Gun Cleaning: Get The Lead Out

Gun Cleaning: Get The Lead Out
The author’s old-style can of Shooter’s Choice lead remover and the Tornado brushes he uses to clean the bore when he has “screwed up.” Note that the company has updated the current packaging design.

A look at the author’s simple recipe for getting all the lead out when cleaning a gun.

If you ever get a chance to read some of the seminal gunsmithing books—books written more than a half-century ago (in some instances more than three-quarters of a century)—you’ll be horrified.

Some of the concoctions they used for bluing and rust and lead removal were simply toxic. Back then, there was no Brownells; if you wanted it, you had to make it yourself. Today, some of the home mixes you might find online aren’t any better.

But, you’ve got a leaded bore … so what do you do to remove the lead?

I do a lot of testing, and I do a lot of reloading, both for practice (practice ammo) and R&D. That means that sometimes I end up with a grungy bore. The solution is simple: one can and one brush. I use Shooter’s Choice lead remover and scrub the bores with Hoppe’s Tornado brushes.

Unlike the various caustic, corrosive and borderline lethal mixes you read about, Shooter’s Choice is merely “petroleum distillates.” I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and “petroleum distillates” covers a lot of ground, but it isn’t like you’re using reactive materials that can create lethal compounds.

But they do say not to leave it in the bore overnight, so take at least some care, OK?

One “home remedy” creates lead acetate as a byproduct, and that stuff is nasty. There’s an old saying in chemistry and medicine: Dose makes the poison. Well, lead acetate isn’t something you can just shrug off. Instead of chemically reacting to the lead, the Shooter’s Choice works on the bond between lead and steel, and that’s where the brushes come in.

The list of ingredients of the lead remover is simple: nothing caustic, abrasive or reactive … and nothing to create nasty byproducts.

The Hoppes Tornado brushes aren’t made with bristles. Instead, the brush is a cylinder of springy stainless-steel loops, ones that scrub on their edges—not their ends. This means you have less abrasion on the bore and the tops of the lands than the bristle style creates.

Yes, the loops can’t reach down into the corners of the grooves as well, but once I’ve gotten the bulk of the lead out (and rather easily, I might add), I can use a bronze brush for a few strokes. OK, two brushes then, not just one.

Swipe And Shine

The process is simple: run a patch with a bore cleaner, any cleaner, down the bore to mop out the powder residue. Then, a dry patch. A patch wet with the Shooter’s Choice is next. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. The hardest part is the waiting. Then, scrub with the Tornado brush, a few passes with a bronze to clean it up and voila, done.

The new design is a lot more eye-catching than the old, but the results are the same: It gets the lead out.

I developed this routine at Second Chance, the bowling pin shoot, where it was common to go through ammo by the thousands of rounds in the weeklong match. This process also worked miracles on shotguns to get the lead and plastic out from days of shooting buckshot and slugs. Although, for that I had to go with a Chore Boy bronze pot scrubber, as there were no Tornado brushes for 12-gauge back then.

After checking up on Shooter’s Choice, they changed the packaging; I still have a few more tins of the old label left, so I’ll keep using them.

Oh, and pay attention to what got you into this mess, and don’t do it again, OK?

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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  1. For revolvers,,the forcing cone can become leaded up quickly. i have used the Lewis Lead Remover kit for cleaning my revolvers when excessive leading appears. this tool does the job for removing lead build up in the forcing cone area. as far as the cylinder,,i use a good chamber brush either stainless or copper. vigorous action will restore even the grubbiest leaded up cylinder rings. As far as solvents,,i use Hoppes #9 for most every cleaning,,sometimes some Ballistol helps too.


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