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Cleaning Tips And Care

One of the most common q uestions that seem to pop up on my discussion boards and e-mail deals with the cleaning of military surplus rifles.   These questions range from how to clean a rifle coated in cosmoline to cleaning a bore after shooting corrosive ammo.  There are many methods to cleaning and I asked the forum users to pass on their tips so that the reader can have a number of viewpoints.   When cleaning any rifle make sure to take care.  Tuco and the site users can not be held responsible for any damage that occurs when cleaning your rifle or handgun.   Clean at your own risk. 


Friday May 7, 1999


Most of the ammo that is fired in surplus rifles is corrosive ammo from old military stockpiles.  Many shooters are afraid of shooting this ammo as it can damage the bore, but it can only do damage if the owner does not clean the rifle correctly.  Clean your bore in the correct fashion and you will have no problems.  Also in this section there are ideas on cleaning cosmoline, saving poor dark bores,  and wood cleaning and care.   Here are some tips from site users:

  • " I may be somewhat of a stick in the mud but prefer to use the old GI bore cleaner (WWII style) and a good bronze brush on the bore. Also use a bore cleaner saturated bronze tooth brush on the gas system and bolt face for semi-autos and in the action area for full autos. For target/varmint rifles I use a chamber plug and Hoppes Benchrest 9 to soak, then scrub with a bronze brush and patches until no fouling is left. Oil with your favorite lube/rust preventative and you are done. " - Jon G

  • " I start cleaning my rifles by running one dry patch through to remove the loose stuff. I follow this with a patch or two of Sweets or ammonia solution to neutralize the salts from the corrosive ammo. I let it set for a couple of minutes then dry the bore. Next I'll run a few patches of Hoppes through to clean other things out and also leave a thin layer of oil to protect the barrel until next time you shoot. If your going to store the gun you should put a little thicker coat of gun oil through. When I first purchase a milsurp, depending on the condition of the barrel I will scrub the bore with hot soapy water and cleaning brush. Dry it well and start the above procedures. I also have some polisher that I use called Flitz. You can have a bore that looks mirror perfect, and the Flitz will bring out black patches over and over. I use this on my CZ52, to polish the bore to mirror, every time."- DAG

  • "  Since everybody else has such good ideas on HOW to clean, I thought I'd just mention two relatively unknown products I use to scrub a nasty bore and swab the bore between rounds at the range. The first is RB-17. This is a greenish gel used mainly by BP shooters, but boy does it clean a bore good after lots of corrosive 54R! RB-17 runs about 6.50 for a bottle and since its a gel, it really sticks to a bronze brush real well. Give it a try! The second is M-Pro7, this is another corrosive cleaner that is a clear liquid that comes in a pump spray bottle and is used by the military and is pretty inexpensive as well. Both of these cleaners strip the bores down and you'll need to apply a light coat of Rem Oil after cleaning, but I have never seen a spot of rust after 100s of rounds through my M-27. Hope this helps." - SA

  • " Take a mixture of Mr. Clean and water that is mixed 50/50.  Use a bronze brush soaked in this mixture, running it through the bore 15-20 times.  Let the rifle sit for 5 minutes.  Take a clean patched soaked in the same mixture and run it through the bore 10 times.  Make sure to really soak the bore with this patch.  Take  clean dry patches and run through the bore until it is dry.  Clean as normal using standard gun cleaning products like Hoppe's.   I then like to run a patch soaked in a light coat of BreakFree through the bore.  Make sure to check the bore a couple of days later, just to make sure there is no buildup. Also make sure to clean the bolt and bolt head well.   This is overlooked sometimes and can cause major problems. "- TUCO

  • "After a days shooting, an electrical contact cleaner aerosol is great for cleaning down to bare metal. It takes off gun-oil, and blows out powder debris.(Keep it away from wood & plastics). Use it in place of 'Gun-Scrubber' for a third of the cost. In preserving and/or restoring mil-surps, it*s what I use last on all metal, before treating with 'Rust-Guard', or 'Tri-flow', etc., before building the gun back up. Min-Wax paste wax, after any wood treatment, goes on stocks--both inlettings & outside" - Scrw-ball

