Barrel break-in and cleaning

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Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by bladeracer » 25 Nov 2021, 7:15 pm

I get asked about this so often.
I just saw this and can't disagree with anything he says.
I couldn't say it any better.
https://youtu.be/JW_VREYfZ2k

His series with the never-cleaned AR15 is instructive also.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmmU ... dmnV-Qtdx1
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by northdude » 26 Nov 2021, 7:15 pm

that's what I've always done. clean barrel then take it out and shoot it..
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by Wyliecoyote » 26 Nov 2021, 11:11 pm

The trend of shoot and no clean is getting a lot of traction from those events that require first shot impact to be on the money from the get go. Hipower, PRS and even Fclass at the longer ranges don't have time to fiddle with a barrels shot placement from a clean bore.

The notion of no barrel break in procedure is gaining traction from those usually least qualified to know better, usually your every day shooter not versed in what is actually required of a barrel to prevent fouling and provide accuracy. Actually barrel break in is a misnomer, it should be throat or leade break in as this is actually the part that gets smoothed out and when done correctly provides the full accuracy potential of that particular barrel. It needs to be stated here that from the very first round fired, the barrel is being destroyed by heat, pressure, abrasion and corrosive gases. So i can clearly see the reasoning behind the point of why waste ammo when the barrel is dying from the moment shot one is fired.
Factory barrels are always hit and miss with internal quality and this is the main area where a lot of stories of indifferent results with or without break in procedures come from. With a good custom barrel the break in procedure commonly outlined does produce results. More commonly now there is greater understanding of how to break in the throat before a shot is fired by removing the tooling marks and burrs on the oars of the throat before a single shot is fired. This is especially important in match rimfire barrels where it can take thousands of rounds to break in a barrel (break away any burrs left by the reamer on the throat oars as well as blend in the circumferential ring marks left by the chamber reamer), often at the frustration of the owner firing expensive match ammo with little return.
It is now possible to deliver a barrel to a customer that probably does not require any break in through a firing and cleaning regime. With the use of mild abrasives to polish the required areas before the barrel leaves the gunsmiths workshop the desired quality finish can be achieved. These smiths generally work in the specialist areas of short and long range benchrest that already minimise tooling imperfections through the use of carbide reamers.

In the early days of nitrided barrels it was discovered that the barrels treated in the white and unfired were producing indifferent results where some would flat out never shoot and others took a thousand rounds or more to gain some semblance of match accuracy. Consequently nitriding of barrels even to this day is an area of voodoo for some but it is now well established that any barrel being sent off for treatment be broken in with minimal round count to minimize any erosion flaws being nitrided in place that would be detrimental to bullet jacket integrity for the life of the barrel. In others words, smooth out the throat but limit the heat erosion as much as possible and your chances of having a super accurate barrel last for a very long time increases considerably. This advise coming from those nitriding the barrels or those with experience of preparing barrels to be treated is the most defining evidence that some form of break in or throat polishing is critical to the final outcome with some barrels like the first 284 Win i did see thousands of rounds with no sign of accuracy.droping off. A little off track but I will never understand the thought process of owning a carbon wrapped barrel over a nitrided barrel beyond the mall ninja factor coupled with the price tag of a resin coated piece of stainless steel.



I have somewhere a set of photos that i will post when found of a before and after throat polishing job i did recently on a Lilja and 3 groove Benchmark rimfire barrel that show the stark difference of a throat cut by a reamer and then smoothed out to what a throat should look like, or one that should end up like after being lapped by a few thousand rounds fired through it.

There is not much more to be said that is simply stated by the three gentlemen in the video link below.

https://youtu.be/-F_LZRSgTUI
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by Lsfan » 27 Nov 2021, 6:24 am

[quote="bladeracer"]I get asked about this so often.
I just saw this and can't disagree with anything he says.
I couldn't say it any better.
https://youtu.be/JW_VREYfZ2k

It's a very well explained video. I enjoyed watching it. I feel I will avoid using any metal brushes.

My only question is regarding the boretech copper eliminator. I don't recall him saying to run an oil or something else through the barrel afterwards. Isn't it important to remove a copper solvent in entirety or is it implied this is done with dry patches?
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by northdude » 27 Nov 2021, 6:40 am

I have on the very rare occasion use a bronze brush which surley is softer than the barrel. I usually do a dry pass before the solvent patch as to my mind it scratches up the surface to allow the solvent to penetrate a bit. Usually do this if i pick up an old enfield or something that hasnt been cleaned for 50 years..
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by on_one_wheel » 27 Nov 2021, 10:37 am

One day someone will prove the theory of break in with before, during and after photos of the throat and rifling. Until then it's a complete myth.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by bladeracer » 27 Nov 2021, 12:16 pm

Lsfan wrote:
bladeracer wrote:I get asked about this so often.
I just saw this and can't disagree with anything he says.
I couldn't say it any better.
https://youtu.be/JW_VREYfZ2k

It's a very well explained video. I enjoyed watching it. I feel I will avoid using any metal brushes.

