Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gun Cleaning, Part 3: How to Clean a Rifle

This procedure is basically the same as cleaning a pistol, just using a longer rod. There are X-hundred pages out there on "How to clean an AR -15", so for this I'm using one of the more common military surplus rifles out there: a Lee Enfield #4 MkI.

This is a bolt-action (a turnbolt if you want to be picky, since you rotate the bolt via the handle to lock and unlock it) rifle, chambered in .303 British, with a ten-round magazine.

Yes, I keep saying this. I once met a Oklahoma Highway Patrolman named Dan Combs, who was an incredible shooter, both in speed and accuracy. One of his sayings was "Nobody ever got shot with an unloaded gun; but a LOT of people have been shot with one they thought was unloaded." Words to remember!
Editor's Note: Firehand likes to use the word "bore" a lot. In firearms terminology, the bore is "The hollow part inside a gun barrel or other tube." However, he also uses the word "bore" to describe the chamber of the firearm, which is the portion of the barrel where the cartridge is places prior to firing. 
To prevent confusion, Your Editor has decided that for the purposes of this article, "bore" is going to be a general term that means "hole". If we mean the barrel, we will say barrel; if we mean chamber, we will say chamber. Only if we are discussing general hole-cleaning procedure will we use the imprecise term of "bore". 

Remove the bolt. Check your manual or other information;
how to do this varies by brand and by model.

Cleaning the barrel is same as with the pistol for both patches and brush, with the only difference being size; you really need a table to lay the rifle on, or some other way to hold it while you run the rod through.

Exception: with a revolver, a lever-action rifle, or some semi-autos like the M1 Carbine (above), you cannot clean the bore from the rear and must do it from the muzzle end.

This is where that muzzle guard shown in Part 1 comes in: you fit it over the rod, then put on the jag or brush. Fit the patch and jag, or brush, just far enough into the barrel to allow you to get the guide into place, then push it through. Make sure the guide stays in place while you're pulling the rod back out, and repeat as necessary.

Instead of cleaning a slide, with a bolt-action rifle you clean the bolt.
Generally the bolt will only need wiping down with whatever cleaner you use...
... including the bolt face. 

Wipe off the fouling, then apply a light (emphasis on 'light') coat of oil or CLP.

Different bolts
The bolt for a rifle always has some kind of locking lugs to hold everything closed when firing.

On an Enfield, they're at the back of the bolt.

Most rifles have the locking lugs at the front.

Here's a Mosin Nagant, a very common rifle, with the bolt removed. 

The red arrow points to the front of the receiver where the bolt lug recesses are. You will need to wipe all around the lugs when you're cleaning the bolt, and lightly lube them.

If the rifle is really dirty, you may also need to clean the recesses in the action where the locking lugs fit. I can't show you a picture of them, so think of them this way:

  • Hold the bolt with the handle in the position it would assume if it were in the rifle but all the way back. Note the position of the lugs.
  • When the bolt is all the way forward, the lugs go into the recesses, and when you turn the bolt to lock it, they cam into place.

If the action has gotten muddy, or really dusty, or you've fired corrosive-primed ammo, you'll need to clean them out. There are tools made for the purpose, and they work, but if you can put a patch over the end of a finger and get into them, that'll generally take care of it.

Then check the inside of the receiver, where the bolt slides back & forth.

Take a cloth or big patch with a touch of oil on it and wipe it out;
there'll generally be very little fouling here, but it's still a good idea to make sure.

The biggest difference between cleaning a pistol and a rifle such as this is the chamber. The body of the cartridge is generally bigger (sometimes much bigger) in diameter than the bullet, so a jag and patch that fits the barrel nicely won't work at all to clean the chamber. 

I like to take a bore brush and wrap a big patch or a strip of cloth around it a couple of times (how many times depends on chamber size), put a little cleaner or CLP on it, push it into the chamber and rotate it a few times, then back it out.

Unless you're cleaning before a long period of storage, do not leave a heavy coat of oil or grease in the chamber, and if you are storing it, be damned sure to clean it out before you use it. Firing a rifle with a heavily-oiled chamber can generate very high pressure in some cases, and that's something you want to avoid.

That's the basics for a bolt-action rifle. Part 4 is going to be on cleaning revolvers.

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