Cleaning airgun barrels – the stuff you need to know!

by B.B. Pelletier

This one is for JW, who read the posting on cleaning airgun barrels and asked, “Okay B.B. You’re sure this is safe? My RWS owner’s manual says not to use brushes, but I’m assuming since I’m only doing it this once, it will not harm anything. By the way, I bought some cleaning pellets and shot a few through my RWS 34. I was amazed at how black they were. I’ve only shot about 250 pellets through it since I bought it new, so I’m assuming that it came from the factory like this. Is this typical for a new gun?”

Airgun barrels are made from soft steel or brass!
Soft steel abrades very fast, and brass abrades even faster. Incidentally, some of the airgun forums are talking about phosphor bronze barrels right now. The last use of phosphor bronze (and any other kind of bronze) was on the Sheridan Supergrade, whose production ended in 1954.

When you clean the bore of a gun, the cleaning rod can rub against the bore at the point where it enters the barrel. It will wear the barrel if it does rub. That’s why you are warned to clean a barrel from the breech, if possible, so you don’t wear the rifling at the muzzle.

To overcome this potential problem, cleaning rods are now sometimes rubber-coated for bore protection. The point is…don’t let the rod wear the bore by rubbing.

Flexible cleaning rods!
Some guns are constructed in such a way that a flexible cleaning rod or cable is the only way you can clean it from the breech. I use one when needed, but I’m very careful! Some of these flexible systems are potentially very hazardous to rifle barrels!

Several years ago, an airgun hobbyist was selling cleaning systems made from monofilament fishing line. The line was passed through the muzzle and out the breech of guns with sliding compression chambers, like the Diana RWS 52. It was looped to grab a cleaning patch and pull it back through the bore from breech to muzzle – just like the experts tell us. What they didn’t tell anyone was that if you got lazy and pulled from the side of the muzzle instead of straight, the monofilament line would cut through the steel on your barrel! If any of you are lapidaries, you can back me up on this. Don’t jade carvers use monofilament line coated with diamond dust to carve jade?

This same hobbyist was also selling green ScotchBrite scratch pad material as a bore cleaner! Folks, green ScotchBrite is so abrasive that it can remove the rifling from a steel barrel in a very short time. Many airgun manufacturers use it for final detail finishing before sending their parts out for bluing, annodizing or plating!

Use a brush that is softer than the barrel
I suspect that RWS warns against using brushes to clean their barrels because so many shooters are careless when they clean. If you do use a brush, use one made of a material that’s softer than the barrel of your airgun. For steel barrels, a bronze brush is fine. For brass barrels, there are nylon brushes, though I feel you should stay out of a brass barrel altogether unless there is a real problem.

The cleaning procedure I outlined in the linked article is recognized by all the major firearm and airgun manufacturers in the world. You only do it when there is a problem with accuracy – not after every firing.

Felt cleaning pellets
Felt cleaning pellets should not be used in a spring-piston gun. They do not cushion the piston sufficiently, and it is akin to dry-firing. You can use them in just about every other powerplant. If you do use them, pack in enough pellets to provide some resistance when the piston comes forward. For a gun with the power of a Diana RWS 34, perhaps five cleaning pellets in a row might be enough to cushion the piston.

The black stuff JW mentions seeing on his felt cleaning pellets is the graphite anti-oxidant coating found on some pellets so they don’t turn into white dust in six months. It does not harm the gun, and it keeps getting removed and redeposited as you continue to shoot.

If I make it sound as though the barrel on you airgun is fragile, don’t fret. It really isn’t that bad. With a little common sense, you can keep an airgun barrel working well for longer than a lifetime.

38 thoughts on “Cleaning airgun barrels – the stuff you need to know!

  1. Thanks, B.B. In the world of high power rifles, shooters have been using molydisulfide to smooth out the barrel, i believe. what would be your thoughts on using some in my drulov barrel?


  2. old shooter,

    I experimented with Ms. Moly when it first came out. I couldn’t see any difference. I think the higher velocity of centerfires and their higher gas pressure may make the difference with moly bullt performance.

    I still have a pound of pure moly powder left over from those experiments. That’s a lot because it’s as light as styrofoam!

    B.B.


  3. B.B.
    Another barrel cleaning alternative to all the oxides and other barrel residue is to lube your pellets. This reduces lead exposure to the shooter and the barrel. A swipe down the bore periodically with a single clean patch will show little debris or buildup. The lube coating on the pellets has the added benefit of keeping the pellets from oxidizing in the tin, especially if you live near salt water…(corrodes everything)… like I do.

