• Lyman BoreCam Digital Borescope Review

    One of the greatest mysteries for shooters has always been the condition of the bore in their rifles. How clean am I getting my barrels? Does my barrel have a carbon ring developing? How much throat erosion do I have? Is there any pitting in my barrel? All are questions that are impossible to answer without a bore scope, but most donít want to or can't justify spending the money to purchase a professional quality bore scope given their cost. Lyman saw this gap in the market and decided to do something about it, and the resulting product is the BoreCam Digital Borescope that we are looking at today.

    The Lyman BoreCam was first introduced at the 2015 SHOT Show, but itís taken some time to hit the market in quantity. I have been watching all the major retailers for over a year waiting to find one in-stock, but it wasn't until this April (2016) that I was finally able to get one. I'm not sure if that was due to very high demand or if there was a quality or supply issue on Lyman's end, but whatever the case Iím glad to have finally been able to purchase one.

    The Lyman unit is currently running around $260 at most online retailers. That's quite the bargain compared to the cost of a base model Hawkeye Bore Scope which sells for $800. That $260 investment gets you the (.20-caliber and up), an LCD monitor unit with 2.24 x 2.75Ē display, a 128Mb SD memory card, USB memory card adapter, power cord and a handful of different international outlet adapters, and some lens cleaning solution with a few Q-tip like applicators. Naturally the Lyman has to be giving up something to keep the cost down, so the question is this: Does the Lyman provide an image of suitable quality for the average shooting enthusiast to answer the questions posed at the beginning of this article?

    Lyman doesnít specify what the magnification power is on the BoreCam, but Iím inclined to believe that itís either 10 or 12x as itís clearly not as high as the Hawkeye which uses a 25x lens. Where the Hawkeye uses a small flashlight as the light source, the BoreCam features a built-in LED light making the unit much more compact. The Lyman unit also comes with a longer wand at 20-inches compared to 17-inches on the Hawkeye.

    One feature that really makes the Lyman BoreCam attractive is the ability to take a photo of the image being displayed on the monitor at any given time by simply pressing a button. To do this on a Hawkeye would require you to purchase $1,450 worth of additional equipment plus provide a computer to connect it to. That said, that hefty price lets you record video as well so itís not exactly a direct comparison.

    Before we start looking at barrels I first want to point out that appearances arenít always everything when it comes to barrels. Most shooters have never looked through a bore scope before or seen a magnified image of the rifling in a barrel, so it may come as a shock to them to find out that they are generally not perfectly smooth and free of imperfections on the inside. Machining and tooling marks are quite normal in both button rifled and cut rifled barrels simply due to the rifling process. Higher quality aftermarket barrels that are hand-lapped will be noticeably smoother, but they will still have imperfections. Simply put, always put more emphasis on the way the barrel shoots over what it looks like on the inside as looks can and will be deceiving.

    To gauge the capabilities of the Lyman BoreCam I simply grabbed a few random rifles out of the safe. All of the barrels (except the .223 Axis barrel) were thoroughly cleaned prior to being scoped. The barrels used and corresponding round counts are as follows:

    Barrel Type
    Round Count
    Savage Factory .223 Rem 1-9" twist Less than 100 rounds
    Douglas .22-250 Ackley 1-8" twist 1,200 - 1,300 rounds
    DPMS 5.56 NATO 1-8" twist 180 rounds
    Shilen .284 Win. 1-9" twist Less than 100 rounds
    S&W 5.56 NATO 1-7" twist 500-600 rounds
    CZ 22LR 1-16" twist 800 rounds

    Aside from the CZ barrel, all of the listed barrels are made using the button rifling process. The CZ barrel is cold hammer forged.

    Savage Factory .223 Rem Douglas .22-250AI DPMS 5.56 NATO

    Shilen .284 Win. S&W 5.56 NATO CZ 22LR

    The Savage factory .223 Remington barrel is pretty typical of what you'll find in most Savage barrels - lots and lots of tooling marks. All button rifle barrels will show evidence of some tooling marks as they are indicative of the process being used, but Savage barrels always seem to be the worst. I can only speculate, but I suspect that this is because they are drilling and pulling the rifling buttons through at a much faster rate (inches per minute) than other manufacturers.

    The Douglas barrel images show clear signs of heat cracking. This barrel is 12 years old now and chambered for a fairly hot cartridge, so after 1,200+ rounds loaded to the very max it's no surprise that the first few inches forward of the chamber are worn in this way. Accuracy has tapered off a bit in recent years, but it's still a consistent 1/2 to 3/4 MOA barrel.

    The DPMS barrel really surprised me with how smooth and uniform it was. If I didn't known better I would think it was a premium hand-lapped or cut rifled aftermarket barrel rather than a $200 mass production button rifled barrel. The only negative I could find in it was in the neck area of the chamber (upper right photo in the image above) which displays some obvious tooling chatter.

    The Shilen barrel shocked me a little in the fact that I found what appear to be a few very small pits forming in it. This is a chrome-moly barrel that was parkerized, not stainless steel, so as such it is susceptible to rusting. However, with the barrel being only 4 years old and having less than 100 rounds shot through it it's a little disheartening to see - especially when I religiously clean/oil my guns every three months whether they've been shot or not for this very reason - to prevent rusting/pitting. The Shilen barrel also had faint tooling marks in it that remained even after being hand-lapped. Even with these obvious flaws this barrel has proven to be very accurate during recent load development with half-minute three-shot groups at 200 yards.

