By Bob Brownell
Fall is here and with it comes the beginning of hunting season. Nothing beats crisp, clear mornings and the comfortable afternoons with the sweep of changing colors making a trip to the fields and timbers a pure joy. I love it; the air is fresh and has that “fall” smell about it. Crops being harvested, leaves turning, and the hint of cooler weather to come.
For many of us, this is the only time our guns come out of closets and gun safes. When preparing for an upcoming hunt, you really need to get your favorite rifle or your granddad’s shotgun out and get them cleaned and sighted in.
Guns are like almost anything else; they need to be taken care of and used a little once in while to keep them in good working order and also to be sure they are safe to use. This is the key to a successful hunt: clean, safe firearms, and you and your buddies getting home safely (and the dog, too, of course), with plenty of game to put on the table is usually all most of us ask for. Besides, getting out after critters is just plain fun and it beats the heck out of holding the couch down!
For this installment of Beginner’s Bench, I decided to pull out a Remington 870 that’s been in my gun safe for longer than I care to think about and I’m pretty sure in dire need of a good cleaning before I head out hunting. With pheasant season opening this weekend here in Iowa, I decided I really needed to get it ready and also try to find a place to hunt.
When doing some research into the products I would need for this project, I spoke quite a bit with one of our Gunsmith Techs, Mike Watkins. He explained when it comes to guns, people generally are looking for a product that will give them the best overall results.
“Our customers are a very smart group of people when it comes to their firearms. They want to know what the best product is and what’s going to give them the most outstanding results for their particular project. Since you’re cleaning a 20 gauge shotgun, Brownells EZ-Soak and Brownells Shotgun Wad Solvent will both do a great job not only on a shotgun, but on AR-15’s, .22’s, and any other gun you want to clean really, really well.”
This sounded good to me and really, paying a little less for something that won’t do a superior job doesn't make sense to me either. My granddad always said, “If you’re going to do a job either for yourself or someone else, you just as well do it right the first time.” I agree; there’s nothing more aggravating than having to go back and redo something again and again. After all, before I went to college I did construction work for thirteen years pouring concrete and building houses, definitely a quality driven pursuit.
Once again, I logged on to brownells.com to check out some of the products I would need. I just typed in “Shotgun cleaning” and got lots of options to review. When cleaning the bore of a shotgun, or any other gun you own, you’ll need a handy tool called a Dewey Rod. Brownells sells a large variety of these and they come in many different lengths, calibers, gauges and materials depending on which firearm you’re cleaning. These rods come in nylon-coated spring steel for all but shotguns, or nylon-coated aluminum for shotguns to helps protect the bore; or uncoated stainless steel for all but shotguns and uncoated aluminum for shotguns. Since I was cleaning just the shotgun, I decided to go with a 34” nylon-coated aluminum shotgun J Dewey Rod which being in two screw-together sections, can be taken apart and easily stored for the next cleaning job. These also come with a removable threaded nylon patch loop, and a solid fixed handle to ensure a good strong grip on the rod when you’re running patches and brushes through the bore. Since it had been several years since I had really cleaned the shotgun, I chose a Heavy Weight Nylon Shotgun Bore Brush which come in 3 Paks or in a Pak of a dozen. These tough brushes are extra-stiff with large diameter bristles that are safe on the inside the barrel and won’t deteriorate when using cleaning solvents such as the Brownells EZ Soak and the Brownells Shotgun Wad Solvent that I’m using.
The beauty of these brushes is you can screw them right onto the end of the J. Dewey Rod when you’re ready to start cleaning. As I mentioned in the first Beginner’s Bench article, always, always check to make sure your firearm is unloaded and the safety is on before doing any work on a gun. With a Remington 870, this is pretty easy to do. Simply push in the little release button on the front of the trigger guard and pull the slide handle back. If there are any shells left in the shotgun this will kick them out. After doing this a couple of times, I left the slide back in the “open” position and this left the ejector port open so I could look inside the action to make absolutely sure there were no shells left in the shotgun.
To get started, I went into my work area which is well lighted and has good ventilation. When working with any solvents or cleaning chemicals, it’s always a very good idea to keep this in mind. Also, have some old rags, towels, or floor dry handy in case of spills.
Ready to start cleaning, I unrolled myBrownells Bench Mat, which is nice because it’s flexible, and has a non-slip backing on it. They absorb a lot of liquid without it dripping onto the bench and floor, and can be washed out after each use. The surface on these is also nice and soft so you don’t have to worry about scratching your gun. But, you've got to keep it clean.
