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Practically Shooting

.22 - cleaning frequency?

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Greetings Everyone,

From a previous post "New Ruger 10/22", you know I have a new .22 long rifle. How often should I clean the thing? I'm seeing all sorts of information on the internet about how often and how to clean these rifles..

I'm used to 12ga shotguns, where you take bristle brush on a rod and push it back and fourth 3 or 4 times after each use. Seems like many people don't like to clean their rifles as often, and they don't like cleaning rods for some reason?

What do you guys use to clean your .22 handguns and long rifles? boresnakes every 1000 rounds or so?


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I can bet right now, everyone will give you a different answer. Everybody has an opinion, and many are pretty set on it.

A lot of old-timers swear up and down that you should never clean a .22's bore because the waxy bullets deposit a coating that helps by making it more accurate and sealing it against corrosion. They seem to be especially adamant on the accuracy part.

I went to the 1989 NRA Convention and one of the little seminars was a talk by US Shooting Team members and coaches, mostly smallbore shooters. In the Q&A portion one of the first questions was on cleaning. Each and every one said they cleaned each and every chance they got and would do it during a match if they could. That pretty much debunked the idea that cleaning a .22's bore hurt accuracy for me.

I clean whenever it's handy. I don't clean every time I shoot them, but I don't let them go for a year either.

With semiauto .22s, the actions get filthy. The combination of waxy bullet lube getting melted and spewed around, unburned powder, the blowback action blasting crud back out into the action, and lube binding it all together can make a sludgy mess. Extractors and their corresponding clearance groove in the barrel and seat in the bolt collect it bad. A toothpick-like probe will haul a mess out of these spots. Since the action needs cleaned now and then because of this, I clean the bore at the same time. Might as well.

With a 10-22, you don't have access to the barrel's breech. Well, you can if you drill a hole in the rear of the receiver like some do, but I doubt you want to do that.

So without breech access, you have to either clean from the muzzle or use a bore snake. I don't mind a bore snake so much with a larger bore, but on a .22 it's awful hard to keep the cord from touching the muzzle. Even a little touch every time you clean can add up to the equivalent of running a cord back and forth across the muzzle opening, which makes me cringe from the wear it could cause in that crucial area. I don't feel a whole lot better about the potential wear caused by shoving a tight patch through the muzzle either. As a tight patch folds to make its way in, there has to be some tiny (but cumulative) wear from that too. I try not to use patches that are any too tight fitting just for that reason.

I strongly recommend a slip-on muzzle rod guide and using a conventional rod that way. I like coated Dewey rods.

That muzzle-only access cleaning is one reason I try not to over do it on bore cleaning with rifles like this. As careful as we are, every time we clean from the muzzle we risk damaging it. You will have to decide your own risk to reward ratio to determine the frequency you clean the bore.


Who is John Galt?

Can't we all just get a long gun?

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I've broken down my Ruger 22/45 exactly once in 9 months to clean it thoroughly. I do rinse it out very well with Amsoil MP every time I shoot it. Still looks new.

With today's ammo/powder, materials (steel, polymers, etc) finishes and lubricants/cleaners the simple hose down method does a good job.

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I can't recall for sure, but I was thinking the 10/22 owner's manual suggest not using anything but copper 'jacketed' (washed really) bullets. No waxed lead bullets. Is that correct?

Anyway, I've only used metal coated bullets in my 10/22 and I clean it after every range session. I carefully used a cleaning rod with a bore guide and just use Hoppes #9. As BarryIN mentions, the .22LR is very dirty and will start to fould up the action very quickly. After a few hundred rounds, there is usually so much soot in the action that it begins to affect functionality.

EDIT: The owner's manual does not say anything about bullet coatings. I must have been thinking of my Advantage Arms .22LR conversion.

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I think there is still some sort of wax or "dry lube" on any .22 bullets. Copper washed ones still have the knurling to hold it.

I use Federal Hi-Velocity (coppery washed) in my .22 conversion in an AR, and whether it's got a lube or not, it gets so nasty the conversion unit gets stuck in the chamber if I'm not careful.

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I picked up a cleaning kit that was for a 10/22.

I don't have one, but I wanted the rod.

The kit had two cool things, a bore-guide for the muzzle end, and a patch collector box thing that went in the breech.


I think perhaps the copper cladding is there to help the cycling of semiautomatic actions. Maybe, I don't know??

I prefer plain lead in my bolt-actions.

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Ive cleaned my Mossberg 702 Plinkster once since I bought it 13 months ago. It sounded like sand was grinding on the bolt carrier. Ruined the recoil spring while putting it back together... Managed to get it back together and it still functions with a messed up spring. But it doesnt sound like sand friction anymore!

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  • 11 months later...

Everyone has opinions on cleaning 22's. There is a large crowd that never clean and their guns shoot well.

I clean after a trip to the range but shoot near a brick in a day.

I also clean because I have the equipment and the time but I'm

not sure I shoot any better as a result.

Some clean when they see a drop off in accuracy.

My experience is with bolt actions.

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Hardly ever. I bought my 10/22 in 1978 and put around a 1000 rounds per year through it and have probably cleaned it 5 times though I oil it. Last winter the rifle started to eject funny and had to wipe the case out of the action ,I thought it was cleaning time. The problem was the extractor was so worn out if popped out of the bolt so I replaced it with a Volquartson kit and now it works better than new.

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