Tell me what to look for when inspecting a barrel

Discussion in 'Technical Questions & Information' started by hkruss, Aug 1, 2009.

  1. hkruss

    hkruss Active Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Mobile, Al.
    I'm just smart enough to admit I don't know much compared to most of you guys! How do you go about inspecting a barrel to see if it is in decent shape? I know that after I clean my rifles, I always hold them towards a light and look up the barrel to see that it is clean and shiny. One thing I am curious about concerns inspecting mil-surp rifles. Since most of them are fairly old, should I expect them to be just as bright and shiny as my new rifles? If they are not, is this what the term, "in the black" means? If it is not bright, does this necessarily mean the barrel is shot out?
    Simple (dumb) question I guess, but hey, if I don't ask I won't learn!
    Thanks in advance. K.R.
  2. PharmrJohn

    PharmrJohn New Member

    Jun 15, 2009
    Western Washington
    No it ain't....was wondering the same thing.....

    Especially useful to know if buying a used firearm I would suppose.

  3. hkruss

    hkruss Active Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Mobile, Al.
    Yeah John. I'm going to a gun show today and if I see an old Mosin or Mauser I want to buy, then I want to know what to look for. Still, it seems that some of the folks here were born with an encyclopedic knowledge of guns and although I've owned and shot weapons for many years, I still feel fairly ignorant at times!
  4. PharmrJohn

    PharmrJohn New Member

    Jun 15, 2009
    Western Washington
    Like anything, it just takes time. It's frustrating to me everytime I start a new hobby or endeavor. I have found it takes about a year of solid reading and study (forums are wonderful tools) to get to a comfy point.....where you can finally give good advise.

    Saltwater aquariums are my area of expertise. Sooooo much to learn with those. It ain't just salt and water. Took about a year for that one....and I am still studying. Right now it's aspects of lighting and coral growth. When that is done, off to oxidation-reduction and ozone treatment of a tank.

    Just be patient. Read posts that have nothing to do with a current problem or question, because I'll bet ya a dime to a dollar that the situation will come up someday.......

    For me, firearms are foreign. I am starting off at ground zero. I haven't shot a weapon since, well, childhood. I am saving up for my first pistol, then rifle, then whatever beyond that. I even need proper training. A true virgin here........Might take me two or three years of reading and practice to feel comby with this one........
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  5. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest


    Did you know barrels for the best hunting rifles are, or were straightened by hand and eye! A large very thick steel ring was used to slightly bend the barrel, with the craftsman looking down it to gauge its straightness.

    The bore should be clean and held up to a fairly bright light. You will get the idea once you do it a few times. The lands and groves will be clearly visible. The more worn the barrel, the less so. Things to watch for, apart from wear will be rust, pitting from rust that's been scrubbed out and any bulges (unless its really slight, you will know one when you see it). Deposits to be scrubbed away may include copper or lead fouling.

    I am sure others can add to this.

    By the way, apart from being born with a knowledge of weapons, and there are those who think they were, there is no short cut. Read, ask questions and more than anything else gain experience. As much as possible. When at the range, and some guy is shooting a gun that interests you ask about it, what sort of groups at what distance? Any problems and what fixes? Best of all, 'may I try a few rounds'? Offering a try on your gun in exchange of course.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 1, 2009
  6. woolleyworm

    woolleyworm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2009
    SW Fort Worth
    in addition to Tranters a+ advice, definately take a look at the crown on the barrel and ensure that there is NO damage. If you know what caliber you're looking for specifically, bring a no go gage or a dummy round with you to chamber. This may not be possible at the gun show though. In a shop or private seller, this is a good idea.
    Also, take a few q-tips along and rub the inside of the chamber just to check the cleanliness, the cleaner the better obviously; it does provide a some idea of how it's been cared for.
    I use a pen light and a corner of a white business card held inside the chamber when looking down the barrel to inspect. the white contrast really makes it much easier to see.

    hope this helps
  7. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member

    I highly recomend a bore lite. The pictured below is a Hoppes Bore Lite. These little lites cost only around $4-$7. Like Tranter said, you will be looking for worn lands and groves, pitting form rust, and scratches. These little lights really make these things show up.

    Attached Files:

  8. muddober

    muddober Active Member

    Sep 19, 2008
    Carson City Nevada
    I have carefully read everyone's post on this subject and while I agree in part I also disagree. The only way and I mean the only way to be 100% sure for what you have for a bore is with a bore scope and it will set you back about $750.00. I bought a new Remington Sendero in 25-06 and re chambered it to 257 STW that shot a group about like a shotgun and nothing I did would make it shoot. You could look down the bore with a bore light and it looked perfect. I finally broke down and bought the bore scope only to find that rifling was actually missing in parts of the barrel. Because I had re chambered it I voided the warranty. A new Hart barrel and $1100.00 later that included the bore scope, I now have a great shooting rifle. I would never have found the problem without the bore scope and I am not one to sell off something that is not right.

