View Full Version : Cleaning Rods and Brushes: What works; what doesn't

Rich Lucibella
February 17, 1999, 09:05 AM
Dale's post regarding pull thru cleaning fabrics got me thinking. Despite all the money and time we spend on our weapons, relatively little information is available regarding quality cleaning tools.

We all know that stainless steel brushes are bad karma. But I've recently read that aluminum rods are to be avoided also. How many of us clean our AR barrels from bore to breach? Has anyone tried Outer's electo-cleaning rods? Anyone ever tried the Glock in the dishwasher trick (very bad stuff).

How about a definitive thread on the best cleaning equipment and methods?

Michael Carlin
February 17, 1999, 10:34 AM
Basic observations:

1. More rifles are damaged by poor cleaning techniques these days than by lack of cleaning.

2. Clean from the breech if possible.

3. Use a bore guide if cleaning from the muzzle. In the AR rifles I like the cleaning rod guide by JP Enterprises, for cleaning from the breech.

4. Use a one piece cleaning rod made of non-imbedding material, I recommend the Dewey rods, coated or stainless either is OK.

5. Use a good quality bronze bore brush, one that is a loop twisted shut at the end. Avoid the brushes that are wound continuously and display a cut end. The wire can vary in hardness and some spring steels could gouge the barrel.

6. Never "dunk" the brush in the solvent, use a "squeeze bottle" to wet the brush. Otherwise you are contaminating the solvent. This results in rearranging the fouling or transferring it from one weapon to another rather than removing it!

7. Only use a brush sparingly. The preferred method is to use a solvent wet patch or two and then dry patches first. If this does not get the fouling out then use a brush, again sparingly. If leading is a problem use a Lewis Lead remover.

8. Use a real wrap around jag, the Dewey is a good choice. Use a patch only once. They are cheap enough to throw away after each pass through the bore. Remember the object is to remove the fouling not rearrange it!

9. In rifle barrels I like to use Shooter's choice, then dry patches.

10. If you shoot molyed bullets only the regimen is Kroil patch, immediate dry patches, then Shooters choice, wait five minutes, then dry patches. If "green" shows repeat the Shooter's choice.

11. In high power rifle I am a big advocate of Moly. Although recent test indicate that the accuracy increases and better BC's due to lower bullet deformation that have been claimed are NOT verified by scientific tests, the interval between accuracy degradation driven cleaning is significantly lengthened. Also it appears that barrel heating is greatly lessened. Less heat = less wear. Less cleaning = less wear. Less wear = longer barrel life!

12. The most critical portion of the bore to accuracy is the muzzle, not the throat. Rifles with worn throats and good bores at the muzzle with a sqaure and true crown often show very good accuracy.

13. Using modern ammunition in modern pistols bore cleaning can be limited to a couple three passes with a brush or patch wet with a solvent, and dried with a couple three tight fitting patches on a wrap around jag. I do not like to wrap patches on an old brush. This is a personal pet peeve with no real justification except that I think that keeping the brush clean with old path embedded in it is problematic.

14. I like to use a an aerosol spray (Gun Scrubber, carb cleaner) to clean the frame/trigger mechanism, then low pressure air to dry it, oil the contact points lightly and wipe the rest with a very lightly oiled patch and shoot!.

15. A carry gun should be kept clean, and should function from clean to at least a couple hundred rounds before requiring cleaning for functional reliability.

16. Some solvents eat some plastics, and some finishes. DEET the bug repellant will dissolve most polymers and polymer finishes quite well.

17. Funtionally clean means the firearm will go at least a couple hundred rounds before needing to be cleaned in order to continue to function. More firearms have been ruined by ill conceived attempts to make them "surgically clean" than I can begin to estimate. If you were in the service in before the 1980s and you are using the military standards for inspection you are most likely wrong!

Cleaning and preparation for long term storage has been adequately covered by others in this forum. Run a search for their input, it was excellent.

Hope these help.

Ni ellegimit carborundum esse!

Yours In Marksmanship


[This message has been edited by Michael Carlin (edited February 17, 1999).]

February 17, 1999, 02:27 PM
I gave up on regular cleaning rods for anything .30 or smaller. I buy inexpensive, THIN brass rods at my local hobby shop, and use them to push (slightly oversized) patches through the breech end using a bore guide. I rarely need to use a brush if I take my time, and I am certain that NOTHING is touching by bore except the patch. JM.02

PS- Is carb cleaner OK for rifles? I noticed "Gun Scrubber" smelt alot like it, but my CO took a fit when he found out my plattoon was using carb cleaner on our M-16s. Also, both seem to really dry out the metal. How should parts be treated after using carb cleaner?


Michael Carlin
February 17, 1999, 09:45 PM
After using any degreaser, use a very light oil applied sparingly to a patch and wipe the metal down. In the 27 years I have been in the Army, I have seen M16s cleaned with DS2 solvent, with carb cleaner, with a steam cleaner (works very well!), with an emersion heater, etc. None of these are approved methods. My honest opinion is that as long as no true abrasive is used (ie sand blast) and the weapon is dried thoroughly none do any real harm except by mechanical action on the metal parts. Unless you find a solvent which dissolves the plastic parts!

