It’s a surprisingly common problem for shotgun shooters. They look down the barrels and see wear and pitting, and assume they have worn the barrels out with the number of shots they’ve fired. Maybe they even blame steel shot for causing the wear. But they’re wrong.

Matt Simpson, of Simpson Brothers Gun Shop near Peterborough, sees it all the time. “So often people come in and say they’ve shot their barrels out. They haven’t. That wear and tear has been caused purely by neglect or accident.”

A shotgun barrel is incredibly tough and can withstand literally millions of shots with no signs of wear – provided, crucially, that it’s properly cleaned and maintained.

“Most often it’s caused by fouling being left in the barrels where it will lead to rust,” says Matt. “Then before you know it you’ve got pitting.” Those tiny pits represent a flaw, a weakness in the metal, so in theory even a small amount of pitting ought to be removed.

The trouble is that the only way to remove the pitting is to remove the metal around it – reducing the barrel wall thickness and making the barrels weaker. Eventually you reach the point where the barrel walls are too thin, the gun is out of proof and yes, your barrels are worn out.

The answer, of course, is to make sure you always clean your barrels thoroughly after every outing, whether or not it’s been a wet day – that fouling can absorb moisture from the air and still cause rust, even in dry conditions. Get yourself a good quality cleaning kit for your gun, learn how to use it effectively, and always clean those barrels before you put the gun away in the cabinet.

Find out more at Simpson Brothers’ website.

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