First, let’s talk about what makes a compact gun cleaning kit different from your average, full-sized gun cleaning kit. Obviously, they’re smaller, but what exactly are you losing out on by going with a compact kit?
The main trade-offs you have to keep in mind are that a compact kit is a little more specialized, and they might not have everything you need for a truly deep clean.
What that means is, you’re not going to be able to clean a bunch of different calibers with your typical compact kit. These kits are usually more geared towards cleaning a single caliber and are perfect for carrying with you to the range or on the hunt so you can keep things clean when you’re away from your workbench.
The other thing is that these don’t typically have the supplies necessary to truly deep clean your firearm. Typically, these are more geared towards spot cleaning, particularly of the barrel and chamber. Some kits may not have everything you need to clean a bolt, like a carbon scraper for example.
All that said, these are great for keeping with you when you’re at the range, on the hunt, or just doing some general shooting and want to keep your guns from getting too dirty, which can be a pain to deal with when it does come time to give things a deep clean.
What Are The Different Types Of Compact Gun Cleaning Kits?
Generally speaking, most true compact gun cleaning kits are bore snakes or at least use cleaning cables instead of rods. This is for simple space-saving and convenience. After all, a flexible cable or rope packs down much smaller than solid, non-flexible rods of a similar length.
Some pistol kits do still make use of rods, usually multi-piece rods, so if you’re looking for a more traditional gun cleaning system for a handgun, these can be a good option. Otherwise, the bore snakes and cable kits are going to be the best way to go, but they do have some drawbacks, which we’ll talk about next.
How Does A Compact Gun Cleaning Kit Work?
When you’re using a typical firearm cleaning kit, the procedure is pretty simple.
First, you grab your patch holder or brass jag and run a cleaning patch soaked in a firearm-specific solvent or 3-in-1 product down the barrel, from the chamber to the muzzle.
This is usually accomplished with a cleaning rod, but in the case of a compact kit, it is typically accomplished with a cleaning cable that you feed on the chamber through the muzzle and then pull through.
Once that has been allowed to sit for a little bit and break loose all the carbon and other fouling inside the barrel, swap your patch holder or jag for the appropriately-sized cleaning brush and pull that through several times. You can add a little extra solvent to the bore brush to lubricate it and help it clean a little more efficiently as well.
After you’ve done that, run another few dry patches down the barrel to swab out all the dislodged gunk. Following a few passes, you should start to see the patches coming out as clean as when they go in. If not, repeat the steps with the cleaning brush and try again.
Once a patch comes out clean, run one last patch through with a light gun oil or CLP, and you’re good to go!
What Do You Look For In The Best Compact Gun Cleaning Kit?
First and foremost, is it a good cleaning kit? Does it provide high-quality cleaning brushes, and a good cleaning cable or collapsible rod? For cleaning cables, it is vital that they be coated in a thick plastic or rubber coating. If not, and you have just a bare steel cable, it will scratch the crown of your barrel and the rifling inside, which is not something you want.
Next, you’ll want to take a look at the case that the kit comes in. Of course, it should be compact, but in general, it should also have a little bit of extra space to hold things like cleaning patches and at least a bottle of CLP, which is our preferred option for field cleaning.
Best Compact Gun Cleaning Kits Reviewed
Alright, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at some specific cleaning kits. These are the cleaning kits that have done the best in our testing and are the ones that we use ourselves for keeping our guns clean when we’re in the field.
1. Otis Technology Tactical Cleaning Kit (Our Top Pick)
The Otis Technology Tactical Cleaning Kit is not only our favorite compact firearm cleaning kit, it’s actually one of our favorite cleaning kits overall. This tiny little kit contains everything you need to clean most firearms in the following calibers: .22/.223, .270, .30/.308/30-06/30-30, .38/9mm, .45 cal, and 12 ga. Frankly, that covers most of our collections, and the whole kit is about the size of a box of rifle ammo, so it’s a great option for a bugout bag or range pack, or even for your main cleaning kit.
Cleans most common pistol, rifle, and shotgun calibers
Extremely compact cleaning kit
Includes both brushes and patches
A little more expensive than some kits, though you get what you pay for
2. Hoppe’s Universal Field Cleaning Kit (Best Budget)
If you’re after a cheap cleaning kit that won’t let you down, the Hoppe’s Universal Field Cleaning Kitis one of the best options if you don’t want to spend a lot. It doesn’t include brushes, but it does have a multi-piece rod system that works equally well with pistols, rifles, or shotguns.
It’s also a very compact kit, and one of the best if you want to use cleaning rods instead of flexible cables.
3. Birchwood Casey Rifle and Handgun Range Cleaning Kit (Best High End)
If you’re looking for a true field cleaning kit that will give you results that are just as good as any workbench kit, then the Birchwood Casey Rifle and Handgun Range Cleaning Kitis the kit for you. This professional-grade kit is used by military, police, and pro-competition shooters around the world, and it has absolutely everything you need for complete weapon maintenance other than your preferred CLP. If you have the cash, this is the kit to get.
4. Real Avid Gun Boss Multi-Kit Double Duty Cleaning System
Next up, we have the Real Avid Gun Boss Multi-Kit. This kit, as the name implies, contains Real Avid’s excellent Gun Boss pull-through cleaning tool, as well as a variety of other brushes and picks for true deep-cleaning of a firearm, making it a great option for saving space in your workbench, or for tucking away in a shooting bag if you’re the type that likes to do all your gun cleaning at the range.
Finally, we have the Tipton Compact Pistol Cleaning Kitwhich is one of our favorite options for a dedicated pistol kit. This pocketable kit is capable of cleaning most common pistol calibers, making it ideal if you’re looking for something to keep in your pistol case, or to take with you to the range when it comes time to get some handgun practice in. It features caliber brushes ranging from .22 to .44 caliber, and a collapsible cleaning rod with a T-handle for easy use.
Cleans most common handgun calibers
Collapsible cleaning rod combines best of both worlds between cables and multi-piece rods
Also includes nylon patch holders and cleaning brushes
The cleaning rod isn’t long enough to clean carbine or rifle-length pistol caliber barrels
Compact gun cleaning kits are a great option for keeping your guns clean and well-maintained in between regular deep cleanings. This not only makes your gun more reliable and accurate, but it also makes your job easier when you do your yearly deep cleaning session.
These compact cleaning kits are all perfect for keeping your guns in tip-top shape, and they make for great gifts for other gun owners to boot. They fit nicely in a workbench drawer, range bag, bug out bag, or hunting pack, and they all do a wonderful job of removing the dirt and debris that likes to build up inside a firearm.