Copper Solvent: What is it?

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Copper remover is a chemical solution used to clean copper residue from gun barrels. Ammonia-based products dissolve copper, but can damage the barrel. Some ammonia-free products work by oxidizing copper. Solvent-based cleaning involves wetting a patch and brushing the barrel. Homemade solutions are cheaper but require caution.

Copper remover is a chemical solution used to remove copper residue from the barrel of a firearm. It is sold commercially for use in cleaning shotguns. While many copper removers incorporate ammonia, which can be used to dissolve copper residue, some products are made with little or no ammonia to protect the inner metal of the barrel from chemical etching.

When shots are fired from a rifle, copper residue from the bullets is left in the barrel and builds up over time, causing copper fouling. Copper builds up inside the bore of the shotgun – the hollow cylinder through which the bullet passes – and eventually begins to abrade and mark the bullets as they are fired. Damaged shells are aerodynamically imperfect and cannot fly straight, affecting the rifle’s accuracy. Periodic cleaning of the rifle barrel with copper solvent is necessary to remove scale and maintain the rifle’s ability to fire accurately.

Ammonia can be used to break down the copper residue, although typical ammonia-based household products are not concentrated enough to thoroughly clean the hole. A solution of at least 10% ammonia is required. Many commercial copper removers use ammonia as the primary cleaning agent.

While ammonia-based copper removers are usually formulated in a way that prevents or minimizes potential damage, there are sometimes concerns that ammonia will corrode the internal metal of the gun barrel as it removes copper fouling. For this reason many companies offer “ammonia-free” copper solvents. These solutions work using different chemical principles. For example, an ammonia-free copper solvent might work by removing electrons from copper metal atoms or oxidizing them, then bonding with and removing the oxidized product.

Solvent-based products are used in different ways depending on their design, but the basic cleaning procedure is much the same. A patch is wetted with the copper solvent and pushed through the hole. This step can be repeated a few times, followed by a solvent brushing using a nylon brush. The barrel can then be soaked for a few minutes and dried by passing several dry pieces through it. A small amount of solvent may be reapplied before storing, although it is recommended that you use it lightly to avoid residue buildup.

Some gun owners choose to make their own copper removers using concentrated industrial-grade ammonia or other chemical solvents, such as acetone. This approach has the advantage of being less expensive than buying ready-made copper solvents. Because creating a copper solvent involves mixing potentially dangerous chemicals, however, most recipes recommend observing precautions such as eye protection and ventilation, and keeping Material Safety Data Sheets handy ( MSDS) containing information on chemicals during the process.

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