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Published Nov. 15, 2021

Guns need to be reliable for me to take them in the field, and a big part of a gun’s reliability is how well it’s maintained. The last thing you want is a gummed up action preventing a quick follow-up shot, or freezing up your firing pin on a cold morning—something that’s happened to me here in Alaska.

To help you keep your guns running reliably, I spent two days cleaning a variety of neglected guns with 15 different cleaning kits and a variety of solvents, oils, and accessory tools. I judged the kits based on their effectiveness, components, and best application. Here are the five best gun cleaning kits from that test as well as the best gun cleaning accessories. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Gun Cleaning Kit

Each of my five picks are awesome, but the key will be choosing the best kit for your needs. There are three main things to consider when shopping for a gun cleaning kit: 

  • The type of guns you need to clean
  • How many guns the kit needs to service
  • Will you use the kit in the field or at home?

You want to pick a kit that fulfills your needs without paying for a bunch of stuff that you’ll never use.

Although the basic principles of cleaning and lubricating guns are essentially the same across the board, one kit usually isn’t optimal for everything. For example, the tools for quickly cleaning and lubricating a semi-automatic pistol usually aren’t well suited for cleaning a precision bolt-action rifle. 

How many guns you have—and will need to clean—will also influence your choice. For some people, a simple kit and a couple solvents will be all they ever need, but others might need more. If you have a lot of guns, you might need to stock various rods, jags, brushes, and patches to clean them all.

Where you clean your gun also plays a part in what kit is the most ideal for you. If you’re wanting to clean your gun in the field or at the range immediately after shooting, you might want a compact, specialized kit. If you plan on bringing everything back home and cleaning it at once, your kit doesn’t need to be as mobile—and sometimes, you might want the option for either.

Best Gun Cleaning Kit Overall: Shooter’s Choice Bullseye Box

Key Features

  • Tackle-box-style kit with upward expanding storage drawers
  • Two cleaning rods and a variety of jags, swabs, patches, rags, and brushes
  • Includes MC-7 Bore Cleaner, FP-10 Lubricant, gun grease, and Rust Prevent

Why It Made the Cut

The Bullseye box is simply the most comprehensive cleaning kit I could find. It comes with everything you need to clean and maintain just about any gun.

Pros

  • Comprehensive, and includes hardware to clean many common calibers
  • Patches, pipe cleaners, swabs, and rags are included
  • Includes high-quality solvents, oils, and precision applicators

Cons

  • Doesn’t include any carbon picks

Product Description

The Bullseye Box from Shooter’s Choice packs just about everything you need to clean a wide variety of guns in a single package. It includes two brass cleaning rods and accessories to clean just about any rifle, pistol, or shotgun you have. It also includes three different brushes for scrubbing stubborn powder fouling.

This package is the best all-in-one gun cleaning kit I could find because it includes easily-overlooked items that other kits don’t. In addition to patches, it has long-handled swabs, pipe cleaners, and absorbent gun towels. It also comes with high quality solvent and lubricant for every step in the cleaning and maintenance process.

The tackle-box-style storage case is easy to keep organized and has plenty of room for storing extra patches, brushes, or other supplies. There is plenty of room to add more tools and components to customize your kit further, but as off-the-shelf gun cleaning kits go, this one is as complete as they come.

Best Cleaning Kit for Hunters: Allen Company Krome Stronghold Universal Cleaning Kit

Key Features

  • Slim and durable molded organizer case
  • 5.2mm and 6mm brass cleaning rods
  • A wide assortment of jags, brushes, mops, and patches

Why It Made the Cut

The Stronghold kit is a great balance between utility and value. It provides the tools to clean a variety of guns without excessive or specialized tools that most hunters would find unnecessary.

Pros

  • Brass rods and nylon jags won’t damage bores
  • Can clean a wide variety of rifles, shotguns, and handguns
  • Well-organized case can hold small bottles of solvent and oil
  • Easy to store and transport

Cons

  • No solvent included
  • 30 ½ inch cleaning rods would require some long-barreled rifles to be cleaned from the muzzle

Product Description

This gun cleaning kit by Allen is a more traditional-style cleaning kit geared towards accommodating a wide variety of popular calibers. It has all the basic parts and pieces you need for periodic cleaning and maintenance of your hunting guns. All the parts are easy-to-find, well-organized, and easy to keep organized.

The nylon cleaning jags (used to push patches through the bore) aren’t as durable as brass, but they are also very safe for your bore. The cleaning rods are a little short. With long-barreled bolt-action rifles, you will have to clean from the muzzle. The kit includes a couple of muzzle guards to prevent any damage to the crown. For anyone who doesn’t need to do frequent heavy bore cleaning, this kit is ideal.