My only question is regarding the boretech copper eliminator. I don't recall him saying to run an oil or something else through the barrel afterwards. Isn't it important to remove a copper solvent in entirety or is it implied this is done with dry patches?


If you use an ammonia solvent you will have to run oil or something else through to thoroughly remove the ammonia, the Boretech Eliminator doesn't have ammonia. I don't put anything through after patching, unless I intend to not use the firearm for a very long time.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by bladeracer » 27 Nov 2021, 12:22 pm

on_one_wheel wrote:One day someone will prove the theory of break in with before, during and after photos of the throat and rifling. Until then it's a complete myth.


I suspect it's the same theory as providing engine break-in procedures on new vehicles. Nothing at all to do with running the engine in, entirely to do with running in a new owner at a pace they can handle rather than jump in and hurt themselves at full noise.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by Wyliecoyote » 28 Nov 2021, 12:09 pm

https://faq-qa.com/en/Q%26A/page=c68ac6 ... 706b6e657d

There has been for a long time now a lot of misinformation about ammonia based solvents and their use. How it started is in the form of basic industry competition. A very well known competitive shooter had spread misinformation about Sweets in particular because of its very large following in the US amongst many shooting disciplines and in a country where the number of firearms owners exceeds well beyond the population of Australia, the market share is enormous. The problem was that said well known shooter never disclosed his affiliation with another brand of bore solvent. So as sheep do and magazines that get paid sponsors do, the misinformation is now widespread and totally false. Fake news if you like.
I can tell you having shot with and know well many of the best BR and long range shooters in Aus, Sweets is still the go to solvent for a stubborn barrel. They may not use it every time they clean, but they do use it. Because of the claims made, many set out to see for themselves by soaking barrels for extended periods of time and then sectioning barrels to look for the claimed pits and etching. I did it as did many others and it is all BS. Sweets and other ammonia based solvents is the quickest and safest way to remove copper fouling. Like any solvent, all traces must be removed from the bore before firing.

As to the myth of barrel break in. I have never spoken to or heard of any barrel maker that does not support some form of barrel break in. MADDCO supplies with each barrel sold a sheet explaining in detail the method they suggest to break in their barrels where if i recall correctly, failure to follow the procedure voids warranty.
There have been many very detailed series of tests done by a number of shooters over the years about this very specific topic. The concensus was that the break in procedure is worth the effort. The only question not fully answered is to the exact process. The one detailed by Neville Madden of MADDCO seems close enough to the consensus with the only part some disagreeing with was the recommendation to not use a bore guide.
Now to add more to the myth. The bad PR break in gets has nothing to do with the theory but with the process. Let me explain. Customer has a barrel fitted and follows recommendations on break in forwarded on to him by his gunsmith. This is a long time gun owner wanting to get into some long range BR and FClass. All is good but then at around 300 to 400 rounds the barrel starts to shoot very poorly. The rifle is brought to me and i have a look down the bore only to see parallel tracks from the throat to around 8 inches down the bore at the 4 to 8 o'clock area that were caused by poor cleaning procedure or bent rod and no bore guide or all of the above. Initially when i saw the tracks i thought the button or broach used to form the rifling had cut the tracks because they were so pronounced and deep. That particular barrel always lives with me because of the extent of the damage done in such a short period of time coming from a long time gun owner but newbie to the precision game. Without a borescope nothing seen leads to blaming everything but the barrel cleaner who had a conviction that his cleaning method was sound.
Barrel makers claim more barrels are destroyed by improper cleaning than by shooting.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by bladeracer » 28 Nov 2021, 12:26 pm

Including a page of instructions that must be followed to avoid losing your warranty is a very old trick to avoid warranty claims...regardless of whether it has anything to do with preserving the barrel, engine, power tool, whatever. I don't consider a barrel to be high-quality if the only way it'll shoot well is by adherance to a cleaning program that takes more time and effort than the shooting you bought the barrel for. You might as well go Benchrest shooting where the actual shooting is the smallest factor in the competition.

It's your barrel, try different things and find what works best for you. Just make sure you're spending more time shooting than cleaning, shooting is the point of the exercise, not cleaning.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by Wyliecoyote » 28 Nov 2021, 1:46 pm

I will explain in detail what the theory of break in is about.
Whan a reamer cuts a throat, no matter how good the steel, the reamer, cutting fluid and gunsmith used, there are very fine tooling marks left. Like a speed bump or corrugation in the way of concentric rings.
With the one shot clean routine, you in effect burnish the surface, smooth out the corrugation sharp edges to better resist copper depositing there. The smooth burnished surface resists flame concentration and abrasion better than a rough surface. In affect what is being accomplished is a few bullets flatten out the high and low spots like a lap creating a sort of reflective heat shield. To do that the parent material must be clean each time and not filled haphazardly with jacket material and carbon. The soul objective is to form a smooth hard ramp that lets a bullet slide through with minimal disruption to the jacket.
Initial throat polishing is getting more common but all it does is remove those tooling marks and burrs, but does not burnish the surface that makes it better at resisting abrasion and heat. Only firing can do that.


