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Do fouled barrels shoot better?

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britrifles View Drop Down
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    Posted: May 17 2019 at 4:41pm
I’ve read on a few other forums statements like: “don’t show up to a match with a clean barrel”, or “it takes a while for a rifle with a clean barrel to settle down and shot good”.  This is not in reference to bench rest quality barrels, but Vintage military rifles like the LE, 1903 Springfield and M1.

I’ve always cleaned the barrel well after I shoot.  I’ve used different methods and solvents, but I generally get the barrel free of powder and copper fouling after every time I shoot.

Is cleaning the bore really necessary?  Do fouled barrels shoot better?  Does a barrel last longer if it is kept clean and free of powder fouling?  

Below is the first target I shot at 200 yds today with my Long Branch No. 4 Mk 1/3 with a squeaky clean bore.



Is this typical for me?  Yes.  The first three shots from a cold and clean bore went into the x ring.  Next two shots were a bit to the right, but that was totally my fault with poor trigger follow through.  I shot 60 rounds today and some of that in rapid fire, so the barrel did get hot.  The group center does not drift with this rifle during a shooting session as it heats and becomes fouled.  

I’m interested in hearing from others who target shoot and what your experience is.  


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goosic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 17 2019 at 5:08pm
Before I get down to doing anything accuracy wise in front of a target I will purposely foul the barrel. This was something taught to me by my father who was a Army Sniper. Even when we went deer hunting,we would run ten rounds down range of camp before setting  out that morning. We always clean the rifles when we are done until the next foray.  His theory was like many who do the same thing. The fouled barrel tends to grip the bullet better as it is spiraling down the barrel,allowing for better trajectories. When I start my shooting I will center the first shot and watch as the bullets progress to the center. After ten shots, I start the real work. That is when the groups tighten up. Most of you have seen my targets, and the ones you have seen are after I have fouled the barrel. This is ten shots  from a fouled barrel.  100 yards respectively , all inside a 1 inch square...
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britrifles View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 17 2019 at 5:57pm
It might be that shooting prone with iron sights the subtle improvement as the barrel fouls is not noticeable.  

Goosic, do you actually see an improvement as the barrel fouls, if so, by how much?  I can’t detect any improvement in my rifles, if there is any.  I may not a good enough shooter to see the difference.  

I’ve only been able to shoot 1 inch or better groups with my No. 4 shooting off the bench with a scope.  Prone with service aperture sight, the best I have done is about 1.5 inches for 10 shots, more typically 2 inches.  From clean or fouled bore.  

We get 5 sighters shots in the VMR match for the first stage, Slow Fire Prone.  But they always seem go into the main group.  



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goosic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 17 2019 at 6:42pm
It is noticable enough for me to watch each bullet migrate to center until they no longer do and settle down into a uniform grouping. That is with a scope bu the way. I have never checked with open sights. From personal experience I know that if I want a sub moa,that barrel is going to be dirty.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SW28fan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 17 2019 at 8:19pm
It was the norm to have fired one (or more) round before a match as a fouling shot. I don't know how much it really matters but there may well be some (few, many or most) rifles that have a significant change in the point of impact between a clean bore and a fouled one.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2019 at 7:29am
Its easy to check. Fire a few 5 round groups from a fouled bore & put them by.
Now fire the same quantity of bullets through a clean, cold barrel swabbing between shots & waiting for the barrel to cool.
Now compare the two sets of targets.

I don't think you'll see massive changes, but there will be some.

I always clean thoroughly after firing, but I also fire 2 "warming & fouling" shots before I shoot for record.
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2019 at 9:26am
Shooting prone, the first 10 shots thru a cold clean barrel is usually the best group I shoot that day.  Not always, but usually.  The target I posted above was the first 10 shot group fired yesterday.  Look where the first 3 shots and last 2 shots are. Less than an inch apart at 200 yards, less than 1/2 MOA spread.  

Bench rest shooters usually clean between groups.  While many PRS shooters claim that cleaning is not necessary.  At one time, competitive shooters used bullet grease such as this to aid in accuracy.  









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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bear43 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2019 at 12:41pm
If you want to really notice the difference between fouled and clean barrels then break out a muzzleloader. All my black powder rifles get better accuracy with a fouled barrel, to a point. Enough fouling and the accuracy starts to drop. Swab the barrel once and continue on. Back when I used to deer hunt with my muzzleloaders I would always fire 2 fouling shots to start the day then clean it good that night. It makes a difference.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote A square 10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2019 at 5:32pm
my experience as well - forever we did not clean 22 cal rifles - then we did , that's when i really saw it , i still do not clean most of them , there is a fine line between seasoned and dirty - you know the difference on the target , but you gotta pay attention clean then re-season to accuracy , do not clean you competition rifle right before a match , allow time to re-season the barrel a bit , 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 19 2019 at 8:58am
Never Nikel was not an accuracy aid, at least not directly.
It was designed to reduce/eliminate nickel plating of the bore.
Unlike modern jacket fouling, back then cupro-nickel jackets were common & popular. The problem was, & is the reason we no longer use cupro-mickel) that the nickel in the alloy could not be removed easily or completely with the cleaning supplies of the time.
Its discussed here:

Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 20 2019 at 2:01am
Shamu, I should have turned the Never Nickel jar a bit further, says “ .... as an aid to higher scores”, i.e. to prevent build up of metallic fouling from the bullet jacket material.   Cupronickel wreaked havoc on accuracy when it built up in the bore, very difficult to remove and was the reason the jacket material was changed to gilding metal (copper/zinc alloy).  It took a while for the military to figure out what was causing the loss of accuracy.  

I have a similar experience with black powder cartridge rifles, my best accuracy is always starting with a clean bore and keeping the powder fouling soft with use of a blow tube between shots.  Otherwise accuracy goes to crap after about 8 to 10 shots, especially in hot dry conditions.   If I want the best possible groups, I clean after every 10 shots.  


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