Armed & ready

By Stephanie Andrews

At-home honing tool gives professional-level firearm maintenance

February 2013 - Everyone from the serious hunter to the gun enthusiast to even a Hollywood gun wrangler understands the importance of keeping firearms properly cleaned and maintained. However, it can be a time-consuming and costly process. Professional cleaning services are expensive and shipping costs alone can be exorbitant—sometimes costing more than the service. “I always sent my shotgun to the gunsmith for finishing and polishing,” says Jim Charles Johnson of Wilmington, Del. “They did a wonderful job, but it took a couple of weeks and it would cost me plenty. Postage alone was $75.” 

Those who do not wish to use professional firearm services often opt to perform gun maintenance themselves. This option poses an array of other challenges. For firearm owners, it’s imperative the gun receives the proper conditioning, particularly the chamber. If the chamber isn’t properly polished, issues can arise including brass casing scarring and ejection problems. 

From steel wool and tornado brushes to sandpaper-wrapped dowels and homemade remedies of boiling water and ammonia, these do-it-yourself cleaning practices can make it difficult to achieve the right cleaning and surface finish.  One at-home alternative is a flexible, drill-mounted hone known as the Flex-Hone. 


Flexible finishing

The Flex-Hone, created by Brush Research Manufacturing Co. Inc., Los Angeles, consists of small, abrasive globules mounted on flexible nylon filaments. Originally designed for the aerospace industry, this versatile instrument is quick and easy to use, producing a smooth and polished finish in any firearm, from a rifle or shotgun to revolvers, pistols and even paintball guns. 

The Flex-Hone also can clean out barrel damage caused by oxidation or corrosion, smooth out scratches, and remove nicks and pits caused by plastic adhesion. No matter the bore or gauge size, Brush Research makes Flex-Hone in a variety of lengths and grits to meet the cleaning needs of any gun owner.

Barrel residue is another problem that can affect the accuracy and life of a gun. This flexible hone removes barrel buildup, breathing life back into any firearm. With a properly polished chamber, the fired cases will extract easier, putting less strain and wear on extractors and ejectors. This guarantees debris is less likely to build up in the chamber walls. And should any residue arise, it easily can be removed during the Flex-Hone cleaning process.

With the Flex-Hone, the cleaning process is simple. After disassembling the firearm and securing the Flex-Hone into a lathe, drill press or hand drill chuck, a lubricant is applied to the tool. Brush Research also makes its own Flex-Hone oil, although the operator can choose to use other cleaning lubricants. 

The Flex-Hone must be rotating prior to entry and should continue rotating until cleaning is finished and it’s been completely removed from the part. After only a few long, even strokes, the operator of the Flex-Hone should inspect the surface of the part to make sure it is fully polished and the part isn’t over-honed. Dry off the part and then continue to clean with a lint-free cloth lightly coated with the oil. A little dab of oil applied to the surface after cleaning preserves the finish. Not only will the gun have a striking finish, but it will also be free of imperfections. 

After using the Flex-Hone, emptying and reloading a firearm will be easier. The superior finish from this tool will allow rounds to be ejected with ease. Reloads post Flex-Hone also will result in reduced brass scarring. ffj-0204-webex-armed-image2

Do-it-yourself deburring

For those like Johnson, who was using expensive professional services for firearm polishing and finishing, the Flex-Hone has been a major cost savings. “With the Flex-Hone, I accomplished the polishing myself in half an hour,” he says. “This saved me time and money.” And for those concerned that it might be difficult to use, it’s as easy as using a drill. “If you can operate a drill, you can polish your barrels, chambers, forcing cones and cylinders yourself. I followed the instructions and had no problems at all,” says Johnson. 

An antique firearm, a valued treasure and emblem of familial generations past, can become corroded and occluded over time. For those wanting to wipe away the damage, the Flex-Hone is an asset. Todd Waggerman inherited from his wife’s grandfather a .30-06 rifle, which had been sitting in a closet since 1974 and had some obvious wear. “The brass corroded and left a strange raised area in the bottom of the chamber,” says Waggerman. “The rifle works, but the spent cases stick in the chamber after the first five to 10 rounds fired.”

Prior to using the Flex-Hone, Waggerman had been folding a small piece of 800 grit sandpaper in half, which he would then feed through the eye of a gun cleaning patch. This was screwed in a section of a cleaning rod that was turned on low speed using a cordless drill. The results were not good. But the Flex-Hone was able to accomplish the job and preserve the heirloom. “The Flex-Hone removed the residue and corrosion, and extraction is fine now,” he says. 

For Model 99 rifle owner John Eggleston, casing ejection problems are a major concern. “Before using the Flex-Hone on my .308 chamber, expended rounds would not extract unless I used a rod to knock them out,” says Eggleston. “The Flex-Hone and oil enabled me to safety polish and resurface the chamber. No more stuck casings.” 

“[The Flex-Hone is] simply the best thing going for a uniform burr-free finish,” says Jon Magoun. 

Targeted users 

The Flex-Hone has caught the attention of a unique group—cowboy action shooters. These men and women, in Wild West garb, shoot competitively while using historically accurate firearms. Jim O’Hanlon, a cowboy action shooter from Port St. Lucie, Fla., found this sport tough on his shotgun. “We shoot double shotguns that are not allowed to have ejectors, just extractors,” he says. “Shells have to fall out of the chambers with ease for fast reloads.” O’Hanlon also competes in the black powder category, which means all shooters’ firearms are loaded with black powder rather than smokeless powder, which creates “a really sticky chamber.” But the black powder and the wear and tear from shooting have ceased to be issues. “Using the Flex-Hone simplified the cleaning process and gave more consistent results,” says O’Hanlon. “The Flex-Hone gives that final, glass-like smoothness that allows my extraction of empty shells to be fast.” 

Companies also are using the Flex-Hone to restore firearms to pristine condition. “We seem to have a lot of people showing up over the last two years with grandpa’s old double barrel,” says Delbert Murray of Victorian Arms, Pensacola, Fla. “Some of them were very sad cases. We did what we could for the pitted barrels and it was relatively easy to knock off the surface rust and chunks of hardened powder and residue. The disappointing part was the very minute pits and scratches that remained.”  After trying multiple applications, he discovered Flex-Hone. 

“We were a little skeptical at first about how well it could work, and chose an old Colt double 12 gauge of Damascus steel to test on,” says Murray. “It could never be fired again, so we couldn’t do it any harm.” The results were impressive. “The Flex-Hone was like magic. Now we use them every chance we get and the result is almost always a bright, like-new barrel in just a matter of minutes.” Victorian Arms now stocks the complete set of Flex-Hones.  “It pays for itself the first time it is used on a restoration job.” FFJ



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