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Rifle cleaning for biathlon

This came in an email from Bill Meyer last year and I always search the web to find it (forgetting it's in my inbox). Now it's on the web!

As we pick up the training now--and start shooting more--we need to pay a lot of attention to rifle maintenance. Rifles are not things you can use and then leave in the trunk of your car until the next use.

There is some heresy going around--some even in shooters circles-- that you actually shouldn't clean rifles. Or very infrequently. WRONG!! Especially with finely machined rifles like the Anschutz and the Vostoks. They need to be cleaned after about 100rds of firing-- and if that is every two uses--they need to be wiped off with an oily rag after every use or the exteriors of the barrels will rust from the finger prints.

I have seen Fortners that you couldn't force a round into they were so bad. Others with so much black carbon on the bolt the bolt wouldn't close and thus would misfire. Of course--there are those individuals who are simply lazy and use some of those "experts" opinions to justify doing nothing.

You will need the following equipment:

  • A nylon coated or aluminum cleaning rod--Dewey makes a coated one that is very nice--preferably one piece and it must have brass fittings--NO STEEL exposed.
  • A brass "jag"- a pointed piece that will hold a patch. We don't use "loops" as they don't apply equal pressure around the circumference of the patch.
  • Brass brushes for the rod-- again--no steel in these. They will wear out fairly rapidly.
  • maybe a coupling for the rod to the brushes, if needed.
  • 0.22 sized cloth patches. A lot of patches.
  • Gun oil w/preservative-- Hoppe's; Shooters Choice or I like Break Free
  • old wash cloth cut in half for an oil rag--[lint free]
  • dentist pick for cleaning out the chamber/breach area
  • rat-tailed kitchen brush [if it has a steel core use carefully] for cleaning out the magazine well
  • tooth brush or two for all around scrubbing--can heat and bend the handle back on one of them
  • rod guide for your rifle if you can find one. This slips into the receiver where the bolt normally sits and guides the rod into the chamber.
  • tools for removing cheekpieces, bedding screws, tightening screws on front sights, magazine wells and trigger housing group screws.

You can get the above products at http://www.champchoice.com

Always clean from the breach end--not the muzzle--no "snakes". Be extra careful with the crown of the barrel, and keep it clean!!!

Steps to clean

  1. Keeping your rifle clean, all the various fasteners tightened, and careful treatment during use- will go a long way toward the rifle functioning properly during training and races. Most malfunctions are due to dirty rifles, including deterioration in accuracy.
  2. Use good cleaning equipment including:
    • One piece nylon coated cleaning rod
    • A cleaning bolt to guide the rod
    • Brass brushes with no steel parts
    • A brass jag to run patches
    • Flannel cleaning patches - full size to fit bore tightly
    • A tooth brush [or two- one with a bent handle]
    • A dentist pick
    • Preservative oil
    • A lint free rag for wiping — old washcloth

  3. Always remove the bolt and clean the bore from the breech side. The crown (on muzzle end of barrel) is delicate and if scratched will affect all accuracy.
  4. Steps every day the rifle is used unless during a race series:
    • Remove the bolt and replace with cleaning bolt to guide the rod.
    • Swab bore with solvent
    • Wet brass brush with solvent and push completely through the bore from
      the breech and pull completely back about 10 times.
    • Using a jag and a patch run the patch through from the breech. Repeat several times. Patches can be reused if they are not totally dirty.
    • Wet a patch with oil and swab the bore. Using a dry patch or several- continue to clean until the patch comes out clean.
    • Scrub the bolt face with powder solvent, wipe dry, scrub with toothbrush, and wipe with a light coat of oil. Periodically disassemble the bolt at least partially and clean all interior parts. Coat with a very light layer of oil.
    • Note: there must be some lubrication on the exterior of the bolt to prevent burring the rubbing surfaces
    • Clean the exterior of the magazines, the interior of the breech and the trigger area with the toothbrush and pick if needed to get into small crevices. Pay particular attention to the sockets that receive the extractors of the bolt that are located on either side of the chamber.
    • Coat all surfaces with a dampening coat of oil- just enough to remove the fingerprints.

  5. On race sequence days- it will normally suffice to run several dry patches through the bore and then complete the rest of the sequence. This will result in zero groups on subsequent days very similar to the first day.
  6. For more detailed stripping of the bolts on Fortune style rifles and other disassembly and assemble instructions- work with a knowledgeable coach.
  7. Do not attempt to adjust the trigger screws, tighten them [other than the clamp that holds the trigger itself in place] or otherwise remove the screws, springs and levers of the trigger group. Do not use any solvents on the trigger mechanism, Either blow off with compressed air, brash with a soft paint brush or get help cleaning and lubing the parts front a competent gunsmith.

    However, keep the two screws that hold the trigger group to the receiver, and the two screws that hold the magazine well to the receiver tightened.
    Do not attempt to adjust the location of these parts without competent help.
  8. Periodically remove the action from the stock and clean the hidden areas thoroughly using the above methods
  9. When replacing the bedding screws be certain the rear screw is not tightening into the bolt area of the receiver. Add a washer if needed. Then tighten both bedding screws to about 3 newton-meters or 25 inch-pounds of torque. Use the same amount of torque each time for consistent results. Also consider having the rifle glass bedded to assist in maintaining this relationship and solid bedding of the barrel to the stock.
  10. Check the front sight screws and rear sight clamps for tightness, and check the rear aperture and front collar for tightness.
  11. wipe off the rifle with an oiled rag after EVERY use.
  12. occasionally take a used brass brush and "scrub" back and forth right in front of the chamber with some oil. 20 or 30 strokes to clean out the carbon that accumulates there. In this case you will reverse the brush in the rifle barrel-- so it takes a pretty used up brush to do this.

With the above procedure I have had barrels last well up into the 50-100K rounds while retaining really good accuracy--and the rifles ALWAYS work when you want them to!!!!


Much of this was OCR'd from a jpg so pardon the typos or formatting errors.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 22nd, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
In regard to this:
"Always clean from the breach end--not the muzzle--no 'snakes'. Be extra careful with the crown of the barrel, and keep it clean!!!"

I assume the "snakes" in question are boresnakes. I use them quite a bit (not as a replacement for a brush and jag) so I have to ask why this was stated.
Nov. 23rd, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)
Yes, boresnakes. I think they mean not to use them in place of a brush and jag.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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