Lyman Borecam Digital Borescope with Monitor - in depth review
- Credit: Archant
Chris Parkin reviews this affordable borescope, which allows you to establish an effective cleaning routine and see any wear and tear
A very useful tool to assist in all rifle maintenance
Good value and takes seconds to set up
Modest yet effective packing/storage case for long term care
Less eye and physical neck strain from extended viewing than optical units
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Don’t panic at every scratch you see in the barrel
Smaller cleaning bud required
It’s great to see digital technology take a leap of faith into our sport and, although of slightly less capability than optical units, it is far cheaper and more accessible to further the learning of a world we rarely see inside our guns.
Recommended retail price: £288.80
01977 681 639
Optical borescopes have been with us for many years but are a seriously luxurious tool for amateurs. The Lyman Borecam Digital Borescope with Monitor has ridden the latest digital sensor and microscopic lens tidal wave, and translated it into a borescope that allows you to see inside your gun’s action, chamber, barrel, sound moderator, or wherever else you wish to inspect, at a fraction of the cost.
Rather than using extreme precision lenses and mirrors to transmit an image along a slender stainless tube, the Lyman has a digital sensor within its tip that, with the help of a mirror set at 45 degrees, electronically transmits a perpendicular image of the face of the bore to a handheld monitor, rather than an optical eyepiece.
Seeing inside your barrel is a matter that should be approached with some caution, because what you see may terrify you (given that some barrels are in useful life for as little as three seconds’ total action, and even gentle calibres like .308s or .223s may last only six or seven).
The inside of your barrel is subjected to many thousands of microsecond-long bursts of inferno-like temperatures, as the propellant burns to create extreme temperature and gaseous pressures which drive tightly fitted bullets down your barrel. You get fire cracking, general wear of the steel and, in many cases (and worst of all), corrosion from moisture and poor cleaning/maintenance regimes. Some barrels can look like ploughed fields inside yet shoot fantastically well (I had just such a .222 Remington for several years), while others may look pristine yet shoot terribly. So, do not despair at first sight; use it as a learning tool.
The display on the Lyman can be observed in real time, or photographic images can be captured to be later displayed on the unit’s 3.25” screen or in JPEG format on a larger computer screen (albeit at fairly low resolution). All is powered from regular 110-240 volt mains and the supplied plug carries several format types suited to any country you may travel to.
Set-up takes seconds: insert the supplied SD card, plug in both power leads and the cable to the wand-like camera probe, and turn on. The mirror, lens and sensor are protected by a rubber cap, and you must make sure you are inspecting a dry, if not always clean, barrel.
The sensor is 4.6mm in diameter so will fit into bores as small as .224” or .20 cal, but be gentle – it is 20”/500mm long and could easily be bent or otherwise damaged if you are brutal. Never force anything!
You can, of course, insert the borescope from either end of the barrel, and the base of the rod, at 14.9mm in diameter, will itself fit all the way inside most actions. Markings are present every inch along the scope to 19”, so from either end you can fully inspect a 38” barrel, which is far beyond most sporting and target rifles. Muzzle loaders or guns with inaccessible breeches will limit your options to muzzle-end only, and always be careful drawing the unit back and forth over the critical crown region, which is easily damaged.
Image quality is generally good but not quite in the league of optical units, which to be fair are three or four times the price. Focal control is not present so, in a way, the unit is far easier to use.
Seemingly more critical are gentle nudges to set the 3.7mm diameter closer to the walls of the bore, which may be 7.6mm or more. For regular inspection of similar bore sizes, I wrapped the scope with electrical tape to make a firmer sliding fit, a job that took seconds yet gave better images. Digitally recorded images were roughly 30kb in size, so you will have no problem fitting a few hundred in the JPEG format on to the 128Mb card, a miniscule size to any modern PC hard drive.
Areas of corrosion in a barrel were very obvious. The locations of copper deposits were easy to spot too, but the key texture of the steel’s surface was undeniably a little less visually remarkable than that of optical tools.
The mirror finish seen on stainless, honed, cut-rifled match barrels can be so shiny it dazzles you, whereas a chrome/moly hammer-forged or button-rifled tube will always seem dull in comparison, despite being equally clean. As a tool to help you learn to clean a rifle more effectively from hygroscopic powder residues, it becomes appealing, and for me, as a gun tester, the ability to see into the barrels of unknown rifles was indispensable.
I have checked 10 or so of my last test guns using the Lyman, and most show machining marks, occasional ‘tears’ to the steel lands, and grooves in the rifling. Older guns nearly always show some corrosion, especially near the muzzle. Guns of longer lifetimes clearly show how the throat and lead of the bore begin to fire crack, looking a little like the scales of fish, but their ability to remain fully functional is not affected. Fire cracking can be compared to the wrinkles on our own skin – a sign of life and maturity, yet not necessarily the end to our usefulness.
An SD card reader to plug into a USB port is supplied for fast access to photographs, along with cotton buds and cleaning fluid to keep the tiny mirror (circa 3.5mm in diameter) clean. These are actually too large to get onto the face of the mirror, so I used the point of rolled tissue to tease any microscopic dust particles and smears of grease or oil from the mirror and lens.
At £288.80 I can see this being a valuable resource for keen shooters, especially those chasing extreme accuracy and repeatable cleaning routines.
For anyone looking at older guns, the purchase of a tool like this can quickly earn its own purchase price and certainly direct you to deepen your research into the lifetime and care given to any used rifle. But, make sure you inspect a lot of guns to learn the hallmarks and characteristics of the visual signs that indicate doom and gloom, and those that are actually factors of modern engineering and, although unsightly, are very common to nearly all rifles.