Since I purchase BPCRs for resale, which are usually in used condition, I inherit many problems from previous owners. Certainly one of the most common is moderate to heavy bore leading, which is likely why many shooters become frustrated and sell their rifles. One can’t determine if leading is a problem by running a few patches down the bore with typical black powder cleaning solvents. I’ve cleaned the bore after a relay until the patches came out white with no obvious residue, only to find out later the bore was heavily leaded. And looking down the bore will not give an indication. BTW, a few lead flakes on the patch are typical and are not necessarily an indication of a leaded bore. When a tight patch comes out with slivers of lead then you likely have a lead fouling issue. As has been discussed and pointed out in several BPCR forums, very tight patches using turpentine as the solvent is one of the best techniques in removing bore lead. But a couple of turpentine patches will not be sufficient to remove all the lead if the bore is heavily leaded.
I recently picked up a .45-70 BPCR. The rifle was in great shape but the owner complained he could not get it to “shoot”. So I took a chance and bought it due to the very attractive price. During my normal full disassembly and inspection the bore was found to be heavily leaded at the muzzle, but how far down was hard to determine until I grabbed my Hawkeye bore scope. The bore scope indicated lead from the muzzle to about ½ way down the bore, implying to me that the bullet lube was inadequate (poor quality and/or the bullet did not hold a sufficient amount).
So I did what a lot of experienced shooters have recommended. Using a very tight jag and patch soaked with turpentine I commenced to scrub the bore. A good bit of lead in long slivers came out, but regardless how tight the turpentine-soaked patch was all the lead would not come out. I later realized that the technique will remove all the lead but more time and elbow grease is required. A good stout cleaning rod and very tight patches are required – so tight that they squeal when forced through the bore. A rubber mallet may be required to drive the rod & turpentine wetted patch through. Or, not having a mallet handy, insert the patched cleaning rod in the chamber and use the ground and the weight of the rifle to drive the rod through the bore.
I then switched to a bronze brush wrapped with bronze wool. Additional lead was removed, but still not all. Finally, I grabbed the Outers’ Foul Out II electrochemical bore cleaner. After about an hour, the unit indicated the bore was clean. When the rod was removed the section which was located in the middle of the barrel to the muzzle was heavily coated with lead. The rod was cleaned, reinserted and the unit turned on. The clean bore light came on immediately. After pouring the solution out and passing a couple of patches through the bore, a close look with the bore scope indicated all the lead was gone.
By the way, reports that the Foul Out will damage bores are BS if the operating instructions are followed. I’ve been using it for years with lead and copper jacket bullets in handguns and rifles and have never had a problem. If the bore is pitted and filled with rust, lead or copper, it will clean out the pits and may have a negative effect on accuracy. If rust in present in the bore and precautions are not taken, the process can convert the rust to a solution that may result in further erosion or pitting of the bore. And running the unit for extended times can damage the bore. All of which is discussed in the Foul Out owner’s manual. Homemade electrochemical bore cleaners are frequently reported to etch and damage the bore, most likely because they typically run at higher voltages and are not current limited, or were left unattended for many hours, sometimes overnight. The Foul Out II version I use is voltage controlled to approximately 0.25v and current limited to less than 100ma. I understand the Foul Out III, the last version made, is voltage controlled to 0.3v and current limited to 200ma or less. Too bad Outers’ discontinued manufacturing the Foul Out and the solutions, but I have spotted them on eBay now and then.
Another lead removal solution is to use lead removal cloth, which also removes carbon residue. Birchwood Casey makes a 9” x 12” cloth that can be cut up and used as a patch to clean lead out of the bore and may be a good solution at a match. One has to be cautious when using the cloth since it can also remove bluing and case colors. And using the lead cleaning patches will not indicated when the bore is clean as they will always turn black, even in a clean bore. I should also mention the Lewis Lead Removing System or kit, which is made for handguns and rifles and shotguns. It uses round brass “cloths” and an expandable rubber adapter to remove lead from the forcing cone and bores of revolvers and the bore of any handgun, rifle or shotgun. It may be the fastest solution of all for thick lead deposits. I’ve used it on handguns but not on rifles. Based on my experience nothing cleans lead out of the bore better and with less effort than the Outers’ Foul Out. Of course, even with the battery feature, the Foul Out would be too slow to use during a match.
Since Outers no longer manufactures the Foul Out and has discontinued the copper and lead remover solutions, those of you that don’t have one may have been using a solution reported by many to work well. The suggested solution is a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, which is poured into a plugged bore. After 30 minutes to an hour the solution is poured out and the bore is swabbed with a clean patch and oiled. I had used this technique in the past with success but recently questioned the affect on firearm bores after finding out the byproduct of the mix is paracetic acid, a corrosive agent known to etch iron and steel in strong concentrations. To determine if the weak solution I was using was damaging the bore, I ran a couple of simple experiments. Refer to the article titled, Warning – Using Hydrogen Peroxide & Vinegar to Remove Lead Will Etch Firearm Bores.
Another method is to use JB Bore Paste, a bronze brush and large cotton patches to scrub the bore. The patch is layered over the brush and saturated with JB. It requires many patches and lots of JB paste to remove heavy lead deposits. One of the shortcomings of this approach is it requires a bore scope to determine when all the lead is removed.
So what method do you use at a match when time constraints preclude most of the above mentioned techniques? I plan on keeping some turpentine handy to use with a stiff cleaning rod and sufficient quantities of tight patches to check for leading between relays and remove the lead.