The first step in proper gun maintenance is getting a good set of cleaning supplies. But given how massive the market is these days, it’s good to get some product recommendations to point you in the right direction.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know when it comes to gun cleaning. Included below is some basic information on the why proper gun care is important, what to look for when buying a cleaning kit, and a list of the best gun cleaning kit options currently on the market. We’ve also included a glossary, which lists all the products you should have and what they’re used for.
Best Gun Cleaning Kits
Now that we’ve covered all the basic gun cleaning information, let’s take a look at the best products currently on the market. This list begins with the best universal gun cleaning kits, followed by some specialized kits and other useful items that you might want to check out. Towards the end we have listed our recommendations for cleaning solutions and oils. Let’s get started!
Otis All Caliber Elite Cleaning Kit- Best Universal Gun Kit
Otis Technology’s Universal All Caliber Elite Cleaning Kit is as close to complete as any kit you’ll find and the quality is top notch. The kit features over 60 components and is perfect for pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
It comes with 16 caliber sized bronze bore brushes (.17, .22 limited breech, .22/.223, .243-.260, .270/7mm, .30-06/.300/30-30/.308, .338-.35, .357-38cal/9mm, .40/10mm, .44/.45, .50cal, .410ga, 28ga, 20ga, 16ga, 12/10ga) that are excellent quality. The kit also includes 6 brushes and 3 memory flex cables (8”, 12” and 36”)
My only complaint about the Otis Elite Cleaning Kit is the soft nylon case. I find hard cases much easier to carry, plus they look better and are more durable. I’d also prefer the traditional jags over the slotted tips provided. That said, this is a great kit at an affordable price point.
- 2 fl.oz. bottles of Bio-CLP, Complete Cleaner, Lubricant, and Firearm Protectant.
- 100% cotton 2” & 3” patches, 3 slotted tips & 2 patch savers
- Small & large obstruction removers knock out mud, snow, stuck casings and double as a t-handle base for included t-handle; small t-handle & stud included for small caliber cleaning.
- .223cal/5.56mm chamber brush, pin punch, end brush, straight pick, locking lug scraper, scraper, short AP brush, double end AP brush and male & female rod for more precise cleaning.
- Lens tissue, lens spray, lens brush and lens cloth for optics care.
- Warranty protection
DAC Winchester Super Deluxe Cleaning Kit
The DAC Super Deluxe universal kit is another market favorite. It’s a 68 piece set that includes 6 solid brass rods (.17-.28 cal/.30.54 cal.), 14 bronze bore brushes (.17/.22/.204/.243/.270/.30/.357/.38 and 9mm/.40/.45/.50/.54 cal. and 12/20/.410 gauge), 14 mops, and 4 slotted tips.
I like that along with the slot tips the kit also comes with 13 jags. The case itself is soft sided, but it’s more durable than the Otis case. The aesthetic is certainly lacking still, but the inside organization of the case is excellent. The overall quality of the tools isn’t amazing, but this is more of a bargain item so I wouldn’t expect it to be perfect. The brushes will get the job done, but the rods are a little flimsy. The added accessories like the double-ended cleaning pick you can use on hard-to-reach areas are a nice touch.
All in all, this is another great universal kit at a bargain price compared to the one above, making it a strong contender for the overall best gun cleaning kit.
- 4 accessory adaptors
- Double ended metal cleaning pick
- 2 double ended utility/breech brush (phosphor and nylon)
- 3 utility parts brushes (phosphor/nylon/stainless)
- 2 choke/breech brushes (1/4” & ¾” diameter)
- 3 sets of 50 patches (1”x 1”/1 ½” x 1 ½”/3”x 3”)
Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Cleaning Kits
Hoppe’s No. 9 is a popular brand in the gun cleaning market most popularly known for their oils, cleaning solvents, and the Hoppe’s Bore Snake. We’ll touch on the bore snake more in the next section, but for now let’s turn our attention to Hoppe’s Premium Universal Cleaning Kit and the Deluxe Gun Cleaning Kit.
Hoppe’s Premium Universal Cleaning Kit comes with 10 bronze brushes (12, 20 and 28 ga., .410 bore, .44/45, .38, .30, .40/10mm, .22 and .17), 6 machine-washable and reusable cleaning swabs, and 9 jags (.17/.20, .22/.243/6mm, .25-6.5mm, .270-7mm, .30-8mm, .375-.40, .416 to .44, .45, .338 to 9mm). There’s also 3 utility brushes, one nylon, one bronze, and one stainless steel. The quality of the tools is passable, certainly good for the price point, and it comes in a hard carrying case, which I really like. The only obvious downside is that the kit doesn’t include any oils or solvents.