  • "To save an oil soaked, not greasy stock with no labor is to remove all the metal and take the stock and a tall cardboard box (5 x 5 x stock height plus). I use kitty litter, yup - plain kitty (unused) litter, the no scent/ no clump stuff sort of like the old Speedy Dri. Put some in the box the put the stock in an add the litter, bounce the box when adding to pack it. Stand it in a corner, go do something productive around the house - bounce the box every couple of days - check it after a week or two - you may have to re pack it. The plus of this that you do not ruin any markings or the wood and your hands stay solvent free." - HANK

  • "I use only Windex and WD-40. After shooting, I simply run a few patches wet with Windex. Then a bunch of dry patches until they come out white. I think that the importance of dry patches is sometimes overlooked. Remember, no moisture, no rust. Then a patch lightly sprayed with WD-40 as a moisture displacer and rust preventor. I have never had any rust or new pitting. To remove cosmoline, use mineral spirits. I think if this is going to be read by persons new to collecting, and maybe shooting, they should know that bolt rifles should always be cleaned from the breach. This helps prevent crown wear." - JWG

  • " A shot a ''world fame''? Okay, here goes. Over the years I have owned quite a number of guns with so-called ''sewerpipe'' bores that defied solvents and arm numbing brushing and swabbing with innumerable patches. In the early days of my firearms collecting, I was only interested in owning military guns made before 1865, mostly smoothbore muskets. Many, if not most were afflicted with pitting and a century's worth of rust in chunks that adhered to the bore as if they had been put there when the gun was new. I would unbreach the gun and clean and clean, usually without any luck. Then, a friend who had years of experience as a gunsmith told me the secret to removing about 90% of the problem. I have since found that it works on even the heavily rusted South American Mausers we all love so much. After a through check for safety problems and conventional cleaning, paying particular attention to breaching and chambers, fire a few (5 - 10) blanks in the obstinate beast! The heat and vibration will nock clear amazing amounts of the offending matter and then you will be able to finish your efforts and with relative ease. But, be sure that the chamber in modern or breachloading weapons or the breachplug and barrel threads in muzzleloaders are solid and tight! Even blanks can build up pressure that can ruin your day. This method is safer than trying to but a bullet through a barrel that may have tight spots caused by the rust and sometimes dried on cosmoline that cannot be removed by conventional cleaning." - TP 

  • " A good way to clean a really poor bore is hot water and steel wool.  Pour the hot water down the bore and make sure the water is REALLY HOT.  It should be so hot that the metal on the barrel is too hot to hold in your bare hand.  Then run a cleaning rod with the steel wool on the tip through the bore.  A lot of the gunk will be removed by doing this.   Then clean as normal, making sure to coat lightly in oil or a rust preventing cleaner.  I would only recommend this on a really poor bore" - TUCO

  • " I use blackpowder cleaning solution mixed with a bit of water.  I then clean as normal, using Hoppe's with copper blocker.  Works for me." - Janne A

  • " I clean a nasty bore by cutting a 2 inch length of Frontier Cleaner pad strand and wrapping it around a bore brush. Run the brush through the bore at least 5 full back and fourths and then clean with Hoppes #9. You will be shocked how well this works!!" -Jim K

  • "For the stocks and metal. I use Gojo automotive hand-cleaner. For heavy cosmoline I use old work socks to just wipe the stuff off. Bore cleaning, I use Pine Sol spray and squirt it down the bore from the breech. Fill the sink with 1' of super hot water. I use a mop end and suck soapy water up the bore. Run a brass brush up the bore a few times. Then I clean with hoppes and oil the bore. I think it takes about ten minutes to do a rifle. I also clean off the bolt and re-oil it." - Jim R

  • " For my regular milsurp shooting I flush the barrel with good old windex , a couple of passes with a bronze brush and then lube with what ever 'wonder lube ' I happen to have ,wd,prolong etc, for the nasty bbls. I discovered under the kitchen sink a wad of very course steel wool like COPPER pot cleaning 'stuff' available at the supermarket. I wrap it on one of the many worn out bronze brushes I have and it really cuts the crude, I cleaned up to shootable a few bbls. I used to would have tossed."  Cresote