    SJ


  4. B.B. Pelletier I am thinking about purchasing the diana rws34 or the gamo hunter 440 both in .22 caliber. Which rifle would you recommend? I want to hunt small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and birds. I am looking for accuracy and high-power. I am leaning more towards the hunter 440 just because I bought an airgun from them and I like it. But then again I was thinking the rws34 is a better buy because it’s probably more powerful. If I put a one piece scope mount on the hunter 440 the scope shouldn’t do a lot of shaking should it? What is your input on it?


  5. I think you left out one of the most important things about cleaning an airgun barrel — you rarely need to. In field target — where many people shoot 10,000 or more pellets per year — the general concensus seems to be to clean only when accuracy seems to have degraded.

    If you don’t clean, you don’t have any chance of harming the barrel.

    Lubricants such as 1Lube and Krytech seem to reduce the need for cleaning but very small quantities are needed (say a couple of drops per 500 pellets).

    Best,

    Joe


  6. SJ,

    Thanks.

    I actually find Crosman premiers lead the bore faster than pure lead pellets.I have all but stopped using them unless they are the most accurate in a certain gun. I shoot Kodiaks and JSBs instead.

    B.B.


  7. Joe,

    You are right! I usually preach not cleaning, but since that was the crux of these posts, I left it out.

    I almost never clean unless someone has been shooting Premiers at high velocity. Then there seems to be no way out.

    B.B.


  8. Found that the Gamo Hunter 440 balances really well with a Leapers 4×32 ir mildot scope; used Accushot mounts and couldn’t get zero (even at 25 yards, still low) so swapped front and back mounts – end of problem. Gamo arrester block now behind mount at front; no movement at all. 440 has very little recoil or bounce anyway, and is accurate at 50 yards.




  9. Hello BB

    My apologies for being off the subject, but could you someday explain the sorted history of the Logun s16s? I have an interest in this PCP, but I can’t figure out fact from fiction…




  10. Logun S16,

    Instead or sorted I think you mean sordid?

    Not much to tell, since the s16 hasn’t been around that long. It’s made in Bosnia and imported to England by Logun. It’s all-steel so it’s very heavy for the size. It has a 16-shot magazine that has to be removed and flipped over after the first 8 shots have been fired. I imagine it’s an accurate gun – I don’t think Logun would put their name on it if it weren’t. The Logun catalog says a little more, but most of that is in the item description on the Pyramyd Air website. One last thing, the straight line stock means the scope must be mounted high for your eye to acquire the sight picture.

    B.B.


  11. I am thinking about purchasing the diana rws34 or the gamo hunter 440 both in .22 caliber. Which rifle would you recommend? I want to hunt small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and birds. I am looking for accuracy and high-power. I am leaning more towards the hunter 440 just because I bought an airgun from them and I like it. But then again I was thinking the rws34 is a better buy because it’s probably more powerful.


  12. Hi B.B.

    I was getting ready to clean the bore of my air rifle with the J.B. Bore Compound, but was having trouble finding a rigid cleaning rod for an air gun in .22 cal. (I’m not much on the flexible rods.) I was wondering if it would be safe to use a cleaning rod for a .22 rimfire?

    jw




  13. Hello B.B. I finally used the JB Compound on my RWS 34. The before and after was amazing. When I first put the cleaning rod in, I could barely get it through the barrel. After 15 or twenty passes, it slid through like a knife through butter! I’m not sure what all was in there, but it sure cleared it out. The jury’s still out as to whether it improved the accuracy of the gun.

    Another question for you: I purchased a Marksman 2004 (from Pyramyd) and was wondering if the operation was okay to use with the lower end pistols, such as the Marksman. I assume it’s okay to use with anything with a steel barrel, but I didn’t want to take a chance on ruining the gun. I guess the other question is whether there’s a benefit from using the JB on the Marksman.

    Thanks again for the blog. We really do appreciate it.

    jw


  14. jw,

    As long as the barrel is steel, it can’t hurt. With single strokes like the Marksman, tough, be careful not to let any compound get on seals or O-rings. It would kill them.

    B.B.


  15. BB.
    dont you think its beter to put a cleaning felt pellet and a lead pellet after it rather than stacking five felt pellets in springers?


  16. Actually, I think felt cleaning pellets are a waste of time. The only thing they remove is the anti-oxydant from the pellets, so putting a lead pellet behind a cleaning pellet achieves nothing.

    If you are going to clean the barrel, do so with a brass brush (steel barrels, only) and JB bore compound.

    B.B.


  17. Hi, I’m new to airguns and recently got myself a Crosman 1377 and a gun cleaning kit that was also in the store from Hoppes(.177). After around 200 shots I cleaned it and noticed that was a having a hard time getting the brush rod through. Is this normal? or am I supposed to twist it through the rifled barrel? Should I go with cleaning pellets instead?

    Al


  18. Al,

    Cleaning pellets do nothing. Don’t use them.