Many gunsmiths often refuse to re cut or set back barrels after they have been fired. The reason is that the heat generated and cooling hardens the material especially in the throat and just beyond. This hardening can damage or wear reamers prematurely. What this tells us is that any imperfections, or perfections, are quickly set in stone with the rapid heating and air cooling exactly as stated by the steel manufacturers in the heat treatment processes of steel and martensitic stainless steels. Chromemoly moreso than 416. So it is in ones interest to remove the tooling marks asap before they are permanent or wait till they are melted away when the barrel is dead. Now this may sound like doom and gloom but the hardening is beneficial in as much it better resists wear and heat.
Put very simply, the objective is to lap the throat, burnishing the ramps with minimal imperfections in them to cause minimal damage to bullet jackets, but done before the steel gets too hard to do anything about it.
Fire lapping is another process in itself that can do the job but at the expense of a lengthening throat.

One of the single most important things i see from going to all the trouble of polishing throats and breaking in a barrel is that the first shot from a clean barrel in competition or shooting varmints is on POI. I don't have to fill imperfections in the throat with copper to get the pressure or whatever else right. That in itself is worth the effort though something that may not be important for minute of hog, but it is to a crow gun.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by bladeracer » 28 Nov 2021, 1:54 pm

If you didn't scrub the copper out of your barrel to begin with, your first shot will likely go where your last shot went though. Just clean it when it tells you it needs cleaning.

Wyliecoyote wrote:I will explain in detail what the theory of break in is about.
Whan a reamer cuts a throat, no matter how good the steel, the reamer, cutting fluid and gunsmith used, there are very fine tooling marks left. Like a speed bump or corrugation in the way of concentric rings.
With the one shot clean routine, you in effect burnish the surface, smooth out the corrugation sharp edges to better resist copper depositing there. The smooth burnished surface resists flame concentration and abrasion better than a rough surface. In affect what is being accomplished is a few bullets flatten out the high and low spots like a lap creating a sort of reflective heat shield. To do that the parent material must be clean each time and not filled haphazardly with jacket material and carbon. The soul objective is to form a smooth hard ramp that lets a bullet slide through with minimal disruption to the jacket.
Initial throat polishing is getting more common but all it does is remove those tooling marks and burrs, but does not burnish the surface that makes it better at resisting abrasion and heat. Only firing can do that.


Many gunsmiths often refuse to re cut or set back barrels after they have been fired. The reason is that the heat generated and cooling hardens the material especially in the throat and just beyond. This hardening can damage or wear reamers prematurely. What this tells us is that any imperfections, or perfections, are quickly set in stone with the rapid heating and air cooling exactly as stated by the steel manufacturers in the heat treatment processes of steel and martensitic stainless steels. Chromemoly moreso than 416. So it is in ones interest to remove the tooling marks asap before they are permanent or wait till they are melted away when the barrel is dead. Now this may sound like doom and gloom but the hardening is beneficial in as much it better resists wear and heat.
Put very simply, the objective is to lap the throat, burnishing the ramps with minimal imperfections in them to cause minimal damage to bullet jackets, but done before the steel gets too hard to do anything about it.
Fire lapping is another process in itself that can do the job but at the expense of a lengthening throat.

One of the single most important things i see from going to all the trouble of polishing throats and breaking in a barrel is that the first shot from a clean barrel in competition or shooting varmints is on POI. I don't have to fill imperfections in the throat with copper to get the pressure or whatever else right. That in itself is worth the effort though something that may not be important for minute of hog, but it is to a crow gun.
Last edited by bladeracer on 29 Nov 2021, 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by northdude » 29 Nov 2021, 5:42 pm

I've always used ammonia for copper works fine. just clean it out properly as you would with with any other cleaning product and you'll be fine
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by bladeracer » 29 Nov 2021, 6:21 pm

northdude wrote:I've always used ammonia for copper works fine. just clean it out properly as you would with with any other cleaning product and you'll be fine


So just a dry patch is sufficient to remove it?
That's all I use to clean the solvent out of the bore.

Nothing wrong with using ammonia if you want to, but your barrel certainly doesn't need it.
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Re: Barrel break-in and cleaning

Post by northdude » 29 Nov 2021, 6:37 pm

I use a couple of patches with meths on them then a oily patch. then dry patch before I shoot it
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