    The Smith & Wesson barrel displayed some pitting and tooling marks, as well as some damage to the edges of the lands in some places. The tooling marks weren't nearly as prominent as the ones in the Savage factory barrel, but were more pronounced than the ones in the Shilen barrel. The minor amount of pitting seemed to be limited to the chamber end of the barrel.

    Being a hammer forged barrel the CZ naturally didn't have any tooling marks. The surface was quite smooth and uniform as one would expect from this process as well. In fact, looking over the length of the barrel I couldn't find anything that really warranted noting as far as defects or irregularities.

    After examining the above barrels with the Lyman BoreCam I have somewhat mixed feelings about the unit. As it stands, itís a decent unit that allows you to get a good indication of whatís going on inside your barrel. The image provided isn't great, but it's sufficient enough to allow you to see tooling marks, pitting, heat cracking, tears and any other forms of imperfections. Copper build-up is a little harder to make out due to the poor quality of the LCD display, but it can be seen once you know what to look for. The cord on the wand can be a little irritating as it spins with the wand when youíre rotating it in the bore causing it to coil up and want to spring back.

    Another shortcoming is that the built-in LED light isnít the greatest. According to the instruction manual the up/down buttons on the display unit are supposed to mode through three different levels of brightness on the light, but cycling through them I saw no increase or reduction in brightness Ė all three levels were exactly the same making the buttons pointless. The LED light also really washes out the photos captured by the unit requiring you to turn down the brightness and increase the contrast in a photo editing program to get a more defined picture.

    Like other bore scopes, using the Lyman in larger bores gets a bit tricky as you have to keep the wand pressed against the area of the barrel you are looking at to get a clear image. So if you want to look at the rifling in the top of your .45-70 barrel, you need to hold the want against the top of the bore. Pretty simple, but can be a bit of a challenge when youíre trying to look at all 360-degrees of your bore in one spot Ė such as the throat area.

    The one big gripe I have with the Lyman BoreCam is in regard to the captured image size and resolution, which directly reflects the low quality camera used in the wand. The captured images are only 320x240 pixels in size and are a lowly 72dpi resolution. That's like 1990 digital image technology. When I can purchase a 16 megapixel brand name point-and-shoot digital camera for under $100 there's no excuse for something of this low quality costing two and a half times as much. I understand that Lyman isn't an electronics company, but they've been offering electronic reloading equipment and measuring devices for years and should be able to come up with something a little better than this without much effort.

    Overall I think itís a fairly good unit and is well worth the $260 purchase price. Being able to see the exact condition of your bore can easily save you up to twice the cost of the unit. Even if itís just a matter of setting back and rechambering a barrel over replacing it, that cost savings is nearly enough to cover the cost of the BoreCam.

    Is the Lyman BoreCam a professional quality unit like a Hawkeye? Surely not! The level of magnification and the quality of the lens/image is much lower than the Hawkeye, but the Lyman was never intended to be a professional quality unit. It was designed specifically for the enthusiast and to bridge the gap between nothing at all and a professional grade unit. While itís not perfect and has plenty of room for improvement, for the price itís a tool every serious shooter should seriously consider adding to their workbench as it can and will save you money in the long run.

    Contact Information
    Lyman Products Corp
    475 Smith Street
    Middletown, CT 06457

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. LongRange's Avatar
      LongRange -
      Great write up,pics and video...I'll be looking into getting a bore scope soon.
    1. jerry shaw's Avatar
      jerry shaw -
      Nice review. I recently purchased this product. The writer's experience pretty well matched up to my experience. It's not a Hawkeye, but it provides great service at an affordable price.
    1. SidecarFlip's Avatar
      SidecarFlip -
      I own a Gradient Lens Borescope and they are expensive. Instead of the Lyman, I bought a Harbor Freight Digital Inspection Camera for 50 bucks (before the Lyman came on the Market) and while the head won't fit in a smaller bore, the light is bright enough and the resolution is high enough to ascertain bore condition, copper fouling and erosion on the bench and checking your cleaning regimen without the worry of damaging a 700 buck plus borescope. It's a cheap alternative that works quite well....for 50 bucks plus I use it for internal inspections of various mechanical assemblies other than firearms.
    1. Heavy Recoil's Avatar
      Heavy Recoil -
      I too have just purchased this borescope due to its affordability. Even though I'd seen ads and such for the Hawkeye I simply could not justify its purchase. This tool provides an acceptable level of functionality for its price. At the very least it affords me the ability, if needed, to determine whether or not my rifle would benefit from the attention of my local gunsmith or me for that matter in my cleaning regime. Thanks for taking the time in producing this review!
    1. RC20's Avatar
      RC20 -
      Ditto: Well worth it, Taking Pictures with a good camera rather than the chip transfer is the way to go.

      Mine does have 3 light levels, pretty much makes no difference so far, maybe on a darker barrel.

      I got a good deal on it ($180 form amazon) and free freight. Its well worth it and what I have been waiting for.

      I will share it with my brother.

      The screen is more than good enough for in person inspection and results.

      As well as looking a thte current Savage stable,
      I looked at my WWII 1917 JA barrel I cleaned out with Bore Tehc eliminator, very clean, little copper.

      I looked at my WWI Remington barrel, also very clean and have not bore teched it yet.

      Interesting little pustules, some craters, but overall amazing.

      worst will be my 1917 Danish, its a history piece rather than a shooter, a bit worn by TE (3) and MW (3) but still well within limits of shooting good.