In my last post, we looked at some things we can do to prepare ammo for predator hunting season. This time, let’s check out those rifles we’ll be using that ammo in. I won’t cover all the aspects of a pre-season firearms check, so I’ll focus on what I think is the most neglected part of any predator rifle—the bolt assembly. I’ll explain how to clean your rifle’s bolt assembly. (Note: This advice applies to any bolt-action hunting rifle.)
Bolt assemblies can be intimidating to deal with; after all, in bolt actions there’s often a brutally strong spring stored inside that body and there’s usually no obvious way of taking the unit apart. However, with a little knowledge and the right tools, cleaning and lubricating that bolt is a simple chore.
I’ve seen the internals of a rifle bolt freeze solid in cold weather, rendering the gun incapable of firing. But I’ve also seen the other extreme, where a crud-infested bolt caused a semiauto firearm to go full auto when the firing pin became locked in the forward position. Dangerous. Either situation can be avoided by proper cleaning and lubrication.
The first step is always to learn how to take the bolt apart, and here it’s best to follow the directions of the manufacturer or another reliable source. And one of the best sources is the gunsmithing supplier, Brownells. They have an online learning center loaded with videos giving great instructional advice. If you need it, you won’t go wrong by starting your search for info there.
Cleaning the inside of a bolt assembly can take some scrubbing, as is often the case with AR-15 bolts where combustion gases end up in the mechanism. Any good solvent and a little elbow grease with an old toothbrush should do the trick. Bolt-action rifles tend to be cleaner and take less work, but with either, an air compressor is a great asset. However, if you don’t own a compressor, products such as Birchwood Casey’s Gun Scrubber work great, too.
My pre-season bolt maintenance routine involves removing all the dirt, carbon and other crap I can find inside a bolt body, but I also remove all the old lubricant in the process. That’s OK because you should be replacing it with fresh lube. And when it comes to lubricating your bolt, there’s only one word that’s necessary to remember: synthetic. While there was a time when it was necessary to run a gun completely dry to keep the parts working at 30 below zero, that’s no longer the case. Synthetic lubes don’t even notice the cold and will keep working at temperatures that paralyze conventional lubricants. I normally use the G96 line of synthetic lubes and have had great success with them.
There you go—preparing a rifle’s bolt for predator season is easy. Disassemble it, clean it and then lube with synthetics when you put it back together.