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Is your airgun barrel REALLY clean?

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I want to tell you about a barrel cleaning process that often improves accuracy. Got your attention?

Airgun barrels don’t normally require cleaning
It’s true that many Olympic and world-class target shooters never clean their barrels. Those who do clean use only felt cleaning wads they either shoot through or push with a rod. A few still use patches, but no solvent is ever used in their guns. Probably the favorite bore protectant used by champions is Tetra Gun lubricant. They have heavily marketed the 10-meter shooting world and are recognized everywhere.

Tetra Gun lubricants are widely used by the world’s top target shooters.

If you’re going to clean, do it right!
The procedure I am about to describe has always produced great results for me. On some AirForce PCP rifles I own, it has added as much as 100 f.p.s. and tightened the velocity spread. On spring guns, it often removes a lot of latent rust from the bore. And, in airguns that routinely shoot faster than 1,000 f.p.s., it removes lead from the rifling. This procedure is used by nearly all world-class benchrest shooters. AS LONG AS YOU FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS EXACTLY, it won’t harm your bore! If you get lazy while doing this, you could ruin your gun!

J-B Non-Embedding Bore Compound cleans the barrels of some of the world’s top benchrest guns.

Use J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound
The following method WORKS ONLY ON STEEL BARRELS! Use a magnet to determine if your barrel is steel – inside and out. Some lower-priced airgun barrels are often rifled brass tubes inside steel tubes. Don’t use the following method to clean them!

To clean your steel barrel, put so much J-B Compound on a brass brush that the tips of the bristles barely show on the sides. Then, run the brush through the bore completely and pull it back again. It’s best to work from the breech, but you can’t always do that. With careful work, you can go in from the muzzle just as well.

Run the brush through the bore in both directions at least 20 times. Don’t get hung up on the number of passes, though. You’ll feel the roughness of the bore start to smooth out after a few passes. That’s what we’re after! You’ll probably be removing patches of rust, rough machining marks from manufacturing (possibly, if the gun is relatively new) or lead. If you shoot Crosman Premiers or any other Crosman pellets in your gun at velocities above 900 f.p.s., you will be removing their deposits.

Things to watch!
1. DO NOT let the cleaning rod rub against the sides of the muzzle! This act has ruined more military rifles than combat.

2. The J-B Compound WILL get into the air transfer port of nearly all PCP rifles. AirForce guns are the exception because their port is in the removable air reservoir. When you shoot again, some J-B Compound will get back into the bore. Plan on cleaning the bore several times after you start shooting again. Cleaning pellets shot through the gun may be a good way to do this.

3. Be VERY careful cleaning airguns that have repeating mechanisms. The J-B Compound will not do any good in those revolving cylinders and complex reciprocating metal parts!

4. Don’t clean more often than ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY! That will probably be just one time for most airguns.

After using J-B Compound, clean it out!
Remove all traces of compound with dry patches. If you must oil the bore, use a metal penetrant such as Tetra Gun, Kroil, Sheath or Sweetshooter. Do NOT use Beeman Pena-Dry – it promotes rust on bare steel surfaces!

I know today’s post has a lot of warnings and capitalized words. I don’t do that for most of you, but there are a few guys who hear a snippet of information and charge off to change the universe! I tend to be one of them. The warnings are for people like me. Please heed them!

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

57 thoughts on “Is your airgun barrel REALLY clean?”

  1. hello, great article on cleaning, thanks. i dont know if this is the correct forum to ask you an unrelated question, but here goes: where can i get total take down instructions for my drulov 10?


  3. D.Smedley,

    I’m sure you will see an improvement after cleaning your pistol.

    I don’t have the facility for straight email, but if you make a comment to a very old posting, there will be a lower liklihood of someone seeing it.


  4. 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? Also, the pellets say to shoot a few everytime I shoot the rifle, does this sound correct? You mention the pros use felt pellets, but don’t mention how often.

