Spring is now upon us and I thought it was time to give my ‘Annie’ a bore clean in preparation for the upcoming silhouette season. Just as I begun feeding a solvent soaked jag into the chamber, I got to thinking about my choice of cleaning rod and why I had chosen it. I recall in 2001 as I brought my first rifle the ‘CZ 452’ to it’s new home, that I had only the bare bones of equipment. I realised there was alot of things I didn’t know about firearms and maintenance. In 2001 on-line resources were scarce and gun shops usually small premises could only stock what they thought would sell. As a new shooter you may not have all the questions when it came to firearms, therefore word of mouth and trust amongst the shooting sports community and club members was always heavily relied upon as experience grew with age. Now 10 years on; would a new shooting enthusiast be so well informed when choosing the correct cleaning rod for their firearm? I hope that my words will give you choice!
Choosing a cleaning rod is a very important step in your rifle maintenance program. You may think that ‘any cleaning rod will do’. Unfortunately this is not always the case.
A bullet will not be the only object that will be travelling down the delicate bore of your rifle, your cleaning rod and attachment will spend a lot of time there too. Therefore researching your choice of cleaning rod is time well spent to help prevent damage to the internals of your barrel.
Here are some attributes to consider before making that all important choice. Cleaning rods come in many different lengths and strengths, with various handle designs, they can be 1 piece, 2 piece or 3 piece rods. They can be coated or non coated and are available with a male or female threading for jag and brush attachment.
Now that you are aware of the many possibilities of a cleaning rod available to you, where do you start? No matter if you have an off the shelf rifle or had one custom built, then I am sure you would like to maintain your rifles accuracy and get a long life from it also. If this is the case then continue reading!
Any cleaning rod worth its salt will come with a swivel handle, especially if it is to be used in a firearm with a rifled barrel. The swivel handle allows the cleaning rod to rotate as it is pushed down the bore when a jag ‘ fitted with a wet / dry patch’ or brush is used. As rifling is the term used to describe the twisting lands and grooves that are cut into the bore then a tight fitting patch or brush squeezes itself into these grooves and follows them as they rotate towards the muzzle. Allowing solvents, patches and bristles to work themselves into the grooves and lands for an improved cleaning action.
You should only ever push the cleaning rod through the bore using the swivel handle. Never hold onto the rod shaft as you clean the bore because you will stop it from working with the rifling and possibly risk damaging the bores rifling in the process.
Length & Strength
As rifle, pistol & shotgun barrels come in a variety of calibres and lengths the manufacturers of gun cleaning products have produced rods in a variety of lengths also to meet the needs of these firearms. However each make and model of firearm such as the long gun ‘rifle’ can have barrels of different lengths depending on its purpose. Therefore you must choose the correct length of rod for your rifles barrel. To do this you must first measure your barrel and work from there. Now with any discerning shooting sports enthusiast you would not set about cleaning your bore without the use of a bore / rod guide.
With the use of a bore / rod guide additional length is now added to your overall barrel length as the guide is fixed into the rifles chamber. You must now include this additional length when selecting your cleaning rod. Now that you have measured the barrel with the bore / rod guide you are almost ready to choose a rod length. If you were to choose the length of the rod from both these measurements then you would find that more often than not your cleaning rod would not have very much clearance when it exits the barrel at the muzzle. You should allow for at least 5cm’s or more of muzzle clearance in the overall length of the rod so that you have ample manoeuvrability to unscrew your cleaning jag or brush before retracting the rod back through the bore. As for the strength of the cleaning rod you should look for a rod that will not bend or warp easily when under stress as it’s pushed down the bore.
1 or more piece rods
Rods that come as 2 or more piece segments have a distinct disadvantage over the 1 piece rod. As each segment is threaded together the joint of the threaded segments become weak points. If the segments were to unscrew ever so slightly from each other due to the considerable tension and resistance of a wet patch run down the bore, then the rod can bend at these joints and expose a sharp edge that can damage the chamber, rifling or crown of your barrel. With the 1 piece rod then you eliminate that problem. However, if your 1 piece rod is too flexible it is also possible for it to damage your barrel as you run it down the bore.
A naked steel cleaning rod could cause irreversible damage to your bore if it were to bend during the cleaning process. With steel on steel it could scratch your chamber wall, rifling or the crown of your firearm when it’s inserted or withdrawn from the bore, especially if it were inserted or removed in the slightest of angles. A synthetic nylon or plastic coated steel rod would offer some protection to your barrels internals in this instance, due to the softer but durable finish.
Male Or Female Threading
The threading your cleaning rod has is just as important as any of the points outlined above. A rod with a male threading could potentially damage the crown or chamber of your barrel when being withdrawn from the bore. Therefore to help prevent this from happening most high quality male threaded rods come with a brass, rubber or plastic cap that will screw onto the male threads to cover the otherwise exposed sharp edges of the threading as the rod is withdrawn. I believe a male threaded rod that does not have a cap fitted is an accident waiting to happen. You may even be able to substitute some form of soft material to cover the threads or purchase one to fit your rod. A female threaded rod has no need for this additional threading cap as the threads are contained in the rods core and do not protrude from it, eliminating the possibility of damaging the chamber or crown.
It is recommended that you remove the jag from your cleaning rod and also wipe clean the rod every time when withdrawing it from the bore. Not only to avoid damage to the barrel but to prevent running crud back into the bore that you are working so hard to clean.
I have used most of the rod types described above and have witnessed first hand some of the problems that can occur with them during the bore cleaning process. Now a little wiser I work with one type of cleaning rod only. I currently use a 1 piece, plastic coated rod with a female threading. I am very pleased with how it performs, safe in the knowledge that if I treat it well and keep it free from damage it will continue to serve not only me but my barrel for many more trips to the range.
Below is an example of a coated female threaded rod from BoreTech.