Smyth Busters: Will Cleaning Ruin a 22 Rimfire Barrel?


Smyth Busters: Will Cleaning Ruin a 22 Rimfire Barrel?

(Image: Screenshot from video)

Some people believe you will ruin a 22’s barrel if you clean it. Hogwash! Others believe the bore must be cleaned every time you shoot it. If that were true, I’d probably stop shooting 22s! The truth, as usual, lies somewhere between the two extremes.

Back in the day, a family friend owned a gun shop, and whenever someone brought in a 22 rimfire semi-auto rifle that was having trouble functioning, he knew it needed a cleaning. Ammunition, especially 22 LR, will most certainly gunk up your action and mess things up – and the mechanism must be thoroughly cleaned to restore function. But what about the barrel?

In the video below, the Brownells folks talk about this and bust the myth.

I must take exception to the notion that a 22 LR barrel is “almost self-cleaning,” as Caleb claimed and Steve agreed to, but the fact remains that a 22 rifle’s bore can be ignored for decades without harming it — and it can be cleaned often without harming it as well, as long as it’s done properly and you don’t damage the rifling and most especially the crown.

Anyhow, here’s the video.

With their unbeatable combination of wisdom, experience, and charm, Brownells Gun Techs Steve Ostrem and Caleb Savant debunk some myths about cleaning .22 LR barrels. One myth is that cleaning will ruin a .22 barrel and it’ll never shoot accurately again. Caleb thinks this myth is the result of people cleaning a barrel from the muzzle and damaging the muzzle crown, which CAN diminish accuracy. If it’s done right, cleaning won’t damage the bore, but….. Steve’s message to the OCD contingent is lighten up – you don’t have to clean the bore every time you go to the range, unless you shoot ammo with really dirty, gunky powder. But DO clean the action every time you shoot the rifle, especially on a semi-auto. That story you’ve heard about primer residue being overly abrasive? It’s not. What about shooting a lot of lead bullets? Won’t that lead up the bore? The guys give us the straight skinny on lead fouling, too. But when you see your .22’s groups opening up, then it’s time to clean the bore!

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Editor & Contributing Writer Russ Chastain is a lifelong hunter and shooter who has spent his life learning about hunting, shooting, guns, ammunition, gunsmithing, reloading, and bullet casting. He started toting his own gun in the woods at age nine and he's pursued deer with rifles since 1982, so his hunting knowledge has been growing for more than three and a half decades. His desire and ability to share this knowledge with others has also grown, and Russ has been professionally writing and editing original hunting & shooting content since 1998. Russ Chastain has a passion for sharing accurate, honest, interesting hunting & shooting knowledge and stories with people of all skill levels.

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