It was a dark and cluttered place. It was crowded. The children were dirty and uncared for. It looked as if their parents never cleaned them. They were streaked with charcoal. Someone had smeared molten plastic on some of them, while others had strips of lead and copper hanging on them. You could sense their dejection. If only someone would come to my gun safe and clean their barrels!
Okay, I’m exaggerating…a little. My usual approach to cleaning guns is to wipe them down with an oily rag and run one or two patches with a cleaner-lubricant-preservative (CLP) product through the barrel, before I store them after a range trip. Anything with a chrome barrel usually gets a couple of patches of Ed’s Red– a home brew cleaner that does a pretty good job on everything but copper deposits. It’s not as protective as CLP, hence the use on chromed barrels, which are more immune to rust. You can see the formula on Father Frog’s page. I do make a point of cleaning the mechanisms and lubing them, so I know they will function, but the barrels don’t get what they deserve. I put them away intending to get back and thoroughly clean them later in the week. Sometimes that happens but not as often as it should.
I don’t get back, because I really don’t like cleaning guns, especially their barrels. There are always other chores to be done. My wife isn’t crazy about me being in the garage when I ought to be with my family, and she is right on that point. A lot of these chemicals smell bad and feel icky. There are often ugly warnings on the labels. You really ought to wear nitrile gloves when using most of them, but I hate wearing gloves. Did I mention I find it boring? I should feel compelled to keep our guns clean, but other stuff and my bad attitude get in the way.
I can go on like this longer than anyone can stand, and I probably already have, so I better stop. What this means is that anytime I run into a product that claims to make gun cleaning faster and easier, I get very interested. SharpShoot-R Precision Products http://www.sharpshootr.com/ has some products that make such claims, and I decided to give a couple of them a try.
One of the special treats promised by SharpShoot-R is an end to bore brushing. One of the more exciting parts of gun cleaning is shoving a brush back and forth about 6,000 times for every round fired. To make it more even more awesome, according to some experts, you REALLY REALLY should only push the brush through the bore in one direction and take the brush off after it pops out the muzzle. Pull the rod back, reattach the brush after wetting it with solvent (don’t just dunk it in the bottle because that transfers dirt to your solvent), and then brush the bore again. Every 20 or so strokes with the brush, you probably should run a couple of wet patches through to get out the dirt you loosened with the brush. Then, you continue until no more dirt comes out. You probably have to let it soak for a couple of years during the process and then resume. Are we having fun yet?
Besides the fun factor, there is also the possibility of damaging the barrel with all this brushing. SharpShoot-R makes the very reasonable claim that the fewer times we run rods, brushes, and patches down the bore, the less likely it is to harm the barrel.
SharpShoot-R makes several products. The ones I am reviewing here are Wipe-Out, which is a foam you spray down the barrel. It is white and looks and feels like a low-quality shaving cream. It costs about $15 at Amazon. The other is Wipe-Out Accelerator, which is supposed to make Wipe-Out work faster and better. It’s a liquid that you apply to a patch that is then used to coat the bore before spraying it with Wipe-Out.
There are warnings to be issued. SharpShoot-R says its chemicals can damage an oil, varnish, or shellac stock finish. It is said to be safe with modern poly-type stock finishes along with metal finishes. There are some warnings about contact with skin and other safety matters, though they aren’t as terrifying as some I’ve read. The stuff doesn’t smell bad, which is a plus.
The first thing I decided to try it on was my shotgun. It has a smoothbore barrel intended for deer and turkey hunting. I use it mainly with buckshot and slugs. Almost all of the buckshot loads I use have the plastic cups that protect the shot as it goes down the barrel, so you get better patterns. The slugs are lead alloyed with other metals to make them harder. This ammo leaves layers and layers of lead and plastic that are tough to get out without lots of solvent and brushing. I don’t think I have gotten it spotless since I bought it about 20 years ago. I’ve done classes with it, and since it is fun to shoot, I use it whenever I can afford shells. It’s had a lot of rounds out the tube. It was shamefully full of fouling, so it was a good subject to test the promise of a brush-free process.
