Training & News Articles

The Dirty Little Secret of Gun Cleaning

The Proper Cleaning Technique

This process involves strong solvents, so glove up, use eye protection, and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation.

Clean from the rear of the rifle when possible, and always use a cleaning-rod guide to keep the rod centered in the bore, and to prevent crud from getting into the action.

1. First Solvent

Wet a patch with a solvent that will remove both powder fouling and copper fouling, such as Hoppe’s #9 Benchrest, and run it through the bore. Do this several times. It’s best to use each patch for only one pass before replacing it with a new solvent soaked patch, but I do sometimes use both sides of the patch at this stage of cleaning. You may want to let the gun soak a few minutes between patches to allow the solvent to work.

2. Bronze Brush

Having left the barrel wet with solvent, use a properly fitted bronze brush soaked with solvent to make several passes. It’s important to keep the brush wet, so reapply solvent after every couple of passes. Don’t dip the brush in the solvent bottle, as this will contaminate the remaining solvent. Instead put some solvent in small container and dip the brush into that. I keep a supply of small Dixie Cups in my shop for this use.

Never reverse the brush while it’s in the bore. Instead, push it all the way out of the muzzle then pull it back through the bore. After using the brush, always remove dirty solvent from it with a degreasing spray. Let it run off the brush and so you flush away the gunk. This is to prevent abrasive debris from accumulating. Also, some solvents will eat the bronze bristles.

3. Let the Solvent Work

Let the gun sit for a few minutes to allow the solvent to work, and then follow with a couple more wet patches. Wait a few more minutes and run a dry patch through.

4. Dry Patches

Now remove all traces of the first solvent by running dry patches through the bore. Then run some patches soaked with degreaser, such as Outers Crud Cutter, followed by a final dry patch.

5. Strip That Copper

Wet a patch with an aggressive copper removing solvent, such as Sweet’s 7.62 or Barnes CR10.

Run it through the bore and let it sit for a few minutes. Then follow with another wet patch, wait, and repeat. The goal is to have no blue stains on your patches, indicating that there is no remaining  metal fouling. (Remember, though, that a brass jag can leave a “false” stain on the patch, although it’s usually on the inside rather than the outside of the patch, so it’s easy to distinguish stains from bore fouling. When in doubt, use a cleaning jag.) When your patches come out with no trace of blue—and this may take a while if the fouling is extensive—dry the bore with several clean dry patches.

If you want to speed up the process here, use a brush. Many sources recommend nylon brushes, but I don’t think they are aggressive enough. I use a bronze brush with the understanding that these strong solvents will eat the brush. Even if you clean the brush with a degreasing spray immediately after use, it’s only good for a few cleaning sessions.

In fact, after scrubbing with a strong solvent and a bronze brush, there will be a lot of blue gunk on the next patch through the bore. Some of that is from the bore, and some is from the dissolving brush. So, treat brushes as consumables, just like the patches and solvents. Buy a few extra brushes so you have them on hand.

Most aggressive copper solvents recommend that they not be left in the bore for more than 15 minutes, so keep working with patches and brushes to refresh the solvent often.

6. Switch Solvents

It’s possible to have copper fouling trapped between layers of powder or carbon fouling. To be sure that’s not the case, I like to switch solvents at this step and go back to the general-use solvent like Hoppe’s #9 Benchrest. Again, it’s important to remove all traces of the old solvent before introducing a new solvent, so be sure the bore is dry before doing this.

You can read more about the gun cleaning process and about how to speed it up in the full article here


A Range 365 Exclusive

First Time At The Range? Here's How to Be Prepared


The shooting facility most likely to be near your home or work is an indoor range. While there are some private clubs, these are almost always for-profit businesses. Most of them have a gun store attached, of variable size, so they can sell range users guns (or rent them), ammo, targets, and other accessories like hearing and eye protection.

As a result, to shoot at a facility like this, you don’t need to have all the right gear before you arrive. If you’re unsure about ammo, targets, or other accessories you might need, you’ll be able to get some professional advice and buy what you need once there. In fact, at most ranges, you don’t even need a gun. I remember being completely freaked out when I first drove by a shooting range with a big “Guns for Rent!” sign out front. That was before I knew what that really meant. No, you can’t go in, rent one, and take it with to use about town. 

What it does mean is that the range will have an assortment of pistols, and sometimes rifles, that you can “rent” to use on that range during your visit. 

This is a great way for someone to try target shooting even before they own a gun. It’s also a great way to try out a few different models or calibers before you decide on a gun to buy. 

Typically, there will be an inexpensive flat fee for gun rentals. Most ranges will also charge a fee for range time by the hour. You can get around this by becoming a member (at most ranges) and paying either a monthly or annual flat rate instead of a by-the-hour rate tallied every time you come to shoot. At some ranges, being a member gets a you a reduced rate, while at other the hourly rate is eliminated all together. 

If you have your own gun, safety gear, and ammo, that’s all you need. If you do bring your own ammunition, many ranges will want to see it before you shoot. It’s OK; they’re just making sure that your ammo type won’t be unsafe with the type of target backstops at that facility. It’s all about safety. Before you can shoot, you’ll need to understand the range’s safety rules and procedures. 

