A friend asked me a while back about breaking in the barrel of his shiny new hunting rifle. How many shots, he asked, does it take before everything works and the rifle is shooting as well as it ever will?

I asked David E. Petzal, the iconic gun writer at Field & Stream, that very question at the 2015 SHOT Show. His answer was basic and brilliant, which is pretty much how Dave rolls. Basically he said that in the good old days before the major gun manufacturers began employing such things as rigid receivers and bolts, pillar bedding, epoxy, bedding girders and a lot of synthetic stocks, the average hunting rifle did a lot of twisting, bending and expanding before all its parts worked together. It took some serious shooting to achieve that harmony.

Today, though, for the most part those issues have gone the way of the honest politician. In the modern era, even relatively inexpensive rifles employ most, if not all, of these parts and processes, and thus they don’t budge. They’ll shoot about the same from day one as they will when you pass it down to the next generation, assuming you’ve taken care of it and maintained the barrel properly.

My own process is the same I used in the 1970s. It might be overkill, but whattheheck, we all have our little superstitions, right? What I do is shoot one round and clean the barrel, and repeat this process for the first five shots. Then I shoot five shots and clean it again, and repeat that process one more time. I then shoot 10 rounds and clean the barrel yet again. I am now done, and I expect my rifle to show me what it’s got.

How about you?