Cleaning equipment. What could be so simple, right? Wrong answer wild dog! After barrel quality, cleaning gear and methods you utilize could have a detrimental effect on rifle accuracy. Bore Tech, of Colmar Pennsylvania, has introduced some outstanding new equipment to maintain your rifle. Before we discuss this new gear we ought to first go over some rifle cleaning fundamentals.
It has been said that cleaning can be the worst thing to do to your rifle. It has also been noted, usually by the same gent sporting a twinkle in his eye, that NOT cleaning is also the worst thing you can do to your rifle. This is reminiscent of that line immemorial: "That's some catch, that Catch-22." What is any self-conscious marksman to do? Well, the idea is to limit the amount of damage you can do to your rifle during the cleaning process. This entails using only top quality equipment and proper technique. Regarding equipment, being frugal and saving a buck here or there will lead you to one inevitable result: a damaged or destroyed barrel.
You can limit this damage easily. It just takes a commitment to avoid the normal and understandable desire to get by with budget gear. For example, throw out that segmented aluminum cleaning rod you bought at X-Mart. When you finally meet your timely demise, the first thing you will notice in Hell, alongside the guys who invented polyester slacks and vinyl seats, will be the rat bastard who convinced the powers that be to market an affordable aluminum segmented rod. These rods, due to their nature, pick up all manner of abrasive debris, which can become embedded into the rod material. Each and every pass through the rifle bore will act to cut into the lands and groves, forever scoring that once mirror finish. The segments also become a culprit in chaos as they can carry foreign material into the bore. Worse, if you ever suffer a stuck patch, the rods can bend and break at these segments, driving a jagged edge into the rifling. And the segmented steel rod issued to the military isn't much better. This rod serves a purpose - allowing infantry to carry the necessary tools to maintain their weapons, while limiting bulk. For those fielding assault rifles where pin point accuracy is not necessary, this is fine, but the segmented rod has no place in a tuned tactical rifle designed for superior accuracy.
Another important thing to do, and one often overlooked by novices, is to obtain a bore guide. This handy and simple tool has three purposes: 1) to guide the cleaning rod into the exact center of the bore, which will eliminate any chance of the rod or cleaning jag eroding or scoring the beginning of the rifling (the throat); 2) to keep all cleaning solvents from running into the action and possibly damaging the all important rifle bedding (solvents can eat away at bedding compound, soften wood over time, and if you are using an ammonia base cleaner, corrode metal); and 3) to keep the rod aligned with the bore as it passes along its length. A rod can still warp with enough patch resistance, and thereby abrade against the bore. A guide will limit this action to some extent. Using a bore guide will assure years of trouble free service and no serious shooter will be with out one.
Top quality cleaning rods come in two versions, both one-piece: stainless steel, or coated steel. Uncoated stainless rods will pick up very little debris but they will also wear your rifling if they make contact. I have one rod that shows a very good impression of the rifling from years of use. One must wonder what the bore looks like if the rod was contacting it that much!
Most shooters who care about their rifles have adopted coated steel rods. Some argue that the coating, like aluminum, can pick up debris, which can become imbedded in the coating material. While I have seen the coating tear if mishandled, I have seldom seen a rod so damaged as to pick up abrasives. One way to avoid this is of course to wipe the rod after each pass with a rag. Any conscientious marksman does this anyway, regardless of rod type.
Back to Bore Tech. The company is headed by R. D. Rambo, and is a subdivision of a precision medical instrument firm. Bore Tech has released some very exciting new gear. Bore Tech's entry into the high end cleaning equipment market is four-fold. They now offer a complete cleaning system, including Rod, Patch-Guide, Punch Jags and properly fitted patches, and now cleaning solutions.
First is the line of cleaning rods, called "Bore Stix." Of course, Bore Stix are one-piece coated steel rods. To make it easier on the shooter with multiple calibers, Bore Tech color codes handles of the Bore Stix; black for .22 to .26 caliber, red for .27 to .50 caliber. Upon initial inspection, I found the rods to be similar to the excellent and time-honored Dewey line of cleaning rods -- a favorite of precision shooters. There is a "twist" to Bore Stix. Spin the handle and you will notice almost zero drag in the handle. Bore Tech spent quite a bit of time to achieve this. The bearings in the handle are angular contact stainless steel bearings, with CNC-machined races built into the handle.
As an experiment, I laid the .27 to .50 caliber rod horizontally on my chair and spun the handle two separate times. The first spin lasted 34 seconds later, and the second spin went on 25 seconds! Very impressive. "Why," you ask, "is this so significant?" The idea is this: While the cleaning rod passes through the bore, the cleaning patch enters the lands and grooves of the rifling and imparts spin to the rod. To properly clean a barrel, the patch must be working into the groves, filling the empty spaces and delivering the chemical-cleaning agents to the fouled microscopic nooks and crannies found in the barrel, with the handle stationary in your hand.
If everything goes properly, the patch form-fits into the lands and groves, and the rod spins as the patch is pushed down the barrel. If on the other hand, there is excessive drag, due either to the rod or a too tight patch, several bad things can occur. First, a rod that does not spin freely in its handle will jump patches across the lands, completely missing the grooves. This will cause excessive wear over time, creating uneven spots in the rifling. The second bad thing is more obvious. If the patch is not following the contour of the grooves it will not deliver its cleaning agent and scrubbing action into the areas most needing it. The Bore Tech cleaning rod goes a long way to alleviating this problem by delivering near drag-free performance throughout the range of a barrel cleaning. Of course, no rod is perfect and you will still hang it up with too tight a patch, but with a properly fitted patch, the rod will always follow the rifling contour as designed. To assure proper operation, Bore Tech now offers punch jags and properly fitted flannel patches as part of their system.