  • " For real bad bores use a stainless steel cleaning brush. This WILL remove all the rust and black stuff. Shooters Choice or Hoppes will do this type of cleaning. If the barrel is not bad use Sweets 7.62 or Tetra Copper Solvent with a nylon bore brush for copper, then use patches, until the patches no longer come out blue. After all this cleaning is done always coat the barrel with Tetra lube. For corrosive shooting use Windex to stop the corrosive action or GI bore solvent and a nylon bore brush. Last but not least use a aluminum bore rod or a Dewey plastic coated rod so you don't wear down the muzzle or bore. Just my .02" - Wank

  • " 1.Fred's red..made a works!   2.nasty bore..Flitz, Brasso, naval jelly..scrub scrub scrub    3.cosmo..goof off, white gas, kerosene...wipe wipe wipe     4.grimy stock..jellied hand cleaner a.k.a go-joe, rubbing compound...rub rub rub" - C&R Vince

  • "  For stocks with a combination of dents and soaked-in (hardened) cosmoline, the steaming process that is often recommended for dent removal will also do a great job of removing the goo. The technique is to dampen an old towel, lay it over the stock, and apply a hot iron to the top of the towel. Not only does the steam help lift small dents, but the heat also softens the cosmoline, and it soaks into the towel (ruins the towel, of course). I had a very nasty looking Swede 96 stock that cleaned up this way, with no chemicals whatever. The steam MAY lift the grain, requiring some finishing with 0000 steel wool, so you might not want to do this on a pristine stock." -  Larry R

  • "  Here is how I clean one that is coated in and out with cosmoline (and the Russian ''cosmoline'' I have seen is closer to road tar than the stuff we used). First, drop by Sherwin Williams, (or wherever) and get a wallpaper tray (looks like a valve cover off of a 6 cyl Chevy). Go to Wal-Mart, (or wherever) and get a couple of gallons of Coleman fuel. Take the metal off of the wood. Take the bolt out. OUTDOORS, fill the tray to sufficient depth to submerge the stock, then the metal parts. Agitate a little, and TA-DA, it cuts the stuff away like magic. Do the stock first. It will clean it and dry it like to look like new wood. It will need to soak a while, then dry in the fresh air and sun. This sure saves a lot of time and manual scrubbing (don't use gasoline. It will make the wood smell like gas for a long time). The used fuel will be black, and full of cosmoline, so funnel it back into the cans and drop them off at an oil change place. They always take them for me. " - TLA

  • "  Whenever I conduct recovery from a long field problem, it is necessary to clean my section's hand tools. These are usually covered with grime, oil and grease. I find that soaking them in a drip pan filled with either gasoline or diesel really loosens the filth. I haven't done this with one of my cosmoline saturated bolts or actions yet, but I think it'll work like gangbusters. I wouldn't put the stock in there. (if Uncle Sam would give me mineral spirits, I'd probably use that too) " - Sgt. Carrier

  • "  To clean the comsoline on a stock use BreakFree cleaner and paper towels.  This works well and BreekFree will not damage the stock or finish.  I learned this one from Tuco about a year ago and it works well for me.  I have cleaned 40 rifles this way and never a problem" - Peter K

  • " Who could resist a chance at world fame? Wow, there are really some great tips here! Here are a few of my ideas. If you have a Milsurp that someone has (heaven forbid) varnished, try using Acetone and fine steel wool. Dip the steel wool in the Acetone and lightly scrub off the varnish or whatever. Let the Acetone do the work and wipe off the residue before it has a chance to dry. This will also help to leach some of those nasty oils out of the wood. Then smooth out the wood with fine steel wool and finsh with a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil and then gently rub again with very fine steel wool. It will look great and original. If I might, a word on originality. These riles are, for the most part, antiques and should be treated with respect! Don't try to make a new gun out of them! Do no more than what is necessary. I was in automobile restoration for many years and it agrivates me to no end to see nice old cars hauled to shows in trailers and never driven. Drive your old cars and shoot your old guns! Clean them thorughly after shooting and follow the great advice given on this board! " - TOMCAT

  • " Whatever you do, just do it fast.  Clean you rifle the night you shoot corrosive ammo and things will go easy for you."  - Jake "The Snake"

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