Saturday, December 17, 2011

Corrosive Clean Up

Most of the time I'm lucky and can get ammo like this for my various older pieces that is non corrosive. Unfortunately, you need to check what you buy as most surplus ammo IS corrosive. On cleaning weapons fired with corrosive ammunition, it's the salts used in the primers that is the actual culprit. It made them fairly stable and surefire, but left behind a salt residue that is hygroscopic. Naturally, that attracts moisture and holds it, so 'corrosive' to steel, for when salt combines with moisture damage starts to occur to the metal surfaces. Not much different than dipping a carbon steel tool in the ocean.

Oils or petroleum based products will not break down the corrosive salts and therefore are ineffective in cleaning or neutralizing the salt compounds. Most chemists will agree that modern bore solvents will not break down the salts. Alkaline based solvents will break down the salts, as well as simple soap and water or just plain water. Straight Ammonia will not break down the corrosive salts and can cause damage to the bore if left in too long. It may also remove metal deposits such as copper from the bore The best 'solution', no pun intended, is water. It dissolves the salts and washes them away.

There are as many ways to clean your weapons, and with what products, as there are shooters. I'm not a professional, or a gunsmith. This is just what has worked for me.

If you have some on hand -Ballistol is a water soluble cleaner originally designed for military use with corrosive primed ammunition.

Cut 3/1 of water to Ballistol, and it makes a fine bore cleaning solution. Used straight, it's a good lube and protectant. When the water in the solution evaporates, it leaves behind a protective coating.

There's also the tried and true Hoppes #9. Hoppe's is one of the few solvents that is old enough to be designed to neutralize the corrosive salts formed by corrosive primers. But what if you don't have anything like that on hand?

Some folks have tried to make their own ammonia and water based concoction to clean the bolt, bore, and any other effected areas, but frankly, an ammonia based window cleaner will work as well or better.

The point behind using Windex is twofold. The surfactant in the cleaning solution helps the water maintain contact with the salts and dissolve them, and the ammonia in the cleaner attacks the copper jacket fouling and dissolves it into a mass of 'blue goo' (picture Smurf hit by phaser set on liquidate). It's also cheaper than dirt, compared to premium rifle cleaning solution. You can even get more cheap by using a generic version of Windex, or other similar "blue" cleaners that are on sale. The spray bottle makes the perfect applicator, and if you use this stuff for household cleaning you can buy a big jug to refill the more expensive spray bottle packaging, keeping one for shop and one for kitchen.

After shooting, at the range, spray enough through the chamber and down the bore that it drips and runs out. Take care not to get ammonia based cleaners on the bluing or wood finish. It can damage them. Swab the bore clean and dry, and you are good till you can clean it normally when you are home. Some folks stop at the bore and the bolt face. You can also take it one step further and clean the disassembled bolt as well as the receiver.

Note: Cleaning with water based solvents leaves moisture behind. Sometimes it can be difficult to get it out of the tight spots and interior surfaces. This is why black powder shooters often use boiling water... it evaporates nicely on it's own. If are are particular, you can use hair dryer to warm the bolt and the receiver enough so it's warm to the touch. This helps it dry after cleaning with water. Maybe too much for some folks, but if it's needed, it's not too hard to do.

At home, remove the bolt from the rifle, disassemble and lay them out on an old clean towel. (Do not use your spouses good place mats or guests towels though I have "accidentally" cleaned something on that really ugly pink towel set someone that didn't know me very well gave me for Christmas).

Give the parts a nice even spray of the Windex, paying special attention to the bolt face.



Then wipe down with another clean rag (I like old shirts cut up), removing grime and excess cleaner .The rest of the bolt parts you would clean as you normally would after a day at the range, (You're soaking in it!) Now it's time to tackle the rest of your favorite bolt action.

Using a cleaning rod and cleaning jag, push the patch that's been lightly sprayed with the "Windex" through the barrel and remove at the muzzle end.

Now take one of your shorter cleaning rods that you'd use on a pistol with a cleaning patch loop attached to it. Place a patch in the loop, lightly spray it with the window cleaner and swab the inside of the bore and receiver. Take your long cleaning rod and jag and clean the rifle's barrel thoroughly as you normally would using your gun solvent. Then run a few dry patches throughout the rifles internal surfaces.

Take that short rod out with a fresh cleaning patch loop attached to it and soak with some gun cleaning solvent. Swab out the inside of the bore and receiver, then run some clean dry patches through the internal surfaces.

Finally, run an oil soaked patch over the internal surfaces (using some clean ones for excess), assemble the bolt back together and lightly coat with oil.