Another feature unique to the Bore Tech cleaning rod is a simple system for judging the twist rate of your barrel. Bore Tech's third generation Bore Stix rod, which should be hitting the market as I type this, has two small dots milled into the brass boss near the handle. When feeding the rod into the barrel, you take note of the position of the first dot. When it comes around one full revolution you measure the distance the rod has traveled into the bore. Example: if the rod made one turn in 11.5 inches, you now know your rifling twist rate is 11.5 to 1. For a new rifle owner, this knowledge is critical as it determines which projectile weight range will be most accurate in the weapon system.
Using the Bore Tech rod was a pleasure as it took very little effort to feed the rod into the barrel. At a retail price $29.95 the rod is only slightly more expensive than its nearest competition, the Dewey cleaning rod. The rods come in a variety of lengths suitable for every need. My one and only negative comment would be using the .27 to .50 cal rod in anything larger than a .30 caliber rifle. Rods do bend inside the bore and using so thin a rod in a .416 or .50 caliber bore could present problems with a too tight fitting patch. Picture the properly centered patch end of the rod and the equally centered and guided aft end of the rod. Now picture a tight patch binding slightly in the bore. The unsupported center section could bend slightly and pass through the bore like a corkscrew, impacting the rifling as it went. With some urging, Bore Tech could bring out a third rod size for .375 to .50 caliber. Whether there would be sufficient demand is unknown, but were I to invest in so expensive a rifle as a .50 cal, I'd want an adequately thick rod to clean it with. I can highly recommend Bore Tech's Bore Stix. While I would like to see these rods slightly thicker, they performed flawlessly. (Note: Since writing the above, Bore Tech has announced a soon to be released .35 to .50 caliber cleaning rod. It will be a stainless steel rod with a very high degree of polish. Bore Tech will also be offering another Stainless rod in .17 caliber. Rambo stressed that the level of polish on both of these new products will be well above the average. In my view, this should eliminate any concern over foreign material being attracted to the rod if you follow the simple wipe down procedure).
The second of Bore Tech's offerings is the Patch Guide. This tool can be described as a "Rod Guide on steroids." Made from CNC machined stock, the Patch Guide is probably one of the sturdiest units on the market. It has unique features, making it stand out among competitive guides, and the price reflect this. At $49.95, it is easily double the price of my favorite tool, the Sinclair International Delrin Bore Guide, but for the money you get features unlike any other guide available today.
Let me demonstrate this point. A common problem with all bore guides is that when you start to feed the solvent soaked patch into the guide, excess solvent can squeeze out of the rear of the guide and drip onto and into your rear action bedding. Further, if you are the type who likes to start a patched jag, and then add solvent, you often find it impossible to keep some solvent from dripping onto the stock. Many companies have a partial fix for this, usually a solvent port of some sort attached to the rear of the bore guide. These work, but you never know if you are getting enough solvent on the patch, or applying so much that it still leaks onto the stock.
The Patch Guide solves this problem by providing a large open area in which to place your patch. This area consists of a ridged plate, angled 20 degrees from the direction of the bore. In use, you lay a patch on this plate, drip the solvent onto the patch and slide the cleaning rod into the rear of the guide. As the punch jag passes through the guide, it picks up the patch, carries it into the long tube connected to the Patch Guide's handle and on into the bore. You never have to touch the wet patch, and a small ridge around the lower portion of the patch plate stops any solvent from dripping onto the stock. The Patch Guide has a flexible insert that slides into the chamber to assure a tight seal at that end. This will prevent any fluid from back washing into the rifle's action. The Patch Guide is locked into place by a collet that slides into the bolt recess and that locks down. The unit proved easy to use and maintain. The Patch Guide can be fully disassembled and cleaned.
The Patch Guide is a very long assembly, about 16", so do not expect to use your current cleaning rod. For my 700 PSS, I needed a rod 44" long to use this tool. The length assures that you will never get any solvent into your bedding, but I would prefer a shorter guide so I could use rods of shorter length. The longer the rod, the more chances it has to bend. If this bothers you it is an easy matter to shorten the guide and re-cut the threads, that is, if you are mechanically inclined. This is not recommended by R. D. Rambo, as it will eliminate one of the features designed into the tool - keeping fluid far from your bedding. Rambo also pointed out that the length of the Patch Guide was ergonomically designed and decided upon by cross referencing medical data and arriving at the average arm length of a typical shooter.
I recommend the Patch Guide, though with a few caveats. First, at $49.95, I recognize that its cost may preclude some from purchasing the device, and for most a simpler guide may work just fine. However, this unit is tailor-made for the discriminating Bench Rest competitor. Second, I must admit to preferring the Delrin offering from Sinclair for its simplicity, size and cost. Nevertheless, the Patch Guide is of the highest quality and for those looking for a guide in this ballpark, they couldn't do better.
The third offering from Bore Tech is the Patch Hog. The Patch Hog is an interesting tool that slips onto the end of your bore and catches your soiled jags as you withdrawal the rod back through the bore. With an empty 2 liter soda bottle affixed to the end, you will never have to worry about clean up again.
The complete Bore Tech system, while not sold as such, consists of the Bore Stix rod, The Patch Guide, a Punch Jag, and specially size flannel patches. In addition, Bore Tech will soon release a new line of cleaning fluid that should prove effective as well as gentle on your bore.
To compliment these fine offerings, Bore Tech also offers a rod carrier.