I should point out here that Wipe-Out does not claim to be a lead or plastic solvent, but they say it will soften lead enough for you to push it out with a tight patch. They add that it will work its way under plastic in shotgun barrels, so that too can be pushed out. They do make a specific lead solvent, but I wasn’t able to locate any for this test. Since I shoot a lot of lead bullets in handguns, I plan to test it and will report when I do.
The directions say to run a patch of the accelerator through the bore and then spray it with Wipe-Out until the foam starts coming out the other end. You can use the included cone attachment from the muzzle or get a little tube and do if from the breech. It takes about a one to two second burst to fill the barrel with foam. The foam breaks down and leaves a solution adhering to the bore. They logically say to keep the barrel horizontal so it doesn’t all run out. You then go away for an hour and write copy for the blog. Return and push some patches through. If they stay clean, life is good.
Proof that sin is not rewarded, my patches came out dark gray and really ugly. Wipe-Out color codes your patches, by the way. If they are grey, like mine, you have powder fouling in the barrel. If they are blue, you have copper. If they are tan, you have carbon. When I looked through the barrel, it was obvious there were many layers of garbage in it. SharpShoot-R makes it very clear that a badly fouled gun (what, mine?) is likely to need multiple treatments, so I wasn’t surprised.
I had actually skipped the Accelerator on the first try as I wondered if one could get by without it. The second try, I used it, and I got a lot more fouling out, but still I had no clean patches. I could still see lots of garbage. Sigh. SharpShoot-R suggests an overnight soak for this sort of problem, and that’s what I gave it.
On day two, I still got dirt out. I was starting to see bits of lead on the patches, too. I could, however, now see some shiny barrel in between the layers of crud, and I began to realize just how bad I let this one get.
While the barrel was soaking, I let Wipe-Out work on some of the action parts. There are some gas rings that get a carbon and lead up and are usually a pain to clean. The carbon came right off. I did brush a bit to get the lead off, but the rings wound up cleaner than I’ve seen them since they were new. They were close to pristine. The magazine tube they ride around also picks up carbon and lead, and it cleaned much more easily than I remember ever happening. The lead (think solder) did need a little brushing, but the carbon just wiped off.
By day three, I was still getting dirty patches. Sharp-Shoot-R warns this is likely with neglected guns, so I was getting what I deserved, sigh. I decided to violate the no-brush plan and used some Ed’s Red to brush the barrel. One of the components of Ed’s Red is acetone, which is supposed to dissolve plastic wadding, which I feared was slowing down the Wipe-Out. I got the barrel pretty wet with Ed’s and brushed it 20 times. Tons of dirt and lead came out– more than I had ever gotten out before. It was obvious that the Wipe-Out had done a major job of loosening up the fouling, and I could see a lot of shiny barrel. Alas, I could also still see garbage, so I dried it out and hit it again with Accelerator and Wipe-Out.
After a long day’s soak, the patches still came out dirty, again showing gray powder residue and silver pieces of lead. I again decided to give it some more Ed’s and brushing; even more grime and lead came out than the first time. The inside was far cleaner and shinier. I was encouraged and decided to give it another night’s soak with Accelerator and Wipe-Out. This was the cleanest this barrel has been for at least 15 years. I wondered if maybe I could get it immaculate.
On the morning of day four, I ran a patch through and not much came out. I did give it some more Ed’s Red and about ten strokes with the brush. The Ed’s Red got very little extra out. The barrel looked good, but to be sure, I dried it and gave it another coat of Accelerator followed by Wipe-Out.