I think that's it, folks, now time for a clean up of my own.

15 comments:

  1. Brigid, that's the most beautiful K31 I've ever seen. Is the wood original? I've not seen any in such good condition!

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  2. dave - it's all original. Tam took the butt plate off of it one night when she was over and we found the piece of paper that had the name of the soldier that owned it. Swiss address.

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  3. Very nice. Thanks for the close up pictures of the bolt. How does she shoot?

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  4. I love the old timey ball n claw, cast iron bath tub. Awww, I can feel the warm/hot water melting my cares away as I sing tiny bubbles with them surrounding my every being. My glass of deliciously, silky Merlot not too far from reach. The candle light making the wine glass sparkle and casting pretty shadows on the wall.

    Had to pinch myself, I really thought I was there. A voice in my head yelled.. WAKE UP, she was talking corosive and ammo. hmmmmmmm, claw foot take me away ;)

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  5. Excellent piece, both the K31 and the article.

    Also, for emergencies like weapons getting dropped in streams, or making certain the water is out of the bolt, consider a trip to the drugstore and a cheap bottle of 90% rubbing alcohol.

    Completely submerge the bolt or pistol, anything small enough to fit in a container, and let it soak for a minute or two. Fresh alcohol grabs up it's own volume in water.

    After that, a dry rag and a bit of lube. Not really good for stock wood, but for metallic stuff a cheap and quick emergency method.

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  6. Excellent piece, both the K31 and the article.

    Also, for emergencies like weapons getting dropped in streams, or making certain the water is out of the bolt, consider a trip to the drugstore and a cheap bottle of 90% rubbing alcohol.

    Completely submerge the bolt or pistol, anything small enough to fit in a container, and let it soak for a minute or two. Fresh alcohol grabs up it's own volume in water.

    After that, a dry rag and a bit of lube. Not really good for stock wood, but for metallic stuff a cheap and quick emergency method.

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  7. Well written article, the pictures bring back memories close to 50 years ago, my first youthful re-bluing, my first stock refinishing was on a piece like that in the picture. Many warm memories evoked!

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  8. A teapot of boiling water is not only super effective against the salts, it's very fast working against cosmoline. The grease just pours out of every crevice and it's safe to use on the stock as well.

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  9. Seeing your weapon, I am completely embarrassed at the condition of my 7.7 Jap :( Guess I need to work on preservation of my lone historical piece.

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  10. Have you ever tried "Ed's Red" to clean the corrosive stuff?

    Just curious.

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  11. Good primer, and yes that is a NICE old rifle!

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  12. Interesting article. Was the person who turned you on to the Windex idea greek?
    :)

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  13. Tango Juliet mentioned "Ed's Red." One of my elders and betters -- the sort of guy who paid attention in all his science classes and then applied it on the job -- introduced me to the stuff and it has since become my go-to cleaner.

    The story of how C.E. "Ed" Harris formulated it is interesting and instructive; see for instance
    http://www.handloads.com/articles/default.asp?id=9

    My friend also liked a popular folk concoction of equal parts rubbing alcohol, ordinary drugstore-strength hydrogen peroxide solution, and Murphy's Oil Soap for cleaning shotguns after a black-powder trap day. He kept a spray bottle of it in his shell bag for a few cooling squirts into the bore between shots, too.

    His guns lasted and worked well despite 75-300 drams of concentrated flaming evil going through them one Saturday a month, so he must have been onto something...

    Additional commentary on firearms nostrums may be found at
    http://www.frfrogspad.com/homemade.htm#Bore%20Cleaner

    Though it's doubtless unnecessary for the regulars here, one never knows who will read Internet postings. Therefore I feel obliged to add that chemicals with powerful intended effects often have powerful side effects. (Sort of like guns, eh? The same friend liked to tell his classes, "Of course guns are dangerous. That's why we have them.") Learn about the ingredients and what they can do to your gun (especially plastic, lacquered, or in a few cases even aluminum bits); open flame; indoor air quality; or you. Also, a minute to grab your eye protection is time well spent when using even fairly innocuous chemicals; rubber gloves, for suitable values of "rubber", can also make cleaning time more pleasant.

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  14. I thought all Swiss ammunition (591-1100, anyway) was non-corrosive since the early 20th century. An excellent procedure, nonetheless.

    I found the name under the buttplate of my K31, and since it was built in the 50's, I figured I'd do some research. I've had a running correspondence with my rifle's first owner for the last 6 years or so. Nice guy; lives in Montreux by the lake. Likes jazz.

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  15. I have one of the K31's as well...have not shot it, but it is a lovely rifle...I just need to find the bayonet.

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