Lubricants arid Solvents

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Epoxy-bedded rifles require special concern while cleaning because solvents can seep into the receiver area and transform that iron-hard material into a gummy mess. Thus, when cleaning the bore on an epoxy-bedded rifle, keep the muzzle lower than the receiver so any excess solvent runs out the barrel, not into the bedding. Some shooters go a step further and brace their rifles upside down during cleaning, making it impossible for solvent to come in contact with the lower receiver. This is not an issue for rifles having aluminum block bedding, such as the Army's M24.

Rifle maintenance involves three different kinds of liquids: solvents to remove powder and leading and copper; lubricants to allow mating surfaces to slide smoothly; and rust preventatives primarily for external, nonwork-ing surfaces. Several products claim to do all of these tasks, and some shooters swear by them. The only substance, I think, that comes close to that is Break Free, and even it does not remove copper.

A few old-timers I respect advise using only one substance for each of these tasks and then ensuring it does it well. For instance, to clean carbon and gunk from your bore, use a really good bore cleaner such as Hoppe's #9. To remove copper and gilding metal residue, there are several ammonia-based cleaners, with Sweet's 7.62 and Shooter's Choice the most common brands.

For a lubricant, I personally like one that has bits of Teflon or graphite in liquid, of which there are several brands. Just ensure you have a true

The variety of solvents and lubricants that maintain a sniper-grade rifle. Note bore guide and one-piece rod.

necessary to use detergent, rinse and wipe that away completely, too.

Next, remove the bolt. At least once a year detail-strip the bolt and clean all components, then treat with Smooth-Kote as an effective, dry lubricant. If you've never disassembled your bolt, have an armorer talk you through it. This annual cleaning is important to prevent dirt or gummy lubricant from degrading your bolt's lock time.

During ordinary maintenance, wipe the bolt clean and pay special heed to its face, where grit and tiny bits of brass can accumulate. Pay close attention to the extractor and use your toothbrush to get behind it.

Before cleaning the chamber and bore, position an epoxy-bedded rifle so solvent will not seep down into the lower receiver. Then use a .45-caliber bore brush dipped in powder solvent—Hoppe's #9 is perfect—to clean the chamber. Rotate the brush sideways, not back and forth, a good eight or 10 turns. Be sure to get into the locking lug recesses in the receiver ring. Use patches to remove die solvent.

Next, insert the bore guide and begin cleaning the bore with a ,30-caliber copper bore brush on a one-piece plastic, aluminum, or fiberglass rod. Emphasis here—do not damage the throat, where your bullet first encounters the rifling. Always insert the rod from the breech, through the bore guide. And be sure to pour powder solvent on the brush instead of dipping the brush in the bottle to avoid contaminating the solvent.

The U.S. Marine Corps recommends 20 strokes to clean carbon from a bore, adding more solvent if necessary. Be sure that the brush completely protrudes from the muzzle before pulling it back during each stroke. Now you're ready to run patches.

Now we get tricky. Run patches only one way, from the chamber to the muzzle—the same direction the bullet travels—and each time the patch exits the muzzle, remove the dirty patch, pul) the empty rod back, attach a new patch, and repeat. Why? To ensure that all the gunk, carbon, and solvent are pushed completely out

THE Sniper'S RIFLE 77

the bore, with none inadvertently dropped into the receiver. Keep running fresh patches until one comes through clean.

Although it seems your bore is clean, it still contains traces of bullet jacket copper. Using a patch soaked with Sweet's 7.62 or another copper solvent, stroke the entire bore several times, then allow 10 minutes for it to dissolve the accumulated copper. Now run patches chamber to muzzle, just like before. On these patches you'll find tiny, almost microscopic bits of copper or vague green stains. Keep running patches until they come through clean. Finish by removing the ammonia with a patch containing Hoppe's #9, then one more patch containing light oil or Break Free.

A special note on copper solvents: some competitive shooters, as well as custom rifle builders, recommend cleaning copper after every five or 10 rounds. This involves only a patch with copper solvent and a few strokes, then running clean patches until one comes through clean, and one more patch with Hoppe's #9 to remove the ammonia residue. Follow this regimen and you'll get peak performance from your rifle.

End your routine by thoroughly cleaning the receiver interior using patches with powder solvent or Break Free, and wipe until all carbon is removed. Here's where pipe cleaners and that toothbrush will come in handy, especially if the rifle is a semiauto with many nooks and crannies.

Sometimes a rifle bore seems to resist coming clean, especially if it's coming out of storage or has gone a long time without proper maintenance. That's when a USMC three-day cleaning regimen suggests cleaning it each day as cited above, then plugging the muzzle with a cork and leaving the chamber soaking in powder solvent overnight. That's as clean as a bore can get.

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