Gun Cleaning Essentials: 8 Things to Clean Your Gun Properly

What do you need to properly clean your gun? You can find a wide range of answers, though some of the suggestions will include specialized tools that most of us don’t need. What can you skip because it isn’t worth it? Here’s our list of gun cleaning essentials, the items every gun owner needs to properly clean their guns.

Things to Need as Gun Cleaning Essentials

01. A Gun Cleaning Mat

A gun cleaning mat serves several purposes. It protects the surface you’re working on from the solvents used to clean the gun. It protects the gun from scratches and marring of the finish. It lets you work on a surface like a wood table or metal tray without getting metal fragments on it. It should be large enough to give you plenty of work space.

02. Bore Cleaning Kit

There are some people who recommend brass rods for clearing obstructions from the gun’s bore, but most of the time, a bore snake is the better choice. The bore snake will clean the barrel quickly and efficiently. It almost eliminates the need for gun cleaning patches, brushes and rods. You will still need cleaning solution, though.

What is in a bore cleaning kit? It generally has a bronze brush and long buffing rope. You’ll pull it through the bore. It will remove most if not all of the fouling in the barrel. The best cleaning kits have a washable buffing rope.

03. Gun Brushes

Gun brushes may be sold in a bore cleaning kit or purchased separately. Don’t get a brush so tough that it will damage the barrel’s inside. Furthermore, it must be made to fit your gun barrel.

A brush that is too small simply won’t clean the entire gun barrel in a single pass. If you have stubborn carbon on the inside of the barrel, you will either need to make a dozen passes with a nylon brush or one or two passes with a bronze brush.

You should also have a gun utility brush. This brush can be used to clean slide grooves and trigger parts. It may be a general utility brush hard enough to do the job right on a gun, or you can repurpose an old toothbrush for this job.

05. A Cleaning Rod

A cleaning rod is necessary to clean gun barrel. Any cleaning rod needs to be the correct length for your firearm. There are cleaning rod kits that let you screw together several different pieces so that you can use the same cleaning rod on your pistol and rifle.

Cleaning rods themselves may be made from aluminum, brass, fiberglass and brass. Brass is heavier, but it is also the strongest option.

What is recommended?

Why do we recommend a cleaning rod over a bore snake? Bore snakes are faster, but they don’t get the inside of the gun as clean as it needs to be to fight rust. 

Furthermore, you need a cleaning rod to deal with an obstruction a bore snake can’t clear on its own. You may want to have both a cleaning rod and bore snake so that you can get a relatively fast, thorough cleaning.

What are jags?

The best cleaning rods are sold with matching jags. What are jags? They’re small attachments that go on the end of the cleaning rod. Their job is to hold the cleaning patch in place as you push the rod through. Each jag is a little narrower than the caliber barrel, so you need a different one for each gun if they’re not of the same caliber.

The alternative to a jag is a patch holder. The patch holder can be configured to fit a variety of gun barrels, but it still needs to be approved for the firearm caliber. You don’t want to try to make it fit. You can put a muzzle guard on the end of the cleaning rod so that you don’t accidentally damage it while cleaning the gun.

06. Cleaning Patches

Cleaning patches are similar to the spongy head on the end of your mop, while the cleaning rod is the mop handle. If you don’t have cleaning patches, the cleaning rod doesn’t do much good. You want plenty of cleaning patches, because they need to be clean themselves in order to get the inside of the gun clean.

They’ll be dipped in solvent before they’re run through the gun to help attack the residue inside the bore. Patches are considered a consumable, since you’re supposed to discard them after a single use. Never re-use a dirty patch, since it will redeposit dirt back in the barrel.

07. Gun Cleaning Solution

Cleaning solvents are used to remove residue from the gun barrel. Only use just enough cleaning solvent to do the job. If you use too much solvent, it can damage sensitive parts of the gun like the trigger.

There are green solvents, but they don’t do as good a job as the harsher chemicals. However, the harsher chemicals put off more toxic fumes, so always have good ventilation when cleaning your gun with these chemicals. Wear gloves to protect your skin no matter what solvents you’re using.

08. Gun Oil

Beginners often confuse gun oil for gun cleaning solution. Gun cleaning solution removes the carbon and explosive residue from the inside of the gun along with dirt. Gun oil is used after the gun is clean. It will reduce the odds of rust forming on the gun and help to repel dust.

You do not eliminate the need for gun oil by using a luster cloth. Luster cloths are pieces of cloth treated with silicone lubricant. These are used to wipe down the outside of a fire arm. Its job is to make the gun shine.

In fact, 

you may be advised to put a little gun oil on the luster cloth when you use it to wipe down the outside of the gun. That means the luster cloth is optional, whereas the gun oil is essential. You can use cotton wipes to apply gun oil to the outside of the gun.


There are a ton of specialized gun cleaning tools out there. However, you only need the essentials to get the job done, regardless of what type of gun or the number of guns you have.

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