OFFSEASON CARE OF YOUR HUNTING RIFLE Luke Clayton If you're like many deer hunters, the last time you touched your trusty deer rifle was several months ago at the close of deer season when you gave it a quick spray of gun oil, wiped it down and placed it in your gun cabinet. If you take a quick glance at 'Ole' Betsy, she will look as good as new on the outside but what about your rifle's bore. Did you take the time to completely remove all the fouling (carbon and copper) that accumulated throughout the season. If you did not, I suggest you heed some words of wisdom from Buffalo, Texas gunsmith Wayne Chapman! Photo by Luke Clayton "Carbon and copper build up in a rifle's bore is the number one cause of inaccuracy. It's the lands and grooves inside the barrel that stabilize the bullet as it spins down the barrel. If these are plugged with residue, the bullet simply isn't spinning correctly and accuracy cannot be achieved." Says Chapman. I first met Wayne while hunting at the Big Woods on the Trinity, a 7,500 acre hunting ranch owned by my friend Dr. Bob Mcfarlane or "Doc" as I call him. Doc told me Wayne did the gunsmithing on his rifles and dubbed Wayne as "one of the last of the old time gunsmiths". After getting to know Wayne and having him restore accuracy to a couple of my old rifles, it's easy to see why Mcfarlane has so much confidence in his work. There are many factors that cause a rifle to loose accuracy. Lack of cleaning is the primary culprit but there are a host of others such as warped stocks, trigger pull that becomes too heavy (usually from a varnish like residue caused from using too much oil) or improper screw tightness on action screws. Granted, most of us are not adept at completely disassembling our firearms and giving them a through cleaning but we can all learn to do a good job cleaning the bore and the action. "I recommend a good carbon or coated cleaning rod with a wire cleaning brush of the proper diameter to fit the rifle's bore. Oversized or undersized brushes simply won't get the job done. " Says Chapman, who offers a very inexpensive service that gets the best accuracy from your rifle. "There are several things that I do to used rifles that make them shoot as good, and many times better, than when they were brand new. Trigger settings from the factory are often too heavy to allow maximum accuracy. For the average shooter, the best setting for triggers is between 2.5 and 3 pounds and this is easily achieved by a qualified gunsmith. It's not uncommon for triggers to come from the factory with much heavier pulls." He added. Through the years, Chapman has worked with and watched professional bench shooters closely. "These guys and gals have to get the most from their rifles in order to be competitive. They have learned all the little tricks to get the best accuracy possibly. Building custom rifles is a large part of my business but I have also developed a system that greatly increases the accuracy from the basic hunting rifle." After adjusting trigger pull, Chapman says the next step to better accuracy is free floating the barrel and bedding the action. The pressure of a swollen wooden stock on a barrel can adversely affect accuracy and removing excess wood so the barrel/stock does not touch is imperative for good accuracy. Accuracy is also lost at the very end or the barrel (muzzle). Chapman solves this by lapping the muzzle crown and also the locking lugs that hold the head of the cartridge in place. A thorough cleaning and polishing of the barrel is next and Chapman says nothing can replace good old elbow grease and a quality bore solvent to insure a barrel is completely clean. "When a rifle leaves my shop, it's as clean as a pin but regular, thorough cleaning is a must and this needs to be accomplished throughout the year, not just occasionally by a gunsmith. The last thing Chapman does to insure accuracy is to check out the scope, the scope rings and bases. "All screws need to be tight and the scope aligned properly with the rifle's barrel. When asked about his preferred ammo, Chapman says shooters should experiment with brands and various loads until they find what shoots best in their rifle. "After a good cleaning and adjustment, most hunting rifles will shoot a 2 inch group at 100 yards with most brands of ammo. With a bit of experimenting, they can often reduce those 2 inch groups by nearly half." Chapman regularly achieves half inch and better groups at 100 yards from the custom rifles he builds." he said. So if you happen to have a rifle or two in your gun cabinet that has lost some of its "tack driving" ability through the years, chances are very good it can benefit greatly from a knowledgeable gunsmith such as Chapman. Wayne has customers from all over the country and says the UPS man is one of his best allies. "I live back in the woods off the beaten path but the UPS drivers sure have learned how to find my shop! Two days shipping is pretty common anywhere in the U.S.. I can usually get a clients rifle repaired and shipped back within a couple weeks." Wayne Chapman can be reached by calling 903-536-1546 or through his email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Wayne Chapman talk gunsmithing with Luke at www.catfishradio.com.