Properly Maintaining a Bolt Action Rifle
Just yesterday morning, I was talking to a friend who was telling me about a recent hunting trip he’d taken to southwest Texas. They’d primarily chased coyotes, hogs, javelinas and other critters. He took his own rifle along, and knowing this friend to be a bit “blood thirsty,” he undoubtedly ran some ammo through his gun down there in the Texas dust. In fact, he mentioned during our conversation that just an hour before we sat down for coffee he’d finally taken the rifle out of its hard travel case and dirt crept from every crevice. I cringed when he told me this; and nearly turned down a chocolate donut when he told me that he dropped his rifle off at a gunsmith to “have it cleaned.”
As you might imagine, this friend and I hang out in the city and nothing more. I’ve carefully deflected his self-invitations to hunt together and the way he treats his rifle confirms my suspicion of that type of carelessness in people I tend to avoid.
What is the proper way to maintain a bolt action rifle? Do you clean it after every use? Every season? Or do you, like my friend, basically leave it to fend for itself?
Read the Manual
We’re men. We don’t read instructions. We get it. But you should before firing the rifle. With every Bergara rifle, you’re going to get detailed literature about your gun and the company it came from right there in the box. Please read it. There are all kinds of informational tidbits within its pages that will walk you through day one until you pass the rifle on to your own kids or grandkids.
Every rifle comes with the bolt detached from the action. Before assembling, check to make sure the gun is not loaded and there is no kind of obstruction in the barrel. Clean the barrel from the chamber to the muzzle. Going the opposite way can damage the barrel. Next, insert the bolt, wipe off all excess oil, and check the trigger mechanism by dry firing the rifle a few times, always pointing the muzzle in a safe direction. After that you’re ready to fire your new Bergara rifle. You’ll want to go through a break-in process, which you can find inside the Owner’s Manual, so read it.
Properly maintaining a bolt action rifle is not that hard, really. Take a B-14, for example. There are few moving parts, so there’s no chance of losing anything unless you break out the hex keys. Simply remove the bolt, run a bore cleaner through the barrel with your choice of powder solvent, such as Hoppe’s No. 9, and voila! Treat the stock and barrel’s exterior with an oiled rag and your rifle is ready for the gun safe, the woods, range or wherever you shoot next.
There’s some debate over whether you should bring your rifle into a warm cabin during a cold weather hunting trip. A rifle will sweat and that moisture, mostly unnoticeable, can rust the rifling inside your barrel, potentially causing errant shots. This is when regular cleaning will help. At the very least, if you bring your rifle inside, run a soft cleaner through the barrel before you head out in the mornings.
I’ve met guys over the years that treat their rifles almost as well as their children while they totally neglect shotguns. One man in particular, a PhD from some institution and an ex-professor at some other, said verbatim, “I’ll clean my rifles after every use, but I just don’t care about a shotgun.” The time we hunted together it was quail in south Georgia and he was shooting a Purdey!
At the very least, we’d suggest rubbing an oiled rag over your gun and a bore cleaning rod through the barrel every now and then. No matter the piece of equipment, if you use it, take care of it. You’ll want to sit back one day and reflect on the good times it brought you rather than the problems it gave you.