When it comes to proper gun safety and maintenance, it's crucial to keep your firearms clean at all times. Otherwise, dirt and debris could affect how it fires, which could become a huge problem next time you're out hunting (or defending your property).

Fortunately, gun cleaning kits are plentiful and easy to buy, especially online. Better yet, these kits can be all-purpose or specifically formulated for one type of firearm (i.e., rifle or pistol). With so many options to choose from, it can seem challenging to pick the right one for your needs.

Fortunately, we're here to help with a comprehensive guide to buying a gun cleaning kit. We'll go over the finer points of gun maintenance and cleanliness, and we've compiled a list of the top five products you can use. Let's begin.

How to Clean a Gun

man's hand about to clean a gun with many gun cleaning tools and a disassembled handgun on a table

If you're new to this process, it may take a while to complete each step. However, once you do this a few times, it will only get easier and you'll only get faster at it. We'll discuss gun-specific cleaning techniques after covering the basic steps, which are:

Step One: Create a Cleaning Area

Clean a Semi Auto Pistol Presented by Larry Potterfield

This area should be well-ventilated and have enough room to house your gun parts and cleaning kit. If you have an extra-large space, you may be able to clean multiple guns at once. However, start with one and then add more as your comfort level increases. You should also put a towel or drip mat down first to catch any debris or residue that comes off while cleaning.

Step Two: Unload and Disassemble Your Gun

man's hand detaching the revolving cylinder from a wheel gun

If you haven't disassembled your gun before, you should check your manual to see how to do it. Also, keep in mind that you may not remove every piece from the firearm. Instead, manufacturers will recommend the right amount of disassembly necessary for cleaning. Finally, make sure the gun is unloaded before beginning, for obvious reasons.

Step Four: Start With Cleaning Rods and Patches

two man talking in a gun store

You'll first start by adding cleaning solvent to your patches and attaching them to your caliber-specific rods. You should also have a muzzle guard to protect the muzzle from accidental damage while cleaning.

One point to remember is that you never want to pull a patch back through after pushing it out one side. Doing this will only redeposit any dirt or debris back inside the gun. Cleaning patches can be washable and reusable, or they might be disposable.

Step Five: Loosen Debris With a Bore Brush, Then Repeat Step Four

gun cleaning brushes and other gun cleaning products

If your gun is extra dirty, you may want to follow steps four and five a couple of times. After the initial patch cleaning, you'll want to run a bore brush through the muzzle to loosen any grime or debris. You can run the brush back and forth since you'll clean the inside with another patch afterward.

Step Six: Lubricate the Gun

Lucas Gun Oils and gun parts close up

Add a few drops of gun oil to a cotton swab and run it through the muzzle and other interior parts of your gun. You only need a few drops, so be careful not to use too much oil. Not only will the gun feel greasy and dirty, but excess oil could clog the components and accumulate more debris over time.

You'll also need to lubricate the action so it functions more smoothly. If necessary, dab any extra oil off the surface. It should be glistening, but not necessarily "shining."

Step Seven: Wipe the Gun Down With a Cloth

Cleaning gun scope with a cloth

As you clean each part, you can reassemble the gun as you go. Once the firearm is reassembled, wipe it down with a microfiber cloth or something similar. This way, you can clean off any dust or debris that may have accumulated as you were cleaning the inside.

Considerations for Cleaning Shotguns and Rifles

Man teaching how to clean a shotgun thoroughly holding a cleaning brush

You shouldn't lubricate the interior of a shotgun or rifle barrel unless storing the gun for long periods. Barrel lubrication can increase the pressure inside, leading to potential damage when firing the gun. Instead, you should lubricate the moving parts where bearings or metal components rub against each other.

Another point to consider is that cleaning patches or cloths can get stuck in longer barrels if you're not careful. Also, with more surface area inside, you'll go through more patches, so be sure to have enough on hand. After your first cleaning, you should have a good idea of how many patches or mops to have on hand for future sessions.

When Should You Clean a Gun?

Man showing how to clean a Glock with gloves, brush, cloth and other cleaning products

Ideally, you should clean your guns after every use. However, not all gun types need this kind of constant upkeep and maintenance. Here are some general rules for when to clean different guns:

  • Pistol - You should clean all pistols and handguns after each use. Because most cleaning kits are designed for smaller firearms, you should be able to work quickly.
  • Rifle - Because cleaning a rifle takes longer, you don't need to do it as often. However, the least you should do is clean your rifles at the beginning and at the end of each hunting season. If you're using your rifle frequently, you should clean it at least once during the season, too.
  • Shotgun - As with rifles, you don't need to clean your shotgun as often as a handgun. Follow the "twice per season" rule as a general guideline.

If you have lots of guns in storage, you should give them a deep cleaning at least once per year. Doing this can remove dust and other debris that may collect over time. Even if your guns are in a safe for most of the year, it's still best to deep clean them regularly.

