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What Are the Best Ways to Clean Your 22 Semi-Automatic Rifle?

Semi-automatic and bolt-action rifles chambered in .22 Long Rifle are popular for hunting, recreational and competitive target shooting, and pest control. To keep your .22 rifle functioning flawlessly, you should clean and lubricate it periodically.

The Importance of Cleaning

When you fire your rifle, the burning propellant leaves residue — fouling — on internal working surfaces. As this fouling accumulates, it can cause moving parts to operate sluggishly. Bullets can also deposit lead and copper in the rifling grooves of the bore, potentially hindering accuracy. The gun cleaning process is an essential part of owning a .22 rimfire rifle.

You don’t necessarily need to clean your rifle every day or after every range session (with a few exceptions, such as when firing black powder or corrosively primed ammunition). However, cleaning and lubricating your rifle when you notice the gun is not as clean or is not cycling as smoothly as you’d like is a good idea.

Prepare for Cleaning

First, prepare the cleaning area. This can be your kitchen table, desk, or workbench, as long as you have enough space. Keep live ammunition away from the cleaning and maintenance area.

Wear safety glasses if you intend to disassemble your rifle for cleaning because there may be components under spring tension that can fly out when you take the firearm apart. Some firearm owners also wear protective, hypoallergenic medical exam gloves when handling gun parts and cleaning chemicals to avoid lead exposure or skin irritation.

Your work area should be adequately ventilated because you’ll be working with volatile chemicals. It should also be well lit. You’ll need cleaning supplies, such as a solvent to clean the barrel and other working surfaces; cleaning patches; lubricating oil; bore and utility brushes; a cleaning rod; jags; and a bore snake.

Clear Your Weapon

Before attempting to operate, disassemble, or clean a firearm, always ensure the chamber is empty and the magazine is either removed from the weapon or unloaded. In the Ruger 10/22, this is simple.

Remove the detachable rotary magazine by depressing the magazine catch. Then, with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, retract the charging handle to clear the chamber. It’s usually a good idea to read the owner’s manual.

Cleaning Your Rifle

How you intend to clean and lubricate the action of the weapon — the bolt, receiver, and trigger mechanism — depends on how dirty it is and how easy the gun is to take apart. The best method of cleaning a .22 semi-automatic rifle is to take it apart because this allows access to all internal parts for maintenance.

Ruger 10/22 Disassembly

In the Ruger 10/22, for example, fold the rear leaf sight and turn the rifle upside down — you’ll see a takedown screw forward of the magazine well. Loosen the screw, move the cross-bolt safety catch to the center position, and lift the stock up and off the barrel assembly. Two pins hold the trigger guard assembly to the receiver — push these out with a punch and remove them.

Next, drift out the bolt stop pin, and retract the bolt handle fully with one hand. While the handle is fully to the rear, use your other hand to lift the front of the bolt until it becomes free of the handle. Remove the bolt handle assembly and lift the bolt out of the receiver.

Cleaning the Bolt and Receiver

If you have a metal dish, fill it with a cleaning solvent, such as Hoppe’s No. 9, and place the bolt and other small parts in the dish to soak for a few minutes as you attend to the barrel.

Once you’ve cleaned the barrel, return to these parts, scrubbing them with a stiff-bristled utility or cleaning brush. Scrub the internal surfaces of the receiver and wipe all surfaces with a lint-free cloth. Apply a few drops of lubricating oil to the bolt and trigger mechanism and reassemble the system.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to take the gun apart, you can lock the bolt open and spray solvent into the open action through the ejection port. Then scrub the inside through the port or magazine well for a quick once over.

Cleaning the Barrel

The standard tool for cleaning the inside of the barrel is a cleaning rod. The typical cleaning rod comprises several straight cylindrical sections held together by a length of rope.

Attach a jag or slotted loop, soak a cleaning patch in solvent or another type of bore cleaner to the cleaning rod, and push it through the barrel.

Breech to Muzzle is Best

It’s generally advisable to clean the barrel from the breech end to the muzzle, not the reverse. The reason for this is that, when inserting a cleaning rod into the barrel through the muzzle, there’s a risk the rod can damage the crown, affecting the accuracy of the weapon.

If you need to clean the barrel from the muzzle to the breech, you can insert a brass muzzle guard to protect the crown, followed by the cleaning rod and bore brush, or use a bore snake.

In some designs, such as the Ruger 10/22, the receiver is closed, and inserting a cleaning rod from the breech is difficult. This is easier in bolt-action rifles, where you can remove the bolt and look straight down the barrel from the rear.

Once the patch exits from the muzzle end, remove the patch before retracting the cleaning rod — you don’t need to redeposit fouling in the bore. Attach a .22-caliber bronze-wire bore brush to the cleaning rod and scrub the inside of the barrel.

This loosens any metal fouling that has accumulated from the passage of bullets. Push a solvent-soaked patch through, followed by a clean, dry patch. Repeat this process with dry patches until they’re white when they exit the muzzle.

Use a chamber brush to clean the chamber, and take care not to leave oil or solvent in the chamber or bore.

Bore snake

A bore snake is a flexible cleaning cord that you can use when the bore is not accessible to a standard cleaning rod from the breech. It also allows you to clean the barrel without disassembling the rifle.

Don’t Neglect the Magazine

From time to time, you should disassemble and clean the box or tubular magazine of the rifle. You probably won’t need to clean the magazine that frequently unless you’re shooting in particularly dirty or sandy conditions.

.22 Rifles and Maintenance

At IFA Tactical, we know how important it is to clean your firearm at regular intervals to ensure peak performance, and we sell a variety of firearms and cleaning accessories. Call us at (586) 275-2176, and we’ll help you find the best cleaning and maintenance supplies to keep your rifle performing at its peak.