View Full Version : UltraSonic Gun Cleaning

24-01-2011, 11:05 PM
Salams, I found this article very interesting and thought it worthy of sharing with you all.

Gun Cleaning Clinic: Ultrasonics - The King Of Cleaning

By: Steve Schmidt
When asked to pen a few lines about ultrasonic, weapon cleaning systems for this month's Cleaning Clinic, it conjured up memories of my early childhood education. I distinctly remember 8th grade biology class, because I aced all but my first chapter exam and shot the class average all to hell. It was around that time my older sister decided to clean out her closet and donate a large box of ratty notebooks and study guides from six years earlier when she was my age. I distinctly remember my mother breaking up our dispute, as I screamed at Shelley to remove her box of "junk" from my bedroom which had space for guns, fishing gear and mounted deer heads -– NOTHING more!

Whatever convinced me not to toss those old books is beyond me. And, to my surprise, I recognized that my first biology exam was a Xerox copy of a sample test from my sister's old study guide. If I had only of studied it, I would have aced that first test, too! Nonetheless, I knew from that time forward, I would be setting the grade curves for the rest of the class. When you're in 8th grade, things like that just don't happen without a reason, and I chalked it up as one of the bennies of having to deal with an older, teenage sister.

If anything comes as easily as my 8th grade biology class, I'd have to say ultrasonic cleaning is as close as it gets. Ultrasonic cleaners make gun cleaning and lubrication super fast and easy for the serious shooter, and profitable for the busy gun shop owner. It's a happy blend of engineering and chemistry that provides unsurpassed cleaning for any small arms application. The process itself occurs when sound waves are transmitted at super high frequencies, well beyond the range of human hearing. Most systems are of basic design, housing no more than a generator to produce the required electrical energy and a transducer to convert and radiate it as "ultrasonic" sound waves. The cleaning tank is constructed of stainless steel and serves as a holding reservoir for today's specially formulated cleaners. These solutions help create the implosion of microscopic bubbles -– a process called "cavitation" – which forms a powerful vacuum effect that literally pulls debris particles from all the nooks and crannies of a firearm. The overall process provides a superior, deep cleaning action rated up to 16 times more effective than manual methods of gun cleaning.

As is typically the case when preparing to write articles of this nature, I went on the prowl for a gun that would meet certain requirements. First and foremost, it had to be small enough to fit our in-house, 12"x6"x6" ultrasonic tank. Second, it had to be good and dirty. And finally, it couldn't be an irreplaceable gun in the event I damaged or destroyed it.

Without hesitation, Gun Technician Nate Bardole bravely stepped up to the plate and handed over a polymer-framed Ruger 22/45. Having little experience with ultrasonic cleaning, I was a bit concerned about Nate's grip frame. I didn't want to find a warped and disfigured ball of plastic in the bottom of the basket after the timer shut off, so I turned to our sales representative, Peter Hula at L&R Ultrasonics to answer a few of my questions. Peter advised that hard polymers are generally safe in ultrasonic cleaners, and many law enforcement agencies are even subjecting tritium night sights to ultrasonic waves without any damaging effects. He did, however, discourage the cleaning of any soft polymer or rubberized items, such as pistol grips, in an ultrasonic system. Apparently, these materials can permanently swell out of proportion. Besides wood stocks and grips, antique firearms are also off limits if you intend to preserve the natural beauty of aged patina or rust blued finishes. In any case, if you're concerned about cleaning a particular modern firearm in an ultrasonic cleaner, it's a good idea to consult with the maker before taking the chance of voiding any warranties.

The front sight on Nate's Ruger was painted an obnoxious blaze orange color that he didn't especially care for, so he wasn't concerned about the paint lifting out. In addition, Nate had added a piece of 3M, textured tape (the type designed to adhere to concrete) to the front strap of the grip frame. He and I both figured the tape would be a goner, but he urged me to go ahead and put the frame through a complete ultrasonic cleaning process.

Since fellow writer Andrew Swan was in the middle of refurbishing an early model 24 S Series over/under for a buddy, I also managed to scrounge up a couple extra parts from the old squirrel gun for testing in our ultrasonic system.

The beauty of ultrasonic cleaning for both novice and armorer is that simple field stripping is usually all that's required to ensure a good, thorough cleaning. This means virtually anybody who can understand the basic teardown procedure in the owner's manual can achieve a fast, professional cleaning without the added labor or expense of complete disassembly/assembly of the weapon. I took down the 22/45 following the explicit teardown procedure in Ruger's instruction manual and discovered that 600 rounds of rimfire ammunition can create quite a mess! The trigger, spring plunger, disconnector, bolt stop and most of the internal surface of the polymer frame were caked with lead and bullet lube that created a messy, wax-like coating that smeared around when wiped with a cotton cleaning patch. From what I 'd heard, removing this kind of crud from all the crevices of a handgun was what ultrasonic cleaning was all about.