What's the Best Thing to Clean a Gun With?

Glock 19x with clp

The solvent you use for cleaning your gun can make a world of difference. If you're using both a solvent and gun oil, Hoppe's offers the best cleaners for virtually all firearms. If you want an all-in-one solution, we recommend using a CLP. CLP stands for cleaner, lubricant, and protectant, meaning you can take care of two tasks in one.

The second-best element for cleaning your gun is a bore brush. This brush can loosen and remove residue from inside the muzzle or barrel, which is crucial to prevent jams and misfires.

What is the Best Brand of Gun Cleaning Kits?

Top cleaning kit brands include:

  • Gloryfire - These kits are excellent for beginners.
  • Allen - If you have lots of guns and need tons of cleaning supplies, Allen has you covered.
  • Otis - This brand specializes in portable cleaning kits for on-the-go hunters and firearm enthusiasts.
  • Corque - As you'll see, Corque cleaning kits offer the best value, partly because they're universal.

What Should Be in a Gun Cleaning Kit?

Basic Gun Cleaning Tools and Supplies

On a basic level, you should have the following items in your basic gun cleaning kit:

  • Cleaning Solvent - Most kits use their own proprietary solvent, but it should be relatively mild so it doesn't affect the metal parts of your gun.
  • Bore Brushes and Rods - Both of these items will be caliber-specific to fit into the muzzle perfectly. This way, the brushes can get into every nook and cranny more efficiently.
  • Gun Jags and Swabs - These pieces attach to a cleaning rod, and they're also caliber-specific. You can attach a cleaning swab to the tip of a jag to clean the inside of your gun and lubricate it with gun oil.
  • Utility Brushes - While bore brushes go inside the gun, utility brushes are for the outside to get into the various surfaces. These brushes often have stiff or metallic bristles to make them more effective.
  • Gloves - Since you'll be working with chemicals and oils, you want to protect your hands as you clean.
  • Polishing Cloths - Usually, gun cleaning kits will use microfiber cloths so you can polish the outside of your gun more efficiently.
  • Drip Pan or Mat - While this piece isn't technically necessary (you can always use a towel), it's nice to have so you can catch drips and spills while cleaning.
  • Gun Oil - Oil and lubricant will help the various moving parts of your gun work more smoothly. Overall, regular cleaning and maintenance will make your guns fire better and prevent jams or misfires.

What Products are Needed to Clean a Gun?

close up of a dropper pouring oil on a gun part

The basic products necessary to clean a gun include:

  • Solvent
  • Gun Oil/Lubricant
  • Bore Brushes
  • Cleaning Patches
  • Microfiber Clothes
  • Small Utility Brushes

If you only have these items on hand, you should be able to clean virtually any gun, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

Can You Clean a Gun Without Dismantling It?

Brownells representatives explain how to clean a gun

Realistically, no. Because you need to access different parts of the gun, you must disassemble it, at least partially. If you try to clean your guns without taking them apart, you won't get very far, and there'll be a lot of residue left inside. That said, if you're just trying to keep a gun clean while "in the field," you can do a spot clean and then finish the job when you're back at home.

Is There a Self-Cleaning Gun?

clean and lube semi-auto pistol

While some guns may have "self-cleaning" components, all firearms need regular maintenance and upkeep, including deep cleaning. So no, there isn't a "self-cleaning gun."

Should You Oil the Inside of Your Gun?

Man's hand pouring oil inside of a handgun part

Yes, you should oil interior components that rub against each other. Lubrication is necessary to prevent damage and rusting. Also, because metal pieces can grind off small shavings, gun oil can help extend the lifespan of each firearm.

That said, you shouldn't lubricate the barrel of a rifle or shotgun unless you're putting it away for long-term storage.

What is the Most Important Thing to Remember When Cleaning Guns?

Man showing how to unload a gun

The most important thing to remember is to unload your gun before doing anything else. The second most important thing is to have an open and well-ventilated area for cleaning. Otherwise, various solvent fumes could make you feel dizzy or nauseous.

Top Five Cleaning Kits for Guns

We've covered a lot of information about gun cleaning and maintenance. Now, let's put that knowledge to good use and look at the top five gun cleaning kits available today.

Best Overall
Our Score 9.5 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com
Best Mid Range
Our Score 9.0 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com
Cheaper Choice
Our Score 8.7 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com
Our Score 8.3 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com
Our Score 7.6 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com

Corque Universal Gun Cleaning Kit - Best Overall

Our Score 9.5 out of 10
CORQUE Universal Gun Cleaning Kit Bundled with Cleaning Mat and Gloves, Cotton Patches, All Caliber Pistols, Shotguns, Rifles, Handguns, Airguns, Hunting Accessories – Gun Accessories

The best gun cleaning kits have everything you need laid out and organized so it's easier to grab items while you work. This universal gun cleaning kit from Corque looks like a regular toolbox, complete with a molded case that houses all 161 pieces. What we like most about this gun kit is that it comes with tons of rod adapters to fit different types of guns. This way, you can clean everything without buying a specialized kit for each gun type.

