As part of learning about how to maintain rifles, you may have read up on using bore snakes. However, if you own an air rifle, you might be wondering how to use a bore snake to clean your air rifle. You might be wondering whether you should even be using one! There's quite a bit of debate around the use of bore snakes as a whole. Some people love them for their ease of use whilst others just hate them!
First up, air rifles don't need as much cleaning as a normal rifle - you won't need to clean it after every use. Air rifles don't get carbon deposits building up from gunpowder or metal filings from jacketed bullets. Some shooters using an air rifle with a lead barrel though might find they get a small but regular build up of lead deposits.
Also, air rifles can collect dirt in the bore from the oil in the barrel, which can get there from many causes. In spring guns, the mechanism puts it there (through the transfer port). In pneumatics and gas guns, the pellets are sometimes oiled, whilst some pellets come pre-oiled or waxed. The good thing is that every pellet you shoot actually scrapes out the deposits left behind from the previous pellet. The overall build up is therefore usually minimal.
So technically, air rifle barrels do get dirty! Luckily the majority of deposits created don’t remain inside (except from the last pellet). Although you shouldn't have to clean your air rifle often, there may be times where you feel there is a need to give it a quick clean. You might be finding that the accuracy seems a little off or you might want to make sure there's nothing left over from the manufacturing process if it's a new air rifle. For these instances a bore snake can be a great option - as long as it's a brushless one!
As airgun barrels are made of softer steel, they do not need the copper brush that comes as part of a standard bore snake. Brushless air rifle bore snakes only come in a .177 cal size, so the below video shows a quick and easy way to remove the copper brush from a .22 cal bore snake. This will make it suitable for use in .22 or .25 cal air rifles.
At the tag end of the bore snake, there is a brass weight that helps guide the bore snake into and through the barrel. For reference, it should be stamped with the corresponding calibre or gauge of weapon the bore snake is designed for. Remember to check the size prior to using so you don't use one that's too large and it gets stuck!
Drop the brass weight into the breach and feed the cord in, letting gravity do the work. Depending on the type of air rifle that you are using, you may need to cut the brass weight down if it doesn't fit through the breach. Once the brass weight comes out the other end, grab it and pull the main part of the bore snake through the barrel. The long floss part of the bore snake actually covers about 160 times more area then a conventional cleaning patch, so you will most likely only need to pull it through once or twice.
Although it's unlikely to occur with the copper brush removed, if your using a larger size bore snake it may feel a bit snug. If you decide to use a bore snake and are having difficulty pulling a bore snake through, there's a couple of options to make the process easier:
- mount the rifle on a gun stand to create a solid base whilst pulling the bore snake
- drop the brass end through the barrel so that the brass end lays on the floor, place your foot on the brass end of the snake while standing and then pull your gun up towards the ceiling - the idea being the snake becomes stationary instead of the gun.
Other Air Rifle Cleaning Options
If you are looking for something else that is even quicker and simpler to clean your Pneumatics or Co2 air gun, you could also try some Air Rifle Cotton Cleaning Pellets. These cotton pellets are an easy and fast way to remove pesky dirt and lead buildup from your barrel. Just load and shoot them out through the bore like a normal pellet.
Perfect for use out in the field to help maintain performance by removing lead fouling if you're noticing that your aim is starting to become a little off. You can even oil them up slightly before using to lubricate the barrel a bit. You can use the "sandwich" technique and sandwich 1 or (preferably) 2 pellets each with a drop of your cleaner of choice between 2 dry pellets and fire these. You could consider these the lazy man's way to clean his air rifle, as it's even quicker then using a bore snake!
The ones shown below are made by Gamo for a .22 cal
Remember, these are still are projectile! So even though they may be softer than a normal pellet, they can still do some damage. Always be mindful of where you are aiming when shooting these through. Also, you may need to check if these are suitable if your air rifle has any kind of baffle on the end of the barrel (which is common in .22 air rifles). It is possible that they may contact the baffle on exit or even get stuck and end up damaging the rifle.