Shotgun Break-In

By Randy Wakeman

How many times have you heard, “you gotta break it in”? You hear it with barrels and rifles, you hear it with shotguns. “Yeppers, you got to clean it and you gotta break it in. Shoot a case of magnums or something.” Most of it is mythical, or just an excuse for poor manufacturing, poor design, or poor assembly.

New guns, made from modern materials and using modern manufacturing techniques, should essentially need no break in. Nor should they need extensive cleaning prior to shooting. There is a world of difference between an old military surplus rifle dripping with heavy grease, coated with brown colored wax-like cosmoline that sets up like jelly. It has been a long time since the Cosmoliners of World War II and the U.S. Marines singing "Cosmoline keeps my rifle clean." In fact, some gun manufacturers go a very long way to discourage complete disassembly and cleaning, with use of permanent, tamper-proof red Loctite. With the increased use of plastic or the more expensive grade of ground-up garbage can lid, the technopolymer, it is a wonder what cleaning would actually be for.

There is some natural burnishing of sliding parts. There shouldn't be much, though, as a goodly amount of the break in suggestion is attempting to cover for sourced parts from the cheapest bidder, made with questionable tooling or worn-out tooling in various locations around the world. When components from France, Turkey, China, Spain, are all popped together in another location, why should they fit perfectly? Why should choke tubes from Brazil fit a barrel that was threaded in Italy?

Rough edges, heavy tool marks, metal chips and out of tolerance parts are all causes of rough actions. On many new guns, the bolt cannot be eased closed, for it is jamming and binding before you even load it. Part of it is the price consumers pay for the price we are not willing to pay. Sometimes, we crave cheap, so it isn't all that big of a surprise when we finally get what we asked for.

No firearm (that I know of) is designed for, much less actually tested with, anyone's reloads. To the extent that reloads vary from standard, good quality factory loads isn't something any firearms factory can easily address. There is all kinds of advice given, mostly anonymously, that might suggest you do all kinds of interesting things with a Dremel tool to get your gun to work. Or, drilling out your chamber with steel wool, fire-lapping barrels and so forth. More often than not, you are just unnecessarily reducing the life of your firearm.

To be sure, firearms can smooth out a bit with use. To the extent that this is actually required for <i>basic function</i> with recommended, good quality ammunition, it is merely the sign of a low-quality firearm.

If you buy new lawn mower, you wouldn't tolerate several “test mows” for it to be able to cut your lawn. If buying a more expensive, but far less sophisticated, device like a firearm, no break in of any consequence should be needed for basic, reliable function. Nor should any tampering with “tamper-proofed” parts, or any cleaning not precisely described in the owner's manual. Certainly no re-sculpting or Dremel-powered remachining of a modern firearm that has the benefit of the, by now, common CAD / CAM approach.

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Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.