  • Durable molded case161 items included
  • Works for all gun types
  • Rubber gloves provided
  • Total Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Some pieces may be larger or smaller than the caliber they say
  • In rare cases, the cleaning rods may be fragile and snap relatively easily

Allen Co. Universal Cleaning Kit - Best Mid-Range Kit

Our Score 9.0 out of 10
Allen Company Universal Weapon Tactical Gun/Rifle Cleaning Kit, 66 Piece Set (70541) , Black/Grey, One Size
Allen Company Universal Weapon Tactical Gun/Rifle Cleaning Kit, 66 Piece Set (70541) , Black/Grey, One Size amazon.com Check price

Contains 3 Specialty Tools for MSR's
66 Pieces Total
Bronze Bore Brushes for Shotgun 12 and 20 Gauge
Bronze Bore Brushes for Rifle and Pistol: .22, .30, .357, 9mm, .40, .44, .45 and .50
Cotton Swab...

If you're a hunter, you likely have multiple rifles and shotguns, but fewer handguns. In that case, you'll want something like this kit from Allen Company. While it does technically work for pistols, it's mostly designed for longer guns and barrels. This kit looks and feels more like a fishing tackle box, but that can work better for cleaning larger firearms. The bottom section is empty so you can choose different cleaning solutions and store them underneath the top tray.

  • Ideal for rifles and shotguns, but works for handguns too
  • Bottom storage for different cleaners and wipes
  • Rugged materials
  • Removable trays make it easier to work
  • No cleaners, wipes, or patches provided
  • Not as many pieces as other kits

Winchester Universal Gun Cleaning Kit - Best Value

Our Score 8.7 out of 10
Winchester 32 Piece Universal Gun Cleaning Kit
Winchester 32 Piece Universal Gun Cleaning Kit amazon.com Check price

Product Type: Sporting Goods
Package Dimensions: 29.464 L X 20.32 W X 6.604 H (Centimeters)
Package Weight: 1.750 Pounds
Country Of Origin: United States

While the Winchester name is synonymous with high-quality firearms, the company also makes affordable gun cleaning kits. This particular model is designed for cleaning on the go, thanks to its soft shell carrying case and limited supply of cleaning components. However, if you're looking for something cheap and effective for spot cleaning while you're out and about, this kit gets the job done.

  • Most affordable gun cleaning kit
  • Softshell casing for easier transportation
  • Perfect for handguns, but can be adapted for longer guns too
  • Space for cleaning solvent bottles
  • Not as comprehensive as other cleaning kits
  • Not much room for other essential cleaning supplies

Otis All-Caliber Elite Range Box

Our Score 8.3 out of 10
Otis Technology All Caliber Elite Range Box with Universal Gun Cleaning Gear, Black
Otis Technology All Caliber Elite Range Box with Universal Gun Cleaning Gear, Black amazon.com Check price

Cleans all rifles pistols shotguns inline muzzleloaders with 100% cotton 2" & 3" patches, 3 Slotted tips & 2 patch savers
4 firearm specific ripcords for quick one-pass Cleaning in the field (. 22/...

If you're okay with spending some extra money to get a top-of-the-line cleaning kit, this product from Otis takes the cake. Not only does this kit come with all the essentials and plenty more, but it works well for all gun types, including pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Best of all, the rugged and portable carrying case means you can take this kit with you anywhere.

  • Durable construction
  • Tons of pieces to clean virtually any gun
  • Highly portable
  • Extra space for other supplies and cleaning solvents
  • More expensive than other cleaning kits
  • Mainly designed for hardcore gun enthusiasts, not casual gun owners

Otis Tactical Portable Cleaning Kit

Our Score 7.6 out of 10
Otis Tactical Cleaning System for Rifles, Pistols & Shotguns

Cleaning your gun on the go is essential when hunting, and Otis Tactical has your back. While this kit doesn't come with all the different components we've seen so far, it's perfect for spot cleaning and maintenance while on the trail. Plus, its compact size means you can fit it into practically any pocket. Plus, it's easy to replace the cleaning solvents when they run out.

  • Softshell carrying case
  • Highly portable and compact
  • Perfect for spot cleaning on the go
  • Rugged design and durable materials
  • Works for most gun types
  • Few cleaning agents and patches provided
  • Will not help you deep-clean your firearms

Final Verdict

As you can see, the best gun cleaning kit is one that offers thorough and comprehensive cleaning capabilities. No matter what gun you have, the Corque Universal Kit is the best option overall.

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