If you own a firearm, you need a gun cleaning kit. Firearm maintenance is essential to keep your gun performing well.
Regular gun maintenance helps you familiarize yourself with your weapon, making it more likely that you’ll be able to solve problems and malfunctions should they occur.
A firearm is a considerable investment that can last more than a lifetime if taken care of properly. Choosing the best gun cleaning kit will help you preserve and protect your gun over the years.
Consider the calibers you own or plan to purchase.
Some basic gun kits are caliber specific. That’s fine if you just own a .22 or 9 mm, for example. For others, it makes more sense to buy a kit designed for the most common caliber sizes.
If you own some odd calibers, you’ll have to add some items to a base kit. For example, I have a .17 CZ that requires a thinner cleaning rod than those commonly included in kits.
Things wear out
Over time, the brushes and bore cleaners in your kit will need to be replaced. How soon depends on how often they’re used. Of course, the items used most often will wear out first.
In my experience, the first thing to break in any gun cleaning kit is the plastic loop that comes with many cleaning rods. It’s the weakest thing in the box and is used often.
Consider your budget
Gun cleaning kit prices vary widely depending on the brand, what’s included, and overall quality. You can get a nice universal gun cleaning kit for $45, but you could also pay $170. Consider your needs and set a realistic budget. Remember that any gun cleaning kit is better than nothing.
Table of Contents
Gun Cleaning Mats
I do not own a gun cleaning mat. I had never considered one until now because I grew up in a household where you just cleaned guns at the table.
Some folks may not like getting gun cleaning solvent or oil on the table. Throwing down a cloth can help, but it’s not an ideal solution.
Gun cleaning mats protect your table from oils and solvents. I also like that some of them have diagrams of certain weapons. For example, you can get a gun cleaning mat with a complete and detailed diagram and breakdown of the AR-15 or Glock. This can be a big help if you’re a new gun owner or just want to know your gun inside and out.
This 12″ x 36″ mat is oil- and water-resistant. It also includes picks for getting dirt and grime out of hard-to-reach places. The mat has a graphic that shows a complete breakdown of a standard AR-15 rifle. It’s big enough to clean most firearms without making a massive mess of your table or shop.
This mat measures an outstanding 16” x 60”. It’s ideal for those with larger firearms or who just like a larger workspace. The nonslip backing keeps the mat securely in place on any table or bench.
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Handgun Cleaning Kits
Plenty of people just have a handgun or two for everyday carry or home protection. The kits below contain the tools needed to clean and care for all common handgun calibers. Even if you have rifles, you might consider one of these compact kits for when you don’t want to drag around a big universal gun cleaning case. For example, if you plan on just taking a handgun in your bugout bag, one of these would be a good option.
This small kit keeps everything organized in a protective plastic case. You also get 20 cleaning patches. The molded plastic organizer lifts out to reveal a small space to keep other small accessories. The kit can be used to clean the following calibers: .380 ACP, .357 Magnum, .38 Special, 9 mm, 10 mm, .40 caliber, .44 Magnum, and .45 ACP.
This small kit will fit in the pockets of some pants. This kit is suitable for .22, .357, .38, 9 mm, .40, and .45 caliber handguns. Just add a small can of Ballistol, and you have everything you need to keep your handguns clean and rust-free. This kit includes 100 cleaning patches.
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Basic Universal Kits
I would venture to say that most gun owners have owned one of these wood case kits over the years. They may have different brand names, but this style of kit is always available for under $25, even at a big box store.
This is a decent basic kit that is great for those who are just getting started with firearms.
This is a nice basic gun cleaning kit in a molded plastic case. Unlike many kits, this one actually comes with bore cleaner and oil, so you’re ready to clean right out of the box.
This is a really beautiful kit that contains all the brushes and rods needed to clean weapons .25 caliber and up. The chest is solid wood, but customers report that it’s fairly lightweight.
