Skip to main content

Should I clean my .22LR barrel?

There are many opinions, myths and vagaries about rifle cleaning. Some will tell you to clean and polish your bore after every trip to the range, others will tell you cleaning your rifle is a waste of time or a bore snake will do the trick. However, one thing’s for sure – maintaining your .22 is completely different.

What’s the difference?

Whether it’s rimfire or centrefire, some fouling is often needed to get a barrel shooting to the same, reliable point of impact. Lead rimfire projectiles are much softer copper-jacketed bullets, doing minimal damage to the bore, and¬†the lead deposits left in the barrel don’t do any harm either. Copper not only wears down the barrel, but leaving it in the bore can lead to quicker deterioration of the rifling after subsequent shots.

So, the question then becomes – if fouling is good and lead isn’t harming your barrel, why would you clean your .22?

This picture shows how a clean barrel walks to its point of impact once it fouls up.
This picture shows how a clean barrel walks to its point of impact once it fouls up.

How often to clean your .22LR barrel

I don’t personally clean my barrel very often. The standard is “when accuracy starts dropping off”. And to be honest, I’ve never got to that point. I give my .22 a couple pulls through with the bore snake and some Hoppes No. 9 after a couple thousand rounds – give or take a few. But, lead crud is nasty on the action.

I mainly shoot bolt action when I’m shooting rimfire, which means I can feel when the bolt starts getting stiff or it doesn’t feed nicely. Semi-autos tend get gummed up a bit more, as gasses from firing come back into the action. What to do? Use some bore solvent and angled brushes, cotton swabs or cloth to clean the gunk out. Every now and then disassembling the bolt or action could be necessary to ensure reliable functioning. Some shooters also like to clean up the crown, however, I shoot with a suppressor, so I’m not super-fussed on that score.

If you have any questions or tips for cleaning your rifle – share them in the comments below.


Geoff is a shooting and reloading enthusiast who would rather be at the range, but is content to write about it. He is a member of Waiuku Pistol Club, and shoots rifle, pistol and shotgun in various disciplines, occasionally, managing to get out for a hunt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *