What You Need in Your Rifle Cleaning Kit

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Last Updated on July 31, 2021.

Writer for Minuteman Review, handgun aficionado and artisan firearms reviewer. 

What You Need in Your Rifle Cleaning Kit

When you buy or build a rifle, you want to keep it running smoothly. The best way to do that is to clean and lubricate it. For the best results, select or assemble a cleaning kit that provides you with all the tools and supplies necessary to leave your rifle spotless.


Importance of Cleaning

When you discharge a firearm—handgun, rifle, or shotgun—the detonation of the primer, combustion of the propellant, and friction between the bullet and bore produce byproducts or contaminants. As these residues and metal fragments or deposits accumulate, they become fouling. 

Firearm mechanisms rely on several moving metal parts, often operating together under close tolerances, to facilitate loading, firing, and unloading. Anything that slows down this process or interferes with these close tolerances can impede functional reliability.

If you want to keep your rifle in proper working condition, it is essential that you periodically clean and lubricate it. That means having a rifle cleaning kit and knowing how to use it. 

Unless you shoot foreign surplus ammunition with corrosive primers or black powder, it’s unnecessary to clean your firearms after every shooting session. However, periodic cleaning and lubrication will keep your rifle shooting and handling smoothly for years.

Keep in mind also that for every type of rifle just like lever-action rifles requires a certain kind of maintenance since they have different mechanism.


Rifle Cleaning Kit Essentials

Whether you assemble a rifle cleaning kit yourself or buy one pre-assembled, some specific tools and supplies are essential to proper maintenance. These include the following:

Cleaning rod

A cleaning rod is necessary for cleaning the barrel. Cleaning rods are usually composed of aluminum, brass, or carbon fiber and consist of several sections that screw together. 

The rear section typically has a T-shaped handle that you can use for applying additional leverage. These materials are softer than the steel barrel, reducing the probability that you will damage the bore. 

The cleaning rod allows you to attach different heads, running them through the barrel. When using a cleaning rod, always insert it from the breech to the muzzle. In addition to its cleaning function, you can also use a cleaning rod to remove obstructions from the barrel.

Jags

A jag is a spear-like attachment for a cleaning rod that you use to penetrate the center of a cleaning patch and push it through the barrel.

Mops

Cotton mops are absorbent attachments that allow you to either clean the chamber or apply a solvent to the barrel.

Patches

These are square or circular cotton patches for cleaning the bore. Soak one patch in a cleaning solvent and, using a jag or loop, force the patch through the barrel, from breech to muzzle. Leave the solvent in the barrel for a few minutes.

Phosphor-bronze brushes

These types of brushes attach to the cleaning rod and allow you to scrape copper and lead fouling, along with propellant residue, out of the bore. Always ensure that the brushes you buy are compatible with the caliber of your rifle’s barrel. For example, a .22-caliber brush is not appropriate for a .30-caliber bore and vice versa. You should also have a dedicated chamber brush.

Dip a fresh brush in cleaning solvent and run it through the barrel, scraping back and forth to loosen any metal fouling that may have accumulated in the rifling grooves. As fouling builds up inside the barrel, it can cause the rifling lands to less effectively engage the bullet, affecting accuracy.

Nylon utility brush

A brush with a handle is necessary for cleaning articulating surfaces in firearms. A nylon brush is a valuable tool for scrubbing the chamber, bolt, bolt carrier, piston, and other parts.

Cleaning solvent

There are several cleaning solvents available on the market. Two well-known examples include Hoppe’s No. 9 and CLP (Cleaning, Lubricant, Protectant). Cleaning solvents breakdown fouling, allowing you to scrape or wipe it away.

Gun oil

Lubrication is necessary for the reliable and smooth operation of any mechanical system where moving parts are in contact with each other. Lubrication is the last part of the maintenance routine. Once you’ve completed the cleaning procedure, you can apply a few drops of oil to specific parts of the action. However, don’t lubricate the bore.


​Secondary Equipment For Your Kit

While these are not critical to the cleaning process and don’t belong in the cleaning kit, these supplies may come in handy. 

Glasses

When disassembling a firearm for routine maintenance, there are often parts, including pins, under spring tension. It’s not uncommon for a part to fly out of a gun when pried loose. To minimize the risk of injury to your eyes, consider wearing the same shooting glasses that you practice in.

Gloves

Cleaning solvents, lubricating oils, lead residue, gunpowder fouling, and other gunk from your gun can be hard to wash off your hands and potentially toxic. A pair of medical examination or surgical gloves, made from latex or nitrile, can protect your skin.

Paper towels

These are useful for wiping up excess oil/solvent, wiping surfaces clean, and wiping your hands.

Bore light

A bore light, which you would use to examine the bore during an inspection, can help you determine the extent of the necessary cleaning. 

Don’t Neglect Safety

Always read the owner’s manual to your firearm if you have it and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding disassembly, cleaning, and lubrication. 

When you’re ready to clean your rifle, always ensure the rifle is unloaded before attempting to disassemble it. If it has a detachable magazine, remove the magazine first before attempting to open the breech. Depending on the type of firearm, this may require that you retract the charging handle, pivot the lever, or rotate and retract the bolt handle. 

Keep live ammunition and loaded magazines separate from the working space that you’ve assigned to this task. When handling cleaning solvents and lubricating oils, avoid smoking or having an open flame in the vicinity because these cleaning chemicals are highly flammable. 

Your working space should also be in a well-ventilated location, so open a window or keep a fan nearby. Cleaning chemicals and oils can produce harmful vapors that you don’t want to inhale. 

When you finish cleaning and lubricating your firearms, always wash your hands thoroughly, especially before handling food or beverages. The lead residue is highly toxic, as are many cleaning products. You don’t want to ingest them.


​Keeping Your Kit Organized

Along with spare parts and accessories, you should designate a working space for disassembly, parts replacement, and maintenance. Also, keeping dedicated trays, bins, or drawers for cleaning supplies will help you remain organized. Ideally, you should keep your rifle cleaning kit in a range bag or case. 


The Take-home Message

Gun ownership is challenging to reconcile with having an online presence. The convenience afforded to us by social media platforms makes it too easy to overshare.

Adopting sensible online privacy habits and being mindful of what you post on the internet is not just a matter of not being seen by the wrong people; it’s also one way to defend your rights: the right to keep and bear arms and the right to privacy.