How to Field Strip a Bolt-Action Rifle

  • Jack Collins

Bolt-action rifles are some pretty robust instruments. But sometimes, dirt-clogged barrels can knock a rifle out of commission. Shooting a rifle with a clogged barrel can damage your gun, so you need to clear the obstruction. If you find yourself in this situation in the field, it might be time for a field strip.

Fortunately, field stripping bolt-action rifles doesn’t need to be intimidating. Once you do it a few times, you’ll be an expert. Fortunately, we’ve got SDI’s own Jarred McNeely to help introduce us to the process. Let’s explore the process as he outlines it in this video.

SDI Guides: How to Field Strip Bolt-Action Rifles

One of the things that Jarred mentions right off the bat is that a field strip isn’t meant to be a detailed procedure. A field strip is something you do out of necessity when you’re on a hunting trip or in some other remote situation.

What Happens if You Shoot a Gun with a Clogged Barrel

Dropping a gun barrel-first in the dirt may not seem like that big of a deal. But barrel obstructions can block a round from leaving the barrel, significantly increasing the amount of pressure within the gun. In extreme circumstances, this can cause a bolt-action rifle to catastrophically fail.

Clear the Gun

Open the bolt and visually confirm that there are no live rounds in the chamber and magazine.

Release the Bolt

The specifics of this step will depend on your gun. Jarred’s rifle in the video has a bolt release mechanism at the rear of the action. However, he notes that you can find the bolt release on many rifles near the trigger. To find where your specific rifle’s bolt release is located, check your manual.

Jarred also notes that some guns don’t have a removable bolt. You won’t be able to field strip these types of rifles. Instead, you’ll need to fully disassemble them to clean them.

Clear the Chamber and Barrel of Debris

With the rifle’s bolt removed, you can use a cleaning rod to remove any debris from the barrel. Push the cleaning rod from the rear of the action through the chamber and completely out of the muzzle. Do this a few times, and then visually inspect the barrel to ensure it’s clear. Use a bore guide when you do this.


Once you’ve confirmed that the barrel is no longer obstructed, slide the bolt back into the action. Return the bolt release mechanism to its locked position. Function check your rifle, and if everything looks good, you’re ready to keep shooting.

What Not to Do

Jarred also highlights one thing not to do when field stripping bolt-action rifles. He says that under no circumstances should you remove the gun’s action from the stock during a field strip.

Moisture and debris can get stuck in a wooden stock, warping the wood and throwing off your gun’s zero. This will make your rifle effectively useless, since your point of aim won’t match your point of impact.

Learn More About Firearms at SDI

Do you love learning about firearms from experts like Jarred? SDI can help you become one of those learned gun gurus. Click here to see all the programs that SDI offers.

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