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Cleaning
A critical part of accurate shooting

Perhaps the single most overlooked factor with regard to a firearm's accuracy is regular and efficient cleaning of the bore and chamber. Go to almost any busy rifle range and you will see the majority of participants engaged in the business of shooting. Nothing wrong with that, but relatively few of them will be seen attentive to the task of cleaning their firearm. Insufficient or too infrequent cleaning of a firearm inevitably has an effect on accuracy. As carbon residue builds up, it begins to fill the rifling grooves which spin and stabilize the bullet. This generally results in a steadily widening group pattern, sometimes several times larger than the gun's characteristic group. Carbon build-up will also affect the velocity of the bullet as it travels down the bore. 

The bullet exits at different points in the barrel's vibrational waveform, again resulting in wildly placed shots. Finally, residual buildup in the chamber affects seating of the cartridge and can significantly change chamber pressure from shot to shot, again changing point-of-impact (not to mention interfere with automatic cycling mechanisms). The fact is, carbon buildup can begin to affect a rifle's accuracy after as few as 20 rounds. And yet many is the shooter who feels good that he or she cleans "as soon as they get home from the range". Generally they are not the ones producing trophy targets at the rifle range. (It is not worth mentioning the ones who clean their guns for the season, or who do not even own a cleaning kit).

 

 

 

  As a starting point it is recommended to clean after every 30 to 40 rounds. The actual frequency will of course depend on your cleaning system, the kind of ammunition you use, and how much accuracy (or lack of it) is acceptable to you. Shooting a nice, clean-burning factory round such as Federal AE, we find cleaning after every 20 rounds to be an unnecessary burden, but waiting till after 40-50 rounds to be a source of problems. This means that you'll be cleaning right at the bench, perhaps several times during a longer shooting day. Although leaning towards the arduous, take comfort in the fact that the fellow at the bench next to you who shoots straight through the day without cleaning is probably not punching out a lot of target centers!

 

As to the best cleaning system, there are many fine products out there, and everyone seems to have their favorite. We won't go into specific recommendations here, the emphasis being more towards the regularity of cleaning and its importance with regard to accurate shooting.

 

And now, an important word about copper...