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How To Clean a Bolt Action Rifle


How To Clean a Bolt Action Rifle

Essential Tools for Cleaning a Gun

© Michael J. Simpson
Depending upon the type of ammunition that you use, a bolt action rifle can get filthy fast. Corrosive ammunition, in particular, can leave a lot of gunk in your gun. Fortunately, it is relatively simple to clean this type of weapon and I’ll even share an easy trick for preventing buildup in the barrel.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Begin by taking the bolt out of the rifle. This ensures that the gun is unloaded and it makes it possible to run the cleaning rod from one end of the rifle to the other.
  2. Spray a generous amount of cleaning solvent (I like Break Free’s CLP) into the bolt. A 5 to 10 second spray will likely be enough to get things running clean. Then set the bolt to the side on a paper towel to dry.
  3. Attach the bore brush to the cleaning rod and spray it with solvent. Run the brush through the barrel twice. There are two schools of thought on this technique—some believe that it can damage the gun to pull the brush back through the barrel and others believe that it is fine to do so. I have found that in most cases, pulling the brush back through will not damage your gun. However, you should always be sure the brush goes completely through the barrel and out the other side before pulling it back through. After brushing the solvent through the barrel, set the barrel to the side for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. While the barrel soaks, go back to the bolt and use a cotton cloth to wick out any excess solvent.
  5. After allowing the barrel to soak for several minutes, spray the bore brush with solvent again and run it back through the barrel ten times.
  6. Put the slotted end onto your cleaning rod and thread a cotton patch into it. Run it once through the barrel but do not pull it back through. With the rod still through the barrel, remove the dirty cotton patch off and replace it with a clean one. Now pull the slotted end back through the barrel.
  7. Switch back to the bore brush and run it through another ten times, followed by another swipe through with the cotton patch in the slotted end. Repeat these steps three more times.
  8. With the slotted end on your cleaning rod, run several solvent soaked patches down the barrel. Keep in mind that you will probably never get the barrel so clean that the patches come out completely white. This is fine so long as they are not coming out a bluish-green or black.
  9. Finally, take a clean swab with some light oil on it and run it through the barrel. Then take a cotton cloth and rub a few drops of oil onto the bolt before replacing it into the gun. Then rub down the barrel and receiver with several drops of oil, as well.


  1. It probably goes without saying, but safety is the most important consideration before cleaning any kind of weapon. The first rule of gun safety is that you treat every gun as if it is loaded. Accidents happen far too frequently because someone believes they are handling an unloaded gun.
  2. While regular use will ensure a dirty gun, there is one trick for keeping corrosion to a minimum and making your rifle easier to clean. Keep a small bottle of window cleaner (such as Windex) with you when you are using your rifle. When you are finished shooting, spray the Windex down the barrel several times and then shoot one final round through the barrel. This neutralizes the corrosive material until you are able to give the rifle a thorough cleaning.

What You Need

  • Paper towels
  • Cotton cloths
  • Cleaning rod with a bore brush and a slotted end
  • Cotton patches
  • Cleaning solvent
  • Gun lubricant/oil
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