Looking for a perfect all-in-one gun cleaning kit?
Bad news…there isn’t one.
But we’ll help you get the best one for your end-use…and suggest some standalone products to truly make your kit perfect.
I’ve used a bunch of cleaning kits throughout the years and this is only a snapshot of the ones I haven’t thrown away.
Follow me as I cover what’s needed for pistol and shotgun up to precision rifle shooting. I’ll also cover my favorite cleaners/oils, cleaning rods, AR-15 specific tools, and more.
If you can’t wait for the results, here are our favorite gun cleaning kits:
The Winchester Kit is a good deal for a little over $20 since it is pretty universal…covering everything from .22 to 12 gauge shotgun.
The box looks good but keep in mind the whole thing is around $20 so there’s a distinct China feel to it.
There are two sets of brass rods that won’t scratch your barrel’s harder steel and all the copper brushes are actually pretty good quality and marked with the caliber.
There’s an ok amount of patches but you’ll need to add your own oil and gun cleaner (and there’s no room to fit it in the box). My specific suggestions at the end…but hint…it’s M-Pro 7.
Only have a handgun for now…or want a super compact kit?
The Real Avid kit is great and covers everything from .22 to .45 caliber handguns.
It’s tiny since the rods are long enough just for handgun length barrels. Everything feels sturdy and the box can take a beating in your range bag or trunk.
The only fault I can find is that it doesn’t come with oil or cleaner…and you’ll be hard-pressed to fit anything in the box beside eye drop sized droppers.
There’s a lot of this kind of kit being sold…probably one factory that makes it and a bunch of people brand it as a something else.
But it’s my go-to range kit if I don’t think I’ll actually need to clean.
It’s small, slim, and is supposed to have an empty bottle to put some cleaner or oil.
I’ve modified it through the years to have extra bronze brushes, a dental pick, Allen key, and Q-tips/patches. And yes I’ve lost the bottle but I tend to keep my cleaner and oil separately.
It’s not my cleaning kit for home since the rods seem to be steel and could damage the barrel if used a lot. But it’s great for getting things unstuck! Can’t go wrong as a backup cleaning kit for around $10.
From my favorite gun cleaner comes their cleaning kit that has everything you need…including the oil and cleaner.
The kit rocks since it has individually packaged brushes and tips (.22 to 12 gauge) so you can keep everything tidy and the case has more pouches to add additional cleaning items.
Even comes with a silicone cloth to wipe down the surface of your guns. Throw in some Q-Tips and this kit is ready for anything.
Everyone and their mom have a favorite gun cleaner and oil. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see if you try to find out more:
I’ll admit…I started with Hoppe’s No. 9 and it’s an awesome cleaner. Problem is that I like to clean indoors and though I really LOVE the smell…I’d get dizzy and also it started eating away at my nails (now I wear gloves no matter what).
I switched to M-Pro 7 cleaner and didn’t look back. It’s nearly as good at cleaning but without the caustic effects.
For oil…I also like M-Pro 7, but I also like Militec 1 for the smell.
The following are also popular ones (including some combo CLP which stands for clean, lubricate, preservative):
I also like to use gun grease for rails since it stays on longer…and I go by the old adage “oil if it turns, grease if it slides.”
Now, how about copper cleaners (for when you start seeing some accuracy degradation). I’ll admit…I almost never do this except for my precision rigs.
For my precision rifles, I like using a one-piece cleaning rod to make sure nothing scratches my lands & grooves. I stick with the ole standard…Tipton.
Now some of you might be asking where are the bore snakes? Frankly, I don’t really use them since I don’t like the idea of running something previously dirty back through my barrel.
But some swear by them…especially as the ultimate space-saving cleaning “kit” for a range bag.
And you’ll be sure to run out of patches sooner or later. In a pinch some cut up t-shirts or boxers will work. But I like going with Hoppe’s.
Lastly…for the hard to clean carbon-fouled parts of AR-15’s…there’s a scraper tool that’s been a godsend. And also our AR-15 Cleaning & Maintenance Guide.
To sum it up, this is my Editor’s Pick for best cleaning kit:
If you’re doing handgun only and want a super small kit:
A nice backup:
And a good starter kit that will get you through everything from .22 to 12 gauge:
That’s it on my end…let me know if I missed some kits. And if you must…your favorite oil and cleaner. Lastly, be sure to check out our Editor’s Picks for more guns & gear that we love.
Here are the basics of what you should have to clean you pistol.
But first Be sure to Clear your pistol
Pistol Cleaning tools
Is there a faster way to clean you pistol than this? Yes, of course here’s a comment from Jack Burton
Find a plastic bin that is about six to eight inches deep and large enough to hold your firearm comfortably. Break down the gun as in the video and place the pieces in the bottom of the bin. Fill the bin with enough hot tap water to cover the gun parts by about an inch. Let it soak for about 20 minutes and then pour off. The crud on the gun has softened up by this time.