Best Pistol Cleaning Kit: Otis Professional Pistol Cleaning Kit

Key Features

  • 4 inch x 2 ½ inch thick clamshell-style kit
  • Breech-to-bore pull-through cables
  • Includes Shooter’s Choice FP-10 Lubricant Elite CLP and patches
  • An assortment of precision cleaning tools and threaded handle

Why It Made the Cut

This Otis gun cleaning kit is optimized for pistols and although its compact size allows it to fit in (or attach to) your range bag. It has all the tools you need to clean your pistols thoroughly.

Pros

  • Ultra-compact and thorough assortment of tools
  • Pull-through design removes fouling quickly
  • Picks and punch aid in disassembly and removing tough carbon deposits
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Uses a proprietary patch design
  • Won’t work on some .22 revolvers

Product Description

This specialized handgun cleaning kit follows the Otis gun cleaning method of using pull-through cables and their proprietary patch design for efficient cleaning. The kit includes two cables, as well as slotted patch holders, 2 inch and 3 inch patches, and bore brushes to accommodate common pistol calibers.

Cleaning the bore is often a small part of keeping a pistol clean and working smoothly. The gun cleaning kit includes several valuable tools for helping you with other cleaning tasks, like cleaning the feed ramp and extractor. It includes two different picks, a dust brush, scrub brush head, obstruction remover/flat head screwdriver, and a handle that can be used with any of the accessories. It also includes a pin-punch for disassembly.

The kit also includes a small bottle of CLP which will help you remove powder deposits as well as keep your pistols lubricated. The proprietary patch design doesn’t allow you to use generic cleaning patches as effectively as a push-through rod, but the Otis patches do a quick and efficient job of swabbing out your bore.

Best Cleaning Kit for ARs: Otis MSR Cleaning Pack

Key Features

Why it Made the Cut

This highly-specialized kit includes carefully selected tools to help keep your AR running reliably. It provides quick and easy solutions for all the most difficult parts to clean.

Pros

  • Makes cleaning AR receiver and components quick and easy
  • Easily fits in a larger gun cleaning kit or range bag
  • Tools are simple and intuitive to use

Cons

  • It only comes with a few Otis star chamber pads

Product Description

Although this is more of a specialized tool kit than a traditional cleaning kit, it contains all you need to keep your AR clean and running (minus solvent and a rag). The tools specifically provide quick and easy ways to tackle the most time-consuming parts of cleaning an AR. Fouling tends to accumulate in certain spots on the bolt carrier group, in the star chamber, and on the end of the gas tube. The MSR Cleaning Pack provides solutions for all of that.

The Ripcord bore-cleaning rope isn’t what you’d want to pick exclusively for a match gun or for removing stubborn copper fouling, but with some solvent, it will quickly swab much of the powder fouling out of your bore and is plenty adequate to keep the gun running. I’d like to see the kit include more Otis star chamber pads, and you’ll have to buy more of them separately, but they do work very well at scrubbing out fouling that you’ve scraped loose much more quickly and effectively than with Q-tips or swabs. This kit stands on its own, but also incorporates well into other kits and systems.

Best Cleaning Kit for Shotguns: Birchwood Casey 17-pc Shotgun Cleaning Kit

Key Features

  • Seventeen-piece kit specialized for cleaning shotguns
  • Mops, brushes, and patches for 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge
  • Two-ended bristle brush for cleaning components

Why it Made the Cut

This simple and effective kit is specialized for cleaning shotguns, whether at home or in the field. It includes a quality brass rod and components, at an affordable price.

Pros

  • Simple, compact, and affordable
  • Has needed tools without being excessive
  • Organizer container is easy to use and store

Cons

  • Doesn’t include or have space for solvent or oil

Product Description

This shotgun cleaning kit is an improved version of many classic kits, featuring a higher-quality brass cleaning rod, a nylon slotted tip, and bore brushes, patches, and mops for 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge shotguns. It comes in a highly organized and compact plastic case with a kickstand on the back to set it upright in use.

Although it doesn’t include any solvent or oils (and doesn’t have any space for them), it’s a great option for anyone who only uses shotguns or wants an extra kit to keep with their hunting equipment. It includes all the basics but doesn’t have any extra parts or fluff that you won’t need or use.

Best Cleaning Rod: Montana Extreme Professional-Grade Cleaning Rod

Key Features

  • High-grade spring steel
  • Proprietary non-embedding rod coating
  • Slim handle with thrust bearing technology

Why It Makes the Cut

For thorough cleaning of high-quality rifles, this one-piece coated rod provides a great level of precision and smoothness—while minimizing the risk of damage to the rifling.

