Fouling And GI Bore Cleaner

Oh Oracle of all things in the scattergun universe…

Thought that might get your attention.

Recently I returned from a day at the range and promptly began cleaning my Beretta 391 and SKB 600 which had both had seen duty that day. I was really surprised at the amount of gunk in the barrels of both guns.

I had previously used Hoppe’s solvent to clean and then lightly swabbed with Breakfree CLP. This time I used a Vietnam era Marine Corps issued can of ‘Bore cleaner rifle’ because I had run out of Hoppe’s. The gunk in the barrel literally fouled the bronze bore brush so much that I had to clean the brush between initial passes. The stuff was pretty sludgy in consistency but seemed to clean up easily.

I had never noticed this excess fouling before and am wondering if something in the loads I was using was the culprit or possibly the bore cleaner used just did a better job than the Hoppe’s, and whether this buildup could become dangerous during the course of an outing.

I can say that the chrome barrels in the SKB are about as clean as I’ve ever seen them. I also noticed that the forcing cone in the Beretta and the choke tube cleaned up rather easily using the GI solvent. I had fired 75 rds through the Beretta on trap and had run 25 through the SKB on my first round of skeet (man what a game, but that’s another story). I was using reloads carefully prepared in my garage. In true reloader fashion these hulls had seen much experience and I have retired some of them after this outing. I suspect that the excessive fouling may be due to the loads and the use of Green dot but I want to make sure I’m not playing a risky game in regards to fouling.

Your insight, as always, is much appreciated.


Dear Rob,

“Oh Oracle of all things in the scattergun universe…”? I just love it when you talk dirty. To my wife, I just the guy who takes out the garbage, but to my readers I’m an Oracle. Gotta love this internet stuff.

Your question on fouling is a tough one to answer as it is a question of degree. Obviously, a 100% totally “fouled” barrel would result in complete barrel blockage and probably a burst barrel on the next shot. A very slightly fouled barrel is of no consequence. In between is in between. It all depends on how much fouling there is, where the fouling occurs, the strength of the next shell and the construction and condition of the barrel. In short, I’m waffling and can’t give you an answer because it all depends.

One thing’s for sure, you never go wrong starting each shooting session with a clean barrel. That’s just common sense. I’m probably even more slothful than the next guy and sometimes let my barrels go longer than they should before cleaning. I’ve never had anything come apart in my hands, but I’ve probably suffered degraded patterns. Once I was testing soft shot spreader loads with the petals cut off the wad. After 50 of those through an auto, you wouldn’t believe the pile of lead shavings that a Tornado brush pulled out. Nothing seemed damaged and I probably lucked out, but I certainly don’t recommend it.

As to GI Bore Cleaner, why not. Hoppe’s smells great, but it isn’t all that strong. BreakFree CLP is fine, but it isn’t a totally dedicated bore cleaner so some compromises in speed and strength have to be assumed. You can be sure that Uncle Sugar tested the heck out of the bore cleaner in the OD can.

I’ve had good luck with standard toxic Shooter’s Choice and some of the new non-toxic biodegradable Sports Care cleaners and lubes the manufacturer sent me. Pretty soon all that toxic stuff we use today will be outlawed and we’ll have to go to non-toxic cleaners. The big advantage that they offer is that you can clean guns in your cellar and not get gassed to death. They are still pretty expensive though. Perhaps prices will come down as they become mandated and more makers come into the market. It sure hasn’t happened with non-toxic shot though.

I do find that the type of bore cleaner is only part of the solution. Vigorous application of a Tornado brush or a standard bronze brush on an electric drill can do wonders if you let the bore solvent soak for a bit before the brushing starts. That ten minutes of soaking before brushing can make all the difference if you can spread the bore cleaner all around the barrel so that it can work it’s magic.

As to what causes the fouling, I find that the quality of the wad is usually the prime culprit in shells of standard velocity. Cheap wads and slightly rough barrels are an ideal breeding ground for fouling. Your chrome barrels in the SKB and Beretta aren’t rough and your wads aren’t cheap. The recipe you give me with standard amounts of Green Dot and a factory W12AASL wad shouldn’t cause abnormal problems at all. Green Dot isn’t super clean, but it’s not that dirty. My guess is that the excessive fouling you experienced was left over from previous partial cleanings and the GI bore cleaner was the first time you really got everything out. You will know that for sure once you have gone through several shooting/cleaning cycles with that bore cleaner.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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