The Cold Shot
Dr. John Woods 10.24.17
Snipers and some hunters shoot their rifles at least once before actually going afield to conduct their business. This shot is referred to as a “cold shot.” A lot of benchrest target shooters also deploy this strategy to “foul” the barrel before starting a round of competitive shooting. So, what does this “cold shot” accomplish?
When you clean a rifle barrel after a shooting session, even multiple swipes of the bore with clean patches will still leave a thin film of cleaning solution or lubricant. Once the gun barrel is left to sit for a spell, the lubricants begin to leech out of the metallic pores in the barrel. Of course, this is microscopic in nature, but it exists.
If you doubt this, let your favorite hunting rifle sit for a week after a thorough cleaning. Then, take it out and swab out the barrel again with a clean patch. What do you see on the patch? You will probably find some additional powder fouling as well as some oil residue. This is normal.
So, then, you take this rifle out to hunt or to work. Ideally it goes to the range for a sight-in session after it has been in a case or safe for some time period. Without swabbing that barrel again before shooting it once again, your first shot or several are likely not to print pinpoint accuracy. You may wonder what happened. Ideally, the barrel should have been swiped with a clean patch before shooting it again.
That cold shot (or several) serve(s) to clean out the bore of the residual “stuff” left behind from the last cleaning. This initial first shooting again after cleaning accomplishes what is called “fouling the barrel.” That is, the barrel is shot “clean,” heats up, and receives a fresh layer of powder residue and bullet jacket material.
This “fouling” actually sort of recoats the rifling lands and grooves to once again prep the barrel for further sustained accurate shots. So, after firing several initial shots only to discover the gun is not shooting its best or what you recall from the last time it was fired, continue to shoot more rounds. Most likely you will find the rifle settling back into its old standby accuracy.
This is a normal process for getting any firearm’s barrel ready for serious shooting work.