Cleaning is critical for keeping your AR-15, or any firearm, in good condition.
No matter what ammo you use, shooting causes carbon, lead, and other types of residue to coat the inside of your gun. The more you shoot, the more of this build-up that forms. If you don’t remove it via cleaning, that build-up can cause accuracy issues, mechanical malfunctions, and even damage to your gun.
A rifle cleaning kit is the basic, go-to cleaning option but sometimes you need something different. AR-15 cleaning tools allow you to detail and deep clean your rifle and can also provide a more compact alternative to a cleaning rod.
In this guide, we’ll talk all about AR-15 cleaning tools. We’ll talk about what they are and what different types are available, discuss what you should look for when choosing AR-15 cleaning tools, and finish up by going over a few of our favorites.
You can get a sneak peek at those AR-15 cleaning tools by taking a look at the list below, but for now, let’s get started with the basics.
Anything you might use to clean an AR-15 can be considered an AR-15 cleaning tool, but here we’re focusing on the things you won’t find in most gun cleaning kits. That means we’re not talking about traditional cleaning rods, cleaning patches, bore brushes, or bore mops.
Instead, we’re going to look at less common AR-15 cleaning tools. These include tools designed for deep cleaning a specific part of the AR-15, general-purpose detailing tools, a gun cleaning multi-tool, and an alternative to a traditional cleaning rod.
What Are The Different Types Of AR-15 Cleaning Tools?
Different tools do different things, but they’re typically all focused on cleaning the upper receiver. The bore and chamber tend to get special attention, but there are also plenty of cleaning tools that are more focused on the action.
There are also multi-tool type cleaning tools that have a bunch of cleaning tools built-in to allow them to clean a lot of different parts of the AR-15.
Finally, there are tools that have a single purpose, but that purpose is still useful for a variety of parts. Picks and utility brushes are good examples of this.
We’ve included tools of all of these types in our recommendations.
What Do You Look For In The Best AR-15 Cleaning Tools?
What exactly you need to look for in an AR-15 cleaning tool depends on what you want your cleaning tool to do. There are, however, a few things that you should look for in a cleaning tool, no matter what your needs are.
First, make sure that it does, in fact, actually meet your needs. For example, don’t buy a multi-tool just assuming it has all the cleaning tools you could want. Take some time to consider what all functions you want your multi-tool to have and make sure that the multi-tool you’re looking at actually has them.
You’ll also want to make sure that any AR-15 cleaning tool you have is high-quality. Is it made from durable materials? Is it well constructed? Is it effective? Checking out reviews from other customers is a great way to get an accurate idea of the quality of the tool and how it performs in the real world.
You’ll also want to consider the size of the cleaning tool. If you want something that you can toss in your range bag, you probably want something more compact. If you just want something to use at home, you can get away with a larger tool.
Best AR-15 Cleaning Tools Reviewed
Now that all of that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the cleaning tools.
1. Otis B.O.N.E. Tool (Our Top Pick)
Our overall top pick is the Otis Technology BONE Tool.
This AR-15 cleaning tool is specifically designed to clean carbon buildup and fouling from the bolt carrier group (BCG) in AR-15 style MSRs. It has built-in scrapers for the bolt carrier, bolt, and firing pin, as well as an 8-21 threaded hole so it can be attached to a standard cleaning rod and used as a T-handle.
The Real Avid Carbon Boss is the way to go if you want a highly multifunctional AR-15 cleaning tool.
It’s a multi-tool with scrapers for extractors, bolt faces, bolt carriers, bolt cam pins, small firing pins, large firing pins, bolt lugs, firing pin faces, bolt tail interiors, and bolt tail exteriors. It also has a phosphor bronze bolt tail brush to remove carbon from the bolt tail, firing pin, and other small, thin parts.
But it’s not just a carbon removal tool. This multi-tool also has a pin punch, detailing brushes, and a cotter pin puller.
13 different tools
Pin punch helps with takedown and disassembly before you even start cleaning
Comes with a nylon sheath for storage and carry
Even with all the tools built-in, it’s still really only for cleaning the bolt carrier group
The star chamber of AR rifles can be tricky to clean, which is why Otis introduced the Otis Technology Star Chamber cleaning tool.
It uses star-shaped chamber cleaning pads to get into the chamber easily and effectively. You can use the pads the same way you’d normally use a cleaning patch, like to apply gun cleaning solvent or CLP and, after you’ve used a chamber brush or the built-in chamber scraper, to remove loosened fouling.
It comes with 6 felt cleaning pads, but you can get more separately. There’s also a version for the AR-10, so make sure you select the right model.
The coated brass nose piece centers the tool but won’t hurt your gun
Has standard 8-32 threads, so you can also attach standing cleaning rod attachments
Far more effective than standard chamber cleaning methods
A bit costly for how specialized it is
Have to continue to buy cleaning pads, which are far more expensive than patches
With AR-15 cleaning tools like these, you don’t have to be a gunsmith to give your AR-15 a deep, thorough cleaning. Each is an excellent, high-quality tool, but they each have different purposes, so just choose the tool or tools that best fit your needs.
Of course, they’re not replacements for a cleaning kit so if you don’t have one already, be sure to check out the Best AR-15 Cleaning Kits to get your basic cleaning items to start. For the outside of your gun, you’ll want to take a look at the Best Gun Cleaning Cloths as well.
And to really make your cleaning system as easy as possible, take a look at the Best Gun Cleaning Vises so you can free up the hand that’s been just holding your AR-15 in place.
Finally, Otis Technology, Real Avid, and Hoppe’s all make many excellent cleaning tools beyond what we were able to include on this list, both for the AR-15 and for other rifles, handguns, and shotguns. Be sure to take a look at their other products for the rest of your gun cleaning needs.