Should you clean a new airgun barrel?

by B.B. Pelletier

We got this question from DOT in response to last week’s article about cleaning airgun barrels: “What about newly purchased rifles? What kind, if any, cleaning should be done on those? I have heard that some manufacturers apply some grease or something as some sort of preservative. Maybe these are foreign manufacturers whose airguns are imported. Should the barrel of a new rifle be cleaned?” Excellent question!

Are new barrels dirty?
You wouldn’t think the barrel of a brand new airgun would be dirty, would you? Doesn’t the factory clean the barrel before they ship the gun? The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. On guns with brass barrels, there really isn’t any need to clean, because they don’t corrode fast enough to warrant it. Steel barrels are a different issue. They corrode fast and need to be cleaned.

I’ve seen the Daisy assembly line in Neosho, Missouri, and I didn’t see anyone cleaning barrels. They assemble hundreds of guns every day on each one of their assembly lines, and every step is calculated to produce a fine finished product. Of course, they don’t make the barrels there, they just assemble them into guns. Maybe the barrels are cleaned where they are made.

Rust is the number one problem
Airgun barrels don’t get dirty by shooting pellets. They get rusty! Perhaps 30 percent of all new steel airgun barrels have an appreciable amount of rust in them. If the new owner shoots a lot, the pellets will take care of all but the very worst problems, so we don’t notice it that much, but it is there.

The Brits may brag about their quality, but they ship rusty barrels!
Every airgun dealer knows that the factories ship barrels with a little rust in them. In a moment, I’ll explain why, but for now reflect on this – it is not uncommon for the barrel of a $1,000 PCP airgun to have rust in it! Not every gun is rusty, but enough are that cleaning the barrel right away makes good sense. In fact, the rust is often not just confined to the inside of the barrel. The outside of the gun can have it, too.

Why the rust?
Bluing causes the rust. I once saw a $3,000 custom air rifle that rusted over its entire blued surface in less than 24 hours. That was an exceptional situation in which the gun was in a foam-lined hard case (the absolute worst for promoting rust!) and the gun had been in a misting rain. The foam in those cases soaks up moisture like a sponge. In this case, it completely rusted every surface of the gun in one day! A dark blue gun became bright orange! So, get your guns out of those foam-padded cases when they aren’t being transported.

Bluing is rust!
The term bluing is really incorrect for the finish on modern guns. In most cases, it’s really black oxide – and you know what oxide is! It’s rust! After a barrel is blued, the manufacturer has to clean it thoroughly to remove the last vestiges of bluing salts. If any salts remain in the barrel, they continue to rust until they are depleted. Once rust starts, it has a life of its own, and the barrel continues rusting until something is done. When a pellet goes down the bore it scrapes out some of the rust. If enough pellets are shot, the rust will completely leave the bore – unless it has formed a deep pit in the metal. A pitted barrel will continue to rust in the pits while being shot. You have to aggressively deal with the rust on guns with pitted barrels.

Rifled barrels are the worst
Conventional rifled barrels are the worst for retaining rust, because it’s so difficult to get it all out of the crevices of the rifling. Smoothbores are much easier to clean. Hexagonal rifling, found in many of the guns that shoot both BBs and pellets, is pretty easy, too. So, you should be most concerned about steel barrels with conventional lands and grooves.


Ballistol oil defeats rust and protects steel against further rusting.

How to protect your bore
After you clean your bore the way I recommended in the article on bore cleaning, protect it with Ballistol, a product I discussed back in August 2005 in a blog about protecting and restoring a blued finish. Not only will Ballistol protect the newly cleaned steel surface, it also soaks into any remaining rust and neutralizes it, which is why it is used as a gun lubricant by many armies around the world!

So, DOT, you asked a good question. I hope all of our readers take this message to heart.

37 thoughts on “Should you clean a new airgun barrel?

  1. B.B.
    Don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but if you lube your pellets you will rarely have to clean or deal with rust in your barrel…..
    SJ


  2. SJ,

    That’s true, but also if you shoot them dry they will remove a small amount of rust. This posting was about those guns that have more than a small amount and really do need to be cleaned.

    B.B.


  3. BB,
    What type of cases/slips are good to use for long term storage. How about soft cases, the type that also doubles as a shooting blanket. I am aware of the silicone impregnated sacks, but I’m slightly alergic to silicone and don’t want it all over my gun to be transfered to my face! Thanks Jason


  4. B.B.

    Thanks for expanding on this question I asked. Good thing I asked as I have a new RWS on the way.

