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How to Break In a Rifle Barrel

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February 02, 2012
How to Break In a Rifle Barrel - 6

A few months ago, I received this note from reader Jon Morigi in Farmington, PA:

"What do you suggest is the proper break-in procedure for a new rifle? I have read several procedures over the years and don't know which is correct. Is there a different break-in for blued versus stainless?"

Here's the short answer: If you clean your barrel every 10 shots or so for the first 50 rounds, you can rest easy at night and, no, there's no need to differentiate between stainless and blued barrels. 

Here's the longer version: There's little agreement on how to break in a barrel, and that right there should be a clue that this isn't a rigid science. (One well-known barrel maker told me the only reason he ships barrels with instructions for this, which he made up arbitrarily, was to stop the calls from customers bugging him for the information before he had a break-in process.) 

In practical terms, breaking in is done to smooth out any rough spots in the barrel by depositing some copper fouling along its length. But without knowing the condition or quality of the rifling of your barrel before you start, you can't tell how much breaking in you should do--or if the barrel will benefit from the process at all. The best course of action is to clean your barrel periodically in the beginning and see if it settles in and delivers better accuracy. 

Comments (6)

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from horsethief wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

The rough spots in the rifling, if any, take an unknown number of shots to smoothen. Cleaning every 10 or so rounds during a "break in" might be plenty, maybe even too much. After you're satisfied with the way your rifle is performing its safe to say the barrel is broken in. A mark against the shooter's confidence is a particular load/bullet type might not group well at all, causing the shooter to think something is wrong when it is not. More importantl, clean out the bore when you finish shooting and you're putting the rifle away for a long period. If you hunt with a squeeky-clean bore, your first shot is likely not to be where you want = a dirty bore, made from a fouling shot, is way better than a fresh bore.

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from 25-06 guy wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

I don't think there is a different procedure for a blue or stainless barrel, but the amount of cleaning that it takes to smooth out the imperfections. Stainless is harder than the blued barrels. I have talked to some old school bench rest shooters and they say they would never shoot a stainless barrel for this reason. I have 2 stainless rifles a 25-06 and a 300 saum when trying to find a good hand load to shoot, it took several times at the bench to do this and after many cleanings the loads I found for both rifles ended up being the first loads I tried, Which did not shoot very well before. Also the amount of copper fouling was greatly reduced. (JM Farmington)

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from Ruckweiler wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

One of my Grandfathers was a gunsmith and my Dad never mentioned anything about breaking in a barrel as he was teaching me to shoot. Used to sell cars a few years ago and some of my older customers would ask me about the same thing. Rifle barrel break-in may have been something from long, long ago, I'm guessing.

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from rob wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Quite a few years ago my dad bought a 25-06 from Dale Goens, one of the custom rifle greats. Dad asked him what he should do to break in the barrel. Dale looked at him and said, "Well, I'd go shoot it." Ok.
That gun is one of the single most accurate rifles I've ever laid my hands on. It was cleaned of oil and gunk before the first round went down the barrel, but after that, being true to my dad's nature, cleaning of the bore has been intermittent at best. And it really shoots.

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from 6phunter wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

clean and change oil after 300 rounds,if bullets start drifting ,realign sights,

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from officerdom1987 wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

I personally don't see a reason to have a break in period for a manually ejected spent shell firearm (such as a rifle with a bolt). I can understand a breaking in period with a semi-auto firearm that has a tight recoil spring. I never heard of any differences in accuracy because of a new barrel in either blued or stainless.

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from 25-06 guy wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

I don't think there is a different procedure for a blue or stainless barrel, but the amount of cleaning that it takes to smooth out the imperfections. Stainless is harder than the blued barrels. I have talked to some old school bench rest shooters and they say they would never shoot a stainless barrel for this reason. I have 2 stainless rifles a 25-06 and a 300 saum when trying to find a good hand load to shoot, it took several times at the bench to do this and after many cleanings the loads I found for both rifles ended up being the first loads I tried, Which did not shoot very well before. Also the amount of copper fouling was greatly reduced. (JM Farmington)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from officerdom1987 wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

I personally don't see a reason to have a break in period for a manually ejected spent shell firearm (such as a rifle with a bolt). I can understand a breaking in period with a semi-auto firearm that has a tight recoil spring. I never heard of any differences in accuracy because of a new barrel in either blued or stainless.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rob wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Quite a few years ago my dad bought a 25-06 from Dale Goens, one of the custom rifle greats. Dad asked him what he should do to break in the barrel. Dale looked at him and said, "Well, I'd go shoot it." Ok.
That gun is one of the single most accurate rifles I've ever laid my hands on. It was cleaned of oil and gunk before the first round went down the barrel, but after that, being true to my dad's nature, cleaning of the bore has been intermittent at best. And it really shoots.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruckweiler wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

One of my Grandfathers was a gunsmith and my Dad never mentioned anything about breaking in a barrel as he was teaching me to shoot. Used to sell cars a few years ago and some of my older customers would ask me about the same thing. Rifle barrel break-in may have been something from long, long ago, I'm guessing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from horsethief wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

The rough spots in the rifling, if any, take an unknown number of shots to smoothen. Cleaning every 10 or so rounds during a "break in" might be plenty, maybe even too much. After you're satisfied with the way your rifle is performing its safe to say the barrel is broken in. A mark against the shooter's confidence is a particular load/bullet type might not group well at all, causing the shooter to think something is wrong when it is not. More importantl, clean out the bore when you finish shooting and you're putting the rifle away for a long period. If you hunt with a squeeky-clean bore, your first shot is likely not to be where you want = a dirty bore, made from a fouling shot, is way better than a fresh bore.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 6phunter wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

clean and change oil after 300 rounds,if bullets start drifting ,realign sights,

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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