Advice re breaking in a new .308 barrel

Discussion in 'Big Stuff -- 6.5mm, 7mm, 30 Cal' started by Campbell, Oct 1, 2017.

  1. Campbell


    Feb 24, 2015
    A friend of mine has very recently bought a new .308 rifle and I will be buying his old one. I reckon that I will need a new barrel next year but I thought I would ask about barrel break in now.

    Is breaking a barrel in really necessary? If it is, what's best way of doing the procedure?

    I have heard a couple of opinions, but come here to get a consolidated opinion.

    As usual, many thanks in advance.
  2. Papa Charlie

    Papa Charlie Silver $$ Contributor

    Jun 10, 2017
    To my knowledge, all the best barrel manufacturers of the day recommend a break in period for new barrels. Here is what is recommended by Benchmark Barrels.

    Recommended Barrel Break-in Procedure:

    1. -Shoot and clean after each shot for 8 rounds - clean with a proven copper solvent*

    2. -After the first 8 rounds, clean after every 3-5 shot group for 4 groups - clean with a proven copper solvent*

    3. -Follow your normal cleaning regimen after the break-in process.
    * We find Bore Tech Eliminator to be an excellent choice, but most copper solvents are sufficient. FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURERS RECOMMENDED PROCEDURE FOR USE OF THEIR PRODUCT!!
    BP1 likes this.
  3. Clancy

    Clancy Silver $$ Contributor

    Nov 25, 2012
    Well now you've gone and done it.... kicked the hornet's nest.

    My opinion isn't worth any more than most, but here's what my smith (Jon Beanland) had to say, verbatim.

    "Clean it before you shoot it, clean it again in 10 rounds and it doesn't matter if it's 12, then just clean it when it tells you to until its worn out."

    Simple enough and I agree.
    K22, Rogmay, wholman and 3 others like this.
  4. Someoldguy

    Someoldguy Silver $$ Contributor

    Feb 28, 2017
    If your friend fired this rifle much, then the 'breaking in' period is already past.

    If you choose to strip the copper out of it and start anew, then you may or may not like the results.

    If you are asking about a new barrel in the future, then you're gonna get nearly as many opinions as replies. If you have no opinion, I suggest you defer to the barrel manufacturer.
  5. Ned Ludd

    Ned Ludd Silver $$ Contributor

    May 28, 2012
  6. Sniper338

    Sniper338 Silver $$ Contributor

    Aug 14, 2014
    I got the best answer... nobody knows!!

    My .02
    Just clean it before shooting to insure no slivers of metal machinimg are left in the barrel or action.. then shoot it... clean it when it tells you it wants cleaned
    K22, wholman, Dshooter and 1 other person like this.
  7. long40shot

    long40shot Gold $$ Contributor

    Feb 20, 2006
    No no no, you're supposed to waste 60 rounds and a fair amount of time"properly" breaking in a barrel. Gee Wizzz, everybody knows that man!
    Tommie and 300_whisper like this.
  8. Shynloco

    Shynloco You can lead a horse to water, but ........

    Apr 10, 2010
    I use a 40 rd breakin regiment: Shoot one round - clean X 5.
    Shoot 3 rds clean - X 3.
    Shoot 5rds clean - X 2.
    Shoot 10 rds - clean x 1.

    You are now good to go. This method has worked well for me over the past 10 yrs (since adopting this method) regardless of the maker, quality or caliber of the barrel.

    MrBottleneck likes this.
  9. MrBottleneck

    MrBottleneck Silver $$ Contributor

    Jul 29, 2016
    I do exactly as Alex does. My Criterion and Shilen barrels have been tack drivers. Cannot say the break in was the cause but, atleast I know I did it.
    I use Butches bore shine and good ole #9 doing the break in.
    I see quite a bit of blue (copper) then after doing this process very very little if any there after.

    Btw, even Shilen for example recommends breaking one in. Although they feel not necessary due to being hand lapped.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
  10. Downhill


    Dec 31, 2009
    I was going to bring up exactly what Mr bottleneck mentioned. With a premium hand lapped barrel I simply start load development. No issues to mention. I will patch it out upon installation and just shoot it. Use to jump through all the hoops with break in but when I noticed how smooth a hand lapped barrel felt on first cleaning I did the whole break in less and less.
    KevinThomas likes this.
  11. Randy L

    Randy L Silver $$ Contributor

    Nov 24, 2013
    There are enough experienced shooters that I know that recommend "just shoot it". So I do believe there is some validity to that method. I'm too anal to totally skip any type of break-in, so I do an abbreviated form and seems to work for me.

    13 shot break-in:
    1. Clean bbl and chamber before shooting
    2. Shoot one round - clean X 5
    3. Shoot 3 rounds and clean
    4. Shoot 5 rounds and clean
    Done. And I have a clean conscience.;)
    JLT likes this.
  12. people


    Feb 21, 2007
    I clean to start with. So there are no chips or other grit in the barrel.

    1 shot clean. To check nothing bad happened inside the barrel.

    Do load development. Clean. Test the best rounds to see if they still hold. Clean. Shoot as normal. Clean when accuracy goes away.

    I record every shot so I know what happens to the bullets down range.