Preparing a revolver for ultrasonic cleaning isn't much more difficult. Cock the hammer, remove the yoke and cylinder assembly from the frame and separate them. If it's a first time cleaning, it's also advisable to remove the side plates and place a spacer between the star and cylinder to ensure everything gets good and clean.

Bullet lube and lead residue from rimfire ammo can produce a greasy, wax-like coating that's difficult to remove from the internal crevices of a firearm, especially polymer-framed guns that get quirky around solvents and degreasers.
The Ruger's bolt assembly showed similar signs of fouling along its sides, plus lots of brass buildup along the flat surface that cocks the hammer and rides over the top cartridge in the magazine. To top it off, the breech face and ejection port areas were coated with burnt powder and carbon, both characteristic byproducts of shooting semi-autos. They make special cutters for removing this kind of crud from an AR-15, so you know it's not the type of stuff you want to tackle with solvent and a toothbrush.

When Nate BBQ's, he likes his breech faces "well done." This much carbon and burnt powder requires powerful cleaning. We'll see whether ultrasonic measures can handle it!
Andrew's parts were also filthy – mostly coated with a thick layer of dust and grime and some formation of rust on portions of the hammer – especially the polished, sear engagement surfaces. This would have been a quick project for today's solvents and abrasive cleaners coupled with a little elbow grease. But, I wanted to see how the ultrasonic cleaner would handle all the loose debris and where it would reside in the tank once cleaning was complete.

Shown here is the forearm retaining bracket for the Savage 24. Standard solvents would cut this heavy dust buildup no problem, but I wanted to see where it ended up in the ultrasonic tank after cleaning.

Removing rust like that shown on the hammer engagement surfaces is within reason for an ultrasonic cleaner if it's not pitted too deeply.
L&R's operator manual clearly spells it out for the first-time user of one of their ultrasonic cleaning systems, so I had no issues preparing the setup. I gathered up the concentrated, non-ammoniated cleaning solution and followed the mixing instructions of 1 part cleaner to 10 parts warm tap water, pouring them directly into the stainless steel tank. The non-flammable cleaning solution was almost odorless and a pleasure to work with. Because it contains no ammonia, it's safe for exterior finishes and longer dwell times. As instructed, I filled the tank enough so that when the basket of parts was added, the solution would raise to a level approximately 1 inch from the top of the tank. When using fresh cleaning solution as I was, L&R recommends running the unit five to ten minutes prior to adding the parts basket in order to degas the solution. New cleaning solution contains a large content of dissolved gasses that can reduce the efficiency of the ultrasonic wave action until it burns off.

One gallon of concentrated ultrasonic cleaner goes a long way. Plus, you can reuse it several times before it starts breaking down.
I placed the lid on the tank, then preceded to plug-in the line cord for the ultrasonic unit and set the automatic timer for 10 minutes to degas the system – nothing happened. Hmmm, I rechecked my connection at the wall outlet and everything looked good. Was this a switched outlet? Had the generator or transducer died? Nope, I had actually plugged in the drill press instead of the ultrasonic cleaner by mistake. Step 1 – be smarter than the ultrasonic cleaner. After finally getting the correct power cord plugged into the outlet, I let the solution degas.

Small ultrasonic units like this are ideal for cleaning one or two handguns. Cleaning can be less effective if the size of the objects being cleaned is disproportionately smaller than the tank. It's also important not to overload the unit.
In the meantime, I filled the parts basket and arranged the grip frame so the magazine well and top opening would not be obstructed. When the timer shut off, I submerged the parts basket, which rested perfectly on the tank rim via its handles. According to L&R, most firearms clean up nicely in 15 minutes or less, so I set the timer for 12 minutes (which was the maximum shutoff time on our unit) and took in the audible hum of ultrasonic waves dislodging the fouling from the parts inside. Like a ravenous child waiting for a frozen pizza to cook, I tipped up the lid and sneaked a few peaks now and again until 12 minutes had finally passed.

As I removed the basket, I immediately noticed the cleaning solution was much dirtier and the parts were much cleaner. However, the worst areas like the breech face and inside the grip frame were still pretty nasty looking. Much of the fouling was loosened up in these spots, but they still needed some work. I was determined to get the breech area completely clean, as too much powder buildup in this area on a semi-auto almost always leads to extraction problems. I wasn't surprised that these areas were not sparkling clean yet. Nate had put a heck of a lot of rounds through this pistol over the course of the summer. Furthermore, rimfire ammo in a semi-auto is far dirtier to shoot than, say, copper jacket projectiles out of a centerfire bolt gun.