You could alternatively choose Hoppe’s Deluxe Gun Cleaning Kit, which has less tools but includes Hoppe’s famous No. 9 Bore Cleaner and oils. This also comes in a hard case, this time made of wood. The case is a little flimsy, but I’d still prefer it over a soft case. The kit includes 3 brass rods, four slotted ends, 5 bronze brushes (.22 and .30 rifle, .38 pistol, and 20 and 12 gauge shotgun), and a silicone cleaning cloth. The obvious downsides to this kit is that it isn’t equipped to clean 9mm or .45.
Allen Deluxe Ultimate Gun Cleaning Kits
Allen’s cleaning kits are good upper-middle shelf items that are great for the intermediate gun owner.
The best gun cleaning kit from them is the Allen’s Ultimate Tactical Gun Cleaning Kit. This kit comes with 65 pieces and is branded to use high-grade tools. It comes with 8 bore brushes (.50, .44/.45, .40, .357/9mm, .30, .22, 12 gauge, and 20 gauge), 10 cleaning swabs, 3 brass slotted tips, 6 brass jags (upgraded from plastic), and brass adapters for 5-40 (.20 Caliber and less) 8-32 (rifle and pistol) and 5/16-27 (shotgun).
It also comes with upper and bolt carry key brushes, .223 and .308 chamber brushes and a tube cleaning brush. The list of additional parts is long so I include the rest in bullet points below.
The kit is all stored in a tactical hard-plastic casing, complete with pull out compartments. The organization of the kit is exceptional and in my opinion the best on our list. The only drawback to this kit is that there are no solvents or oils included, but Ultimate kit does have plenty of space in the case to store oils and solvents after purchasing them separately.
- 3 specialty tools for MSR
- Hex handle for use with one piece of the brass rod
- Clear plastic tube and rope cable
- 3-piece cleaning rods for shotgun and rifle/handgun
- Muzzle guards for each cleaning rod (4mm and 6mm)
- 3-piece brush and pick set (not included in Deluxe set)
- Cotton cleaning patches
- 10 cotton cleaning cloths
Real Avid Gun Boss Cleaning Kits- Bargain Specialized Compact Kits
Real Avid makes a series of compact Gun Boss kits for handguns, AR-15s, AK-47s, Shotguns, and other rifles that are a great something to take to the range or keep in your truck. Each kit typically comes with a 2-section rod with detachable T-handle, some jags, some brushes, and slotted tips. The tools come in a durable padded-hard-case and the kits prices range by about 10 bucks depending on if you’re buying for a handgun or longun. The overall quality of the case and tools are solid, and the only real drawback is that no solvents or oils are included.
Otis Tactical Cleaning Kit- Best Compact Kit
The Otis Tactical Cleaning Kit is very popular and in my opinion the best compact cleaning kit on the market. It comes with a wide assortment of tools, is compatible with pistols, rifles, and shotguns, and even has its own small CLP bottle, which is a great plus. The kit is more than twice as expensive as the Avid Gun Boss, but the quality is excellent and it has more universality. It comes in a soft padded zip-up case and we’ve listed the additional contents below.
Otis Tactical Cleaning Kit Contents:
- 6 bronze bore brushes (.22/.223, .270, .30/.308/30-06/30-30, .38/9mm, .45 cal, 12 ga)
- 2” & 3” cotton patches
- 3 slotted tips
- 2 patch savers
- 8″ and 30″ aircraft grade Memory-Flex cables with thread connector
- 34″ aircraft grade Memory-Flex® cable (5-40 thread) with slotted tip is small enough to clean .17 caliber firearms
- T-handles that double as small & large obstruction removers
Hoppe’s BoreSnake Rifle Soft Sided Rifle Cleaning Kit
Boresnakes can be a handy alternative gun cleaning tool for when you’re away from your primary cleaning kit. They were extremely common during the World Wars and if I’m not mistaken it was actually Hoppe’s BoreSnakes that were used by the US Military during WWII.