    Still learning a lot from your site. Thanks,


  5. jw,

    Yes it is safe, but on Friday I will post the whole story about brushes in airgun bores. There is more that needs to be told.

    Ben Taylor, the “ben” of Theoben, told me about JB Paste. He recommended it for cleaning the bore of a Beeman Crow Magnum that had shot a lot of Premiers.

    The black is just the graphite anti-oxydation compound that’s on most pellets. It never has to be cleaned. Each pellet scrapes away the stuff from the pellet that went before it.

    As for cleaning pellets, I never use them. I don’t clean airgun bores unless the accuracy drops off. The pros who use felt pellets are shooting target PCPs. I don’t recommend them for springers.


    • Figured I would put this comment here for anyone new reading through the archives and wondering about cleaning.

      I purchased a 12 year old .22 cal RWS Diana 34 at the Texas Airgun Show.
      The first 2 tins of pellets produced 10 shot groups of 3+ inches.
      Six different tins of pellets later I still could not get put 10 shots (25 yards) under 2 inches.

      As a last resort I decided to clean the rifle and ordered the JB Paste and 2 bronze brushes from PA.
      Loaded up the brush with paste and 20 strokes later I was getting 1.5″ groups.
      Cleaned and loaded up the brush again for another 20 strokes.
      This time around, I could tell the brush was worn as it was significantly easier to push through the bore.

      I am happy to report following the second cleaning I was able to put 10 shots in a 3/4 inch group.

      Only down side now is that it is blatantly obvious when I don’t do my part with proper technique and send the pellet out to left field.

  6. B.B.

    Is this procedure OK for the RWS 850 AirMagnum since it has a synthetic breech? I would remove the magazine during the procedure.

    Also, in the manual for the 850 it says NOT to shoot cleaning pellets through it. Is this just because there it could cause problems if you load them in the magazine (vs. loading them directly into the breech)?

    .22 multi-shot

  7. .22 multi-shot,

    Since the 850’s barrelis solid steel, you can clean it this way. It will be more difficult because you’ll have to do it through the muzzle, plus the breech is an area you want to keep very clean, and this procedure is a little messy. I would use less compound on the brush.


  8. B.B.–I’m used to cleaning shotgun bores and centerfire rifles. When I’m done I hold the barrel up to a light and look thru the barrel. What I am looking for is a mirror like finish inside the barrel that lets me know my cleaning is done–is this the same type of result that I should be looking for when I clean my rws 350-I run patches thru the bore with an airgun cleaner/degreaser until they come out clean but I’m not getting that mirror like finish ? Thanks-Scott

  9. Scott,

    There is almost no reason to ever clean an airgun barrel. They don’t get powder deposits like firearms.

    If you clean air all, use JB Non-Embedding Bore Compound on a brass brush and only clean a steel barrel this way.

    I have guns with 10K shots that have never been cleaned and will still shoot groups under a half-inch at 50 yards.


  10. Hey BB

    When I first got my cfx and before I knew about this blog I cleaned my cfx’s barrel with a brass brush and steel rod a couple of times within a 1000 shots. I now know that that is two more times than necessary . My question is I noticed that a 3 or 4 grooves of rifleing are worn down at the muzzle from the cleaning rod. I know this is not good but will it really kill accurracy?(in your opinion, I know this is something you probably haven’t experienced).
    I havent seen other cfx’s groups , mine at best 5 shots are about 1/2 inch at 25/30 yrds (is this average for a cfx?)

    Much appreciated, Kyle

  11. I’m also wondering whether to clean my air rifle “shadow 1000” I have had it 5 days and put over 500 pellets through it. I’m wondering whether to clean it or not I don’t want to go and spend money on a cleaning kit if I shouldn’t. Also Should I lubricate the spring piston I feel that I need to because it smokes after every shot showing that oil is being burned away? thanks


  12. Geordie,

    Just keep on shooting that rifle. Clean it only when the accuracy falls off. Lube the piston seal with one drop of chamber oil every 2000 to 3000 shots.

    The smoke is the oil burning. That doesn’t stop unless you tune the rifle with something other than grease. Just keep shooting it.