  9. Helix_FR

    Helix_FR Active Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Imperial, MO
    Unfortunatly with surplus rifles there is absolutely no way to be sure that it is perfect. Just b/c the barrel is black doesn't mean that the barrel is junk. Look at the Yugo SKS 59/66. These were not chrome lined barrels. They almost all are black. What you need to look for is previously stated. Good shiny bore with good sharp lands. Pitting in the bore is not the kiss of death but it will effect accuracy. Check to make sure the barrel is not counter bored. Matching numbers brings more value but also a premium.(matching numbers on Mosins is almost impossible so don't kill yourself finding a #'s matching mosin) Check for bulges on the barrel by running your hand up and down it. This may be hard to do considering most mil surplus has handguards running the full length of the barrel. Ask the seller questions. If they act like your annoying them or act like they don't know anything about it then move on. There is lots more out there. Its not always possible to get a good picture of the bore in some surplus b/c its covered in cosmoline. My dads Enfield No1 Mk5 looked great on the outside. The barrel was a crap shoot. It was covered and plugged in cosmo. Lucky for him after cleaning it it was a beautiful bore. IF your interested in a particular type check out Find what interest you and start reading the treads. Tons of info and many people to help. Ask what some of the quarks are about a particular rifle. They'll tell ya. I know Enfields and Japanese Rifles pretty well but there is a broader spectrum then I can even fathum.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2009
  10. woolleyworm

    woolleyworm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2009
    SW Fort Worth
    Ron, I don't think you'll find one person here that would disagree with you in the fact that a borescope is the BEST way to inspect a barrel. If I'm buying a $12,000 used drilling or english double, darn right I'm going to have it borescoped and inspected by a gunsmith. But for the average folk, $400+ for a borescope is just a bit out of reach for a fairly unused tool.
    The idea your post did give me was this.......... If you're at a gunshop, they most likely have a borescope already; so you'll just have to ask to take a peek. Something I had never really thought of before and I'm glad you gave some insight.
  11. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

    Apr 28, 2008
    if you're buying from an individual or from a small gunshop. they might let you shoot the gun first. i wouldnt buy a gun from an individual that wouldnt let me try it out first. and i have bought guns from a gunshop and been allowed to try them out. i said hey why dont you let me try this thing out first. he handed me a handful of shells and said just dont shoot any cows. i've done a fair amount of business with that man. one thing i do is look for wear at the muzzle end of the barrel due to improper cleaning. check to see that the very tips of the rifling are crisp right at the crown. compare them to the rifling an inch or two into the bore and if the very ends are worn down noticably stay away from it.
  12. TranterUK

    TranterUK Guest

    Some folk actually made guns with bent barrels just for shooting around corners. Take a look at this..

    Attached Files:

  13. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA
    For surplus military guns it is rare to find one that looks as good as a modern new commercial gun. But that does not mean they don't shoot well if the bore is not perfect.

    In my experience I have found the often the lands are shiny but the groves are dark. I have seen shiny bores with worn off edges of the lands that won't shoot better than a shotgun. A bore that might shoot well will be shiny but might have dark grooves but the edges of the lands are sharp.

    The "proof of the pudding" is in the shooting. If it can be arranged and accuracy is important to you then you should perhaps buy a Mil Surp gun with the understanding that you get to check its accuracy by shooting and the seller gets it back if it is not up to some prearranged standard.

    I bought a commercially re-furbed Enfield recently and the bore was shiny but the edges of the lands were not sharp. It shot so badly it was amazing. It went back to the distributor and a different one was returned. The second one shoot great but the bore had dark grooves, as do most of my Mil Surp guns.

    Corrosive ammo that was the norm until the 1950's leaves a salt in the bore that pulls moisture from the air into itself, making a liquid solution that rust the steel of the barrel bore. Bullets can push it off the proud standing lands but the groove often just build up with rust. This is not good for accuracy but sometimes it does not effect the accuracy all that much. Sharp land edges are the most important thing, in my experience. You must flood the bore with water (hot soapy is better still) and clean the bore with a good bore cleaner to stop the action of these salts. If you believe in the info on labels then the latest Hoppe's No. 9 regular bore cleaner says it is for use in bores of guns fired with corrosive ammo but I still flush mine with soapy water when I use corrosive ammo (not very often!).

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