Pros

  • Coated rod helps protect bores
  • Length allows cleaning from breech on your rifles
  • Bearings in handle allow the rod to spin with the rifling
  • Slim handle isn’t impeded by most stocks

Cons

  • These rods are specialized and specific, not the best universal rod
A bore guide and cleaning rod
For thorough cleaning of your hunting or precision rifle bores, a bore guide like this one from Shooter’s Choice, and a specialized cleaning rod like the Montana Extreme series are must-haves. Tyler Freel

Product Description

For someone who does a lot of rifle cleaning, especially bolt actions or other rifles with match-grade barrels, a specialized cleaning rod is a must. These rods are available in a variety of lengths and caliber ranges to most closely match what you need. They are a precision tool, designed to withstand years of use and help you clean your bore efficiently and effectively.

The coated spring steel rod is made to be strong and flexible, without holding a bend that could result in damaging a bore, and the protective coating is designed not to embed in the rifling if it does make contact.

The handle features bearings to allow the rod to spin smoothly on the handle. This lets the rod twist with the rifling and apply an even pressure all the way through the bore. The thin profile of the handle allows it to pass over most stocks, whereas some thicker-handled cleaning rods can be impeded by a high comb.

Best Bore Guide: Shooter’s Choice Universal Bore Guide

Key Features

  • Simple, user-friendly design
  • Interchangeable bore-size tips
  • Works in both bolt action and AR/MSR rifles

Why It Made the Cut

Although there are more specialized and expensive bore guides out there, this one provides great versatility at an affordable price.

Pros

  • Affordable way to protect your bore
  • Can use on many different guns
  • User friendly and intuitive
  • Has a solvent window to minimize spillage

Cons

  • Ends of tube can have rough edges that need filed

Product Description

For anyone serious about cleaning their rifles and protecting their bores, a bore guide is a must. A bore guide lines up the cleaning rod with the bore so that it doesn’t scrape on the throat and potentially damage the rifling. This bore guide is affordable, user friendly, and highly adaptable.

Using the different-sized tips, you can optimize it for your rifle, and it will sit snugly and securely in most bolt action rifles. It also has a sleeve that fits perfectly inside the receiver of an AR/MSR, and with the threaded set screw handle, can be secured in the receiver so that the cleaning rod can be easily passed through without the guide coming loose.

The Shooter’s Choice Universal Bore Guide also has a solvent window at the rear, which allows you to wet your patches or brush and get them into the bore without dripping solvent down into the magazine or other parts of the action.

Best All-Around Gun Cleaning Solvent: Hoppe’s Elite Gun Cleaner

Key Features

  • Ammonia free
  • Low odor
  • Removes carbon, lead, and copper fouling

Why It Made the Cut

A great all-around cleaning solvent, it removes carbon, lead, and copper fouling. This makes it great not only for cleaning out bores, but also for other firearm parts. The spray bottle applicator makes it easy to thoroughly apply.

Pros

  • Low odor and ammonia free
  • Removes both carbon and metal fouling
  • Easy application to a variety of parts
  • Great for all-around general cleaning

Cons

  • Still a corrosive irritant: should use gloves

Product Description

An improvement over the Hoppe’s No. 9 solvent, that many gun owners know and love, the Hoppe’s Elite Gun Cleaner is formulated to tackle not only the carbon fouling that accumulates in the action, but also lead and copper fouling that needs to be cleaned out of the bore. It also helps condition metal surfaces to resist future fouling accumulation.

Although this formula isn’t non-toxic, it has less odor than many potent bore solvents that contain ammonia. This makes it much more palatable as an all-around cleaner that isn’t as harsh on some parts of your gun. The spray-bottle applicator also makes it easy to apply, whether that’s to cleaning patches or directly sprayed on other parts of your gun.

Best Eco-Friendly Solvent: Breakthrough Military-Grade Solvent

Key Features

  • Multi-purpose cleaner/degreaser
  • Removes carbon fouling
  • Evaporates with no residue

Why It Made the Cut

This solvent is great for removing carbon fouling on bolts, slides, actions, and other gun parts that often put us in the most contact with the solvents themselves. A non-toxic solvent that allows us to do general cleaning without worrying about exposure or safe disposal is a valuable asset.