Andrew's parts looked like new, so I removed them from the basket, rinsed them in warm water and set them aside on a clean paper towel to drip dry for a while. The dirt and rust were completely gone. Because Andrew was nearly to the point of reassembling his project gun and needed the parts back quickly, he decided to skip the ultrasonic lubrication process and treat the parts with his favorite gun oil. I returned the pistol parts to the ultrasonic cleaner and set the timer for another 12 minutes.

Pictured here are the Savage 24 parts after 12 minutes in the ultrasonic cleaner. Note how clean and bright the engagement surfaces on the hammer appear. The rust is gone!
By the time the ultrasonic unit shut down, the pistol had been exposed to a mere 24 minutes of ultrasonic cleaning action, far less time than it would have taken to completely detail strip and clean the gun by hand. Quite honestly, I was impressed with the outcome. Every last bit of powder and carbon residue on the troubled area of the breech face had been dislodged. Since I had positioned the barrel on its side in the parts basket for cleaning, these particles migrated from the breech and formed a light sludge off to the side of the ejection port. This stuff flushed right out of the barrel during the warm water rinse.

After 24 minutes of ultrasonic cleaning, every last bit of powder and carbon residue on the breech face had been dislodged.
After I finished rinsing the rest of parts in warm water, I began inspection. Inside the frame was 99% spotless. The only visible fouling that remained was a small blemish about half the size of a match tip on top of the trigger assembly and a few specks of dirt along the top edge of the disconnector. A couple squirts of D'Solve™ (http://www.brownells.com/aspx/NS/store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=19723) wiped those out in a heartbeat. Even the bolt and bore had a nice shine to them. Next, I looked over the frame for any signs of melting, cracks or deformation, but found nothing indicative of too much heat or an adverse reaction to the cleaning solution or ultrasonic waves. And, to my surprise, the 3M grip tape was still securely affixed to the front strap with no sign of peeling.

A look at the inside of the grip frame revealed only a miniscule amount of fouling left on top of the trigger and disconnector.


Before and after phots of the bolt assembly reveal how effective ultrasonic cleaning is on brass buildup.
If you're not planning to clean more gun parts the same day, it's a good idea to drain the tank right away and save the solution in a separate container for your next cleaning session. Failure to do so can leave a tough, scum ring where the solution leveled out in the tank. I found evidence of this as I prepared our in-house unit for operation and believe me – even TCE had a tough time cutting it. I was done cleaning and wanted to see exactly how much crud resided at the bottom of the tank, so I pulled the plug and allowed it to drain.

If you plan to reuse a batch of cleaning solution, I'd recommend a fine mesh screen to trap the residual debris and help keep the solution as pure as possible. I didn't happen to have a filter handy at the time and lost most of the fouling while draining off the solution, but what I did see was enough to convince me that ultrasonic cleaning does one heck of a job.

Although much of the residual debris went out the drain port, there's enough here to convince most that ultrasonic cleaning works!
One thing I noticed right off the bat when examining the steel parts was that they were extremely clean, stripped of every last trace of oil, as if they went through a high-pressure bath of degreaser. For this reason, I can see the logic behind promptly going to step two in the ultrasonic cleaning process – lubrication. Anything as deeply cleaned as these parts, especially the unprotected bore and intricate workings inside the frame need some thorough lubrication to recondition and protect the surface metal from rust.

The lubricating solution not only oils the parts but provides a water-displacing bath similar to that used in a hot-salts bluing operation. What's nice is that the lubrication process is even easier than cleaning because no mixing is involved. Simply pour the premixed blend of solvents and water displacing oil straight into the tank so all parts are covered, and turn on the ultrasonic cleaner for same time it took to clean the weapon (generally 10 to 15 minutes).

After rinsing and drying out the tank, I filled it up with lubricating solution and loaded up the parts basket again. I wondered whether the lubrication bath would make the polymer grip frame slippery or loosen the 3M tape, so I threw that in, too. Then, I set the automatic timer and waited again for 12 minutes to pass. When the parts were done, I lifted out the basket and laid them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. All parts looked very well lubricated, the grip frame was not slick and the tape on the front strap was still intact. I noticed after about 15 to 20 minutes that the lubricating solution was starting to dry.

Since I didn't have time to allow the parts to fully air-dry as recommended, I shook them off, and then finished drying them with a clean cloth. I think this shortcut robbed me of the full protective benefits of the lubrication/water displacement process, because Nate noticed some fresh surface rust on the magazine spring after I returned the pistol to him. Hence, always follow the manufacturer's recommendations! Because the lubricating solution dries to a protective film, I would also advise additional treatment with your favorite non-drying, high-viscosity, lubricating oil on all moving parts to prevent wear.

Field stripped parts fresh out of the lubrication bath. All appeared well coated with a thin film of oil.
Leaving the best till last, I was truly amazed how the breech face finally turned out after the lubricating bath. I've been down the laborious road before of cleaning many chamber areas with a bronze bristled brush dowsed in solvent, and it's no fun. If you can field strip your weapon, plug-in an electrical cord (the correct one) and turn a dial, ultrasonic cleaners provide the fastest, easiest, most effective firearm cleaning system available. Until next month, good cleaning!

