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Got the Gun Cleaning Blues?

by Scott E. Mayer   |  September 23rd, 2010 1

See if this new solvent is the cure.

Whenever there’s a new bore-cleaning product on the market that promises to make cleaning easier, faster or better, I’m usually eager to give it a try. Between those new products coming on the market, though, I typically don’t clean my gun bores unless they start to shoot poorly.

Earlier this year, the subject of bore cleaning came up on the Guns & Ammo forums, and one of the members asked if I’d try his new bore cleaning product, Deaton’s Deep Clean. Deaton’s is an ammonia-based liquid solvent for removing copper, lead and powder fouling. It requires the use of a bore brush, should not be left in the bore for more than 15 minutes, and unlike most solvents, does not say to repeat as necessary. It also has lubricating and preserving qualities, although those claims are not made on the packaging.


Mayer wasn’t out to gore anyone’s ox, and the competing products were unknowing participants, so he called them products A, B, C and D.

Since there is no standardized “test” to my knowledge for cleaning products to pass or fail, I decided to do a comparative analysis between Deaton’s and several popular, name-brand cleaners on the market. I’m not out to gore anyone’s ox, and the competing products were unknowing participants, so I’ll just call them products A, B, C and D. All of the products used, including Deaton’s, recommend coating the bore with oil or other rust-preventing product after cleaning.

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Product A is a popular one-step foaming cleaner. Its claim is that you simply spray the foam down the bore, let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, patch out the fouling and repeat as necessary.

Product B is one of the new biodegradable cleaning gels that claims to leave a chemically clean bore in minutes. It recommends the use of a brush, and like the gel, says to repeat as necessary.

Product C is a non-embedding bore paste that is aggressive on fouling, but will not harm the bore. Instructions say to patch the bore with a light gun oil before using this paste, and to repeat as necessary.

Product D is a new non-toxic, biodegradable, non-flammable formulation of an old favorite liquid solvent. The new formulation is applied from a pump spray bottle. Instructions recommend the use of a bore brush, and to repeat as necessary.

Initially, I set up a comparison using 10 rifles that had varying degrees of existing fouling. The plan was to assign two rifles to each cleaning product, and to give each rifle only one cleaning treatment. After using a cleaning product, each rifle would be hooked up to an Outer’s (now Gunslick) Foul Out, and the time it took for each bore to read “clean” recorded.


The Foul Out is an electrochemical bore cleaner that uses an electrolyte solution and electricity to basically “reverse plate” copper from the bore to the “cleaning rod.”

The Foul Out is an electrochemical bore cleaner that uses an electrolyte solution and electricity to basically “reverse plate” copper from the bore to the “cleaning rod.” For my comparative purposes, the less time it took to read “clean” on the Foul Out, the less fouling I considered remaining in the bore after using a cleaning product. With those comparative times, it would be possible to objectively compare how Deaton’s does as a cleaner.

After the first five guns, it became obvious that comparison was not going to provide useable results. Two of the rifles had very high quality barrels that came clean very quickly while old Mausers stubbornly held on to their copper. Further, some bores were button-rifled, others cut; some rifles had been fired with bullets having copper jackets, some with gilding metal jackets, and there might have even been a few moly-coated bullets fired through some of the guns since the last cleaning. All of that presented too many variables to make a meaningful comparison.

As a new test, I chose to use only one rifle to eliminate the bore variables encountered in the earlier test. The process was to foul that rifle with a consistent number of shots of a given load, clean once with one of the cleaning products according to its instructions, and then see how long it took on the Foul Out to read clean. The process would be repeated for each cleaning product.


To keep things consistent, when patches were called for, Mayer used only new Brownell’s round cotton patches on a brass jag. Brushes used were exclusively Brownell’s nylon and a new brush was used with each cleaning product.

To further keep things consistent, when patches were called for, I used only new Brownell’s round cotton patches on a brass jag. Brushes used were exclusively Brownell’s nylon and a new brush was used with each cleaning product. Immediately after using a cleaning product and before going on the Foul Out, the bore was flushed using Brownell’s TCE Cleaner/Degreaser to remove any residual solvent that could interfere with the Foul Out. Fresh Cop Out Pl
us electrolyte was used each time the gun was put on the Foul Out, and the Foul Out rod cleaned between uses using 0000 steel wool and TCE degreaser.

For the gun, I selected a Marlin bolt-action in .22 Magnum that has Micro-Groove rifling, and opted to fire 10 rounds of CCI Maxi-Mag+V between cleaning products. The CCI loads use copper-jacketed bullets and ten rounds was sufficient to lay down enough copper to clean, but not so much that the gun would be on the Foul Out for extended periods of time.


Immediately after using a cleaning product and before going on the Foul Out, the bore was flushed using Brownell’s TCE Cleaner/Degreaser to remove any residual solvent that could interfere with the Foul Out.

The full elapsed times on the Foul Out are shown in the accompanying table. Of the bore cleaners, the biggest disappointment was Product A, the foaming cleaner. Not only did this product require the longest session on the Foul Out (suggesting that it did not do a good job of removing copper), but it also took the longest time to use, as it required a 15-minute soak to let the foam work. On the other hand, it also took the least amount of effort to use.

I was admittedly surprised at how well Product B, the gel cleaner, worked. In my experience, so-called “green” products often sacrifice efficacy when they give up toxicity. That appeared to be the case with Product D as it required the second longest session on the Foul Out, though its session was a lot shorter than the foam.


Solvent Accessories Needed Total Elapsed Time to “Clean” on Foul Out
Product A cleaning rod, patches, jag 5 hours, 29 minutes
Product B cleaning rod, bore brush, patches, jag 18 minutes
Product C cleaning rod, patches, jag, oil 33 minutes
Product D cleaning rod, bore brush, patches, jag 1 hour, 6 minutes
Deaton’s Deep Clean cleaning rod, bore brush, patches, jag 21 minutes

In hindsight, using a rifle with Micro-Groove rifling may have been unfair to Product C, the bore cleaning paste. Being a paste, it doesn’t flow deep into the grooves like a liquid cleaner, and the Micro-Grooves are so many that even a tight-fitting patch might not conform to the shape of the rifling to get the paste down into them.


Ultimately, which bore cleaner is best for you will depend on your gun and the condition of its bore, your ammo and the type of jacket material it has, and any special features you desire in a cleaner such as non-toxicity or biodegradability.

That brings us to Deaton’s. According to elapsed time on the Foul Out, it was not the best at removing copper–being bettered by the gel cleaner by only 3 minutes. That said, by following the instructions, the physical cleaning process using Deaton’s took a little less time than the gel, so which is better is probably a wash.

Ultimately, which bore cleaner is best for you will depend on your gun and the condition of its bore, your ammo and the type of jacket material it has, and any special features you desire in a cleaner such as non-toxicity or biodegradability. To find that “just right” bore cleaner, simply set up a comparative analysis that tests those attributes of importance to you, and give several products a try.

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