How To Clean A .22 Rifle for Improved Shooting? (2021 Update)

Your gun will eventually no longer work properly if you don’t clean it. It may stop shooting, or it will shoot junk out the front more akin to a cannon than a properly aimed gun. Both situations can be dangerous.

Furthermore, a dirty gun eventually becomes less accurate and less reliable. That’s why we’re here to tell you how to clean a .22 rifle for improved shooting.

Make It Safe

Make sure the rifle is unloaded before you do anything else. Only then could you turn the safety off and being disassembling it. Never look down the gun barrel without performing this essential step.

If you really feel this is necessary, buy a boroscope.

Remove the Bolt from the Rifle

Proper cleaning of any gun begins by disassembling it. With a .22 rifle, this process begins when you put the gun in a vise and remove the bolt from the rifle. When you undo the bolt and pull the trigger down, hold the trigger down as you slide the bolt out.

If this process doesn’t work with your rifle or you don’t have a bolt action rifle, refer to your user’s manual.

At this point, you can go ahead and wipe off the bolt before moving on to the bore. Don’t forget to clean the bolt face under the extractor.

Apply Bore Solvent to the Bore

Bore solvent will break up the copper dust and general fouling of the gun. You want to apply the solvent so that it can begin working.

This is done by soaking gun patches or a mob in the solvent. Then put these on your jag or patch holder on the bore cleaning rod / ramrod. Then you’ll run it through the gun at least twice.

Then let the solvent soak on the surface of the bore for at least ten minutes.

Brush the Bore

This is the step most people associate with cleaning a gun. You can install a bore guide before you start, so that it won’t dump foul residue in the receiver; that can gum up the works.

Begin brushing the bore with the bore brush starting at the breech end. Push it all the way through to remove the debris. This generally needs to be repeated a dozen times, if you have a brass bore brush. If you’re using a gun cleaning rope, you’ll need that many passes plus the need to eventually scrub it with a bore brush.

We do not recommend using stainless steel brushes, since this can damage your gun barrel. We don’t recommend nylon brushes, because they are so ineffective.

You could spend an hour scrubbing the inside of the gun and only remove a portion of the debris.

Clean the Debris with a Dry Patch

Jags are the best choice for this step. They’re made to push cleaning cloths against the inside edge of the gun bore. We’d recommend using a size #2 patch for cleaning a .22 rifle.

Apply gun cleaning patches to the tip of the jag. Then run them through the bore until the gun is clean. And only use each patch for a single pass through the gun. This means you’ll need ten to twelve patches to get the inside of the gun clean.

These dry patches will remove the powder fouling. Don’t forget to wipe the muzzle to remove any residue dripping out.

Apply Copper Cleaner

We’ve removed the powder fouling. You also need to apply some copper cleaner. Put a Kroil patch in the barrel or another copper cleaner patch, and run it through the barrel fifteen to twenty times.

Don’t let this patch get clear of the muzzle. When you’re done, run a solvent patch through the gun followed by a dry patch. If you’re not sure if you’ve gotten rid of all the copper fouling, check the inside of the barrel with the boroscope.

Don’t do this until you’ve cleaned and dried the inside of the bore. If you don’t have a borescope to do this inspection, you can leave the gun sit muzzle down for a while. Then run another solvent patch through it.

If it comes back clean, then you’re done with this step. If it has blue or green stains, repeat this step.

The cheaper the barrel, the worse the copper-foul. In general, more expensive barrels will be smoother and less prone to foul, though all will foul to some degree.

If you can’t get it clean, you may need to replace the barrel.

Oil the Inside of the Bore

Soak a patch in gun oil. Push this through the barrel to help keep moisture from reaching the metal and causing it to rust.

Clean the Breach

Wipe down the breech and bolt. This requires only a little bore solvent unless it is especially dirty. Once you’ve cleaned it, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth or something else that won’t leave lint behind.

Clean the lever actions if they’ve been having problems.

Oil the Whole Rifle

Use another piece of non-lint forming material and apply a thin layer of gun oil to the bolt and receiver. Then you can apply a light layer of oil on the whole gun, though you don’t want to get any oil on your gun scope lens or the trigger.

Note that you don’t want to have any pools of oil on the gun, though a mess on the work surface doesn’t matter if you have a good gun cleaning mat. 

Then you’ll need to clean a .22 rifle again, because the oil itself becomes thick and gummy. That will attract dirt and debris and make it dirtier.

What if you have CLP or cleaner/lubricant/preservative? You can use this to clean the entire rifle after you’ve removed all the debris.

Reassemble the Gun

Reassemble the gun. Then put it in storage. We’d recommend a gun safe that protects it from the humidity in the air. You can check its performance at this point, dry firing the trigger and inspecting it.

Summary

Properly cleaning a .22 rifle is necessary to keep it in safe working order. Regular cleaning will extend its operational life, too.

Just know how to do it right so that you don’t waste time or, worse, spend time cleaning the gun without getting it in good working order.

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