Laying the shotgun on the mat, I unscrewed the magazine cap on the end of the magazine tube and gently pulled off the forearm. Next, slid the barrel off. The next step was to take the trigger assembly out by carefully tapping the pins out with an appropriately-sized punch. With the pins removed, simply pull lightly and the entire assembly will come right out. Whenever you’re disassembling a gun, make sure you keep track of every part you remove and try to keep each step in mind. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to keep a pen and paper nearby just in case you need to take a few notes along the way.
I assembled the Dewey Rod and screwed the Nylon Shotgun Bore Brush onto the end. Next, I got out the jar of Brownells EZ Soak and shook it vigorously for a few minutes to make sure it was mixed well. Before I go much further, I should recommend using safety glasses whenever you’re using solvents, especially with a bore brush. Once it’s coated with chemicals, you run the risk of splatter when you pull it out of the bore (imagine running your finger across a wet toothbrush.) Trust me, you don’t want this stuff in your eyes.
Placing the jar of Brownells Shotgun Wad Solvent on the mat, I dipped the brush into the liquid and started pushing it down the barrel scrubbing it back and forth a little as I went. I expected it to slide fairly easy, but I discovered it was stiff and it took some effort, probably because I was forcing the bristles to reverse in the bore. This is okay. You want to encounter some resistance when cleaning out the bore of a gun. Just to make sure it was going to be really clean, I repeated this process a couple more times.
With this done, it’s good idea to let the barrel sit for a few minutes so the solvent breaks down any more crud that’s left. I then moved on to the magazine tube. Taking a small screwdriver and slowly turning the magazine spring retainer proved to be a little more difficult. These are usually wedged fairly tightly in shotguns and I also had to make sure I didn’t have it pointing at my face when it came loose. The springs inside magazine tubes are under pressure and you don’t want this to hit you in the face if it comes flying out. With everything removed, I dipped the brush in the Brownells Shotgun Wad Solvent and ran it down the tube a couple of times. Again, I let this set for a while and I moved on to clean the inside of the receiver and the trigger assembly.
Using someCleaning Patches sized for a 20 gauge, I dipped a small part of a patch in the Wad Solvent and wiped all of the powder residue out. I also wiped down some other nooks and crannies on the barrel and choke tube I didn’t get cleaned. Remember, when you’re using these solvents make sure you don’t go overboard and slosh it all over the parts. A little goes a long way and you definitely don’t want to get any on the stock since it will take the finish right off.
Now for the trigger assembly. Taking the EZ Soak and shaking it well, I unscrewed the lid and simply dipped the entire unit in the jar. I let it soak for a few minutes and pulled it back out. I was amazed at how much dirt came off! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for a few years. Taking a nylon Super Toothbrush I lightly scrubbed entire assembly and then wiped off the excess fluid with a fresh cleaning patch. (According to Mike, unless you shoot every weekend you really only need to clean the trigger once or twice a year. This will cut down on cleaning time considerably!)
Since the barrel, magazine tube, and the receiver had been soaking for about fifteen minutes, it was time to get everything wiped down well and oiled. Taking the Dewey Rod and unscrewing the nylon bore brush, I screwed a patch loop onto the end and put a new cleaning patch through it. And ran that patch down the barrel, which came out mighty dirty. Since I was getting quite a bit of junk on the patch, I repeated six more patches through it, and they eventually came out clean, which is what you want. Taking a clean patch, I spraying it lightly with Brownells Rust Preventative Number 2, which comes in a handy pump spray bottle, I simply ran the oiled patch down the barrel. I repeated this two step process of cleaning out the solvent and then oiling with the magazine tube, and then carefully wiped down everything else that had solvent on it including the trigger mechanism to get the solvent and crud removed, then with an oiled patch for protection. Once you have everything clean and oiled, the last thing to do is wipe everything down until all the parts are fairly dry. Finally, reassemble the shotgun and you’re in business!
This ended up being a fairly simple project to take on and I was amazed at how good my shotgun looks, as well as how smooth it operates now. A few days after completing this job a group of us went out and shot some clays one gorgeous 65-degree afternoon. The shotgun performed really well after the cleaning, although I can’t say the same about my shooting abilities at clays. Anyway it’s a lot of fun. After cleaning a shotgun really well like this, keeping it clean is easy; just a little solvent, patches to clean it off, oiled patch for protection. Also, be sure to wipe all of the shotgun surfaces with a Silicone Cloth. If you do this after each shoot you’ll always be set for the next trip to the range or the fields.
Until the next time, if you have any questions about what products to use, or need a little help getting "Part A" back onto "Part B", or you just want some good gunsmithing advice, don’t hesitate to call any one of the guys in our Tech Group; they’ll steer you in the right direction. If you’re headed out to hunt this year take a friend, take your kids, or find a co-worker who’s never hunted and introduce them to this great sport. Remember, have fun and be safe!
Now, I need to find a place to hunt……………