The Hoppe’s BoreSnake Rifle Soft Sided Rifle Cleaning kit comes with Gun Bore Cleaner, Hoppe’s Lubricating Oil and a Weatherguard cloth. Remember that a Boresnakes by no means can clean your gun completely, but these are good choice for shooters who like to give their gun’s barrel a quick clean immediately after use or for those who use a lot of corrosive ammo. They’re cheap, easy-to-use, and as compatible as can be. So give it a try if you think it might be handy.
Remington Bore Squeegee
The Remington Bore Squeegee is an easy-to-use tool that can replace the need for the jag/cleaning patch combo. The rubber squeegee head attaches to the cleaning rod and uses a baffle system to gently scrape away any remaining residue. It does a better job than cleaning patches in my opinion, plus it’s reusable.
Best Gun Cleaner, Solvents, and Oils
Below is a short list of our favorite gun cleaners, solvents, and oils. It’s wise to stick to these trusted brand names for quality assurance.
Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Cleaner & Hoppe’s Elite Gun Cleaner
When it comes to the most respected and widely used gun cleaner it’s not even close:Hoppe’s No. 9. This cleaner is cheap, easy to use, and just a 8 ounce bottle could be all you need for years. It specializes in cleaning carbon buildup and lead. Most people will tell you Hoppe’s isn’t as well suited for cleaning copper, and this is unfortunately true.
But fear not, because Hoppe’s does offer a solution to these issues with their Elite Gun Cleaner. This more expensive alternative is great at removing copper fouling and comes in a spray bottle. Thanks Hoppes. Given that the Elite cleaner is more expensive, I would recommend using the two cleaners together to save some cash if you’re on a budget. I’ll be recommending one more gun cleaner, but in my opinion Hoppe’s is almost always the way to go.
M-Pro 7 Gun Cleaner
There are some dissidents among us who prefer alternative cleaners to Hoppe’s, for reasons I may never fully understand. But for the rebels among you I’d alternatively recommend M-Pro’s gun cleaner. It’s odorless (Hoppe’s smells strong, but not bad), and a little better at removing copper fouling.
M-Pro 7 LPX Gun Oil
I think M-Pro’s gun oils are pretty much hands down the best on the market. It’s highly versatile and I think you can use it on pretty much any gun. The oil acts as a top notch lubricant, it’s easy to apply even in tough to reach places, and it keeps corrosion in check.
Best Gun Cleaning Kit – Buyer’s Guide
Not sure what you need or what makes a good cleaning kit? Check out our buyer’s guide below to learn more.
Why Cleaning Your Gun is Important
Someone new to firearms might be surprised how quickly the interior and exterior of a firearm can collect unwanted buildup. Usually it only takes two or three trips to the range before a gun is due for a cleaning. The first thing to understand is that cleaning your firearm is hardly just for aesthetics. The fouling in your gun can lead to corrosion over the long term and in the short term cause a number of major malfunctions with your firearm. Buildup gets everywhere and it cause issues with your firing pin, the springs, the action, the gas system, and of course the chamber. Even if a dirty gun manages to function, buildup will often affect the guns accuracy, sometimes drastically. Once corrosion starts to wear down the barrel then you’re really screwed.
This is common knowledge to many gun users, but hopefully now we’re all caught up to speed. The lesson is: Clean your gun. All the time. Even if you’ve left it in storage for a while without use, it can be wise to do a cleaning to get rid of any dust or dirt that may have accumulated.
What to Look For in a Prospective Gun Cleaning Kit
You want to be thorough when cleaning your firearm. Every nook and cranny will need to be attended. In order to do this you will need the right set of tools. When buying a kit first make sure that it comes with the parts required your type of gun. Some kits are specialized for shotguns, others for rifles, and handgun cleaning kits come in a wide range of caliber specifications.
Generally, a good universal kit like the ones we’ve listed above will have tools to clean a wide range of firearms. However, not all kits are totally complete so expect to maybe buy a couple of additional items to round out your gun cleaning arsenal.
After you have found a kit with your required caliber sizes, you want to look at the specifics of the kit. What kinds of tools are included and how are their quality? How about the kit’s case, is it durable and well organized?
We’ve assembled an Essential Tools list below in the glossary section of this guide. This will go into the details of each part and tell you what each is for and how to identify if one tool is of better quality than another. A kit should come with bore cleaning tools, such as bore brushes (remember to look for the right caliber), nylon brushes, bore mops, cleaning jags and/or slotted tips, rods, and cleaning patches. You’ll also want the kit to include more general tools like utility brushes, cleaning swabs, and ideally a set of cleaning picks. Lastly, you will need a gun cleaning solvent and gun oil. While some kits include their own solvent and oil many do not, so this is one of the items you will likely need to buy separately. But don’t worry we’ve added recommendations for that above as well.