This kit comes with stands to hold your rifle while you clean it. The box has plenty of space to add oils, solvents, and extra cleaning gear for odd calibers.
This kit is one of the few that I’ve found with an aluminum case. Inside, a molded interior keeps all your stuff neat and organized. There are even a few compartments for keeping your gun cleaning patches organized.
This gun cleaning kit is actually on my to-buy list. I like that it is so well organized. It has room to store gun cleaning solvents, oils, extra rags, and any other components needed to maintain specialty firearms.
Expanded Universal Kits
Expanded universal kits contain all the rods, bore cleaners, and brushes needed to clean and maintain practically any firearm, including 12g, 20g, and .410 shotguns.
If you’ve been looking for a kit to keep your gun cleaning gear more organized, this is an outstanding value. No more bottles of oil and cleaner loose and possibly leaking!
This is a pretty advanced gun cleaning kit. The components are top quality; hence, the cost is considerably higher than the other kits featured in this article. You also get bore cleaner oil, and the kit includes what you need to clean even the least common calibers. For the person who wants a truly universal box that can handle any caliber, it is worth considering Otis. Of course, if you want to add tools, there is plenty of room for extra storage in this handy kit.
Gun Stock Kits
Some kits will fit in the buttstock of your rifle. Some styles are pretty specific, so you want to make sure that you get the right kit.
If your 7.62 rifle has a round hole compartment in the stock, these kits are an excellent addition to your gun if it didn’t come with one.
At first, I thought this kit was odd-looking. This little tactical pouch just seemed, well, small. Despite its size, this kit contains a unique cleaning system that allows you to clean many different calibers. You get brushes for all of these calibers: .22/.223, .270, .30/.308/30-06/30-30, .38/9mm, .45, and 12 gauge.
The cleaning rod is made of aircraft-grade memory flex cable. You get a 30″ piece and an 8″ piece, so you can conveniently clean handguns or rifles. The cable is thin enough to clean a .17 caliber gun if you need to. A .17 brush is not included, but there’s plenty of room to add a few brushes if needed.
This is a basic kit for cleaning common-caliber handguns, including 9mm/.357/.38, 10mm/.40/.41, and .44/.45. It comes with a brass cleaning rod, cotton mops, and bronze wire brushes. A small, empty oil bottle is included that you can refill from a larger bottle as needed. There doesn’t appear to be enough room to add bore cleaner to this kit, so that would have to be kept separately. Alternatively, you could put all-in-one cleaner and oil in the included bottle.
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This is a neat little kit that fits on your belt. It has everything you need to clean most calibers. The green pouch is small enough to throw in a bugout bag or even in your pants pocket, if you don’t want to wear it on your belt.
Oils and Solvents
You’ll need to purchase gun oil and solvent separately from your kit. Here are a few of the most common solvents and oils available.
This is the most commonly used gun cleaning solvent. I remember its smell fondly from my childhood because my Dad had many firearms, and he also did gunsmith jobs for friends and family. My husband and I keep a quart of this around at all times. It is kerosene based, so if you are not used to the smell, it might take some getting used to. Open a window or use a fan for extra airflow.
Hoppes takes away all the residue, grime, and small rust spots. However, if you let rust take hold, it can pit the finish on your gun. Solvents can only do so much.
After you get everything cleaned up with bore cleaner, you need to oil your gun. This oil is great, and a little goes a long way. Remember to wipe away any large excesses of oil. There is such thing as too much!
This aerosol spray is made from medicinal grade mineral oil, alkaline salts of oleic acid, several alcohols, benzyl acetate, and oil from vegetable seeds. It has excellent lubricating and protective properties. Ballistol also works as a bore cleaner. It effectively dissolves black powder and corrosive ammo residues. You can also use it to preserve and protect wood gun stocks.
Ballistol is very affordable and one of the most versatile gun cleaning products out there.
