Gun maintenance may not be the most glamorous part of shooting, but it is perhaps the most important. Follow Tim Greenwood’s maintenance routine
At long last it’s here: the beginning of the clay-shooting season proper, heralded by the start of the major competitions being held up and down the country.
One of the first is the Clay Shooting Classic, to be staged at Garlands Shooting Ground from 28 May to 2 June. This year, my daughter Laura and I have been invited to attend on 31 May and 1 June, so if you have any questions or need our help, you will be able to find us lurking around the Clay Shooting magazine stand.
We will not be bringing our workshop with us, however, so it would be a good idea to ensure that you won’t need services like ours on the day.
Let’s be honest, entering these major events is never cheap, but the cost is even greater if your gun breaks down within the first couple of stands.
Don’t get me wrong, this can happen however carefully you maintain your gun, but a few hours spent on basic maintenance will seriously reduce the likelihood that you will find your lips forming that awful phrase, “If only I had…”
Of course, many regular readers will have already had their guns serviced by a competent gunsmith. If that’s you, please feel free to skip my article this month and go straight to the advice from one of the other experts in this magazine.
But if you haven’t had your gun serviced recently, take heed: a little bit of maintenance right now might save you a lot of disappointment later on.
Let’s start with the muzzle – do you have multi-chokes fitted? If so, when did you last take them out to clean them and the aperture they fit into? If your answer is more than a few months then they could be seized in the muzzle, making them impossible to remove on the shoot if you need a quick change for a long crosser or a close-in driven bird.
If you can get your chokes out, don’t be afraid to put plain, stainless steel chokes through the dishwasher. Yes, it really does work. A little fine grade wet and dry paper with some oil will then remove any other residue, and your choke could look like new again.
Next, take your barrels off the action and look up at them against the light. Be honest – are they clean and shiny, or streaked with lead and plastic? Do they look as rough as a badger’s bottom in front of the chambers?
Some people will say that dirty barrels do not affect patterns or how a gun shoots, but it’s for very good reasons that gun manufacturers invest so much time and effort into producing beautifully polished barrels.
Who would you prefer to trust, your ‘expert’ mate who boasts that they never clean their gun, or the people who actually made the gun in the first place?
There are plenty of excellent products on the market that are specifically designed for cleaning your barrel (WD40 is not one of them; it’s great to wipe over your metalwork to prevent rust but useless for removing lead and plastic fouling).
Laura and I prefer those that smell of pear drops. These contain cellulose thinners that really eat into fouling. Good examples include Phillips Gun Barrel Cleaner and 009 bore solvent.
To put these to use, swab your barrels through or spray a little solvent up them from the chamber end, then leave the solvent to work for ten minutes. Then, using a phosphor bronze brush, scrub the inside of the barrel backwards and forwards from chamber to muzzle (always make sure you have multi-chokes in the gun if applicable).
Next, put a piece of kitchen roll into the chamber and push it through the barrel with a patch over the outside of your brush. If your barrels are not clean, repeat the process, but if after several passes they are still not shiny, it may be worth consulting a gunsmith for advice.
After cleaning the barrels, it is worthwhile checking the chambers by pushing a piece of white tissue into the barrel breech as far as possible with your finger. The tissue will help reflect the light and show any dark marks that may be pitting, or any roughness in the chambers.
Rough chambers are one of the reasons guns fail to eject and could put extra strain on your ejectors, causing them to break. If your chambers are rough, consult a gunsmith – don’t attempt to remove the marks yourself.
With most popular makes of gun, removing the ejectors is quite straightforward. Older Berettas require the ejector to be compressed using a cloth, after which a simple twist disengages the ejector from the breech.
A Perazzi ejector can be removed by compressing the ejector against the side of a bench then using tweezers or a small rod to pull out the disc that secures it. Please be careful with both of these guns.
The ejectors are sharp and behind them are strong springs with a guide that can easily ping across the room. This can be the cause of a lot of bad language during the search for this elusive piece.
Both Browning and Miroku ejectors are very simple to remove (the Browning B25 is an exception) and there is no risk of bits pinging away during the process.
To do this, begin with the ejector nearly fully extended, and use a small screwdriver to undo the retaining screw in the hole on the ejector’s side. Then, pull both parts of the ejector away from the breech. Before re-assembling your ejectors, clean the aperture they fit into using a soft cloth and cotton buds, then re-grease these areas.
We always recommend and use grease rather than oil because it stays where it’s put and doesn’t run into the woodwork or action.
Finally, wipe the action face and breech, then, if possible, remove your pad or butt plate and insert a socket, stock key or screwdriver to check that your stock is tight.
While carrying out all this work cannot guarantee a breakdown-free shoot, it may at least help to ensure your gun is performing at its best for a major event. After all, you can’t break clays if your gun breaks down.
Before ending this month, I must tell you about another important event we recently became part of. You may perhaps remember that we were asked to finish a 40th anniversary gun for our old friends from the southeast, Chris Potter’s?
Well, last month we were asked to finish one of Perazzi’s 60th anniversary High Tech Platinum shotguns. It was a privilege to be asked to work on this gun, celebrating 60 years of the fine guns produced by Perazzi, and I know its new owner is over the moon with the gun’s quality and shootability.
Our heartiest congratulations to Mauro, his team and all of those at RUAG who provide such excellent service to their customers.
Can Tim help you?
Tim Greenwod has more than 30 years’ gunsmithing experience and is relied on by many of the top names in clay shooting. He offers a full gunfitting service, with free help and advice to Clay Shooting readers. He can carry out any work needed on your stock, barrels or action, including servicing and maintenance.