    The brush is hard to push until, the bristles squeeze down to the size of the bore. The brush will be VERY difficult to pull back out because it cannot exit the breech. The bristles will fight you when you try to pull it back, which is why I wouldn’t recommend using a brust on this gun.

    You never have to twist the brush as it goes through the bore, but a cleaning rod that has a ball-bearing handle will follow the rifling for you.

    B.B.


  19. I push through the Beeman Deluxe Cleaning Patches with a Hoppes 9 rod. I only use the brass stub, not the brush.

    The fit is tight and I see silver colored metal on the patches. After a number of ‘pushes’ it just comes out black. I ran the cleaning cycle because my shots were randomly spread around the aim point (not biased high or low, everywhere!). Then my groups became predictable.

    http://www.pyramydair.com/cgi-bin/accessory.pl?accessory_id=715

    I tried the cleaning pellets as well, as RWS suggest, to push them through and noticed it didn’t have the same affect as the Beeman’s.


  20. BB
    I have some “40-X Bore Cleaner”. I guess it is a Remington product. Is this ok to use to clean my Shadow barrel?
    I like the idea of the fishing line and loop and pulling the patch thru, but I do have a rod with a brass stub. I prob shouldnt take the chance of affecting the crown and just use the fishing line.
    You have an amazing Blog!!

    Later
    Ransom


  21. Ransom,

    The 40X Bore Cleaner sounds like JB Paste under another name. I would take a chance with it.

    The monofiliment is a bad idea. Monofiliment line will cut a steel airgun barrel pretty fast, and the crown is exactly where it will happen.

    B.B.


  22. When accuracy degrades, I use a length of small gauge PVC-coated flexible electrical wire folded in two and pull cotton patches soaked in meths straight in line with the axis of the bore in my .177 CFX.
    Once they come out clean, I run a few dry ones and I get a squeaky clean barrel.
    I feel the insulation of the wire and overall diameter offer much less chances to do any damage than other methods. In the end, I run one last patch with a drop of light oil so I don’t stay with a completely dry bore that might oxydize.


  23. Hey BB,

    I have a Beeman RS2 rifle. Is the barrel soft steel or brass?

    Just to be safe, would you recommend buying a nylon brush to clean the bore with? I guess the best way to clean the bore is to put some JB paste on the brush then follow with some patches. That sound ok?

    Thanks, BR


  24. BR,

    Here's a link to a two part series did on airgun maintenance including an update on barrel cleaning. This link takes you to part 2. To access part 1 click on the link at the top of part 2 and you will be able to read this series in sequence. As B.B. said in the article above and says again in the articles I'm giving you a link to, airgun barrels rarely need to be cleaned. The only reason to clean would be if your accuracy falls off. Here's the link you'll need to copy and paste:

    http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2009/07/knowing-what-to-do-part-2.html

    kevin


  25. Thanks Kevin,

    But is my Beeman RS2 barrel all steel?

    I just feel safe knowing this because when the time comes (not until accuracy starts failing) for cleaning, i feel safe using a brass brush inside the barrel.

    Thanks,
    BR




  26. BR,

    You're welcome.

    Did you know that B.B. writes a new airgun related article every day, Monday-Friday?

    In the comments section under the newest article that B.B. has written you will find the majority of airgunners, like you, asking and answering each others questions and sharing airgunning tips. You can access the newest article by going here:

    http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/

    Look forward to seeing you there!

    kevin



  27. Brandon,

    Cleaning pellets are safe to use (BUT relatively ineffective) in in almost any gun EXCEPT A SPRING POWERED GUN. As B.B. says in the above article, felt cleaning pellets "do not cushion the piston sufficiently, and it is akin to dry-firing." You can do significant harm to your springer if you use these.

    Forgive me for asking but, Are you considering cleaning your barrel? If so, why?

    kevin


  28. Actually I do clean my barrels because I like the penetration the Crossman Prems deliver for hunting even though they are a dirty little pellet.

    This will probably run contrary to conventional wisdom and most advice proffered here, but because I value the typically high-dollar barrels in my gun closet, I've never placed anything inside them harder than a 1/8th inch wooden dowel driving wool dipped in Ballistol Sportsman's Lubricant following the spirals.

    Years ago, I tested this unique lube against all types and brands of cleaning and protection agents, and it beat them all hands down.

    Everyone has their favorites, that's what makes a horse race; but I've never run into a situation where this product let me down.


  29. Dayfydd,

    Thanks for your comments on Ballistol. Alot of us like and use that product. You posted to a blog that was written in 2006. There arn't many of us reading these old blogs. Would you please repost your comments at http://www.pyramydair.com/blog and share you knowledge with maybe 15,000 readers.

    Hope to see you there as a regular contributor to this blog. There is alot of info being exchanged between a great bunch of people.

    Mr B.


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