Part of being a responsible gun owner is cleaning and maintaining your firearms so that they stay in good (and safe) working condition, and you can’t do that without a good cleaning rod.
Cleaning rods are essential for getting your guns cleaned properly, so it makes sense to invest in one that works and works well.
To that end, I’ve tested and reviewed every cleaning rod made by man over the past decade or so of working as a gunsmith and firearms reviewer, and in that time I’ve been able to separate out the ones that work versus the ones that don’t.
These are not just the best gun cleaning rods around, these are some of the essential cleaning tools I use in my professional life every time I clean my handguns, rifles, and shotguns, whether we’re reviewing a gun, or working on a gunsmithing project.
If you aren’t super familiar with how cleaning rods work, here’s a crash course. When cleaning a firearm, the basic process for cleaning the barrel is to run a good firearm solvent down it to break loose all the powder fouling and microscopic bits of lead and copper that are stuck to the inside of the barrel.
This solvent is typically placed on a cotton patch or swab.
Next, you run a soft metal brush (copper or brass) down the barrel to push all of this gunk out of the muzzle, and then you follow that up with more copper patches treated with a protectant to help keep that gunk from sticking the next time you fire your gun, and to keep any rust or corrosion from forming.
To get those patches and the brushes down the barrel, you need some way to move them from one end to the other, which means you need something long, thin, and strong that won’t scratch the rifling inside your barrel, and that means you need a cleaning rod.
What Are The Different Types of Cleaning Rods?
There are three basic types of cleaning rod. First up there are the standard three-piece rods that screw together to form one solid rod, usually brass, that you can use to push those patches and brushes down your bore. You can also get a carbon fiber rod that breaks down into three pieces, but these are usually quite pricey.
These are handy if you want to keep your cleaning rod in a range bag or cleaning kit, and don’t have the space to store something that’s three feet long and doesn’t get any smaller.
Next, you have the solid, one piece cleaning rods. These are typically made of brass or carbon fiber, but you should absolutely never buy the ones with a stainless steel rod like the super-budget ones from Dewey, Pro-Shot, Outers, or Tipton.
These are cheap but they will ruin the rifling in your barrel over time and you’ll end up with a DIY musket.
Spend the extra few bucks on carbon fiber or brass so you don’t end up ruining an expensive gun because you couldn’t be bothered to pay $5 more.
Finally, you have the option of going with a bore snake, which is a little different from your typical cleaning rod.
A bore snake is essentially a rope with a threaded brass adapter on the end that you attach a patch holder, brass jag, or brush to and then pull the whole thing through your barrel, rather than pushing through like you would with a rod.
These typically aren’t as effective at cleaning as a rod, but there is one exception that deserves to be mentioned alongside even the best cleaning rods, and we’ve included it on this list. Bore snakes are convenient because they back down extremely small, and can be quicker to use than rods, making them good for field kits and range bags.
How Do Gun Cleaning Rods Work?
There’s not a lot of advanced technology here, despite the carbon fiber in some of these. You have a rod with a threaded female adaptor on one end, and a handle on the other. You screw either a brush or a patch holder on to the adaptor, and you go to town.
A bore snake is similar, but a little different in that you have a flexible rope that you thread down the barrel and then pull the brush or patch down and out of the muzzle.
This is a good option if you’re shooting a lot of cheap ammo, especially dirty ammo like steel-cased ammo, and you want to clean your barrel frequently without a lot of trouble.
Using them with bore brushes to scrape the powder fouling out and then following up with patches coated in oil is usually the way to go whether you’re using
What Do You Look For In The Best Gun Cleaning Rods?
So if they’re so simple, what makes a cleaning rod “the best”?
First and foremost, materials. You need something that’s strong enough to push a brush with a good bit of resistance down the barrel, but it needs to be something that’s not so hard that it will damage your rifling and either wear it down, or create little micro-scratches that will harbor rust and corrosion.
This typically means that you’re going to want brass or carbon fiber, or in the case of a bore snake, a soft nylon rope. Avoid the steel cable ones. The coating will wear off, you will damage your bore, and you will be sad about it.
Next, length and overall diameter. If you have a pistol, an 8” rod will probably be fine. If you have a rifle, something in the 36” range or so, you’re going to need a longer rod.
You’re also going to want to look at the diameter of your rod (alright quit laughing, I said what I said) to make sure it’s not too wide for the bore of your weapon, as some shotgun rods will be too wide for rimfire bores.
Finally, overall build quality is important. This is something you’ll be using often, and its something you’ll be putting a light, but still, a significant amount of force on so cheap is not the order of the day.
Besides, the difference in price between the cheap ones that aren’t worth it and the slightly-less-cheap ones that are great is like…$6.
Spend the money on the good ones, you really do get what you pay for.
The Best Gun Cleaning Rods We Reviewed
So, without further adieu, these are the best of the best cleaning rods. If you’re looking for a deluxe option for your gun cleaning kit, these are the ones you should be picking from first and foremost.
Hoppe’s is the number one name in gun cleaning supplies, so it makes sense that they would make a good cleaning rod.
The Hoppe’s Elite One-Piece Carbon Fiber Rifle Rod is a rifle rod that is made of tough carbon fiber with a molded plastic handle. This is my number one choice when I’m cleaning my long-range rifles after a tough day at the range, or shooting a few hundred rounds in a match.
Allen makes a wide variety of budget-friendly gun accessories, so the fact that they make a solid gun cleaning rod shouldn’t be a surprise. This Allen three-piece brass cleaning rod is a little shorter than the Hoppe’s model, but more importantly, it breaks down for easy storage.
This makes it a great choice for anyone who wants a rifle-length rod that can still store easily. If you need a rod to keep in a range bag, or one that can live in a tool kit, this is a solid choice that will last for years.
If you need more than just a cleaning rod, then the Marksman Precision Universal Cleaning Kit is the choice for you. This kit has everything in it that you could possibly need to clean most every firearm on the planet.
In addition to the two three-piece brass cleaning rod that can be used for pistols, rifles, or shotguns, it has a full suite of bore brushes for most common calibers, spot-cleaning brushes for dealing with areas inside the action, cleaning patches, bore guides, and even a bore light so you can inspect your work.
This is a professional kit for high-volume shooters, so if you’re cleaning guns often, this is the best option by far.
If you like the idea of a high-quality carbon fiber cleaning rod, but you only shoot handguns, this is the best option on the market right now. The Hoppes Elite One-Piece Carbon Fiber Cleaning Rod is designed to be the perfect size to clean almost all pistols (unless yours has a 9” barrel) and is the perfect choice for Glock, 1911, and other semi-auto pistol shooters.
This rod is essentially a mini version of our #1 pick, and it is the absolute best choice for anyone looking to keep a pistol-specific rod in a gun case or range bag.
This is a bore snake, not a cleaning rod, but it does the same thing and earns a spot on this list for being the fastest cleaning option here. While it can take a little more effort to get a gun as clean with a bore snake, it is much faster than any cleaning rod, and Sage & Braker make by far the best bore snake on the market.
If you’re looking for something that can pack down small, and won’t take up much space in a field kit, the Sage & Braker Bore Snake should be your first pick.
If you’re serious about gun care and want to keep your firearms in tip-top shape, then you need a good cleaning rod in your kit. The ones listed here have been tested, used, and abused by all of us, and they’re the ones that have stood the test of time.
Other models like the ones from Tipton Deluxe or Birchwood Casey narrowly missed the list, so there are other good options out there, but in the end, it all comes down to the very best of the best, and if you’re looking for the very best cleaning rod, you’re looking for one of the ones on this list.