Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best gun cleaning kits

Machines need to be cleaned, and guns are machines. A controlled explosion in the firing chamber of a gun releases hot gases that coat the firing mechanism, the firing chamber, and the bore of the barrel with carbon and unburned chemicals. Eventually, the buildup of gunk will become severe enough to interfere with the gun’s operation.

In fact, it doesn’t take much buildup for a gun to reach that point. When it’s time to clean a gun, you can’t use just any old cleaning supplies. You need a cleaning kit designed specifically for the gun at hand.

The best gun cleaning kits are equipped to clean the most common calibers: .22 long rifle, .32 caliber pistol, 308/7.62, 410 shotgun, 12 gauge, 30-30, to name a few. Kits that can clean multiple calibers are known as universal kits — even though they may not be truly universal.

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A gun cleaning kit provides you with the tools you need to clean your guns.

Key considerations

Caliber range

In order for a kit to qualify as a “universal” kit, it must be able to clean a large variety of caliber sizes. Check for the smallest caliber listed in the description as well as the largest. The brushes need to fit snugly in the barrel or they won’t be effective. A brush designed for cleaning a small-caliber gun won’t be effective at cleaning a large-caliber gun.

Number of pieces

A corollary to the caliber range is how many pieces the kit has it in. The more pieces there are, the more brushes you’ll have to cover all the possible calibers — or the popular ones, anyway. A kit that has 10 or more brushes definitely qualifies as a universal kit. A kit with only a few brushes is probably only suited to a narrow range of weapons.

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Carrying case

All gun cleaning kits come with cases, but all cases are not created equally. For example, a case without a handle may not be as helpful to you as one with a handle.

Amount of solvent and oil

How much solvent and oil does the kit include? Some kits include token amounts. In any case, you should take a look at how much carrying space is devoted to solvent and oil in the case. If there is only room for a tiny bottle, maybe you should keep looking.


A good kit will have picks for cleaning hard-to-reach places. The tiny points on the picks can be broken (and often are), so you’ll need some extras. Try to find a kit that comes with at least one or two picks for you to start with.


Long cotton swabs: BTYMS Cotton Swabs
Cotton swabs, usually six inches in length, are a consumable item. You’re always going to need more of them because they’re used up so fast. We like these swabs from BTYMS because you get to choose between several different lengths and quantities.

Gun vise: Tipton Gun Butler
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you had three hands — including one to hold your guns steady while you clean and maintaining them — the Tipton Gun Butler can be that third hand. This is an accessory that will bring dividends for years to come.

Slotted-tip gun jag: Tipton 554428 Solid Brass Slotted Tip Gun Jag
Slotted tips, even brass ones, are easy to break, and it never hurts to have a few spares on hand. We like this set of four from Tipton. The quality is high, and the price is definitely reasonable.

Gun cleaning mat: Drymate Gun Cleaning Pad
Between solvents, cleaners, oils, and the gunk you clean out of your guns, a gun cleaning mat is essential if you want to keep your workbench clean. It’s better than putting a towel under your gun when you clean it. The Drymate lasts much longer than a towel; it’s an item you can easily clean and use again and again.

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Gun cleaning kit prices


Inexpensive: Low prices for gun cleaning kits start around $10 and go up to $25. These are usually pistol cleaning kits or barebones kits without many pieces.

Mid-range: The medium price range runs from $25 to around $35. These are solid cleaning kits that will have numerous pieces and good carrying cases.

Expensive: The priciest gun cleaning kits start around $35 and go up from there. These are brand name kits with extra brushes, jags, and several types of picks.


  • Give yourself plenty of room to work. If you’re cleaning your gun on a crowded workbench, it will be easy to lose small parts as you assemble and disassemble your guns.
  • Use good lighting. This is essential to see what you’re doing as you’re cleaning. You should have at least two swing arm lights, one on either side of you.
  • Keep a small fan nearby. Use it to blow the fumes from the solvents and oils away from you.
  • Create an assembly line for yourself. Put dirty parts on one side and clean parts on the other so you don’t get them mixed up.
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The last step before reassembly of your gun is to lightly oil it so all the parts move smoothly against each other.


Q. How often should I clean my guns?
There are no hard and fast rules, but if you’ve fired more than 20 or 30 rounds, your gun should be cleaned. If you took the gun out in moist, humid weather, it should be cleaned after you get back, even if you didn’t fire it. Moisture and metal don’t play well together. Keep it clean to prevent rust.

Q. Does it matter what color cloth I use to clean my guns?
Technically, no. As a matter of practicality, though, it makes a great deal of difference. A white rag will show you how much dirt, carbon, and gunk you’ve gotten out of your gun. When it starts coming out and it’s still white, you know you got everything. It’s hard to do that with a dark cloth.

Q. Do I have to clean my gun to shoot it?
You don’t have to clean it, but you’ll start getting a lot of jams and misfires if you don’t clean it at least every now and then.

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