My X-Bolt. A day in the mist. Sucker for that blued steel though!
It’s better to ask a question like that than either not clean a rifle and end up with a pitted or worse, rust filled barrel, or, pull it to bits and injure an animal (or miss) because you know longer have a correctly zeroed rifle. So, glad he asked.
Here was my full answer – feel free to add you own thoughts in the comment section…
“First of all – good on you for realising these things like a clean after use.
And the answer is; it depends.
For example – if it’s free floated on pillars in a chassis system, then, probably not. But for most rifles, when you screw it back together, whether it’s the amount of torque you put it back in with, the action sitting slightly different in the stock, or a decent bump on the rings/scope – it can shift.
Again though – how much? Who knows. The only real way to tell it to put it all back together and then shot it.
It’s a great excuse to shoot the rifle some more anyhow.
I can tell you I can take the scope off my Browning, then reattach it and not have zero shift – because I was interested to know if it did so shot it to test it out. With the rings and base I use, it doesn’t pose a problem. Others might.
Cleaning a barrel will also shift POI, not much, but it will. On my hunting rifle, it’s not enough to worry about (it would still go where I expected it too) – but I do know that if I take the suppressor off, I could have enough change in POI to actually miss a deer.
Unfortunately, each rifle, each brand, each individual firearm will react a little differently. The only way to know is to test it.
If you were heading away this weekend and didn’t have time to confirm your zero, I would assume it would change, clean out the barrel and as much as I could without pulling the action out of the stock. Then strip it when I knew I would be able to test zero again.”