid vise is the most important tool one can have for cleaning a rifle. You don’t want to lay your firearm on a bench where it can slip around, and you surely don’t want to have to try to hold the firearm with one hand while cleaning with the other. Doing so is an absolute pain that can easily and affordably be eliminated.
A quality vise will serve a number of functions. First of all, it will have a system for securing your firearm in place—clamps or straps both work. The point is to be able to secure your firearms so it doesn’t move while running tight fitting brushes, mops and patches down the barrel. Adjustable cradles are a big advantage if you own multiple platforms of firearms. A bolt action and an AR-15 are designed quite differently, and may not fit the same vise. You also want to be sure all contact points with your firearm are covered with non-marring pads. You can simply lay a rag across such spots, but I’ve found that tacky rubber will offer more grip and ultimately work a lot better.
BORE GUIDE: An important rule of cleaning a rifle is cleaning it from the rear. The two main thoughts behind this: Cleaning in the same direction bullets travel and protecting the crown. This means you will remove the bolt and clean from breech to the muzzle. To begin, remove the bolt and look down the barrel to ensure it is clear of any obstructions. Next, you want to insert a bore guide into the rear of the receiver.
A bore guide is an important tool that is often overlooked. Bore guides serve two main functions. One, they keep the rod from rubbing the chamber or bore. This is important because a rod contacting the chamber or bore could cause scratches or nicks, which will lead to accuracy issues. Two, a bore guide keeps solvents from spilling on your firearm’s finish or into its action. Spilled solvents can stain wood and damage parts of your firearm not intended to be contacted by solvent.
PROPER ROD: Once you’re set up and ready to go with your bore guide, select the proper rod. Granddad used an old steel, three-piece job that looked pretty beaten up. Far from straight, there’s no doubt he was negatively impacting the interior of his barrel. Steel rods can damage your barrel, so you’re much better off using a carbon-fiber cleaning rod. Carbon fiber flexes, so it doesn’t permanently bend. It’s strong enough for pushing tight patches and it doesn’t pick up particles that can scrape your barrel.
JAG TIME: Now that your firearm is secure in a vise, you have a bore guide inserted and you’ve picked the properly sized carbon-fiber rod, you must select a jag designed to fit the caliber you’re working on. Attach the jag and place a cotton patch on the end. Your bore guide should have a slot through which you can apply solvent. Liberally apply a good powder solvent through the slot. Try to always use cotton patches as opposed to synthetic patches, because they absorb solvent much better. Now run your rod through the rear of the bore guide all the way down the bore. You’re going to repeat this process at least five times. A good tip is to use a patch trap. Doing so will save the hassle of having to pick up your wet, dirty patches.