If you’re a hunter or shooter and want a high quality universal gun cleaning kit to help keep your shotguns, rifles, and handguns in great condition, then make sure you have these pieces of gear.
I think most hunters and shooters agree that a dirty and poorly maintained handgun, shotgun, or rifle probably won’t function reliably or shoot very accurately. The problem is that most people likely have a gun cleaning kit with inferior equipment and/or simply don’t know how to properly clean their firearms.
For a long time, I was like many other hunters and used either a really basic inexpensive universal cleaning kit I bought at a big box retailer or a surplus Army cleaning kit I received while I was in the military. However, as I learned more about precision shooting, I realized that I wasn’t doing a good job cleaning my rifles and took a hard look at my cleaning supplies.
I ditched most of the cheap gear I was using back then and have since built my own custom gun cleaning kit that I always take shooting and hunting along with my range bag or hunting pack. It may not have a super cool tactical look, but it’s extremely functional.
Since then, my accuracy has dramatically improved and my firearms are functioning perfectly as a direct result of my new gun cleaning system and equipment.
In today’s post, I’m going to share the most important pieces of gear that you need to build the best gun cleaning kit that will allow you to properly clean your guns and keep them in good condition for many years of use. I’ve hand picked all of these items after many years of experimentation and everything on this list is a proven performer for rifle, pistol, and shotgun cleaning.
Before we get started, I have an administrative note:
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A gun vice is one of the most important, yet still overlooked, pieces of gear in a gun cleaning kit. If you want to thoroughly clean the bore of your firearm and minimize the chances of damaging it, then you simply must have a way of keeping your rifle/shotgun/handgun secure while you work on it. The Tipton Best Gun Vice fills this role admirably: it’s sturdy, but still portable and reasonably priced.
This vice is very well designed and fits just about any firearm from a handgun, to a bolt action rifle, to an AR-15 or other MSR. I’m a big fan of this vice and use it whenever I clean on any of my firearms. It’s also well suited for conducting other maintenance or modification tasks (like mounting a scope on a rifle).
It’s really easy to damage the throat, chamber, or crown on a rifle with a cleaning rod if you’re not careful. So, in addition to having a quality gun vice, every rifle shooter also needs a bore guide. This Tipton bore guide is an inexpensive and easy to use tool that ensures proper cleaning rod alignment and prevents gun solvents from leaking into the rifle action.
While this is not essential for a shotgun or pistol cleaning kit, no rifle cleaning kit is complete without a bore guide!
I feel so strongly that the gun vice and bore guide are essential items for a gun cleaning kit that I added them to my 2020 gift recommendations. To see what other stuff is on the list, check out the following article:
Bore Cleaning Tools
There are two different directions you can go for cleaning the bore of a gun: a traditional cleaning rod or a bore snake. I have both and I use each one in different situations.
Products like the Hoppe’s Bore Snake and the Otis Rip Cord appeal to many in the hunting and shooting communities because they are so much faster to use than a traditional cleaning rod. Users simply need to drop the weighted rope down the barrel and pull the whole bore snake through one or two times to remove most of the fouling from the bore. They’ll probably never completely replace traditional cleaning rods, but bore snakes are really easy and fast to use.
They’re also extremely portable and easy to carry, which makes them great for field cleaning.
These days, I exclusively use Sage & Braker bore cleaning kits. They have a more robust bronze brush and a longer cleaning floss than most other bore snakes. They also come with a nice carrying case and have a detachable bore brush to facilitate cleaning the rest of the bore snake.
In my opinion, the Sage & Braker kits do a better job of removing bore fouling are a real cut above everything else currently on the market. They’re available for .22 to .54 caliber rifles, .410 bore to 12 gauge shotguns, and .22 to .45 caliber handguns. I always bring one whenever I hit the range or go hunting.
In addition to purchasing Sage & Braker products through the Amazon links above, you can also buy directly from the Sage & Braker web site (they offer free shipping).
