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Handloading Beyond The Basics
Rifle Magazine
January - February 2005
Volume 3, Number 1
Number 13
On the cover...
Cover photo Donald M. Jones Quail inset by George Barnett
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It’s the season of gift-giving, and nobody deserves a thoughtful gift more than the wingshooter in your life. Some of the following might not sound much like Christ­mas, but they’ll be much more appreciated than some new socks.

One item that ends up in my duffel or game vest more and more often is a Bore Snake from Hoppe’s. In case you happen to live on Mars or Venus (or their earthly equivalents, New York City and Los Angeles) and haven’t seen a Bore Snake yet, it’s a long, slinky thing that looks, well, like a snake.

One end has a drop-weight attached to a cord. You drop the weight through the barrel, wrap the cord around your hand, then pull the rest of the Snake through the bore. First there’s a bore-size “floss area” that removes large chunks of powder residue, pine needles, etc. Next there are a few inches of brass brush, which dig deeper, then another, longer section of floss area, supposedly with 150 times more surface area than a standard bore patch. By the time you pull everything through, the bore is clean.

Though Bore Snakes are made for just about any common handgun, rifle or shotgun bore, I’ve found them more useful for shotguns than anything. The powders used in quality shotshells are cleaner-burning than ever, but there are still   excellent reasons to clean a scattergun’s bore more than occasionally.

The biggie is wad plastic. Modern wads tend to leave a thin coating of plastic both in the forcing cones, just in front of the chamber, and    in the chokes. Plastic buildup in the forcing cones can raise pres­sures slightly – and in the chokes can tighten patterns considerably. Neither is a good thing. Bore Snaking after every box of shells keeps plastic fouling at bay and may even eliminate it in some barrels. An oiled Snake is also handy when hunting in wet weather. You can also apply a few drops of powder solvent (Hoppe’s No. 9, of course) to the first floss area, then a few drops of gun oil to the second.

The powder solvent is especially useful when using cheaper ammunition. If you travel to foreign lands, you’ll usually shoot local shotshells. Some of these are as fine as any made, but some make the inside of a barrel look like a New York sewer. With the flood of cheap, foreign shotshells coming into the U.S. these days, powder fouling can even be a problem here – and many shooters use these cheaper shells for clay-bird practice. A Bore Snake down the bore between every round of trap or Sporting Clays helps everything work the way it should.

An item that might come in even more useful someday is choke tube lubricant. I’ve been using the Birchwood Casey brand for several years and haven’t come close to suffering that bane of the modern shotgunner, a stuck tube. Choke lube is especially essential if you do much waterfowling, because surface tension tends to suck water between the fine threads on a choke tube and the barrel. And the water stays there even if you carefully wipe down the rest of the gun.

I keep a 3/4-ounce tube in the Ziploc® bag where I carry my extra choke tubes, just to remind me to be a good boy. It’s cheap insurance – and can also be used to lube the hinge surfaces on double guns. These should always be lubed with something heavier than oil, and a little dab now and then will help any double live a longer life.

Also essential for lovers of double guns is a pair of snap caps. These allow you to safely trip the triggers without harming the firing pins, a good idea even in repeaters, but really important in doubles. You can safely store most repeaters with the action cocked, but many older doubles use leaf springs, which can weaken if the gun is left cocked over long periods of time. Many modern doubles use coil springs, not nearly as susceptible to spring set, but all have firing pins that can be damaged by dry firing.

Snap caps come in many varieties, at prices from a few bucks to over $100, in materials from plastic to silver plate. All work, though the pricier ones weigh about the same as loaded shells. This supposedly allows us to practice-swing our favorite double with the same balance it has when loaded. Hmmm. A more realistic use is safely checking the function of pump guns; even these rugged “tools” of wingshooting sometimes need a little tune-up.


If you can’t find any of these gift items at your favorite store, they can be ordered from those fine mail-order firms Brownells ( and MidwayUSA ( Each carries a vast selection   of products to help the shotgunner.

John’s book Shotguns for Wingshooting is available by check for $25 from Deep Creek Press, PO Box 579, Townsend MT 59644, or by credit card online: (Outside the U.S. please add $4 for shipping.)

Blackhorn Powder
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