Magic Bore was developed to remove heavy fouling now found in bigger barrel diameters, so Richard Atkins was keen to discover how it worked
Gunmakers have been the most inventive of people, developing new products in an effort to give us better performance, reliability and more choice. But ingenuity is not confined to gunsmiths, some shooters take the time and make the effort to develop new products to meet our needs. One such person is a keen and successful Sporting shooter, Mike Bartlett, who has a design degree and engineering background. Mike spent over a year designing and developing the Magic Bore shotgun cleaning system. He demonstrates Magic Bore at all the shoots he attends around the country.
There’s always a reason for any budding entrepreneur to put months of time and a lot of money into developing a new product. In Mike’s case it was a simple one: cleaning his gun after each shoot was messy and was taking him far too long. You can pull a bore snake through your barrels and have it in the cabinet in a couple of minutes but how clean is it? That depends upon the gun and, more specifically, its internal bore profile. Mike’s experience is that, bore snakes can be useful, quick to use and better than leaving dirty, but it is just not possible for them to remove all the fouling.
Another aspect I have witnessed is the surprising number of shooters who do not realise that there is serious fouling still in there gun’s barrel bores – even after they have cleaned them.
Fouling can be harder to spot than many realise. It’s easy to focus too far down the bores, see the long shiny section and conclude all is clean. However, if you hold the barrels a few inches away from your eye and at a slight angle (not directly down the centre of the bore) then focus your eye just past the chambers: that is where the worst fouling builds up. This fouling can become polished by subsequent cartridges fired and then by inadequate cleaning which makes it blend in better with the shiny bore.
It’s important to realise is that underneath the fouling – be it plastic fouling from plastic wads or lead fouling from using fibre wad cartridges – is where corrosion or staining begins. If not removed, burnt powder residues are trapped beneath it, potentially for a long time. Chromium plated bores provide some resistance to rusting but not total protection.
Modern barrel bore profiles
Almost anyone owning a fairly modern gun with over-bored barrels (with 18.6-18.8mm diameter) and especially with elongated forcing cones will have experienced greater levels of fouling build up than was usually the case with conventional standard bore sizes with short forcing cones. Cones were often no more than 12-20mm long in years past, which appear quite abrupt compared with modern some elongated cones. They increased to around 2in in length (50mm) to improve patterns with modern ammunition, but since those early experiments some makers now offer guns with cones over 450mm long.
Mike uses a Browning B525 for Sporting competitions. This has the larger bore size now standard in Browning shotguns plus lengthened forcing cones that Browning calls Vector Pro. He shoots often, attending several competitions in a weekend. He initially experienced heavy plastic fouling in his barrels that required considerable time and effort to remove.
When using fibre wad ammunition, as some Sporting grounds require, he also experienced lead fouling that proved particularly difficult to remove. He tried buying 10-gauge phosphor bronze bore brushes and 10-gauge Payne Galway brushes, but he still found the process arduous and time consuming while getting filthy in the process.
Proprietary bore cleaners make the process a little easier but this is not because bore cleaners can dissolve lead deposits – any chemical capable of dissolving lead you would not wish to put in your steel gun barrels. Bore cleaners help swell and soften plastic fouling and allow the tight brushes to move more easily – easing the process of a great many brush stroke. As Mike discovered, even after lengthy brushing and much elbow grease, his bores still showed signs of fouling, so he set about designing something to easily remove heavy fouling in modern over-bored/back-bored guns.
What is Magic Bore?
Magic Bore still relies on phosphor bronze brushes but their design, construction, materials and dimensions have all been rigorously tested and developed to be used in a different way to those brushes we know so well. Standard pattern brushes have served shooters well for a long time and will continue to do so, but for modern barrel profiles and ammunition there is a better way.
Standard brushes are made to suit standard size bores, they also do not usually like having the direction of stroke being altered while still inside the bore. If you do this too often a standard brush will distort with a flattened edge forming along its length, such that those bristles no longer touch the bore and cannot take part in the cleaning.
The Magic Bore kit may initially look like a GT version of a standard cleaning kit but there is much more too it than meets the eye. The key to how it works is the brush. This is larger in diameter than a standard 12-gauge brush but the material used, and the way the brushes are wound in manufacture, enable the phosphor bronze brush to have its direction reversed within the bore and not become flattened along one edge. Developed in conjunction with a specialist brush manufacturer, the Magic Bore brush is able to be used very vigorously, to heat up the barrel in the process, which eases plastic fouling removal considerably. The standard Magic Bore works well with all bore sizes and gets a considerable amount of the fouling in oversize bores out quickly, but for those with guns that have long forcing cones, there is a powered version that cuts the time of cleaning these areas considerably.
The standard Magic Bore brush rod is long, strong, with a substantial and sturdy (removable) handle which is knurled for easy gripping. The full length of the two-part rod is covered with a special micro-fibre sheath, from handle end to brush, which also aids cleaning and polishing and removes the debris that the brushes remove. This sheath is replaceable after considerable use. A large plastic washer is positioned between the handle and rod, so the metal handle cannot touch any part of the barrel. The tip of the brushes have a sturdy plastic tip so they cannot harm the bore (or breech of a semi-auto if cleaned assembled). The rod itself is guaranteed for a lifetime of use.
The removal of debris is important for keeping your barrel bores in good order, however, it also serves another purpose that becomes obvious when demonstrating the product. Mike invites anyone who has cleaned their gun after shooting and put their gun away to have a run through with the Magic Bore. The owner often can’t believe the mounting pile of debris that builds up after cleaning their gun again with Magic Bore.
I met with Mike and he showed me the process. I was testing a new clay guns that had over 450mm long forcing cones that I was unable to clean effectively. In under two minutes Mike gave it a thorough clean that had the bores (including the almost 10-bore diameter forcing cone entry) sparkling clean. He did this by first using the standard hand kit followed by the shorter version, designed especially for over-bored guns, powered by any DIY electric drill with a slow speed option.
The brushes in the power version are not the same as for the hand rod, they are larger diameter (to fit lengthened 12-gauge forcing cones) and are strongly constructed. Do not try using this on the hand rod or you will get it stuck. A few seconds of the powered rod, with or without bore cleaning fluid, will bring the bores and forcing cones to a mirror brightness, quickly, with minimal effort and without becoming covered in fluids and debris.
There is also now a field kit that has been designed and produced due to demand for loaders and or travellers, which is a half-length kit which you assemble. All versions fit securely into a strong plastic tube for easy carrying in a car boot.
I confess, when I first heard about the system I was sceptical. I have an engineering background before becoming a firearms writer and I wanted to check if it worked as well as Mike claimed: I have and it does. I don’t give my endorsement to any product lightly but having experienced how fast Magic Bore removed copious lead fouling from some long forcing cones I am convinced it works well and am happy to state and say so.
Magic Bore costs more than the standard rod and brush sets but this is no ordinary cleaning kit. Build quality is excellent and I’m sure many of those struggling with heavy lead and plastic fouling will feel its cost as money well spent.