Do I Really Need To Break In My Barrel

Every shooter knows of someone or has heard of someone who has a rifle that just seems to hit its target every time no matter what it is. Is it a magic rifle? Did its owner conjure some spell to make it so accurate? No, It is simply a rifle where every part is functioning harmoniously like a fine tuned symphony.  Your rifle can do that too.


Most guns are mass produced on an assembly line by machines, thus may have small imperfections in the chambers and rifling.  We spend a lot of hard earned money on our guns, we deserve the best accuracy possible. Barrel break in is probably the simplest thing we can do to assure accuracy.  The break in procedure is designed to smooth out the rough edges, and wear down the high spots formed during the manufacturing process.  Breaking in a barrel can seem tedious or very time consuming but it is well worth it in the end.

Hang out at a shooting range long enough and your bound to run into someone breaking in their barrel.  They will probably shoot a round or two then clean, shoot a round then clean then..repeat.  The next guy might just run 100 rounds through his and clean before calling it good.  There are several common methods to break-in or season your barrel. Which method you choose depends on what type of shooting you want to do. Keep in mind the process does not need to be completed in a single day.


The copper equilibrium method is used when the rifle needs to be accurate for numerous shots over varying  distances.  Many of the long range shooters prefer this method as it seasons the bore to deliver fast accurate first round hits out to and beyond 1000 yards.

One note of caution before starting the process. You want to be very careful when pushing your cleaning rod out of the muzzle end.  Try to stop before the cleaning jag exits to minimize damage to the crown.  The first thing you want to do is run a patch soaked with your favorite solvent, then a couple dry patches.  Your firearm was fired at the factory and I highly doubt they cleaned it.  Make sure the solvent you use is NOT a copper solvent.

Fire a shot, then clean with patches and solvent.  Bore snakes work well and can speed up the process.  We want to repeat this process for the first 5 shots.  After the 5th shot and subsequent cleaning we can now go 5 shots between cleaning. Each 5 shot group fired, use the patches or bore snake to clean the barrel.

Firing six 5-shot groups and now we can go 10 shots between cleaning. We are still not using any copper solvents at this time.  With five 10 shot groups under your belt you should notice your group size is shrinking. We are not done yet we still have a few steps to go.

Going forward we want to keep track of our shot count.  You should be up to about 85 shots.  At this point we’re only going to clean after every 15 shot group until we reach approximately 150 rounds down range.

The rifle should be entering the sweet spot. Group size will be minimized, and point of impact will be consistent.  To get your most accurate shots possible from the rifle you want to keep it in this “sweet spot”.


The bench rest method is used by competition bench rest shooters.  This method gives them a gun that is dead accurate for a few consecutive shots.  This method also starts with a thorough cleaning. To achieve the utmost accuracy you will need to follow each step.

As with the previous method we are cleaning after every shot. Fire the first shot, and one shot only then clean bore with brush and powder solvent using 10 strokes. Dry  the bore completely with several clean patches.

Next comes the copper solvent. Both Otis and Sweets make great copper solvents. Use two drops and run it down the barrel once. Wait about 2 minutes then run a patch soaked with WD-40. Use clean patches to dry the barrel. 

Now you want to apply JB Bore Cleaning Compound to a patch wrapped around the cleaning jag. This is a metal abrasive so be careful not to exit out either end of the barrel until the last stroke.  Run the patch through the barrel about 10 times.  We need to clean out all the metal abrasive so run at least 5 patches soaked with WD-40 through the barrel.  Follow up with several clean dry patches.

We need to complete this process for every shot until the shot count reaches 30. After that we can repeat after every 5 shots for another 30 shots.  The bench rest method is very time consuming but if followed properly can result in an extremely accurate gun.


No two people or guns that are exactly the same. What works best for one person may not be the best for you. If you don’t break in your gun will it still shoot? Yes, it still has the potential to be a very accurate firearm. If you want the utmost in accuracy then follow one of the two methods above. Unsure which type of shooting would be of greatest benefit? Go hang out at a range and talk to other shooters. Hang out at a competition and watch a skilled marksman with a finely tuned rifle work their magic.

Be warned competitive shooting is addictive and very expensive, ask me how I know…



Mike Westra
Mike relies on the on the knowledge, skills and attitude he developed while working as a deputy sheriff, bounty hunter, and firefighter to educate and train his students and customers. Mike manages a gun store and is also the Lead Firearms Instructor with Ammo-Inc. On his days off you can find him tearing up the skies over Michigan in a Cessna. #mikeisawesome