The Tools - Hangun

Before we get into the mechanics of barrel care, a brief look at the tools necessary is in order. A good assortment of high-quality cleaning supplies is essential.


To get a patch or brush through the bore, a cleaning rod is obviously needed. As simple as this function may seem, it can be a source of serious barrel damage. Among competitive shooters, only two types of rods will be found: one-piece stainless steel rods or the one-piece coated rods by Dewey or Parker Hale. At present, shooters seem about evenly divided in their preference for one type or the other. While these rods are far less likely to damage the bore than other types, they must still be used correctly and carefully.

The more commonly seen aluminum rods are soft enough to allow abrasive particles to become imbedded in its surface. These particles can act as a lap while in the barrel, causing serious scratching throughout the length of the bore. These rods should be completely avoided, at least for any kind of gun-cleaning chore.

One consideration few shooters stop to think about is the cleanliness of their cleaning equipment. Rods wet with solvent and laid down on a shooting bench pick up dirt, dust and all sorts of abrasive material. Unless the rod is cleaned before using it again, all of the grit it has picked up from the bench will be run right back through the bore, possibly scratching or damaging the barrel in the process. While the softer aluminum rods pose the greatest threat in this respect, any rod can damage a bore if it is improperly used. Before you run the rod through your barrel, wipe it down with a clean rag dampened with a bit of solvent. You may be surprised to see how much grit and residue is deposited on the rag — residue that would have gone into your barrel.


Just as with rods, there are both good and bad brushes available.

Benchrest quality phosphor bronze bristle brushes are the best and safest for your barrel. These use a brass core that is looped at the end, leaving no sharp edges exposed that may damage the bore. A poor second choice would be the bronze bristle brushes that have a steel core. If this type of brush must be used, extreme caution is needed to get it started straight into the bore. Since the core is generally cut rather than looped, a jagged tip is usually left exposed at the end. If this tip is allowed to gouge into the throat or leade area, it could cause serious bore damage. Stainless steel brushes have also become available in the last few years. These brushes are probably best reserved for only those handguns suffering from extremely bad leading. These brushes are very aggressive and will cause barrel damage if overused.


There are several different styles of jag tips available, and each has its proponents. Some shooters prefer the “spear” type jag, such as those put out by Pro-Shot. Others prefer the “wraparound” type by Parker-Hale. Dewey offers a jag that can be used either way. Here, personal preference is probably as important as any other factor, as they all do a good job when properly used.

Bore Guides

A bore guide is a closely fitted tube, usually plastic or nylon, that keeps the rod centered in the bore. Generally thought of as an accessory used for cleaning rifles, bore guides have now become available for some handguns. Neil Jones Custom Products, for example, makes a guide specifically for the Freedom Arms revolvers. Given the rifle-like accuracy levels these handguns display, it makes perfect sense to accord them the same care and respect given to a tack-driving varmint rifle. The object here, as with rifles, is to prevent the rod from damaging the barrel.


What type of material makes the best patches? We strongly recommend cotton flannel. Highly absorbent cotton flannel is tough enough to withstand being run through the bore on a tight-fitting jag, making it ideally suited to bore-cleaning chores. As with bore brushes and cleaning rods, patches must be kept clean. Keep them in a sealed container until they are to be used and never leave them out where sand or grit may be blown onto them.

Liquid Bore Cleaners

Liquid bore cleaners, such as Shooters Choice MC-7 or Hoppe’s #9, represent the most common and widely used method of barrel cleaning. In practice, a few drops of solvent are placed on a bronze brush and run through the bore several times. This scrubbing action should effectively loosen both powder residue and mild copper fouling, allowing it to be removed easily with a solvent-soaked patch or two. An alternate method is to use the solvents alone, without resorting to brushes. When using only patches to apply solvent, remember that the solvents work chemically and do not actually require any scrubbing. When solvents are used in this manner, use only a loose-fitting patch. In this instance, the patch serves only as a vehicle to transport solvent into the bore. A patch that fits the bore too tightly will be “wrung out,” leaving little solvent to do the work. A word of caution here regarding Hoppe’s #9 and nickel-plated guns: Use this solvent carefully and quickly as it can frost or strip the nickel plating. We have seen examples of nickeled guns being left to soak for extended periods in this solvent, actually causing the finish to peel and flake off. Used properly and wiped off thoroughly after the powder fouling has been removed, Hoppe’s #9 will give excellent results.

After using any type of solvent with a bronze brush, the barrel should be thoroughly flushed with Gun Scrubber or a similar cleaner/degreaser to stop the action of the solvent. Bronze, after all, is a copper alloy and is attacked by the solvent just as aggressively as is the fouling in the barrel. Flushing the solvents away will increase the service life of your brushes many times over. Regardless of the approach used, a stronger method may be called for if evidence of copper fouling remains.

A more aggressive type of liquid solvent, usually containing a higher (4-5%) ammonia content, is also available. Two popular examples of this type of solvent are Sweet’s 7.62 and Shooter’s Choice Copper Remover. These will prove useful in removing particularly stubborn deposits of copper fouling but should be used with appropriate care. Unlike the milder solvents, more aggressive solutions should not be used with bronze brushes as they will begin to dissolve them almost immediately. This creates a second problem because it gives a “reading” of copper fouling when patches are used next. Whether the traces of blue on the patches actually indicate copper fouling or that the solvent has attacked the brush and left traces of bronze in the bore will be unclear. Avoid this situation by using only patches with this type of solvent. While many milder solvents may be left in the bore to soak for long periods, some of the stronger solvents may actually etch the metal if left in the barrel too long. Due to the higher ammonia content of these solvents, they are best suited to removing copper fouling as opposed to powder fouling or carbon buildup.

Mild Abrasives

For particularly stubborn fouling, it may be necessary to resort to a mild abrasive, such as JB Bore Compound or Remington’s Rem-Clean. These compounds, usually in the form of a paste or thick liquid, contain a mild non-imbedding abrasive that when used carefully will cut through fouling without damaging the bore.

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a technique in which a bronze bristle brush is run through the bore without the benefit of any type of liquid bore cleaner. While this will help keep fouling from building up quite so rapidly, dry bushing cannot be considered as a replacement for a more thorough cleaning with liquid solvents.