Even though they don’t leave as much residue as do firearms when fired, it’s still a good idea to periodically clean the barrel of your spring or pneumatic gun. If you’re a competitor, this goes without saying, but even plinkers and hunters can benefit from the increased accuracy that regular cleaning delivers.
When I was a competitive shooter, cleaning was generally a ritual perfomed the night before a match; these days it’s something I do when it occurs to me that I haven’t done it in a while Sometimes, with a gun that doesn’t get shot very often, that’s once a year or less. That’s okay. Unlike, say, black powder guns, where the barrel will rust away if not cleaned immediately after shooting, a neglected airgun barrel won’t decay in any way without cleaning.
So what do you need to clean your barrel? Two things: A good cleaning rod, with tips, and a cleaning product of some sort. I keep a Beeman pull-through rod in my shooting kit, where it’s available for use in the field. At home, I like a stainless steel rod, as it doesn’t less damage to a barrel than the more common aluminum rods. You’d think that aluminum, being softer than steel, would be safer, but there’s a catch: Alumnum, when exposed to air, immediately forms a protective oxide layer, and this oxide is very hard- aluminum oxide is used to make sandpaper and grinding wheels- and can actually scratch the barrel. A highly polished stainless steel rod won’t leave any marks
For a cleaning compound, do NOT use an agressive firearms cleaning solvent like Hoppes #9. It’s far more agressive than you need, and it can attack o-rings and other seals. And should it get into the compression chamber, you may find yourself buying a new spring and piston seal. I’ve been using “Break Free CLP” for many years on airguns and firearms, and I think it does a very good job. There are a good many similar products on the market, so feel free to experiment.
To clean your gun, push a few patches wetted with the CLP through the barrel- breech to muzzle, if you can- untill the patches come out clean. Then push dry patches through until they come out dry, with no sign of cleaner. There’s no need for scrubbing with bronze brushes unless you have actual leading in the barrel.
What about those cute felt pellets that you’re supposed to shoot down the barrel to clean it? Throw them away. They don’t ofer enough resistance when shot in a spring gun to prevent damage to the spring and piston seal. I suppose you might use them in a low-powered CO2 or Pneumatic gun, if you really wanted to, but a rod and patch will do a better job.
The last step is to fire your airgun a dozen times to clear out any cleaning residue and “dirty” the barrel, as target shooters say. With every shot, a little residue gets deposted in the barrel and some is scrubbed out. Equilibrium is generally reached in a dozen shots, and after that the condition of the barrel stabilizes and accuracy is maximized.