Most match shooters leave it in the action. The areas of the barrel around the gas cylinder and the oprod tube don't get cleaned for a while. The majority of the fouling there is forward of the oprod guide. On a match rifle, the barrel isn't exactly a long-life item (ten years maybe, 2 years for a hardcore shooter), so an occasional spot of rust isn't really a concern. The oprod spring isn't a big deal--a lot of armorers recommend replacing them every 2-4k rounds anyways. You lube it to ensure smooth function, not to make it last forever.So if the rifle is bedded... you generally don't remove it (maybe once per year) to clean. So do you take the trigger group out? What is the general procedure for cleaning in and around the gas cylinder/piston - do you take this area apart at each cleaning?
Yep, you do get better access. The gas cylinder should not be removed from the barrel for cleaning. I'd recommend pulling the gas plug and cleaning the piston and swabbing the inside of the gas cylinder every 300-500 rounds. Some folks do it everytime.If the rifle is not bedded...I take it doesn't matter if you take it out of the stock as much. Therefore you can get better access to the op rod / spring guide / receiver / etc.. for cleaning? Do you take apart the gas cylinder/piston each time?
The oils I use as a preservative say to apply, then wipe of the excess (wet patch followed by a dry patch). If you do that, it shouldn't matter, but I would think that muzzle down would be best for the reasons you stated. How much of a benefit? Beats me!! Depends on the individual.Also - What is the best way to store a cleaned rifle - muzzle up/down - does it make a difference (excess oil drip into receiver / gas cylinder) ???