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How To Choose the Best Gun Cleaning Kit

In the market for “The Best Gun Cleaning Kit”?

While it is somewhat impossible to declare one singular gun cleaning kit “the best” (since it’s so subjective to the needs of the cleaner), it is possible for you to discover--or create--the best gun cleaning kit for you.

Here are some tips, lists, and even FAQ’s to help you decide which one to get.

Gun Cleaning Kit Considerations

If you know the parameters, purpose, and price-point you want in a gun cleaning kit, this will make the decision process much easier.

Gun Cleaning Kit Parameters

Consider what type(s) of gun(s) you’ll use your cleaning kit for. Will you be cleaning one gun or multiple? Just handguns, or long guns as well?

If you only own one type or the other, you may want to invest in a high-quality cleaning kit specific to the caliber of your firearm.

If you own multiple models, you might consider “universal” cleaning kits (we’ll talk more about these below).

Gun Cleaning Kits graphic 1

Gun Cleaning Kit Purpose

How often will you be cleaning your gun in the field vs at home?

If you’ll be traveling - and especially backpacking - with your cleaning kit often, you may want something a little less “all-inclusive” that is minimal on weight, size and number of pieces.

If you’ll mostly be doing your cleaning at home from the same workbench, you’re completely free to literally go big and go home!

Gun Cleaning Kit Price-Point

How much are you willing to invest into this item?

While it may not be as splurge-worthy as other firearm accessories, premium cleaning products will make a difference in the quality of your experience with this gun.

Price doesn’t necessarily determine quality, however, so make sure you thoroughly read reviews. Generally speaking, the most desirable gun cleaning kit is one that is:

  • Durable - made of materials built to last
  • Adaptable - will work for all purposes you need, and
  • Practical - actually makes sense for the type(s) of gun(s) you own and how often you clean without a bunch of unnecessary extras

Best Gun Cleaning Kit Shopping: Features to Look For

Whether you assemble your own kit “a la carte” or purchase your tools as a set, a comprehensive gun cleaning kit should include all of the following:

Cloth Patches - These are essential. You can get one-time use cotton ones in small and large quantities, or washable and reusable cloth squares.

Ran out of cleaning patches or need to do a field cleaning on-the-fly? If you’re willing to sacrifice it to the cause, cut-up pieces from your regular cotton t-shirt work great in a pinch. Some people even use old t-shirt squares as their go-to cleaning patches!

Cleaning Rods – Each rod must be caliber-specific. Stainless steel or aluminum are the most recommended as purchasing a rod made of these materials as well as in a one-piece configuration prevents scratching of the barrel.

Rod End Accessories – These include various interchangeable heads like a slotted patch holder, caliber-appropriate bore brush heads, and cleaning jags.

Gun Cleaning Kits graphic 2

Brushes – There are two main places you’ll use brushes in cleaning a gun: the bore, and everywhere else!

Quality bore brushes remove dirt, residue, and corrosion from the bore. The bristles should be stiff enough to clean tough grime, but not damaging. Bronze is generally the preferred brush material.

Note that you should most often use cloth patches for regular bore cleaning and brushes for more thorough but less frequent intense cleanings as bore brushes can wear out the inside of your barrel.

For the rest of your gun, some advanced kits likely come with a double-ended stiff brush to get the nasty stuff out of nooks and crannies a cloth cannot reach. Discount kits may not include this tool, but you can also just use a household toothbrush.

Picks and Swabs – Many better gun cleaning kits contain a bronze pick to help carve out the gunk from tight spaces - cheaper kits may come with a plastic one or none at all. If your kit is pick- or swab-less on arrival, you can always outfit it with toothpicks and Q-tips to get the job done.

Solvent – Solvent is essential to remove fouling from lead, copper, or powder. Several solvent products claim to work for all kinds of build-up. Depending on type and intensity of fouling in your gun, however, you may need to purchase separate solvents. Copper, for example, often requires a more potent or powerful ammonia-based cleaner.

Lubricant – Applying grease or oil, as appropriate to each gun part prevents corrosion and keeps mechanisms (especially the “metal-on-metal” ones) running smooth. You may need to purchase this one separately.

As we talked about in our previous guide for how to clean a long gun, there are some helpful “items” you’ll want to have around that are not included in a kit, like:

  • A ventilated area (outside is best)
  • Protection from elements (something to block direct sunlight, wind, rain, etc.)
  • A work space that is safe distance from pets, children, food & drink
  • A container for small parts
  • A flashlight to easily find them if any of those small parts get dropped
  • Skin and eye protection
  • A gun cradle or “butler
  • Bore guide (caliber-specific)
  • Brake cleaner (to clean off the cleaning tools)
  • Q-tips

Gun Cleaning Kit FAQ

Q: Which is the best gun cleaning kit?

A: The best gun cleaning kit is the one that most accurately and effectively fits your needs. Many gun brands sell good kits, but there are perfectly good budget or non-brand-name options also. Look for the highest-quality components and the precise sizes you’ll need for your collection of guns.

Q: How does a gun cleaning kit work?

A: You can check out our step-by-step explanation here, but the basic basic process is to unload, disassemble , apply powder-cleaning solvent, apply copper-cleaning solvent (if needed), reassemble, and perform a functions check

Gun Cleaning Kits graphic 3

Q: Will one gun cleaning kit work for all my guns?

A: Some do, some don’t. Anything labeled “universal” should provide enough variety to meet any gun needs, unless you have a specialized/customized make or model.

Q: How often should I clean my gun? Do I need to every time I shoot?

A: The answer to this is ‘yes’ if you match either (or both) of these descriptions:

  1. I’m a clean freak
  2. I shoot infrequently (once a month or less)

If either of these are true for you, then it’d be recommended to clean your gun every time. This is especially important for the infrequent shooter, though — even a little corrosion can damage your gun if left unattended for several months.

Frequent shooters (once or twice a week, minimum), however, can just wipe the gun down with a clean rag to keep skin oils off of the exterior. Then set aside time once a month to give your guns a thorough going-over.

Q: What’s the big deal if I don't clean my gun?

A: Over time, corrosion can result in damage to the gun’s components and bore. Additionally, oxidization (rust) could lock firing pieces in place - resulting in a failure to fire or more dangerous malfunction.

Now you know how to discover the best gun cleaning kit for you, so you can get even longer enjoyment from your firearms. Whether you’re the “clean freak” type or take a “spit-shine” approach to gun cleaning, we’ve got ammo - and cleaning supplies! - for every shooter.

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