I came back about eight hours later, and a clean patch came out. I gave it some more Ed’s and ten more strokes and really couldn’t get anything else out. The barrel looked clean and mostly shiny. It always had a couple of rough spots, probably from machining at the factory, and I could not expect cleaners to fix that. I then did something I usually loath to do, but I figured if there was anything left, this would get it out and show whether Wipe-Out was a success. I took some 0000 steel wool and wrapped a brush with it, soaked it with Ed’s, and gave the barrel several strokes. This is a common trick used by clay bird shooters, but it makes me nervous to use something that strong. The patches afterwards, however, came out clean. I began to wonder if I had actually gotten it perfectly clean, but decided to give Wipe-Out and Accelerator two more hours soak time to see if anything else came out. It didn’t, much to my amazement. It was clean at last!
Wipe-Out was a tremendous help in getting this barrel clean. I have worked a lot harder on it several times and not come anywhere close to clean, before giving up in frustration, which is what allowed the fouling to get so thick. I do wonder if I had had more patience whether Wipe-Out would have done the job alone, but I think the brushing with Ed’s got me there faster.
My next test was on an Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 rifle. This was the standard issue of the British Army in 1941, and my sample was probably made between 1941 and 1945. I don’t know how it was used between then and now. I got it from a widow, and the bore was very nasty. The friend who brokered the deal has a borescope, so I got a good look at the inside of the barrel. It was very ugly and looked a bit like it had a layer of peeling paint in it. I discovered a similar appearing layer inside the magazine and on other small parts, and I suspected it was some sort of rust inhibitor that had been slathered over the rifle and had since dried out.
I had already spent a bunch of time cleaning it and felt I was pretty close, if not there. I had used a plethora of solvents and cleaners on it. First up was Ed’s Red, along with a bunch of brushing and many wet patches. It was still dirty, but I was making progress. I then tried a well-respected commercial cleaner that does well on copper and other fouling. When it pulls copper out of the barrel, the patches turn blue-green, and I didn’t see much of that, so I began to suspect that the barrel was actually not too dirty underneath the coating of gunk. After a bunch more patching and brushing and soaking in solvent, I cleaned it with Ed’s Red to get the other solvent out, as I’m told that it isn’t good to mix chemicals. Since Ed’s is pretty benign compared to many others, I figure it is good for removing stronger chemicals.
Next came a commercial ammonia-based solvent, noted for copper removal. It also gives you blue-green patches as it pulls out copper. Again, there was no real evidence of copper, though it got yet more gunk out.
I was still seeing stuff in the groves and wanted it gone, so I dug out a commercial, abrasive paste. It is claimed that it can’t damage barrels, but I’m leery of abrasives, even though this one is a very effective cleaner. I don’t use it much and reserve if for hard jobs that aren’t responding to other treatments. I did a bunch of scrubbing with it and then used Ed’s Red to remove the paste from the barrel. While I had made a bunch of progress before this, I finally started seeing a fairly smooth and shiny barrel with clean patches coming out the muzzle.
In case you are wondering why I used so many different products, it is because I have found that sometimes one product just works better than another on a particular bit of fouling. Perhaps some powders create a different problem to remove than others. The same could hold true for different types of bullet jackets. Often using one solvent and then another seems to break down the layers of fouling. I’m not sure of the why, but I know I often get better results with this approach. I always like to start with the inexpensive homemade Ed’s Red. It removes a lot of debris, so there is less for the expensive, store-bought stuff to deal with, which is what I mainly depend on to remove copper or lead fouling.
I hope this description of cleaning explains how clean the Enfield should have been. One of the claims from SharpShoot-R is that you can take a gun you have pronounced clean and still get more out with their products. I figured the Enfield was, despite its age, the closest thing I had to a clean gun. Ah well, so it goes. After an hour of just Wipe-Out, without using Accelerator beforehand, a nasty patch came out. Interestingly, this patch, along with being saturated with gray-colored solvent with a hint of blue, had a bunch of small flecks that looked like tiny pieces of paint. I began to wonder if they actually might have painted the inside. They use paint for the exterior finish, so why not inside? The interior of the bore was definitely brighter and smoother than it was before. It had appeared to have what could have been some pitting in the grooves, but the grooves were much better now, so what looked like pitting might have been debris stuck in the barrel.