More and more ranges are using short videos to show you exactly what you need to know. You’ll also probably have to sign a waiver stating that you understand, and will abide by, all range safety policies. It’ll also waive the range’s liability should you hurt yourself or someone else. That’s all normal and expected. Pay attention to these lists of rules, as many ranges will have some specific things they may or may not allow.

Always double check the rules, which are usually posted somewhere prominent, or ask a range officer before trying something new or something you haven’t done at that range before. For example, some trap ranges do not permit pump shotguns with a pistol grip, some pistol ranges only allow the use of factory ammunition, and some prohibit any drills that include drawing from a holster.

The Basic Rules

As far as gun handling and shooting procedures, details vary, but you can expect some of the following rules to be on the list. These exist for your safety and that of your range neighbors, so make sure you understand and follow them carefully.

  • Guns shouldn’t be loaded until on the firing line and ready to shoot.
  • Make sure that the muzzle of your gun is pointed down range at all times.
  • Keep your gun in a case until you’re in position on the shooting line.
  • Shoot at your target only and never across lanes.
  • Be careful not to shoot towards the floor, ceiling, or side walls. Ricocheting bullets can damage the facility, and they can also end up coming back toward the line. Targets are hung at a certain height for a reason.
  • Don’t hang a smaller target on the bottom of a large one. That might cause you to inadvertently aim at the floor, especially when the target is farther down range.
  • Unless the range staff tells you otherwise, use paper targets only. Paper is safe to shoot since bullets pass straight through without deflecting in unpredictable directions. It also leaves very little range trash behind and, of course, doesn’t create any fragments. Most indoor ranges have mechanical target holders that you can bring to your position to hang targets, then send back down range for shooting.
  • Be sure to stay close to the firing line. Don’t shoot from behind the line - no one should ever be even partially in front of your gun or anyone else’s.
  • Always, always, always keep eye and ear protection on while at the range. Indoor ranges are loud, so many experienced shooters use both in-ear and exterior ear muffs to reduce dangerous noise levels. Even a single gunshot without hearing protection will cause permanent hearing loss.

Many indoor ranges have a safety officer who’s responsible for watching the shooting line. If you’re unsure of anything, be sure to ask that person - that’s why they’re around, and they’re usually wearing something that designates them as the RSO. If they call you out about something you’re doing wrong, don’t get upset. Absorb what they’re telling you and correct your behavior. Safety is the number one goal.


Shoot Better Series - Range 365

The Mental Game of Shooting

What really determines how well you shoot is the disgusting gray/pink blob of protoplasm between your ears and your control over it, or lack thereof.

I received the news the other night of a fellow who, while hunting in Colorado, missed a shot at a bull elk. And, hunting for Cervus canadensis being what it is, that was the only shot anyone got the whole time. To make things worse, the unhappy nimrod missed at 30 yards.

A friend of mine who had retired from the New York City Police Department told me about a narcotics detective who was seated across from a drug dealer at a little table in a bar, trying to make a deal and then arrest him. Things were not going well, and the detective sensed that the dealer was about to pull a gun, so he pulled his. It was a 2-inch-barrel .38 snubby revolver which he carried in a cross-draw holster. He yanked it underneath the table and fired six times with the muzzle maybe a foot and a half from the dealer’s midriff. He missed with all six shots. Seeing that things were not going according to plan, he then hit the dealer in the head with the gun and got the cuffs on him.

What was at work here was our old friends Stress and Panic, which can short-circuit your nervous system and your coordination in the time it takes for a brain synapse to close.

Or it can work the other way. In 1993 I met Olympic gold medalist Launi Meili, who had won the three-position 50-yard rifle event at Barcelona the year before. I asked her what it was like to know that only more squeeze of the trigger, one more in the 10-ring, and she’d be on the winner’s step of the podium listening to The Star Spangled Banner. She looked at me as if I was addled.

“If you think like that,” she said, “you won’t make it to the Olympics, never mind winning gold.”

Or there was the example a couple of weeks ago of a friend of mine against whom I’ve been shooting for more than 20 years, and whose will to win borders on homicidal (This isn’t my phrase. It was used to describe Larry Bird, and I can’t remember where I read it). He is now in his 60s, and has shot endlessly, and his back is now exacting a price for all that recoil. The contest in which we were engaged involved 20 rounds offhand from a rifle chambered for .375 H&H or bigger. This is not fun under normal circumstances, but he was in such agony that he had to lean on a table between strings because he couldn’t stand upright.

And he won anyway. He didn’t shoot as well as he normally does, but it was enough. There was some very good shooting done that day, and there were people competing who were 30 years younger, and probably better shots, but no one wanted to win as badly, and no one was as certain they would win.

Joe Montana was the supreme practitioner of this voodoo. It didn’t matter if it was late in the fourth quarter and the 49ers were trailing. He’d trot on the field with a little smile on his face that said: “We’re going to do it to you now.”

And his teammates would look at each other, and agree that yes, Joe was going to do it, and the 11 men on the other side of the line of scrimmage would concur that they were about to have it done to them, and then the 49ers would win.