A few years ago I found an article about cleaning a gun's barrel using electrolysis. I must've researched the shit out of that for a while, then totally forgot about it. I do that with a lot of things. I find a subject that's really interesting to me, so I research all I can about it. After a day or two I'm onto something else and have totally forgotten about it. This subject was no different. Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago when I rediscovered the process. After reading up on the subject again, I had to try it for myself.
There are many techniques and variables here that can be changed depending on what materials you have on hand. Some people use a battery charger meant for a car as a power source, while others go with just a couple of AA batteries. For a fluid, there are many mixtures out there including watered down household cleaners, mixtures of vinegar with water, ammonia with water, salt water, and other things people have come up with. Your mileage may vary depending on the materials used.
For this project, I used an electrical tester, rubber stopper, some speaker wire, vinegar, plain old water, a 3 foot rod 1/8th in diameter, a flashlight, a razor blade, and an old 2 liter bottle from some delicious lemon lime soda. I also used a camera to document the occasion, which of course isn't shown. Also not shown are a piece of steel wool, a 6 volt battery (which we switched to later in the process), a funnel, and the Southern Bloomers patches I used to clean the gun.
The process is pretty simple, but it can be a little bit messy at times. My girlfriend helped me with our little "science project" on Sunday afternoon. We stuffed a rubber stopper into the chamber so any fluid we poured into the barrel wouldn't leak out. The stoppers I got for this project were all too big, so I improvised by using a nail (bent at a 90 degree angle) wrapped in electrical tape to seal the chamber.
After sealing up the chamber, we mixed some ingredients. We had read online that many people use vinegar, ammonia, and water mixed together. We didn't have any ammonia, so it was just vinegar and water for us. Using the razor blade, my girlfriend cut the 2 liter bottle so we'd have a sort of bucket for our used fluid. I wanted something translucent so we could see the junk coming out of the barrel.
The picture above shows the barrel of the gun with the funnel taped over it as well as the rod which was wrapped with electrical tape. The funnel was a great help when it came time to pour the fluid into the barrel. We wrapped the 3 foot rod with electrical tape in a few spots to eliminate metal on metal contact between the barrel and the rod.
Electrical tape comes in handy, and its cheap too! We took apart a small LED flashlight that houses 3 AAA batteries. I got the flashlight at Advance Auto Parts for like $3 or $4. Even though I used the battery holder for this project, it was still usable in the flash light after the project. The batteries have 1.5 volts each, so it was a 4.5 volt power source for our project. We took a length of speaker wire (any wire will do the trick) and attached one piece of wire to the positive side of the battery tray and the other wire to the negative side. Once again, the electrical tape came in handy. We used my $5 voltage meter (from Harbor Freight Tools) to verify that we had a good connection at the other end of the wires, then connected the negative wire to the barrel and the positive wire to the rod.
Look at the specs of junk in the foam. It almost looks like pepper. The rod was put into the barrel with some fluid. There was enough fluid in there to totally fill the barrel and a little bit of the funnel. Its nice to have some fluid standing in the funnel so you can see the bubbles do their magic.
After about 10 minutes, we weren't very happy with the results. We dumped out the fluid and wiped down the rod. We did this process a few more times, then changed power supplies to a 6 volt lantern battery. We also changed our fluid to diluted Windex (which probably has ammonia in it) and experienced similar results. At that point, we called it quits and got ready to head over to a friend's house.
While my girlfriend was taking a shower, I ran a patch down the barrel of the project gun. The patch came out very dirty and had cosmoline on it. I was impressed that a clean gun was this dirty after our treatment. The treatment obviously loosened up a bunch of junk that was in the barrel. Even though I didn't get a bunch of junk on the rod or in the foamy mess in the funnel, this process obviously worked.
A few days later I went back to tweak our design: using straight Windex with the same lantern battery, which was putting out 4.5 volts. Many online tutorials recommend staying at about 3 volts because that's what the commercial kits use. 4.5 volts worked for me. I cleaned the rod thoroughly with steel wool between treatments which I think helped the process. There wasn't much buildup on the rod, but having fresh metal exposed on the rod must have helped the process.
This is what the rod looked like after a 10 minute process with straight Windex. The picture also shows the patch I used to clean the junk off of the rod. I don't know exactly what the stuff was, but I bet it causes cancer. I later scrubbed the rod with steel wool to get back down to bare metal, then did the process again.
Here is a picture of the inside of the 2 liter bottle. I took this picture with the light to show you folks how much stuff came out when we poured out the fluid between treatments.
Do as many treatments as you'd like, then clean the rifle like you normally would (with a brush and patches) and you should have a much better looking barrel when you're done. I wouldn't personally leave this setup for more than 10 minutes or so. I don't know what kind of problems you might have if you left this thing going for an hour or two. I definitely wouldn't leave it unattended. Some people have experienced some of the fluid evaporating during their treatments, so add as necessary.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, there are many variables that can change when doing this process. The type of rod used, voltage, fluid, and the method used to clean the rod between treatments. Your results might not be exactly the same as mine. I am in no way responsible for any damage you might encounter while doing a project like mine. This blog post is meant for entertainment only. If you chose to mimic my setup, you're on your own.