Okay, so on went a coat of Accelerator, followed with another whoosh of Wipe-Out foam down the barrel. This time, it stayed on overnight. After the soak, I got another dirty patch, but it was a lot better than before. Treatment three appeared to be the winner. The patches that came out this time were clean.
Figuring that turnabout is fair play, I decided to see if Wipe-Out could stand against its own challenge, and I gave the bore a cleaning with Ed’s Red. I ran three wet patches through and then gave it 20 strokes with a wet brush followed with three more wet patches. The first wet patches came out clean, but after the brushing, the next patch had black stuff on it. Surprisingly, though, the following wet patches were clean, which really surprised me. I had expected more dirt. I let the barrel soak with the Ed’s Red for about 15 minutes and dry patched it. Those patches came out clean, which was a big surprise.
I was not surprised that using another solvent got out more dirt. I think it is almost impossible to get everything out of a barrel and that brushing will always bring something out. What surprised me, though, is that so little came out. My bottom line here is that not only did Wipe-Out do a good job of cleaning this barrel, it got a lot of stuff out that didn’t come out during an exhaustive cleaning. I was impressed.
My final effort was a barrel from a 1911. It had about 200 rounds of lead bullets through it. That’s not very dirty by my standards, but there was enough to be a fair test, since the bullets I have been using lately are soft and guilty of a lot of leading. This time I did start with the Accelerator, as I wanted to finish this article, and I need my bench for some other chores. A one-hour soak got out a bunch of stuff, but now I could clearly see a significant lead buildup. Argh. It needed an overnight soak.
The next morning, dirty gray patches came out with pieces of lead. The buildup was clearly reduced. I wanted to get this done, though, so I ran three wet patches of Ed’s through it. I was amazed to see a lot of lead come out. That usually doesn’t happen with just Ed’s. The Wipe-Out had to have loosened the lead, while the Ed’s helped get it out. I gave the bore two strokes with a tight brush and three more wet patches of Ed’s. The last came out clean. I could still see a little bit of lead in the bore, so I decided to see if Wipe-Out could get it out. I put in some Accelerator and sprayed in some more Wipe-Out. After about three hours, I got clean patches and could no longer see any lead. I have gotten this one this clean before, but only after a whole lot more work.
Sharp-Shoot-R says you should get five good cleanings out of the can of Wipe-Out, but that depends on how dirty your gun is. If you keep them cleaner than I do, it should go a lot further. You will be using a lot fewer patches and won’t need many brushes, so that saves some loot. The Accelerator is supposed to handle several cans of Wipe-Out, so it goes a lot further. I should point out that they also make a liquid version of Wipe-Out called Patch-Out. It promises to be more economical. It also won’t be as messy. The foam from Wipe-Out expands and can ooze out of the barrel at both ends, winding up on the floor, on the bench, or in the action. I’m not keen on that. The liquid, therefore, sounds better to me, but I wasn’t able to find it locally. I plan to order some and test it, too.
There are a lot of solvents on the market. At the moment, Brownells sells 51 bore solvents, 8 pastes, and 12 other solvents on their website. I suspect the reason there are so many is that no one has come up with the perfect one. I’ve tried about 15 or so in my lifetime. I have only kept four around, because most of them didn’t work any better than what I was used to. I’m impressed enough with Wipe-Out to add it to my cleaning kit. It isn’t “insta-clean”, alas. You are still doing some work and some waiting. I think there is still room for a brush in your kit and at least one other solvent for general cleaning. I’m partial to Ed’s Red. It’s inexpensive and works well on powder and plastic fouling. I keep an ammo can full of it and just drop stuff in to soak as well as brushing or swabbing receivers out with it. Ed’s and the brush clearly helped get the shotgun and 1911 barrels clean, though I am sure most of the heavy lifting came from Wipe-Out. I’ve never had Ed’s alone work anywhere nearly as well on lead fouling.
I want to try the other Sharp-Shoot-R products, particularly the one for lead. I think Sharp-Shoot-R has some good things going and will help me keep my guns cleaner with less work. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie