How should I clean my airgun barrel?

By B.B. Pelletier

You don’t always HAVE to clean your barrel
Airgun barrels do get dirty. They collect dirt in the bore from the oil in the barrel. Oil gets there for many reasons. In spring guns, the mechanism puts it there (through the transfer port). In pneumatics and gas guns, we sometimes oil the pellets. Some pellets even come pre-oiled or waxed. So barrels do get dirty, but the deposits don’t remain inside.

Every pellet down the barrel scrapes out the deposits from the pellets that went before. This is why many airgunners never clean their barrels.

Faster velocities and hard pellets can deposit lead in the bore
As velocities climb above 900 f.p.s., some pellets will leave streaks of lead on the surface of the bore. Hard pellets are the worst. Pure lead pellets are soft and don’t leave lead deposits as easily, but pellets that have antimony in their alloy are harder and more prone to scrape off. Try to scratch the head of a pellet with your fingernail. If it’s soft, you’ll be able to leave a scratch mark – but you won’t leave a mark it if it’s hard.

4 rules for the proper cleaning of airguns
Unless you know your barrel has lead in it, all you need to do is:

1. Run several clean patches through the bore to remove the dirt and grease. Remember, you DO NOT have to do this unless you want to! Many Olympic champions do not clean their airguns – ever! But there is no harm in cleaning, unless you make some fundamental mistakes.

2. Clean from the breech if at all possible. You want to protect the rifling at the muzzle because damage there will spoil the gun’s accuracy.

3. Do not use solvents to clean an airgun. A good grade of gun oil on a patch will remove the dirt, but keep that to a minimum.

4. Dry the bore after cleaning unless the gun is going into long-term storage, in which case a light film of good gun oil is best.

Some tips when more cleaning is necessary
Has a formerly accurate airgun started spreading its shots around? You may need to remove some excess lead buildup. A brass or bronze brush is the best way to remove lead. You will have to scrub back and forth. Since this can damage the bore, don’t do it more often than necessary.

For airguns that present a challenge, there are flexible cleaning cables that pull the patch through from the muzzle. When using a cable of any kind, pull straight out of the muzzle and don’t let the cable ride against the side of the bore.

Airgun barrels aren’t hard
Steel airgun barrels are made from what the industry calls “dead-soft” steel, just like .22-rimfire barrels. This material takes the rifling button better, giving a smoother surface; and the low pressure of the cartridge (or airgun mechanism in our case) cannot damage the steel.

Many airguns have brass barrels. These are even softer than steel and can be easily damaged by improper cleaning methods. Cleaning an airgun barrel is not hard, as long as you remember to preserve the delicate muzzle and not use solvents. The best advice is to only clean when you see a need.

The easy way to clean CO2 guns!
The Crosman Maintenance Kit is perfect for CO2 guns. The two powerlets have Pellgunoil in them to lubricate the entire firing mechanism, and the felt pellets clean the bore! Simply follow the directions on the package.

27 thoughts on “How should I clean my airgun barrel?

  1. this page talks about how airgun barrels are made of soft steel, does this mean that if i have fired lead shot, steel bbs or other unorthodox ammunition i might have damaged the rifling on my gun?

  2. zebedee,

    Steel barrel may be soft, but they are considerably harder and tougher than lead and plastic. However, the use of a steel BB in a barrel not made for it will ruin the barrel.

    Guns made to shoot both lead pellets and steel BBs have special-shaped rifling that withstands the erosive effect of steel BBs.


  3. Hello, i myself have and air gun which is only a 4.5mm cal. But i still use lead bullets (soft), and i was wondeing if i would even need to clean it. I have only had it for a few days, so it probably wont need cleaning yet. I use it every day, so when would i have to clen it, if i wanted to??

  4. Scotty,

    No, you don’t need to clean your barrel on your new Ruger Airhawk. Shoot 1,000 pellets through your new gun to break it in. The only time you really need to clean your barrel is when accuracy falls off. IF you ever need to clean your barrel I would not recommend the cleaning kit you linked for several reasons:
    1-You do not want to use a steel cleaning rod since it could potentially damage your barrel. Airgun barrels are usually either soft steel or brass. Your Ruger Airhawk has a soft steel barrel. IF you ever need to clean your barrel buy a DEWEY NYLON COATED cleaning rod in the same caliber as your airgun.
    2-There are better cleaning products and lubrication products for airguns than are packaged in the maintenance kit you linked.