  13. BB, I can’t seem to find an article about bore brushes. Could you send me a link? Also would like to know if I can use a .22 firearm bore brush or should I use an air-rifle-specific bore brush? I know there are differences between air rifle and firearm bore sizes, but I don’t want to damage my [steel] barrel with an oversize. A nylon brush for a firearm would be ok, right?
    Brush man

  14. Brush man,

    There isn’t a separate report on just brushes. This is the report I send people to, because I say to use a brass brush on steel barrelled airguns.

    The brushes are not specific to airguns. A .22 caliber brush works for both airguns and firearms, though it is slightly tighter in airguns. A .177 brush works for both airguns and firearms, thought it is slightly tighter in firearms.

    Nylon brushes really miss the point, when cleaning with JB Compound. You need the bristles to agressively get into all the nooks and crannies on the bore to scrape out the lead fouling. A nylon brush is too soft to do it.


  15. hi BB,

    1) i just bought a HW97K mounted with a bushnell elite 3200. This took the hell out of pockets and i want this gun to last. Wheirauch’s website is like crap so can you recommend some products for cleaning the exterior metal surfaces, the barrel and the compression chamber and how frequent this has to be done??

    2) I havent understood which is the compression chamber on an airgun so if you could simply explain me if possible?

    3) My gun dealer adviced me not to put any metal brushes inside the barrel of the gun as it will seriously damage the stripes inside and the gun will eventually loose its accuracy. Is there any other way?


  16. HW97K,

    Forget cleaning the barrel – EVER! Just shoot the gun. The barrel doesn’t get dirty in the same sense a firearm barrel does.

    And your dealer is wrong. The rifling in a steel barrel isn’t damaged by a brass cleaning brush. It can be damaged by the improper use of a cleaning rod, but that’s all. An airgun barrel is about the same hardness as a .22 rimfire barrel. The rifling is shallower, but not so it will strip out.

    You can wipe the outside of the rifle with Ballistol or with a silicone-treated cloth. That’s about all you have to do.

    Shoot only good lead pellets in your rifle – never synthetics or Gamo Raptors. Don’t use lead-free pellets or you will need to clean the bore.

    The compression chamber is the silver thing that slides back when you cock the rifle. After 3,000 shots put one drop of silicone chamber oil down the hole in the end of that sliding chamber. After that, put in a drop every 2,000 shots or once a year.


  17. thnx BB,

    that was very straight forward. What about when storing the gun for a long period. For example im now back in UK to continue my studies and i wont use my gun till mid March. What should i do when store it for a long time??


  18. thnx for the instructions BB

    my final issue is that you advised me to le go barrel cleaning. In one of your posts (/blog/2006/
    .html) you advise readers to clean new airguns


  19. B.B.

    You just keep answering all the questions I have. You are heaven sent.

    I wont be cleaning my TX200 MKIII anytime soon, just got it and my goal is 500 rounds of RWS hobby thru the barrel then Crossman Premiers and vise versa. LMAO

    thank you again B.B.



  20. i have a beeman RS2 in .177 cal. this is probably a simple question but i want to know before i go buy one,could i use a 17 caliber brush fo my .177 airgun? thanks-cody

  21. Justin,

    DO NOT USE ANY SOLVENT IN ANY AIRGUN. Solvents will deteriorate your seals. Solvents are for gunpowder fouling in firearms.

    Please re-read the above article. Many airgun barrels never need cleaning. If accuracy starts to fall off in your airgun consider trying different pellets. If you still can’t group pellets like you used to, consider cleaning the barrel with JB Bore Paste and then removing all the bore paste as described in the above article.

    If you need additional help or would like to contribute your airgun experiences, please visit us by clicking on the “comments” section under the most recent article that B.B. has written. You can access his most current article by copying and pasting this link:


    Look forward to seeing you there!


