Rifle cleaning is an aspect of hunting that should not be undervalued. Here are some tips for always keeping your hunting ally in top form.

The hunt experience comprises many states: anticipation and action, patience and preparation. Rifle cleaning is one of these states, and encompasses all the attention that hunters pay their firearms.

By some, it is perhaps not considered the most appealing activity, while for the more poetic it represents a genuine moment of relaxation after a hard day’s hunt.

It is a kind of ritual where, after a satisfying day amidst nature, the hands repeat motions they know by heart, and once completed, there is a rewarding sense of order and care towards the instrument that allows every hunter to live out their passion.

So much has been written about the value of firearm cleaning; there are as many pages on it as the different methods employed. Still, there is one thing we can be sure of… a good cleaning certainly won’t hurt!

Especially for newly-licensed hunters, that in ever increasing numbers are getting really into rifled barrel, learning good habits for their bolt action rifle’s maintenance is one way to get off on the right foot. As the saying goes: “A good beginning makes a good ending.”

While starting out from the premise that there is no special or universally recognized recipe for success, and that everyone cleans a firearm in their own way, there are, however, some useful tips for carrying out correct rifle cleaning.

Why is it important to routinely carry out rifle cleaning?

Awareness is definitely a good motivation for dedicating that extra time to your bolt action.

For this reason, it is important to be conscious that during any hunting experience there are countless factors that can threaten the integrity of your rifle if appropriate countermeasures are not taken.

Not just from shot residues, but leaf and grass fragments, damp soil particles that could be transferred onto the firearm from the hands, plant resin, sweaty handprints and, so much more so, air and water – the number one enemy.

In general, any organic element that can interact with the metal and trigger a reaction is potentially harmful.

But no need to despair! You don’t need to be an expert in metallurgy to perform proper field maintenance.

What is needed first and foremost: an eye. The very first step is knowing when a firearm requires it.

And with the addition of a touch of patience, the rest will come by itself, with the time spent paying off in the end result.

Ready to start?

Rifle cleaning: safety first.

Whether it’s shotgun cleaning or rifle cleaning, rule number zero, which comes before any other advice, is always the same: make sure the firearm is unloaded.

In the case of bolt actions, this is performed by opening the bolt and removing the detachable magazine, present in all Horizon rifles, or by opening the magazine in older Franchi models.

The second step is to start disassembling all possible components, based on your level of knowledge about the firearm in question.

While a semi-automatic shotgun can be disassembled deeper, easily separating the barrel as well as the inertial spring, which is located in the fore-end (as written in the article on shotgun cleaning), for bolt action field maintenance, it is enough to simply remove the bolt.

Horizon Varmint Black Synt

Horizon Varmint Black Synt

Rifle cleaning: time to time.

One of the most common question about rifle cleaning is: “How many shots before cleaning rifle?”

Also in this case, there is no real rule on how regularly field maintenance must be carried out for rifle cleaning.

No one is better able to assess the state of their firearm than the hunter who owns it.

This means taking into consideration how much you use your rifle, and the environmental conditions you have hunted in. Good or bad weather is definitely a determining factor in required cleaning frequency.

Something else to definitely bear in mind is that the chief damage always stems from humidity, water splashes and shot residues, and therefore to prevent internal components from starting to rust.

Rifle cleaning kit: the tools of the trade.

Rifle cleaning rod. The length of the barrel and the caliber are the main factors guiding rod choice. There are various different types of rods on the market.

Generally speaking, a steel rod covered with nylon and with a rotating handle is a useful tool, allowing you to carry out cleaning operations in the easiest way.

Jag. Jags are mounted onto the end of the rod to insert the cleaning cloth.

Cloth. These can be bought pre-cut in any armory, or they can be made at home using sheets, tea towels or old t-shirts. The only caveat is that they need to be the right size for the rod and that they do not shed any pesky lint.

Bore brush. These come in both nylon and bronze, but the latter option is definitely the more effective in eliminating the toughest residues.

On the other hand, if you use special solvents to remove the copper residues deposited in the barrel, it can be very handy to use a nylon bore brush.

In fact, in this instance, the use of copper brushes is not recommended, given their being made same material you are looking to remove; they run the risk of being compromised by the copper solvent employed in this particular cleaning method.

Oil or solvent. Last but not least, the means of moistening the cloth.

Rifle cleaning: cutting to the chase.

Mr. Miyagi’s famous catchphrase “Wax on, wax off”, which you do not have to be movie buffs to know, seems very appropriate here.

Obviously, it is not wax that is used in the course of rifle cleaning, but the philosophy is the same.

The fundamental thing is to clean the action of any shot residues by removing the bolt – a very easy operation to carry out, using the release button.

Thereafter, the metal parts must always be cleaned and oiled. Externally, it is important to avoid corrosive materials, especially for blued barrels.

Another very important aspect is knowing how to clean the rifle barrel internally, so its accuracy is maintained, and internal corrosion is not triggered by the carbon residues generated at the time of firing.

Once the jag has been mounted on the rod and the bolt removed, the rifle cleaning rod may be inserted inside the barrel, always taking care to pass through the combustion chamber, so as not to damage the rifling within the muzzle.

Be careful not to reuse already used cloths… any endeavor would be nullified.

Once cleaned and a coat of oil or solvent has been wiped inside the barrel, all you need to do is… wait the necessary time to allow it to work. This way the residues will come off more easily.

Then comes the moment of truth for the bore brush, at this point now mounted on the rod. In and out around a dozen times and you’re all set: the barrel is as good as new. Basically: “Wax on, wax off”.

It is convenient to complete the last step with a thin layer of oil, acting as a real armor protecting the metal against oxidation.

Rifle cleaning: ready for a fresh day of hunting.

Let’s face it, doesn’t taking care of your rifle feel good?

Placing it in its case or its sheath, perfect and ready for another adventure, sparks that energy and that desire to go right back out into the wild.

Before using your firearm again, remember to remove the oil from the barrel with a dry cloth and voilà… there you have it, your trusty bolt action, clean and ready to get you experiencing a new, unforgettable adventure.