    A question about the Ballistol…does it promote dieseling in spring guns?

    Thanks again.

    DOT


  5. DOT,

    About the Ballistol, I don’t know whether it promoted dieseling or not. If I can find out in the next three days, I’ll let you know. I ran completely out and now must wait on a resupply before I can di anythig with it.

    I’m going to the SHOT Show next week, so after Tuesday, I make no promises.

    B.B.


  6. Jason,

    The gunslip made from automobile headliner material seems pretty good. It appears to breathe, which is important to rust prevention.

    Avoid anything that is airtight and avoid most types of foam. That said, I own a Mil-Spec gun case ($200!) with foam lining that is rated for immersion to a depth of 100 feet! However, this is a very special case and most military guns are finished in an anti-rust parkerizing. Also, they don’t leave guns in this case – it’s used for transport, only.

    B.B.


  7. BB,

    I know if you ask pyramid air to send you something for free they will so you can review it.Im very poor and have always wanted an airgun.Can you help me BB?Im 15 and love the sport but we dont have money.Please help me.I really dont care wich gun it is.I just want to shoot and have the fun ive never had.Thanks BB and tell me if you can help me.

    Israelito


  8. Israelito,

    Nice try, fellah!

    For a 15 year-old who wants an airgun I have this advice – get a job and earn it. But first clear it with your parents.

    B.B.



  9. Israelito,

    Pardner, this is America, the land of opportunity. Get out and earn your airgun. That’s all I’m going to say on this subject.

    B.B.



  10. I have heard that you can use regular pellet rifle clean rods etc, on pellet pistols but i dont know if i should use the cleaning agentor if it will ruin certain parts of the gun
    i have also heard that they make cleaning pellets do they work what do you think i should do
    sincerely Gunner456@hothotmail.com


  11. Gunner456,

    You should never use cleaning solvents in airguns – especially CO2 gun. Solvents can destroy the seals.

    It really isn’t necessary to ever clean the barrel of your PT80-, but if you want to, use a patch soaked in Gamo Air Gun Oil or Crosman Pellgunoil.

    Cleaning pellets can be shot through your gun safely. They remove the graphite that the pellets leave behind, so they come out black, but those deposits don’t really hurt your gun.

    B.B.


  12. Thanks! Two more great articles on cleaning your bore. I think I got the message: clean your bore once using the method you outline and then leave it alone until accuracy falls off.

    Frankly, I didn’t care for the sound my gun made when I shot the cleaning pellet through it, but the RWS manual recommends using them (maybe because they sell them!), so I figured it’d be okay. It must have cleaned something out however. You may recall in a previous comment (which I didn’t sign) that my gun was shooting high. After I shot the cleaning pellet through, the shots came back to where they should be. Shooting multiple pellets through is a great idea.

    A topic that may be of interest to your readers is that of stray pellets – you know, you’ve just shot five pellets in a row through the same hole and out comes one that misses the target completely! I’ve read your post on weighing pellets and that helps, but it seems there’s more to the story. If that’s all there is, or you’ve covered it elsewhere, let me know.

    jw


  13. JW,

    No, there is more to stray pellets than just uniformity. In fact the entire book, “The Bullet’s Flight From Powder to Target,” is devoted to that subject of accuracy and why bullets stray.

    I highly recommend it.

    I’ll look through all the posts I’ve done on accuracy and see whether another one is possible.

    B.B.



  14. What if I take the two foamed pads out and then put a rifle inside the case? Will that still cause harm to the barrel by promoting rust?


  15. Removing the foam is a step in the right direction. Wiping the gun with a silicone-impregnated cloth is another one. Make sure the gun is prtected inside the had case with the foam removed.

    B.B.


  16. Great Post BB, i almost felt like crying today, i pulled my HW97k which ive only had a few weeks out of the case and noticed that it has specks of rust starting to form on the barrel silencer and the underleaver :( I wasent expecting this as ive always wiped my rifle after a session with a dry rag before putting it away, a friend has suggested today that from now on i wipe it down with a rag with some WD40 on it hopefully this will prevent any more external rust.

    Cheers Lee.


  17. Lee,

    Anything BUT WD-40, pleae. It leaves a yellow varnish on metal when it dries.

    Birchwood Casey’s Sheath is good, as is Ballistol.

    B.B.