Refill the bin with the same level of more hot water. Pour an eighth-cup of good quality dish washing liquid throughout the water. Dawn Ultra is known for its grease-cutting ability.
Start a load of clothes in the clothes washer. Place the bin in the center of the top of the washer after it starts. When the washer has stopped, remove the bin and rinse off all the pieces. Ninety-eight percent of the dirt and crud will be gone, and from places that you didn’t even know was dirty. There might be a few stubborn pieces hanging on but they will easily come off with a bit of light scrubbing.
It is important to completely dry the gun afterwards. Use a hair dryer if needed to force the water out of the nooks and crannies so there is no residual rust happening afterwards. Oil and lube as the video shows, as the washing removed every little bit that was on the handgun.
Source: DailyMotion, Tom Mchale, Jack Burton
It could be a fun weekend shooting with friends, a 3-gun competition, civil disturbance, or zombie apocalypse (I know, so overdone). Guns get dirty, carbon builds up in all the typical places and guns lose accuracy and reliability. A quick in-the-field cleaning can keep guns running smoothly and accurately so you don’t find yourself without an operational gun when things are at their worse or best depending on how you look at it.
I’ve seen many articles on AR’s, but few on cleaning. Over the last few years, there have been numerous tools introduced to facilitate easier cleaning of the bolts and carrier groups and I wanted to compare them side by side to see if they worked and if they worked, how well? I called Brownells (who else) and promptly received a package which included:
– Cat M-4 Cleaning Tool
– The Otis B.O.N.E. (Bolt Operational Necessary Equipment)
– CRT-15 Carbon Removal Tool for AR-15
– Brownells AR-15 Bolt Radius Scraper
– Mark Brown Custom AR-15 Bolt Carrier Carbon Scraper
These items along with 20 boxes of Wolf .223 steel case, military classic ammo which felt dirty, so it was perfect for my project, a few boxes of hand loads from a friend (thanks Ted), and various leftovers from previous range sessions in both 5.56 and .223, I was ready to go.
For the evaluations, I needed to shoot. I used my Spikes Tactical 10.5” SBR with a Nickel-Boron bolt group plus a second bolt and carrier, borrowed from my 10” Spikes 300 Blackout, also Nickel-Boron. I then walked 100-yards to the backyard rifle and pistol range – I know, it’s a rough life. Within 10 minutes I was sent away for scaring the crap (literally) out of the wife’s new foster dog. Darnit
A half an hour later I arrived at the public range and started over. I shot 100 rounds then swapped bolts and carriers and as an added bonus, I twisted on an Advanced Armament 7.62 SD suppressor to increase the gas and pressure to the carrier, hopefully making it a bit more carbon coated (remind me to use this when shooting in the backyard). The nickel boron bolt groups performed well and I had no failures from the Spikes rifle. It digested all the various types of ammo with only a few failures-to-feed from the Wolf ammo but surprisingly the accuracy was really good.
The Clean Up
Cat M-4 Cleaning Tool
Pro – Small, simple one piece design, no moving parts. Bonus screw driver tip holder. Good performance and lightweight. It could be worn by women to attract the right type of guy.
Con – Not perfect. The Cat M-4 didn’t get all the carbon from the back of the carrier.
Pros – Also small, compact, fits easily into the little OTIS cleaning kits. It did a reasonable job on the bolt and a great job on the carrier. Just as with the CAT, it could be worn by a woman as a pendant to attract the right type of man.
Cons – The bone bolt cleaning end felt a bit loose to me.
CRT-15 Carbon Removal Tool for AR-15
Pro – Was the best at getting the carbon off the bolt. It was odd at first applying pressure to the small arm, but easy enough.
Con – Small arm may break off and the carrier recess did not get it as clean as the others.
Brownells AR-15 Radius Bolt Scraper
Pro – Did a great job on the bolt tail, removing most of the carbon the first time.
Con – This is a larger tool and better suited for the workshop. Only one function.
Mark Brown custom AR-15 Bolt Carrier carbon scraper
Pro – This did a great job cleaning the carrier recess.
Cons – This is also a large tool and best suited for the workshop. Only one function.
Conclusion: Size matters. All the tools did a good job knocking the excess carbon from the bolts and carriers. Used in the field I have no doubts that all of them would keep your AR’s running strong. Special thanks to Brownells for an outragous amount of support for this article.
About the author
Rick Ross is a NRA Life member, GSSF and IDPA competitor and AR enthusiast. He is not a Rapper.
Editors note: Rick Ross is an independent reviewer and contributor for Western Shooting Journal and at times, a known goof ball.
See the AR-15 Bolt Cleaning Tools Infograph here.