  22. Tom,
    Do you use the JB Paste on all of your steel barreled airguns? Do you only use it on new barrels or also on airguns that have been shot for years? Also, why isn't it necessary to oil bores to prevent rust just like the outside of the gun should be wiped with an oiled rag to protect the blueing? Is it because a tiny spray of oil is shot into the bore with each shot? If an airgun has been tuned with moly and spring tar and not oiled after that there is no oil spraying into the bore, so it necessary to occasionally oil the bores of these tuned guns? Thanks.

  23. John,

    Yes to the oiling. If your guns are in a rust-promoting environment oil them. Mine are inside my house and don't rust. So I don't oil them. I do oil the outsides because I handle them and leave acid fingerprints.

    I clean the barrels of all steel-barreled guns that lose accuracy and often new guns to get rid of the production garbage.


  24. Is it necessary to put oil in a springer, such as the Crosman Silicone Oil, through the barrel or oil transfer port every few hundred shots, when accuracy drops, or is it not necessary at all?


  25. Ryan,

    In newer spring guns the seals are synthetic and rarely, if ever need silicone chamber lube. Older springers, with leather seals need oiling to keep the leather pliable which helps it seal.

    Here's a link to a great 3 part series that B.B. wrote about what to oil in an airgun. The link takes you to part 3 but there are active links at the top of this article that will take you to parts 1 & 2 so you can read them in order. You'll need to copy and paste this link:



  26. Is a cleaning pellet the same as the cleaning wads that come with the Gamo Air Rifle Maintenance Center? If so, the way they work is just by shooting them through my big cat 1200?


  27. Bruce,

    Yes they are the same thing. However, they really arn't necessary and some people say that they're not heavy enough to properly cushion the piston in the higher powered air guns.

    You posted your question on a blog that was written in 2005. There is a very small group of people that check the older blogs. You'll get a much larger group of people responding to your question on the current blog. /blog//

    Try reposting your question there.

    Mr B.

  28. Bruce,


    This is the wrong way to clean a spring guns bore. The lack of resistance from a cleaning pellet or patch will cause piston slam and potentially ruin your internals.

    Very few airguns ever need their barrels cleaned. Unlike a firearm there isn't fouling in the traditional sense. No powder is burned and at the relatively low velocity that airguns shoot you rarely foul a barrel.

    The only time you even want to consider cleaning an airgun barrel is when your accuracy is off and only then will you consider cleaning your barrel after you've ruled everything else out that could contribute to a drop in accuracy (i.e., bad pellets, scope has been ruined, mounts are moving, stock/pivot screws are loose, etc. etc.).

    Leave your barrel alone and just shoot the gun unless your accuracy has suffered. If it has look to other potential issues first.


  29. Hello

    I have Beeman HW97K It was stated in instructions that every 1500 shots some lubricant should be applied to mainspring directly, through the port under the cylinder. this is exactly how it is written, to do this do I need to remove the stock? Because there is no port under the compression chamber and by cylinder I guess they meant compression chamber?


  30. Alex,

    They meant the slot in the spring tube, but they called that a "port." You probably don't have to do anything yet.

    Those instructions are left over from the 1950s, when oiling a mainspring was important. Your HW 97 should go fine for ten thousand shots or more. You'll know when the mainspring need oil, because it will start to bind when you cock the rifle. And, yes, you do need to pull the action out of the stock to access that slot.

    Please come join us at the current blog, where you'll be able to ask any questions you have about your airguns:



  31. I have a Feinwerkbau 124 Beeman airgun. It appears the piston seal (nylon) need to be lubricated but I cannot find materials to do that. Do you have a web site/ph. no for anyone who knows about this gun?

  32. Hello B.B. Best regards. I have a Gamo Big Cat .22; almost new, after the first 500 pellets accuracy was lost a bit, so I decided to clean the barrel. Procedure was 5 passes in each way with the bore brush of the standard cleaning kit (dry), several pases with cotton patches until they come clean and finish firing 4 cotton (Gamo, Beeman for the future) pellets at once to decock the rifle and does not fire it empty. The accuracy come back in the following shooting session. Do you think, fire this 4 cotton pellets, just once every 500 shots will hurt the gun? By the way, with Crosman Premier 14.3 gr. the velocity average 680 FPS, and with Beeman 12.65 gr. was 725 FPS, is this also OK? Thanks for the excellent article and for any advise. Vicente.

