I’ve owned serval air rifles and pistols over the years, but I’ve never cleaned their barrels. So I did some research to see what best practice is and also see what professionals do.
So how often should you clean an airgun barrel? For regular general target use, you can probably get away with never cleaning the barrel, although many shooters and manufacturers recommend cleaning the barrel every 1000 shots. If you compete or hunt, you might want to increase the frequency.
Many new airgun shooters can make the mistake of incorrectly cleaning the barrel or doing it too often. There is a lot to understand on this matter and the correct methods and products to use. If you are shooting in competitions or hunting, you will want every advantage you can get and having the barrel is tip-top shape will help.
Measuring the frequency of when to clean the barrel
If you use your airgun regular, often it is not a question of time, i.e. every two months, but more a matter of how many shots.
If you are using your airgun professionally, you might want to consider cleaning the barrel around every 1000 shots.
A great tip I thought of was that as most pellets come in tins of 250, you could buy your pellets in batches of 4. Label and use then sequentially; thus, when you get to the end of tin 4, you know it is time for a barrel clean.
Some people clean the barrel more often but still based on the number of shots. I’ve read of people cleaning their barrel after every tin of pallets.
The need to clean based on accuracy drop-off.
Although I try to shoot regular, I don’t shot in competitions nor do much hunting. I usually get my air rifle or pistol out and do a bit of casual target practice for fun in the garden with friends and family.
I’ve found a lot of more significant influencing factors in my accuracy, or should I say inaccuracy, than if the barrel needs cleaning.
Many people do report that they can tell of an accuracy drop-off when the barrel starts getting dirty though. They say that their target groups begin to become more spread out or that they can miss an animal altogether.
I would say that if you are of a shooting standard where you can notice an accuracy drop off due to a dirty barrel, then that would be the right time to clean it.
If you have tried everything to improve your accuracy, but are not seeing the results you expect, a correctly executed barrel clean may help.
Inaccuracy after a barrel clean
Something to note, that people report, is that after a barrel clean can result in an accuracy decreases. This is due to the barrel needing to be re-leaded. A simple solution to the inaccuracy after a barrel clean is to keep shooting. It can take up to 200 plus shots to relead a barrel and for accuracy to increase.
Enthusiast and professional barrel cleaning schedules
I love getting my air-rifle out and doing some casual target practice in the garden. Sometimes we might have the odd rat that I will take a shot at also.
I am very much an airgun enthusiast but would consider myself a pretty good shot. But I have never clean any barrel of rifle or pistol that I’ve own.
I remember when purchasing my last riffle, asking in the well-respected shop, “how often should I clean the barrel?”, the response that they gave was, “never”. That is the advice that I have followed.
I also change different pellets reasonably regularly, from target pellets type to hunting ones. I’ve never really noticed, probably due to my skill level any different in hitting the target.
So if you are an enthusiast like me, you will probably be totally fine not cleaning the barrel regularly or ever.
Clean an airgun barrel when new
Everyone has their system and opinions but reading through different forums; there is often sense that people clean the air riffles when they first get them.
The reason often giving is that the barrel will typically have a robust oily coating that has been applied by the manufacturer to protect the gun. This can cause inaccuracies and also take longer for the barrel to be correctly lead-ed.
Types of ammunition can influence when to clean a barrel.
Different pellet types will impact the cleanliness of the barrel. Some pellets due to their hardness will leave more lead in the barrel, and over time this will build up more and more.
A problem can come especially if you change pallet type after a lot of shooting. The new pallet type will start to carve a path through the lead build up from that previous pallet type.
Should you clean a barrel if you change pellets?
There would be a good case to do a barrel clean before changing pellet type.
I would say this only applies if you have shot serval thousand times with one pellet type. You are then going to move to shot serval thousand with a different pellet.
What do manufacturers say about cleaning a barrel?
I looked on websites and reach out to serval gun and pellet manufacturers and ask their opinion on how often they’d recommend cleaning a barrel. Here are some of the information I found and responses.
Air Arms responded via a facebook chat, “As lead is a natural lubricate we have found that the best time to clean the barrel is when you notice the accuracy starting to change or if you suspect a dirty batch of ammunition. Using air rifle designed cleaning products you can not damage the barrel so if in doubt clean after each tin of pellets. DO NOT USE CLEANING PRODUCTS DESIGNED FOR LIVE FIRE RIFLES”.
Mark from Air Venturi responded with, “We suggest cleaning every 1500-2000 rounds. If accuracy declines. clean more often”.
Terri of BSA Guns responded by saying, “As a manufacturer, we don’t stipulate how often a barrel is to be cleaned as it can depend on the individual barrel, brand of ammunition and frequency of use. We have seen many examples of air rifles used with great frequency over many years that repeatedly achieve pinpoint accuracy without ever being cleaned.”
On Gamo’s website, they say, “The barrel of the airgun should be cleaned whenever it is needed, which depends on the type of ammunition and, of course, the number of shots. As a reference, we could clean it every 1.000 shots. “.
I wish to thank all who took the time and responded to my question.
Why do you need to clean an airgun barrel?
There could be serval reason that you might want to clean an airgun’s barrel.
· A drop off on accuracy, and wish to rule out lead build up in the barrel
· You are going to have a change in pellet type after
· Your air gun is new, and you wish to remove the manufacturers oiling
· If you are going to put the gun into storage
· You suspect something is stuck on the barrel
· You are going to be servicing the air rifle
· You living in a highly humid environment
More on this in an upcoming post.
What should I use to clean an air gun barrel?
I’d recommend using one of the many Airgun barrel cleaning kits. These can be purchased relatively cheaply from store or online.
Please do not use “live ammunition” cleaning kits or products.
Should I pour oil down an airgun barrel?
You shouldn’t just pour oil down the barrel. If you are cleaning the barrel with a correctly selected barrel oil, then this should be applied to a cloth and then pull/pushed through the barrel.
Oh and also never use cooking oil! LOL
How do I know if the barrel needs cleaning?
A good indicator will seem to be if you are noticing a drop off in accuracy and can’t attribute it to anything else.
How long does it take to clean a barrel?
If you have a good barrel cleaning kit and everything prepared, it should take you about 10-15 minutes to clean a barrel. With that said you might be doing this as apart of a more significant gun care routine, thus you might want to take extra time and care.