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GUNS Magazine Digital April 2011 - Page 50

For many shooters, bench time is rare and precious. It should be used for shooting, not for barrel cleaning. I JOHN BARSNESS t happens fairly frequently at my local rifle range. A guy gets all set up at one of the 100-yard benches, fires one shot, then grabs a cleaning rod and furiously brushes the bore of his new elk rifle for a minute or so. Afterward he pushes a patch or two through the barrel, then fires another shot before grabbing his cleaning rod and brushing the bore all over again. What these guys think they’re doing is “breaking in” their new rifle barrel. What they’re actually doing is wasting time, powder and bullets. The only benefit might be a minor aerobic workout, since some of them do scrub pretty hard. The modern notion that a rifle barrel simply must be broken-in before shooting any groups started with benchrest shooters. The boys who attempt to put them all in one hole noticed that most barrels shot a little better after some shooting and cleaning. This wasn’t exactly a classified secret, but benchresters search for any tiny edge possible, because benchrest matches are often decided by microscopic differences in group size. They want their barrels to be performing as perfectly as possible before their first match, so came up with a routine to quickly break-in a new bore. The most common variation is to shoot one shot, then clean the bore, then repeat this shoot-and-clean routine for at least 10 shots. After that the routine varies, depending on current advice and the shooter’s tolerance for boredom. Occasionally somebody will shoot-and-clean for 30 rounds before feeling confident that his barrel is all it can be, while other folks only shoot two or three times between scrubbings after the initial 10-shot string. The theory behind all this shooting and scrubbing is that each bullet’s passage will “burnish” the bore. The word burnish is almost always used, rather than polish, though why is a mystery, since major English dictionaries firmly state that burnish means polish. (In manufacturing, however, burnish means “the plastic deformation of a surface due to sliding contact with another object,” while polishing means knocking off the high spots with abrasives or chemicals. But bullets don’t “plastically deform barrels. Instead barrels deform bullets.) Jacketed bullets aren’t particularly abrasive, but shoot enough of them through a barrel and they do have a slight polishing effect. To polish steel, however, each bullet must actually contact the steel. This means that the bore must be very clean, with no trace of jacket material. Otherwise the bullet isn’t burnishing/polishing anything except the copper-fouling from previous bullets. the View These days some shooters even “break in” the barrels of well-used rifles. Does anybody think this pre-WWII Model 70 Winchester needs to be broken in, or that it will shoot any better if it is? 50 This is where 99 percent of the shooters who “break in” their barrel waste time. The guys observed at the WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • APRIL 2011

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