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Real benefits to using a bore scope?

Wes Summach

It seems we are not in short supply of various brands and types of bore cleaners.  We are told each product can do this and that for us shooters.  Do we believe the marketing which accompanies all these products?  If we are beyond the early developmental stage of human thinking we have come to the realization all is not really true!

We see discussions as to whether custom barrels are really worth the cost.  Why buy such a thing when old factory Betsey here can shoot a fly’s wings off at one hundred yards?

Looking down the muzzle don’t both factory and custom barrels look shiny?  So, what is the big deal here?

I came to a point where I really wanted to know what was going on in my rifle barrel.  I was cleaning my barrels and then looking down the bore and at some point declaring it was clean, or going by the manufacturer’s advice of when to quit the task.  So, I invested $1500 in a bore scope. Don’t dare think I was able to buy such a tool because I had extra funds.  Financially, this was a big deal for me.  But, I do have a passion regarding shooting and I wanted to see what was going on inside a barrel for myself.

So, what have I learned from the use of a bore scope?  Wow! Once you look through a bore scope you cannot go back! It is a brand new world.  I got to see there is a major difference between factory barrels and custom barrels.  Not all custom barrels are equal, but I would venture to say they are a step beyond factory production barrels.  I don’t see why this should be a revelation to anyone.  Would we really expect a factory rifle to have a custom grade barrel, when the cost of the factory rifle can be less than the cost of many custom barrels?  I see it as amazing the factories can produce the quality we see in many production rifles at the retail price we see on the labels. So, this certainly is not bashing rifle companies regarding their barrel quality, but I am stating there are significant differences between factory produced barrels and quality custom barrels. 

Does the difference equate to flatly stating a factory barrel cannot be expected to shoot well?  No, of course not.  It is plain to see even the “disposable” rifles on the market shoot to levels, which in the not far distant past, would have been more than acceptable in many custom rifles of the day.  I doubt if there are many disappointed fans of the “disposable” rifles when it comes to good hunting accuracy in today’s rifles.  But, even though a factory barrel may shoot, I also see a cleaning regimen which can be very different from that of a custom barrel.  A rough barrel can shoot, but a rough barrel also needs to be cleaned well, and routinely, to maintain accuracy standards.  Otherwise we may well soon be wondering what happened to the accuracy standards which were once achieved with that rifle.

A custom barrel also needs to be cleaned, but I discovered the time to clean was much shorter and the time interval between cleanings longer.  There are times when we think we should be cleaning, just because we think it must need cleaning at this time.  I found I was thinking this way because of being conditioned by shooting factory barrels for so long.

I have learned you can pay a high price for a custom barrel but it can be harmed by the gunsmith we choose to fit the barrel.  The benefits of the custom barrel can be negated by a rough chambering job or not being fitted well.  Therefore, don’t be surprised some gunsmiths are nervous and defensive when they find out you own a bore scope.  The bore scope does  allow us to see the work they do.  But, it can also be true many of us may think a job is not quality when in fact it is a great job.  This can happen because we need to gain experience in knowing what we are looking at, and also realizing we are viewing a magnified image.  We will soon know what is acceptable, what is above average, and what exemplary work is.

A bore scope will allow us to see potential trouble spots in the barrel, whether factory or custom.  As an example, a rough throat will need to be smoothed out before it stops fouling excessively.

We can see what so called “barrel break-in” is doing (smoothing out rough spots).  You will see why barrel break-in is a waste of time for most custom barrels as there is nothing which needs to be “smoothed”.  But, for those of us who are anal retentive, it just feels right to break-in all barrels…then, “break-in” and enjoy!  I understand we can create our own truths, therefore go ahead.  For myself I would rather direct my energy and time to the necessary things in life.

We need to use a bore guide.  Not all bore guides are created equal.  A bore guide should do exactly what the name implies.  If it does not truly guide the rod but allows it to move around and rub on the side of the bore then it is not a bore guide!  Through the use of the bore scope I found I actually had done some damage to really nice barrels by not using proper bore guides.  Boy, I’ll tell ya’, there was some serious “self-talk” when I saw the damage, but no amount of self-talk erased the damage…but, a lesson learned.

I have found a major benefit to using a bore scope has been the ability to see which bore cleaners work and then creating a cleaning regimen to suit.  I can tell if the bore is really clean and I also can see if my barrel needs to be cleaned “to the steel” to shoot well.  I have found not all barrels respond well to “down to the steel”.  Some do not benefit to this level of cleaning as they actually will not start shooting to the full potential of the barrel until a level of fouling is created.  A bore scope will facilitate finding the “sweet spot” (the number of shots which are within the best accuracy for that barrel) before accuracy begins to go downhill.  Generally, I have found a bore scope allows one to better "hear" what the rifle bore is telling us about what best suits it’s fancy.

AND, I can tell you not to believe all advertising hype!  Some cleaners work and some do not work to the standards alluded to in the ads.  As an example, if you look at what we carry in inventory you probably will deduce something.  We are not saying there are not other products which may work, but we are saying our inventory products do work; maybe a carried product works better in some applications than the other, but yes, they generally work as advertised.

If you wish to know what we have found regarding application specifics to our carried products, then just ask us, as we are more than willing to share what we have discovered.

As a final note, we have been asked to bed rifles or investigate why a particular rifle is not shooting “like it used to”.  A bore scope has allowed us to see why one should always begin by giving a proper bore cleaning before jumping to any conclusions regarding bedding or more serious measures.  Just be sure the cleaner and technique you use is actually doing what you are attempting to do!

Oh, and one last peeve.  I have declared it to be a joke when one of us evaluates a barrel to be good, very good, or excellent by looking down the muzzle!  I have cleaned some barrels which were declared “very good”, and after the cleaning the bore condition became blatantly obvious as falling far short of the claim.  The bore scope can also be trusted to differentiate between “like new” and “fair” after a proper cleaning.  A bore may look pristine with unassisted vision but reveal pitting with the aid of a bore scope.

So, was the substantial investment in buying a bore scope worth it?  You bet it was, I’m just sorry it took me this long to own one.

God bless, and may you hit what you are aiming at!