It’s important to wipe guns down with oil every so often, even if you haven’t shot them. How often depends on their storage conditions. I have been shocked at how tiny specks of rust can form on a gun that is just hanging on a wall. Evaluate your guns once in a while so you can catch any deterioration before it becomes a major problem.
These handy little 3″ x 5″ guides walk you through the disassembly and cleaning of your rifle or handgun. This company makes guides for the most common calibers. Even if you are fairly experienced, it’s still nice to have a guide like this when performing gunsmith duties and general maintenance. These very inexpensive guides are made to be durable and easy to follow.
How to Clean A Gun Safely
This section is for the new gun owners out there. In 2020, the number of new gun owners grew dramatically. With gun ownership comes responsibility. It is essential that you learn how to safely clean and perform basic maintenance and upkeep on your firearm. These are general guidelines. I encourage you to watch online videos specific to the caliber of firearm you own.
Although plenty of kids hang out while their parents clean guns, I advise doing it yourself the first few times or with another adult experienced at cleaning firearms. Kids can be distracting. There will be time for them to learn after you know what you’re doing.
- Purchase an appropriate gun cleaning kit, bore cleaner, and oil.
- Clear an area in which to work.
- Lay out a gun cleaning mat or cloth to protect work surfaces.
- Make sure your firearm is unloaded. I don’t care if you just checked it yesterday. Point the gun away from yourself and any other person and check it again. Also make sure there isn’t a bullet in the chamber.
- Break down your gun. How you do this varies by model. This is where a book, guide, or video comes in handy.
- Use a copper bore brush and rod to dry brush the barrel and chamber. This loosens any deposits.
- Attach a loop to your cleaning rod and thread in a cleaning patch—dip in bore solvent such as Hoppes #9.
- Push the cleaning rod through the barrel/bore. Remove the patch before pulling the rod back through.
- Allow solvent to set for up to 15 minutes, depending on how dirty your gun is. If you haven’t shot it much or recently, a minute or two may be enough.
- Use the bore brush to scrub the barrel again.
- Use your cleaning rod, loop, and a clean patch to remove any remaining residue.
- Remove the dirty cleaning patch and thread another patch thru. Apply a light lubricant and run that through the bore.
- Use a rag and solvent to clean the outside of the gun. If you have a lot of grime, a soft bristle brush may be needed to reach some areas.
- Clean the bolt, slide, and action using a brush or rag and solvent. Wipe everything down well to remove all solvent.
- Use an oil bottle to apply lubricant to precise points on your gun. This varies based on the model.
- Clean magazines if needed with a residue-free solvent and brush. Do not oil.
- Reassemble your gun and check to make sure the slides, bolts, etc., are all put together properly.
- Wipe down the outside of your gun with a soft cloth and silicone or similar lubricant. This rids it of any excess debris or cleaning agents.
No. At the same time using any cleaning accessories that are somewhat abrasive will add some minimal wear and tear. Using soft cleaning rags and patches, solvents, and oils often is perfectly ok. Many people clean their gun after every use, especially a long day at the range. This is a good thing to be in the habit of. Even if you just carry your gun everyday and do not fire it, wiping it down using a rag and a little oil can help prevent any rust issues and keep it free of debris.
While you do not have to clean a firearm immediately after use, it is a good idea to at least do it the next day and never wait more than a week. It is easy to forget, especially if you do not shoot often. Many gun owners choose to clean as soon as possible to avoid having a dirty gun next time they go to the range.
Many guns just need to be partially disassembled to thoroughly clean and some do not need taken apart at all. If you are in doubt as to what is required for your particular gun, a quick search on Youtube or Google will yield instructions on how to clean your gun.
A good gun cleaning kit is essential to keepingyour guns in great working condition and for preserving the resale value of your investment. Many gun owners have multiple gun cleaning kits. A larger and more complete kit for at home and a smaller portable field kit is recommended. Universal kits contain most of what you need to clean common calibers. If you have a rarer caliber, you may need to buy some additional cleaning accessories.