  18. BB,

    In regard to hard foam cases and their rust causing properties, Is there anything that I can apply directly to the foam such as silicon spray to prevent rust? I already wipe the rifle with a silcone cloth after use. Or possibly keeping something that absorbs moisture in the case with the gun like those little packets that say “do not eat” that come with some things. There is some sort of salt compound that we used in chemistry that acts as a moisture magnet, and I was told that some people put it in their closets for that reason. Not sure about that though, but I do have a hard Plano foam case coming in the mail. For those of us who are stuck with them, what do you suggest?



  19. I wasnt planning on doing anything until you give me the go ahead. I was dissapointed though to find that information less than a few hours of my case being shipped. My friend just got a pelican case to hold two rifles that has special trated foam to protect against moisture absorbtion. He also said that his case comes with 2 “things” (not sure what they are” that can be inserted into the case, I guess to absorb whatever moisture the treated foam does collect. He did offer to give me one of them. Also on another post you mentioned a “desiccant cartridge”, what is that used for?

    - thanks for the quick response -



  20. BB,

    I found a silica gel canister that…
    “absorbs moisture through perforations in the aluminum case. One canister maintains a safe level of humidity in 3 cubic feet of space. Even when saturated, it remains dry to the touch. Because silica gel granules are inert, they will not emit harmful vapors, stain or cause any chemical reaction.

    Also good for other storage areas to prevent rust and moisture invasion. It has an unlimited life as it can be regenerated in a 150oC oven in about 3 hours. A monitor window shows blue when recharged and pink when water saturated.”

    I think one of these which is only 4″x 2″x .5″ would be perfect for anyone with a foam case, and they only cost $5. Of course the silicone cloth wipedowns and frequent checking of the indicator are still a must, but otherwise, I beleive my problem is solved.

    Thanks for the great advice.


  21. Hey BB:
    After receivinng your advice, i set forth and bought the gamo cfx. So far, so good even though i have only shot a few pellets. First, i would like to know what to use to keep the barrel from rusting from the oils in my hands. Also i would like to know how it is you are supposed to clean the barrel. it is a struggle to insert the cleaning pads from the muzzle, but you cant push them through the bolt. Can you shoot the cleaning pellets? Any help you can give is great thanks.


  22. hello bb:
    I have another quick question. My gamo cfx had instructions that said not to put any liquid down the barrel. However, I was looking at a crosman silicone gel from PA that you put in the barrel overnight. Does this work can I use
    it?


  23. CF-X,

    First, why clean your barrel? If the gun is accurate just shoot it. You might avoid Crosman pellets because the CF-X barrel is too difficult to clean.

    Second, yes, you can use Crosman silicone chamber oil (it’s NOT a gel) down the barrel overnight. Use two drops every 5,000 pellets.

    B.B.


  24. I think the manufacturers don´t clean the bores because they don´t want to damage them. We have to admit that there may be some damage to the bore with each cleaning. Given this, i prefer to damage the bore of my new rifle myself rather than recieving a factory-damaged bore. I think the rust of the new barrels is due to the factory blueing, as said before.


  25. Hi,

    I would like to know how silicone lubricants act in the barell of PCP airgun?

    If factory pellet lubricant is not available, may the pellets be lubricated with silicone lubricant? And what about teflon spray, synthetic or mineral oil?

    Regarding the silicone, I am very surprised with the manual of my FX-7000 Gladiator where it is stated NOT to use any silicone oil or grease at all. Contrary: MINERAL oils are required for everything – even for the seals oan o-rings.

    What damage can teh silicone do on the gun?

    Best regards,
    The Bogdan


  26. Bogdan,

    Silicone oil can safely be used as a pellet lubricant. And pure silicone grease is used on the seals of a pneumatic airgun.

    I’m not sure why your owner’s manual states miliral oil for the seals and o-rings, but that is considered dangerous.

    When you say silicone oil or grease, it much be pure silicone with a high flashpoint.

    B.B.






  27. lead deposits cannot be removed by just passing several patches though the barrel.that's why i used hoppe's no.9.when i used it, i noticed that there were lots of lead after 2,000 rounds.


  28. nathoi,

    Okay, nix on the Hoppes. Use JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound on a brass bore brush.Use a ror and not a pull-through cleaning device. Twenty passes through the barrel in each direction will leave it squeaky clean. Then clean the bore with patches and use Ballistol on some of them. Ballistol will not harm your airgun mechanism.

    B.B.


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