A rifle for a Christmas present?

Christmas rifle
Got a rifle for Christmas? Great, take some time to shoot it, break in the barrel, and sight in the scope.

Break in the barrel for optimal accuracy

Many rifles are given as Christmas presents every year. A Christmas rifle is one of the best gifts for a sportsman or woman who enjoys hunting, plinking or any of the shooting sports. If you’re lucky enough to be the recipient of a special gift like this, consider breaking in the barrel.

Breaking in a barrel is simply polishing or burnishing the inside rifling using the ammo that fits the gun. The process should start before the first shot is ever fired.

There are lots of opinions, philosophies and different ways to break in a barrel. Look it up on-line and you’ll see them. Here is a time-proven and simple method you can’t go wrong with.

Before the first shot

Any brand-new barrel can have imperfections such as filings or shavings, along with dust, dirt and grime. Taking a shot could foul the barrel and leave a permanent pit or blemish. Before shooting a new gun, the first step for break-in is to clean it well.

There are a few cleaning supplies you’ll need during the break in process to clean the barrel.

Take a quality bore cleaner and soak a one-inch square cotton patch and push it down the barrel from the receiver end with a non-abrasive cleaning rod and brass or nylon jag that’s caliber specific to your rifle. The wet patch will exit the barrel at the crown. Let the bore cleaner work by letting it set or “soak” for a few minutes. Then follow by running three or four dry patches through until they’re clean. It’s not a bad idea to do this step twice. What you’re looking for is a clean, dry patch.

Take the first shot

Shoot the first round in the gun, then run a wet patch down the barrel. Save the wet patch for a comparison later. Let the bore cleaner soak. Run dry patches through until you get a clean patch. This may take 15 or more patches.

More shots

Shoot it again and repeat the cleaning process. Save the second wet patch. Do this for five shots total, cleaning after each round, saving the wet patches and looking for a dry, clean patch each time.

Compare the wet patches of the first five shots. You should notice that each wet patch should look a little cleaner than the one prior; the fifth wet patch should be cleaner than the first. It should start taking fewer dry patches to see the barrel clean.

Shot groups

For most guns, it may take five or more shots to ’dirty’ the barrel after break-in and cleaning to start seeing bullet group accuracy tighten-up.

It’s now time to shoot a three-shot group, and clean — wet patch followed by dry patches. Then, shoot another three-shot group and clean. Last, try a five-shot group and clean. You should be to the point where it takes five or six dry patches to come clean. It should also take a little less force to run the patches down the barrel compared to when you first started. If that’s the case, you can feel good about the break-in. If you’re not happy with it, you can continue shoot more groups.

Take advantage of the shots and sight in the scope while breaking in the barrel. Also note that for most guns, it may take five or more shots to “dirty” the barrel after break-in and cleaning to start seeing bullet group accuracy tighten-up.

It’s your gun, you can tweak, adjust, or extend this method to your preference. Don’t just throw a scope on your new rifle and sight it in. A proper break in of the barrel is necessary to obtain the best accuracy possible for the life of your gun.

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