As good as bore snakes are though, they just can’t deal with super heavy barrel fouling like a traditional brass or aluminum rod though. Though it’s not nearly as fast or easy to use as a bore snake, a good carbon fiber or brass rod is still the gold standard when it comes to really thoroughly cleaning the bore of a rifle, shotgun, or handgun.
Just make sure you use it in conjunction with a gun vice and bore guide.
That’s why I use a one piece carbon fiber rod for cleaning at home. I prefer to use nylon bore brushes and brass jags for most of my deep cleaning.
The Real Avid Gun Boss Pro is another good all around choice for a cleaning rod kit, particularly if you like using bronze brushes and slotted tips for your cleaning patches. When hunting, it’s also nice to have a sectioned cleaning rod that’s really portable if you need to clear an obstruction from your bore.
The Real Avid Gun Boss Pro kit comes with a 36″ sectioned brass rod, an ergonomic handle, two slotted tips for various sizes of gun cleaning patches, phosphor bronze brushes and cleaning jags for cleaning .22, .243, .270-.280, .30, 9mm (.357), .40, and .45 caliber barrels, and 12 gauge and 20 gauge brushes and mops.
Cleaners, Solvents, & Lubricants
Some sort of gun cleaner or solvent is a must have for any gun cleaning kit. Specifically, you’ll need a gun bore cleaner to help remove carbon, lead, and copper fouling from your barrel. Many hunters and shooters stick with the tried and true Hoppe’s No 9 as a bore cleaner and it works well in that role.
However, cleaning the bore is only part of the battle in maintaining your firearm.
You’ll also need some gun oil in your gun cleaning kit to lubricate and protect your firearms from rust and corrosion. I’ve historically used lubricating oils and grease like Rust Inhibiting Grease by Birchwood Casey and Remington Rem Oil in those roles. However, to avoid using two or three different products to accomplish those tasks, I just use one now: Sage & Braker Clean + Lube + Protect.
Better known as CLP, the name perfectly describes what this product does. Sage & Braker CLP is specifically designed for deep cleaning of lead, copper, and carbon fouling, superior lubrication, and great protection from corrosion.
Miscellaneous Gun Cleaning Tools
In addition to the tools described above, I also have a box of disposable gloves, some cleaning rags, a barber brush, some cleaning swabs, and a set of picks and brushes that round out my custom made deluxe gun cleaning kit.
I wear a pair of disposable gloves while cleaning. This serves two purposes: it keeps the solvents off my skin and and protects the firearm I’m cleaning from the oil on my skin. The barber brush is great for removing the dust and dirt off the exterior of the firearm I’m cleaning. It does a surprisingly good job of cleaning out all the hard to reach places where dirt likes to accumulate. The cleaning rags are used for wiping down and lubricating all the metal parts of the gun.
There are a number of different choices when it comes to picks and brushes, but I prefer the Sage & Braker Brush & Pick Tool Roll. With 4 cleaning brushes (2 copper and 2 nylon) and 4 brass picks, it has exactly the tools I need to meticulously clean all the little nooks and crannies on my guns without damaging them. This is an especially important addition to an AR-15 cleaning kit. They come in a very sharp looking leather tool roll for easy storage.
Sage & Braker also makes a line of really nice gun cleaning swabs specifically designed to clean those hard to reach spots in your firearm. With a 6″ long wooden handle, these swabs will reach almost any part of a firearm, plus they’re strong enough to facilitate a really deep cleaning without breaking. They’re an essential part of any rifle, handgun, or shotgun cleaning kit.
Finally, there are a couple of different ways to store all of those tools in your gun cleaning kit. First, you can just buy a small plastic tool box. This works especially well for a handgun cleaning kit. For a more antique look, you can use a wooden box to store everything in your gun cleaning kit.
In my experience, while they will work ok for a field cleaning while hunting, most of the cloth pouches and cases out there aren’t quite big enough to store the complete gun cleaning kit that I use for thorough cleaning at home.
For that reason, I store most of my supplies inside a big Rubbermaid container that I use as a range box. Everything fits in there with room to spare except for my one piece cleaning rod and gun cleaning vice, which I store separately.