Gun Cleaning 101

Mike Bellm is a Thompson Contender/Encore guru who also apprenticed under the renown firearms expert P.O. Ackley for 35 years. Mike sends out an E-Mail newsletter that deals with many things firearm related besides just Thompson single shots, and I thought this section from a recent edition with advice about cleaning barrels was worth passing along. I agree thoroughly with Mike’s views on this subject, and also acknowledge his much greater expertise.

“First advice cleaning any barrel is to have it held stationary so you can give some care to centering the rod in the chamber as you push the rod through the bore.

Consider this. With a break open gun with the barrel installed, lay it flat on a piece of plywood. Mark several points along the barrel, forend, and the grip area. Screw in some long “grabber” screws. Slip pieces of rubber gas line or plastic tubing over the screws to protect the gun’s finishes. Screw or clamp the piece of plywood to a bench at about waist level. Lay the gun securely between the padded screws. This keeps the gun (barrel) from moving around and gives you much better control of the rod.

The matter of cleaning rod guides…….
I have YET to see ANY rod guide sold that actually keeps the rod OFF of the throat! If one exists, enlighten me.

The best and easiest rod guide to make is a sized case with the neck diameter reduced to fit closely to the cleaning rod and the likewise the primer pocket drilled out to match the rod diameter. Slide the case onto the rod, then with the brush or patch started into the bore, slip the case into the chamber. The reduced diameter of the neck will HOLD THE ROD CENTERED IN THE BORE AND OFF OF THE THROAT.

THAT IS WHAT SHOULD BE ACCOMPLISHED. Keep the rod OFF of the ends of the rifling at the throat.

Also, minimize dragging the rod over the edge of the crown. Crowns get cleaning rod damage also, but are easier and cheaper to “fix” than throat damage.

When all is said and done, the “Bore Snake” is actually one of the best methods for cleaning.

This is wide open.
Short version: Do more soaking and less stroking.

If copper fouling is chronically severe breaking in a barrel, use a copper solvent following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Ammoniated solvents can pit the daylights out of bores if not used carefully.

Kroil is quite popular as a solvent for loosening fouling. Lately I’ve been toying seriously with PB Blaster penetrating oil and lean toward it over Kroil at this point.

Mercury Outboard Motors used to and may still sell a spray carbon solvent that some bench rest shooters were fond of some years back. It works well as a bore solvent.

I can’t say I have used every bore solvent made, but have gone through quarts of most of the popular solvents over the years and can’t say I have found that “silver bullet” bore solvent that shines above all others. A good bronze brush with whatever solvent does the major portion of the work.

In summation,
1) Until and unless you definitely must work out some cleaning regimen to keep group sizes minimum, keep the cleaning to a minimum, meaning, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

2) Repeating, do more soaking and less stroking.

3) Pay close attention to and minimize wear and tear on the delicate throat of the barrel.

4) And the obvious, of course, is to protect the bore, whether “blued steel” OR stain less from rust and corrosion. I said stain….. less. Stainless is NOT totally rust or corrosion proof. Moisture and different metals produce the galvanic effect that feeds corrosion. Read steel and copper. Different metals.
Don’t ignore stainless barrels. Give them at least a wet patch before setting them aside.

This has been a “you asked for it, you got it” chapter and verse of Bellm that no doubt will draw flak from many quarters, but that is how I see it.

Shoot Smart,

Mike Bellm”

This information was “reprinted” with permission from Mike Bellm. To learn more about Bellm Contenders and sign up for his newsletters, go to

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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