Gun Cleaning Parts Glossary
Bronze Bore Brushes – Bronze bore brushes are the primary tool used extract heavy carbon buildup in the barrel of the firearm. A kit usually comes with multiple bronze brushes and the quality of the bronze used in the brush will determine how effective it is at removing buildup. Quality bronze is also important as it will ensure that the brush doesn’t scratch the barrel during cleaning. Bronze brushes come in varying sizes to fit different caliber barrels, and it’s a good idea to buy a kit with a wide selection of brushes to fit varying sized firearms.
Nylon Brushes – Nylon brushes aren’t as ubiquitous in cleaning kits as bronze bushes, but they are great for cleaning hard-to-reach and more sensitive areas of the gun. I’d recommend using a nylon brush when working with polymer or wooden-framed guns. Use them sparingly on the bore as they will wear out fast.
Bore Mops/Cleaning Swabs/Gun Mops – Bore mops are used after the bronze brush to remove any small pieces of leftover residue and oil still in the barrel of the gun. Like bronze brushes, more mops come in different sizes and it’s a good idea to wash them after every use to slow down deterioration.
Cleaning Jag – Cleaning jags are thin rods made from nickel, brass, or plastic. They’re used along with cleaning patches at the final stage of cleaning your barrel to remove any leftover grime or cleaning solvent from the barrel. This is important because leftover solvent in the barrel can lead to corrosion. Make sure to use a new cleaning patch after each use.
Cleaning Patches – As explained above, cleaning patches are small squares of cotton that are mounted onto a jag to clean the bore of leftover cleaning solvent. These are included in almost every cleaning kit. Remember to only use a cleaning patch once and then replace it.
Slotted Tip Patch Holder – Slotted tip patch holders are an alternative to a cleaning jag. The cleaning patch is inserted through and wrapped around the slotted tip patch holder instead of pierced through like with a cleaning jag. I find slotted tip patch holders to be more difficult to use than traditional cleaning jags, but since they’re cheaper to make they tend to be found in lower quality kits. Choosing a slotted tip or a jag is up to you, but I’d recommend using a jag.
Cotton Swabs/Cleaning Swabs – Traditional cotton swabs sometimes come included with a cleaning kit, alternatively you can buy them at any drug store. These are good for doing touch-up cleaning and making sure to get excess solvent or tough-to-reach residue.
Double-End/Double Sided/Single Sided Utility Brushes – Utility brushes are made from stainless steel, nylon, or brass and look like a typical toothbrush. These are the primary tool used for cleaning the exterior of your firearm. Some utility brushes will come double-sided with brush heads on both ends.
Cleaning Rods – Cleaning rods are a must , and several different sized cleaning rods should be included in any universal cleaning kit. These attach to the cleaning tools listed above and allow you to feed your cleaning tools down the bore of the firearm. You will want to be sure that whatever kit you decide to buy comes with appropriately sized cleaning rods for your firearm. Sometimes beginners will make the mistake of using a small rod to clean a large barreled rifle or shotgun only to find that the rod is to weak, so bear in mind sizing.
There are also variant styles of cleaning rods, and new flexible cleaning rods have now become popular. Rather than pushing the rod through, these flexible cables are used to pull your cleaning tools through the barrel. These can work great and are very compact, but be sure the cable is long enough to suit your gun’s barrel length. I think with longer barreled rifles and shotguns you’re still better off using a traditional rod, rather than trying to manage 30-inches of cable.
Cleaning Solvent – Cleaning solvents are used to clean your firearm and are therefore on of the most essential items in any cleaning kit. There’s a wide selection of solvents on the market and depending on what type of ammo you typically use (steel, brass, copper jacketed) certain types of solvent will be more effective than others. It’s a good idea to buy solvents from the trusted brand name manufacturers listed above.
Oil – Applying oil to your firearm after it is cleaned is the final step in the cleaning process. Oil serves several purposes. It acts mainly as a lubricant for all the mechanical elements within the firearm, and on top of that it helps prevent corrosion. As with cleaning solvents, it’s good to select oils from trusted brands that are designed for your firearm.
CLP – CLPs (short for clean lubricate and protect) are a popular all-in-one cleaning and lubrication solution that you will no doubt come across when buying gun cleaning supplies. These can be great for when you are in a rush and want to do a quick cleaning, but it’s still important to use a conventional solvent and oil for a more thorough cleaning.
