by B.B. Pelletier
I have used three-piece cleaning rods all my life. And, when I recently added up the cost of the 30 or so I’ve bought over the years, the total topped $200! However, that’s not the reason for this post. A one-piece steel cleaning rod – coated or not – is actually BETTER for the bore of your airguns than a jointed rod. I can’t prove that, but recent research uncovered the fact that all real marksmen for the past 200 years have insisted on a one-piece steel or iron rod. Today, I’ll explain what I found.
About 25 years ago, Robert Beeman wrote that the one-piece steel rod is best because it has no joints to collect dirt that can scratch the bore as it passes through. I thought that was a stretch when I first read it, but now I’ve uncovered several historical reports that agree. The most recent was Ned Roberts, a notable marksman and the inventor of the .257 Roberts cartridge. Roberts was a contemporary of Schalk, Pope and other top rifle and barrel makers, and all of them – to a man – used only a solid steel rod. He used the same reasoning as Beeman – that jointed rods tend to collect dirt that can scratch the bore.
Scratch my back – not my bore!
The book in which this appeared was a book about muzzleloading rifles, and they had barrels made of either iron or dead-soft steel, similar to our airgun barrels today. So, scratching the bore was and still is a distinct possibility.
Many aluminum cleaning rods are the jointed type, like the one found in the Gamo .177 cleaning kit. You probably thought that aluminum, being softer than steel, would be better for the bore of your gun, but here’s the catch. Because it is so soft, aluminum can become embedded with hard particles of dirt and act like a file on your bore. That’s besides the joint between the sections. If you are scrupulous about cleaning your rod after cleaning your airgun, this doesn’t present such a problem, but I know I wasn’t doing that.
A steel rod will not allow particles to embed themselves, and even the coated rods apparently don’t have this problem, because they are the ones Roberts recommends the most. Beeman said they weren’t as good, and all the other experts lived at a time when synthetic coatings didn’t exist. So, it’s Ned Roberts’ word against Beeman’s. But that wasn’t the argument that won me over. I break cleaning rods!
Steel is hard to break
At least I break aluminum rods. Or I cross-thread them or I break off the threaded portion that holds the tips. The .177 rods are the worst. So, a year ago I sprang for a .22 caliber Dewey and a .177 Dewey. That’s $72 worth of cleaning rods! However, I have the pieces of at least that many broken rods laying about everywhere, and I’ve thrown away most of them over the years. In fact, I caught myself at Wally World with another $30 worth of aluminum rods headed for the checkout when the reality hit me. Dewey rods are cheaper! Not by the piece, but over the long haul. I’ve been cleaning firearms and airguns for over 40 years, and I guess I still have a few decades left, so I decided it was time to stop throwing money down the drain.
Dewey rods have ball-bearing handles, so the bore brush can follow the rifling and not skip across the lands. When you’re using JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, that’s a plus and a half!
I have friend who has Deweys that are 20 years old and still working fine. I know a rifle manufacturer who cleans his new barrels only with Dewey rods, and that’s several thousand barrels a year! So, they do hold up.
Dewey is a complete system – not just a rod. When you buy one, be sure to also buy a matching jag, mop, slotted tip and brushes (plural). I recommend using a new brush every time you clean with JB paste, so buy your brushes in quantity.
If you have any questions about the accessories, please ask them. I would be happy to talk about them and even to describe the complete process, if you like. I do plan to talk about flexible rods in another post, so that will be coming soon.