Pros

  • Cleans carbon fouling that we often have to clean by-hand on many gun parts
  • Non-toxic, non-hazardous, and non-corrosive
  • Odorless and stain-free
  • Evaporates and leaves no residue

Cons

  • Won’t remove copper or lead fouling from bores
The Best Gun Cleaning Kits to Clean Any Gun
A eco-friendly option, non-toxic Breakthrough Military Grade Solvent is great for cleaning powder deposits from gun parts and reducing your exposure to harsh chemicals. Tyler Freel

Product Description

This general-use solvent provides a non-toxic and non-corrosive option for cleaning carbon fouling out of our guns. It’s especially valuable because tasks such as cleaning bolts, receivers, slides, and other gun parts put the user in hands-on contact with harsh solvents, and this is a much safer option.

With the spray-bottle applicator, you can spray directly on the parts that need cleaning without worrying about damage to synthetic parts. Use it as any other solvent and brush or wipe away the fouling. Excess solvent will evaporate without leaving any sticky residue.

I found it especially handy for cleaning pistol parts as well as AR receivers and bolt carrier group parts. It’s not a great bore cleaner, but worth having around for the tasks that require you to get hands-on.

Best Gun Oil: Lucas Extreme Duty Gun Oil

Key Features

  • Formulated for semi-auto firearms and suppressors
  • Temperature rating of -38 to 400 degrees
  • Resists drying over long periods of time

Why It Made the Cut

There are lots of good gun oils for lots of applications, but I’ve found this oil to be a great balance of viscosity, ease of application, and weather resistance. It’s easily applied and doesn’t run everywhere, but also doesn’t seem to bind up in colder temperatures. It doesn’t burn off easily in semi-auto platforms and helps prevent excess carbon build-up.

Pros

  • Great viscosity and heat resistance
  • Helps prevent carbon build-up on gun and suppressor parts
  • Precise application
  • Doesn’t run or dry out easily

Cons

  • Doesn’t flow and penetrate as easily as lower-viscosity oils

Product Description

Extreme Duty Gun Oil was formulated for optimal performance in semi-and-fully-automatic firearms. With extended shooting, many oils will tend to evaporate or burn off, reducing their effectiveness. This oil has a higher viscosity and sticks to parts better, while still having a very wide temperature rating from -38 to 400 degrees. I’ve used this oil in several of my ARs and pistols for some time and have had great results.

The precision applicator on the 1 ounce bottle is very handy, and for many guns, small amounts applied in the right places provide great lubrication and reliable service. When applied properly it makes a big difference in how much carbon fouling accumulates, and how easy it is to remove.

This oil is also great for lubricating threads and other suppressor parts like recoil boosters or quick-detach mounts. Suppressors get hot, and carbon fouling typically accumulates dramatically on these various parts. This oil does a great job both lubricating the parts and preventing carbon attachment, making them easier to clean.

Methodology

To evaluate a wide variety of gun cleaning kits, tools, and solvents, there’s not a better way than to clean a pile of neglected guns. Dirty ARs, AKs, and semi-automatic pistols provided a great baseline for evaluating general-use solvents and cleaning tools that the various kits included. Bolt action hunting rifles provided the fodder for bore cleaning tools and accessories. I also cleaned pump action and double-barrel shotguns, revolvers, and even a couple suppressors.

I used all this cleaning to evaluate each kit and its best application based on the tools that the kit had, how easily the kit is stored and transported, and the cleaning accessories the kits had, such as patches, solvents, and oil. I also considered how organized and easy the kits were to navigate and use. The kits needed to be able to clean the bore, as well as other parts of the guns where grime or fouling can accumulate.

FAQs

Know the basics for buying your next gun cleaning kit.

Q: What should I look for in a gun cleaning kit?

A good gun cleaning kit should have an aluminum, brass, or coated steel cleaning rod or pull-cable, caliber-specific bore brushes and jags for pushing patches, a handle brush, and cleaning patches. If it includes solvent and oil, that’s even better.

Q: What are jags used for in gun cleaning?

Jags are a cylindrical point that attaches to the end of the cleaning rod, usually with ribs and a needle point. They are used to push patches through the bore and give the patch a tight, consistent fit to help wipe fouling away. The tip of the jag is usually pressed through the middle of a patch, then the patch is wetted with solvent (or sometimes kept dry) and pushed through the bore with the cleaning rod, then it falls off the end as the rod is pulled back out.

Q: Are you supposed to clean a brand-new gun?

It often isn’t necessary to clean brand-new modern guns, although it’s best to follow recommendations in the gun’s user manual. Many guns come from the factory with heavy coatings of oil on the barrel and working parts to prevent corrosion in storage. It can be a good idea to do a light cleaning to remove it before shooting.

Final Thoughts

The “best” gun cleaning kit for you will likely depend on your individual needs. There are lots of great kits and tools out there, and an even greater variety of users. Our hope is that this helps you know what to look for in selecting a kit for yourself or improve the gun cleaning supplies you already have.

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