Airgun Barrel Cleaning – Do You Need To Do It?

Airgun barrel cleaning – do you need to do it? That’s a question that appears every so often among airgunners. And yet the answer seems to vary with the gun and pellets in use.

Certainly, HAM Contributor Matt Coulter found airgun barrel cleaning to be extremely important in his recent story on shooting slugs in his Cricket 2 Tactical (which has a Lothar Walther barrel). In this case, he found an average improvement (reduction) in group size to be no less than 74%.

My personal experience is that I’ve never found that much improvement in accuracy when shooting conventional lead pellets. But then, I’ve never tried to make a specific test on that subject.

Fortunately, HAM Tester Eric Brewer has given us some data to work with! Recently, a .177 caliber Umarex Emerge air rifle arrived in the HAM offices for testing. As our chief springer tester, Eric took the gun. You’ll read his test review soon.

After some initial evaluation, Eric felt that the gun had been shot before (we do not always receive new guns for testing). So he produced some test targets with the gun in “as received” condition. Here’s the 10 Yard target for H&N Baracuda Match pellets.

Airgun Barrel Cleaning - Do You Need To Do It?

Then he cleaned the barrel.

Our heading photograph shows the patch that came out of the barrel. This gun had definitely been shot. A lot!

After Eric had cleaned it the accuracy was improved by 66%. It looked like this…

Airgun Barrel Cleaning - Do You Need To Do It?

Averaging Eric’s results, we find an average improvement in accuracy after airgun barrel cleaning of 29%. Sure that’s not as much as Matt found when testing slugs, but it’s a very satisfactory improvement!

Here’s Eric’s findings in detail. The group sizes are a simple multiplication of the horizontal and vertical CTC (Center-to-Center) measurements.

PelletGroup Before CleaningGroup After CleaningImprovement
RWS Hobby1.61 Sq. In.1.32 Sq. In.17.90%
Crosman Premier HP0.78 Sq. In.0.79 Sq. In.1.51%
H&N Field Target Trophy1.44 Sq. In.0.73 Sq. In.49.24%
JSB Exact1.44 Sq. In.1.31 Sq. In.9.09%
Baracuda Match 10 Yds0.73 Sq. In.0.25 Sq. In.66.39%
Baracuda Match 25 Yds2.92 Sq. In.1.92 Sq. In.34.01%

What’s particularly interesting is that the Crosman Premier Hollow Point pellets showed no improvement from the barrel cleaning at all. In fact the accuracy was slightly worse after cleaning!

However there was a very significant improvement for each of the H&N pellets Eric tested. The average was 49.9% reduction in group size.

Why could that be? We think that it could be because the Crosman pellets are manufactured from very hard lead alloy. H&N uses an obviously much softer alloy.

What we are sure of is that one test does not give all the answers to the question of do you need airgun barrel cleaning. But it has set us up to think more about this issue!

For information, Eric cleaned the barrel using a pull-through soaked in Break Free. He followed that with 3 more “wet” patches and 2 dry patches. This left a “fairly clean” barrel which he then seasoned before further testing by firing 10 Crosman Premier HP pellets.

Umarex Emerge Multi-shot Rifle 0.177