This final look at the breech face and ejection port area says it all, and is representative of the cleaning power of ultrasonic cleaners.
Brownells offers a large selection of quality ultrasonic cleaning systems from L&R Ultrasonics and Crest Ultrasonics, plus a complete line of ultrasonic cleaning/lubricating solutions to meet your needs.
If you have questions about different cleaning products or techniques you want us to test, be sure to let me know at webbench@brownells.com.

Source: http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/lid=12618/GunTechdetail/Gun_Cleaning_Clinic__Ultrasonics___The_King_Of_Cle aning

24-01-2011, 11:25 PM
Thats great information Chief no doubt, but are these Ultrasonic cleaning & lubricating solutions available here ??

24-01-2011, 11:27 PM
Thanks Chief, my question is same as Dr. sb's above, any availability, price ideas?

24-01-2011, 11:32 PM
@Aquarius and Ak47 Thank you, they are not available here at the moment. I am trying to get my hands on one but the cost (it's around 550 USD) and the availability of cleaner (liquid) down the line is an issue.

25-01-2011, 07:46 AM
Thanks Abbas bhi for sharing such a nice and interesting information.

25-01-2011, 09:13 AM
Thats great information

25-01-2011, 09:58 AM
Dear Abbas Bro, Very nice share indeed will study about this more and revert back, but very impressive ....... Nice research.....


25-01-2011, 10:20 AM
nice bro but seems to be non practical for pakistani users. 550$+taxes+..... is an expensive proposition for gun cleaning.

25-01-2011, 10:21 AM
I would rather like to purcahse those things which make gun dirty for that amount (ammo) rather than cleaning one. :)

25-01-2011, 10:28 AM
I would rather like to purcahse those things which make gun dirty for that amount (ammo) rather than cleaning one. :)

Middle class people like me will totally agree with bro Achilles!
but yea thanks Br. Abbas, like always, for sharing information and different options, please keep up this good work!

Jawad Jadoon

25-01-2011, 10:30 AM
I think such an expensive import is not worth it for mere gun cleaning

25-01-2011, 10:30 AM
@Aquarius and Ak47 Thank you, they are not available here at the moment. I am trying to get my hands on one but the cost (it's around 550 USD) and the availability of cleaner (liquid) down the line is an issue.

Its not only the solution A & B but the ultrasonic tank that will be required.
Now I can offer my services to do this Ultrasonic cleaning as these units are available here in Sialkot and are far more accurate, high tech, with variable sensitivity etc than the one shown in above article.

Problem is, I will never try it on any of my guns so need some one to volunteer his gun for that purpose, anyone interested ???

25-01-2011, 10:46 AM
Abbas bhai guns are there for the test. ABBAS bhai reactions are :target: :frusty: They are bacterilocicaly clean but not electrolyticaly. so he might be intrested in cleaning. :peep: MINE ARE CLEAN. I HAVE NOT EVEN FIRED MINE ONCE. :nono: .
Wow first time cleaning with electrolysis process in the hands of Denevo bhai. :rapture: I am not going to risk even a Dime. :peep: :whistle:

25-01-2011, 10:59 AM
Interesting way of cleaning guns........ It seems gun cleaning is also getting a fair share of high tech inventions.

25-01-2011, 02:14 PM
i do have an ultra sonic cleaner large enough for medium size hand gun, but dot have liquid to clean a gun.
its made in china

25-01-2011, 07:18 PM
The best cleaner is a wife, trained to clean your guns; after a days shoot while you sip a cold drink in front of a nice fire after a hot bath

25-01-2011, 07:32 PM
Well said skeeter. Lolz

25-01-2011, 08:30 PM
Are you serious?

25-01-2011, 09:28 PM
Are you serious?

Well my boy experience does not come easy. learn all the tricks and you will not have to clean your guns again

25-01-2011, 11:00 PM

26-01-2011, 09:35 PM
The best cleaner is a wife, trained to clean your guns; after a days shoot while you sip a cold drink in front of a nice fire after a hot bath

Due to a Gun or Girl friend
I think wives have enemies with both

27-01-2011, 05:53 AM
Due to a Gun or Girl friend
I think wives have enemies with both

Rightly said! :) :D :)

01-02-2011, 02:18 AM
@Achilles Lol, really enjoyed the pictorial post. Don't worry, I have a test barrel or two lying around. It's not easy to kill guns even if you want to and I look after mine ;)

@Jadoon Thank you brother !

@Denovo Thank you, taking hint from your post I thought to look for one and got it ! Will just post a thread about it.

@Skeeter60 Lol ! I would just like to say that Skeeter sahib skill set extends far beyond the gun world ;)