    Here’s an updated article that B.B. did on cleaning barrels. Within this article is a link to another article and several additional links to lubricants, rust preventatives, etc. that will help you maintain your fine gun. You will need to copy and paste this link since the blog doesn’t allow live links:

    Scotty, there is a current/live discussion taking place under the current article that B.B. wrote on Friday. He writes a new article every day, Monday-Friday. Under that new article you can click on “comments” and you will find other airgunners, like yourself, asking and answering each others questions. Wealth of experienced and inexperienced airgunners sharing information. This link will always take you to the current article and at the bottom of the article, by clicking comments, will take you to the current/live discussion:

    Look forward to seeing you there!


  5. i recently bought a ruger air hawk which came from china with a thin coat of cosmoline all over it. i couldnt hit a the thing until i cleaned the inside of the barrel and let me tell you it was extremely dirty. after i cleaned it my accuracy went up one hundred percent. i used a mixture of copper solvent with a small amount of rain-ex which .22 shooters (real bullets not pellets) use to prevent led build up. any china made gun with grease in the barrel has to be cleaned properly or you might as well throw rocks–they will be more accurate. always clean from the breach, just as stated earlier and i never use any kind of a metal brush.

  6. Anonymous with the new Ruger Air Hawk,

    I’ve heard some good things about the Ruger Air Hawk rifles. Glad to hear you got a good one.

    Not sure what “copper solvent” you used in your barrel but you may want to be careful using solvents in any springer. Strong solvents have been known to eat/deteriorate the seals and necessary lubricants in guns like the Ruger Air Hawk. Don’t want to damage your fine gun.


  7. Outside,

    If the barrel is not dirty from the elements, gun oil of any type will work. But a specially made product such as Birchwood Casey's Barricade works best.

    If the outside is dirt, wash the dirt off with a damp rag, then dry thoroughly and apply the oil.


  8. You've discussed cleaning the barrel and the outside of the gun. I have a Daisy 008 pistel with the circular clips. Any suggestions on cleaning the mechanism in that chamber area that rotates the clip. I'm starting to get some brown crud around there.

  9. Yes, I do. This is a dangerous area to fool around with on your gun, but a clean, dry toothbrush could be used to pull out that crud you see. Gun cleaning supply stores sell special "toothbrushes" that are made for this kind of cleaning.

    Use no cleaning agents, as they will only make matters worse.


  10. Dry "Air Duster" spray, like they sell for cleaning keyboards and computers, might also help.

    If it's gooey and it looks like you need some sort of liquid cleaning agent, silicone oil (like the stuff they sell for airsoft guns) might do the trick without hurting any plastic.

    I imagine that Pellgun oil could also be used, since the 008 is a CO2 gun. Am I right about that, BB?

  11. i have a Beeman Dual Cal air rifle, and i was wondering when i would need to clean it. when i got it, smoke would come out of the barrel after i shot, so it was actually Deisling itself from its own oil. i have shot about 500-600 pellets through the thing and the smoke went away, but i dont know if i need to clean out any lead or burnt residue.


  12. Kyle,

    The main way to tell whether your airgun barrel needs to be cleaned is a loss of accuracy. If you notice that your groups are significantly larger, then it's time to clean.

    That said, it wouldn't hurt to run a couple dry patches down the bore of your rifle to clean out the pellet anti-oxidant compound that's been deposited.


  13. What do you think about using a correctly-sized (.17cal in my case) "Boresnake" to clean my break-barrel pellet rifle? It has bronze brush bristles and no other metal to harm the barrel. It's become my go-to cleaning method for all my "powder burning" firearms… I don't see why it wouldn't work equally as well in my air rifle. Thanks!

  14. The Boresnake may work, but remember that an airgun barrel is not a .17, but an .18. The Boresnake is probably big enough to compensate for the larger bore.

    Also remember that airgun barrels seldom have to be cleaned, and when it is necessary, you need to run the brush loaded with JB Paste througt the barrel in both directions about 20 times. If the snake can do that, you're okay.


  15. I have several break barrels and underlevers and what I notice is that the first few rounds you fire cleans out whatever lub was used during the assembly of the cylinder and piston. Some guns even diesel initially.
    What I do is run about a hundred rounds through the gun (break in. zero. and figure out what pellet the gun likes) then clean the bore by running a few patches until they come out clean.

  16. I use Q tips cut in half to clean the bore on my .177 Crosman Fury II.
    I get 2 “patches” from each Q tip.
    I just start them by hand from the breech and push them through with a .17 rod.
    The Q tip shaft fits into the female threaded jag hole on the rod.
    I use the Q tips dry.
    You can buy a bunch of Q tips for next to nothing at W-marts.
    They are a whole lot cheaper than the felt pellets.
    Bill Faulkner

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