    • Vincente,

      No, I don’t think shooting 4 cotton pellets every 500 rounds should be harmful to your rifle. But I won’t hold off doing it until the accuracy declines. You are shooting at such low velocity that the barrel shouldn’t get that dirty, anyway.

      Welcome to the blog!


  33. Hi all,

    I own a Diana 48 in .22 caliber. I’m at least the 3 owner of it so I don’t know the number of pellets that have been shot through it. I shot (for me anyway) a lot of pellets through it recently. This was 350+ in an afternoon. I found that during this session, my groups opened up and could be fairly easily remedied by pushing a Ballistol soaked patch or two followed by several clean patches. This restored accuracy for surprisingly few pellets. I was shooting mostly JSBs here. I had to do this way more often than I had with any other rifle. (Like every 50 pellets or so.)

    So this leads me to believe that my barrel may benefit from a more aggressive cleaning and/or polishing. But with a fixed barrel I’m not sure how to do this from the breech. I don’t want to push a cleaning rod and brass brush from the muzzle if I can avoid it. Also, I would be very tempted to try JB paste on this barrel to see if that can improve the number of accurate shots I get.

    Could bore whips or even a boresnake be used with JB from the breech? Currently my Ballistol cleaning is done from the breech by pushing patches with some large diameter weedeater line. I don’t think this method would provide adequate contact with JB paste…

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions 🙂 Hopefully older posts like this get occasional looks!

    • Mcoulter,

      I would agree that a more aggressive cleaning is required. Flexible bore cleaning systems are never recommended by me because they damage crowns of barrels. They cut into the steel so easily, because the grit that is embedded on their plastic sheath is an abrasive compound. Careful cleaning with a non-jointed steel rod is the safest way to clean a gun like the 48.


  34. Hello
    Newly registered and have a question about this cleaning.method.
    When cleaning from the breech end of the barrel are the brush and patches pushed all the way out through the muzzle; or are they stopped short of exit?
    Thanks for a very informative site.

    • Silent Squirrel,

      Welcome to the blog.

      Good question. All the way out and remove the patch. That’s the way benchrest competitors (firearm) do it, and they are considered the best at cleaning.

      As for the brush, I push it all the way out but I do drag it all the way back again. For convenience sake I usually don’t remove it from the breech — only so I don’t have to insert it into the breech again, which can be troublesome.


      • Hello again
        I read (in this blog?) that it is best when using cleaning rods to use ones that are coated to avoid abrasion.
        At an estate sale I recently found some brand new (still sealed in the tubes) Pros-Shot .177 & .22 cleaning rods
        They are not coated.
        Would it be work to cover the rods with heat shrink tubing?
        I have plenty; and could cover each rod with a continuous length

  35. Thanks BB
    Very quick & most helpful reply
    The clean patch on the way back picks up the dirt & drags it out the rifle’s breech
    Have you any use for a cotton mop of correct caliber in this process?.

    When I get to cleaning my bolt action pistol (.22 DIana Chaser) the manual advises cleaning from the muzzle
    I found this muzzle guard on the Pro-Shot website;but have not used it yet
    Any t,houghts on that device please?
    The other option would be removing the barrel; however I am not very pleased with the way the barrel locks in.
    One detent for a set screw to align it,and 2 others to lock it in.
    No keyway or alignment slot.
    Seems very imprecise to me
    Silent Squirrel

  36. Thank you Geo791
    I followed the link; and learned a lot.
    That’s easy for newbies to do BTW
    I’m novice enough to play things by the book for while.
    However I did explore Steve Scialli’s other videos in search of a review of the Webley Nemesis.
    Did not find one, but did fall in love with the (out of my price range) DIana Stealth

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