Bore Snake – Bore snakes are another tool used for giving your gun a quick clean. These shouldn’t replace traditional cleaning tools, but buying a bore snake in your firearms caliber can certainly come in handy. The boresnake is a nylon chord with an integrated bronze brush woven into the body and a cleaning swab woven into the tail. It’s drawn through the barrel of the gun like a flexible cleaning rod. We recommend Hoppe’s No. 9 Boresnakes as the best on the market.
Here are some other tools that could be helpful for cleaning your gun, but definitely aren’t necessary:
Pin Punches – disassembling a firearm for cleaning often requires you to remove several pins. The process of removing pins can become tedious, but it can be made easy with a set of punches. These are also needed for building firearms like an AR-15.
Punches are small rods of varying sizes that are pressed up against the pin you are trying to remove and then lightly hammered to make for easy extraction. They are typically made with either brass, plastic, or steel. Plastic punches are good for not scratching the gun, but they aren’t very effective when hammering is required. Brass is the best all-around type of punch. It’s a softer metal so it won’t damage the pins and they can be hit hard with a hammer if need by. Steel punches are what you would opt for if you need a really narrow punch, but be careful using steel punches as they are the most likely to damage your gun or deform the pins.
Screwdrivers – Most guns will require a screwdriver to completely takedown, so investing in a good set of different sized screwdrivers is recommended. It’s generally best to buy a screwdriver with interchangeable heads to save space. A set of specialty gunsmithing screwdrivers can offer a ton of added versatility and are extremely compact. This could be a worthwhile investment, especially for those with a varied gun collection.
Magnifier – I’m a young guy with good vision, but even I appreciate how much easier it is to work on my firearms when I’m at a workbench with a magnifier. It certainly isn’t necessary, but having a magnifier can make working with small components far less stressful and it’s pretty cool looking at the detail of your firearm through it. They’re also quite cheap.
Clamps – A simple set of rubber clamps can be another easy-to-obtain that just makes working with your firearm a little easier. Clamps hold the gun in place while you’re working on it, and while not necessary, they do make life easier.
Gun Vice – If you want to upgrade from using clamps, a gun vice is a great way to go. Gun vice’s can be expensive, but they do an amazing job keeping the gun in place.
How to Clean Your Gun
Here’s a basic rundown on what you will need to do during a typical clean:
- Take your firearm and cleaning supplies into a well lit ventilated room. It’s also good to choose a place with good lighting, and I’d recommend laying out newspaper, a tarp, or some other sheet of plastic to protect the surface you will be cleaning on.
- Unload your gun- remove the magazine and be sure there is nothing in the chamber. Always follow the rules of gun safety.
Disassemble your gun as the manufacturer recommends- refer to your gun’s owner’s manual to assess how far the gun should be taken down for a proper cleaning. Pistols are typically taken down to barrel, slide, guide rod, frame, and magazine with additional stripping be unnecessary. Revolvers and shotguns will usually need to be field stripped to clean all components.
- Apply cleaning solution to the inside of the barrel using a cleaning rod equipped with a cleaning patch. Enter the rod through the back of the bore and push through. Do not go through the front of the barrel as this can cause damage. Push the rod all the way through and repeat this process as many times as necessary. Remember to push the rod all the way through and not to pull it back through the barrel.
- Run the bore brush through the barrel in the same fashion to loosen any leftover fouling
- Do a final few passes with the cleaning rod with solvent. Repeat until the patches are going through the barrel without collecting any residue.
- Use dry patches to remove any leftover solvent until the barrel is dry. Be sure to get all excess solvent as it can cause corrosion if left in the chamber.
- After cleaning the barrel, the next step is to clean and lubricate the action. Once again use a cleaning brush soaked in solution to remove any fouling in the action. Be thorough during this process and don’t miss any hard to reach spaces. Having a range of different sized brushes and tools can be helpful here.
- Dry the action and be sure to remove all solvent residue. Then apply oil throughout the various components of the action.
Reassemble the firearm and clean the exterior of the firearm using solvent and the gun cleaning cloth provided in your kit (soft clothing can work also. Anything that won’t scratch)
It isn’t the most sexy topic in the world, but having the best gun cleaning kit and all the required cleaning solutions is certainly a must. The products listed here will be more than enough to get the job done.
The original article can be accessed at GunPros.
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