Ni ellegimit carborundum esse!

Yours In Marksmanship


[This message has been edited by Michael Carlin (edited February 17, 1999).]

Jim V
February 17, 1999, 11:09 PM
Carb cleaner, brake cleaner, electronic parts cleaner all work as well as Gun Scrubber for removing crud from firearms, you just have to lube everything well after because the stuff degreases well. The problem with any of the spray cleaners is the fumes could cause you problems if there is not enough ventilation.

For cleaning pistols, I use good old military issue steel .45 cleaning rods. For rifles, I have several one piece steel rods, use bore protectors and bronze (brass) brushes. Sweets Austrailian 7.62 solvent and Dillons Snake Oil. Patches one time only.

Ne Conjuge Nobiscum

Walt Welch
February 18, 1999, 11:08 PM
Michael; what a tour de force! Most excellent overview of cleaning firearms!

I would just add two points:

First, in my experience, even aggressive solvents such as Shooter's Choice and Accubore sometimes need several DAYS to completely remove the fouling. After all, it IS a chemical reaction, and while copper is a fairly reactive metal, lead is not.
I just keep running a patch through soaked with solvent, and take another look the next day.

Second, any degreasing solvent leaves the parts very dry. I would, especially in a humid environment, use one of the spray products, such as Shooter's Choice Rust Prevent.

Another option is the Tuf-Glide liquid from Sentry solutions. This dries to a dry, very thin film, and actually bonds to the metal.It isalso available with the ingredient and a carrier on a cloth, which is particularly good for wiping down the outside. This is Tuf-Cloth. There is a regular, and for very corrosive environments, a Marine Tuf-Cloth. I have been favorably impressed with these products, and owe the still pristine bluing on my 1957 Gold Cup to Tuf-Cloth.

Hope this helps, Walt

Rob Pincus
February 24, 1999, 09:43 PM
If it is true what Micheal says about more damage caused by cleaning that not cleaning.. my rifles are pretty safe!

Does anyone have a source for wooden cleaning rods, or should I just buy a dow rod and fake the little endy things somehow ??

Michael Carlin
February 25, 1999, 08:16 AM

Wood is not a recommended cleaning rod material. Not strong enough, and not "non-imbedding".

The conventional wisdom has been for years now that the rod should be very hard, so that the bits of grit in the barrel can not become embedded in the surface of the rod.

One of the selling points of aluminum and brass rods were that they were too soft to harm the barrel. Paper is soft, sand paper is grit on paper. Aluminum and brass may be softer than steel but allow bits of debris to become embedded in them. This is then an "abrasive stick".

I use a Dewey coated rod, which I wipe with the back side of the patch just through the barrel on every pass. I use a new patch every pass. When I wipe the rod, if there is much of anything on the patch, I use a clean patch to wipe again.

If I were to buy the rod today I would opt for the uncoated stainless one. With the kind of money you have invested in long guns, do yourself a favor and buy Dewey (or other similar quality) .22 and 30 cal rods and good jags for every caliber you own. It won't cost you more than the price of a couple three boxes of CORBON and will serve you the rest of your life! Then your grandchildren can use them!

just my .02 worth!

Ni ellegimit carborundum esse!

Yours In Marksmanship


[This message has been edited by Michael Carlin (edited February 25, 1999).]

Rob Pincus
February 25, 1999, 11:34 AM
Thanks Micheal, as always, your opinion is respected.. but....

The guy who told me to buy one (he mentioned the brand name...but alas....) is one of the top .22 rifle shooters in the country. He built the two rifles that he was telling me to get one for. Apparently the idea is that because these rifles are meant to be cleaned so often, specifically from the muzzle end, you use a wooden rod to eliminate the chances of damaging the muzzle.

Everything you said makes sense about the wood, but I jus thtought I better have one (that looks used of course!) in case he checks up on me this year at STC..... ;)

March 4, 1999, 12:48 PM
Outers Foul Out II works great for removing lead. Can't say I'm impressed by its action on copper. The amount of lead removed from a 1911 barrel I had was nothing short of amazing, even after I thought I had gotten it all by conventional cleaning.

March 5, 1999, 08:11 PM
I would be interested in opinions of the OTIS cleaning kits. I like them, they are easy to use and very compact. One kit covers all my handgun and rifle needs.

Freedom is not Free

Mal H
March 21, 1999, 01:04 AM
I agree with leapfrog, the Foul Out II works great on lead. But, I have also had excellent results on copper fouling also. For example, last month I was getting poor groups from my Rem 700 270 Win - 6 shots in 1.1" from a "clean" rifle from a BR. This rifle has shot much better in the past so I gave it the usual cleaning followed by several hours with the FO II. I fired 6 with the same batch of ammo (Nos 130 bal tips) and got those 6 in .53". I have had similar results with a Rem 788 in 22-250.

When used after shooting lead, the FO II gets the lead out in big globs. With copper, the action is more subtle and usually takes a long time. But the results, for me anyway, are phenomenal. With both metals it is very important to get any traces of oil out of the bbl with a good degreaser, I use what Outer's suggests - Crud Cutter. If this isn't done, you will get an early indication that the cleaning is done, when, in reality, nothing has been removed from the bbl.