    If I have a chrome lined bore or nitride I just shoot.
  13. ImBIllT

    ImBIllT Silver $$ Contributor

    Jun 1, 2008
    Krieger recommends a shorter break-in than most with stainless barrels, and about 3-4x that much for chrome-moly. They also mention that the first few shots, which smooth out microscopic burs in the throats from chambering, will copper foul A LOT, and that if too many shots are fired, this copper can me difficult to remove. My take on it is simply this - if you shoot too many shots before cleaning a new barrel, you will have to make more passes to get the copper out than if you only took a shot or two, and it may take 40 shots to break-in instead of 20 because that copper build-up protects the burs from being removed by subsequent shots. I do not believe break-in to be highly critical.

    On a related, but slightly side note, I've found multiple shooters recommend that spend 75-100 rounds practicing with a new barrel before doing load development, because when they chrono a new barrel, the chrono shows the barrel to be getting faster as it gets shot more for about the first 75-100 shots. The result is that if you find a good load during that time, your load will end up shooting faster, and you'll have to load down to get back on that node again. On top of that, they mention that pressure signs decrease over the same time period, so now you can actually load more powder than your max load showed to be early on. The point was, wait until the rifle settles in before doing load developement. If you don't want to "waste" shots with a break-in procedure, then just load up some ammo, sight-in, and do some practice. When you're done, and cleaning the copper out seems to take an awful long time for a "superior hand lapped barrel" just realize that it will be much better after the first few trips.

    I just "broke-in" a brand new Krieger using their prescribed method, except that I always shoot WS2 coated bullets. I never got copper to show up on a single patch using Bore Tech Eliminator, and if you've ever used that stuff, you know it should be turning patches blue.
  14. hunter686


    Nov 14, 2016
    Clean, load up a 100 rounds and go to town. I break in all my barrels this way. My latest 6.5 shoots 3/4 inch with 3/8ths vertical at 315 yards in feild conditions off a bi-pod. The whole cleaning and shooting method was blown out the water years ago by Gayle McMillan who fabricated the method in order to sell more barrles. It's Chinese whispers at its finest.

    But..if it make you feel better like super shiney brass then crack on...
  15. Willie

    Willie Silver $$ Contributor

    Feb 3, 2017
    To Each His On! I say do it the way you want. All I know is that I haven't hurt a barrel by breaking it in. I fire form 50-100 pieces of brass in the process, also look at initial seating depth testing. At some point, usually around 75 rds.+/-, the velocities seem to stabilize and I'll finish with a couple of ladders with once fired brass.
    So far, so good with little or no copper.
  16. Dshooter

    Dshooter Silver $$ Contributor

    Nov 4, 2013
    Thoroughly clean before firing. Shoot until accuracy dictates. My CBI barrel says between 260-300 rds and then I need to swab
  17. Campbell


    Feb 24, 2015
    Crickey!!! :D

    When I posted this thread I had no idea of the differing views! It's a bit like the debate re. "what's the best air rifle calibre, .177 or .22".

    Why does a barrel need breaking in? Is it to remove sharp edges in the lands, or what? If it is, why not use a VFG cleaning felt impregnated with a quality metal polish?
    seymour fish likes this.
  18. Intheshop

    Intheshop Silver $$ Contributor

    Nov 8, 2016
    I always thought it was about fireforming and trying to get a handle on the cleaning schedule(how is this barrel reacting,or preferences)?And how is it different from the last brrl?
  19. ImBIllT

    ImBIllT Silver $$ Contributor

    Jun 1, 2008
    It is highly common for a new barrel to foul excessively (dramatically worse and dramatically faster than it ever will again) for some some number of shots. Some say that continuing to shoot without cleaning results in a very difficult job of removing that copper fouling, and that if you don't get it out, accuracy suffers when there is nothing wrong with the barrel except that you need to finish cleaning it. Theories about why this happens, in hand lapped and un-lapped barrels, vary. Most people consider this fouling issue, which goes away, to be the purpose of breaking-in a barrel. The general guideline is to clean frequently until you're not getting lots of copper out, then slow down. Prescribed cleaning methods are mainly for those who like rules. Many people also note that velocity rises while pressure drops, during the first 100 or so shots. This is well beyond the number of shots usually associated with the fouling issue. Break-in is not about following a special protocol that protects your barrel or somehow improves it. It about not sending your brand new custom barrel back to the barrel maker because it fouls like crazy and shoots like crap, whenever the only thing wrong with it is that it's new and needs a good cleaning. New chrome-moly barrels take much longer to stop fouling than stainless barrels.
  20. FrankG


    Jul 27, 2006
    This gets beaten to death. My short version.....

    I'll clean the first two rounds. If the barrel is cleaning quick and easy and getting little to no fouling out of it, I'm done. I sit down and shoot it.

    In a good barrel the only thing your breaking in is the throat. The nicer the finish the chamber reamer leaves the faster it will break in. The rougher the throat the more fouling it can cause.

    After x amount of rounds it should settle down if the throat is rough. My number is 100 in this case.

    As the barrel wears the fouling will change and go up. Why? The throat is getting rougher from the wear.

    What you have to do is to learn how to read the gun. Pay attention to it and it will tell you what is going on. Just learn how to read it.

    In lower grades of barrels or barrels with a poor gunsmithing job sometimes they never stop fouling. Also shooters can wreck the barrels from improper cleaning methods and will cause the barrel to foul.

    Different lots of bullets, muzzle velocity, pressure etc...can lead to fouling problems as well and have nothing to do with the barrel itself.

    Later, Frank
    Bartlein Barrels
    BobLor and 47WillysGuy like this.

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