Gun cleaning can be a less-than-fun chore sometimes, but it can be positively miserable if you don’t have the right equipment to make it go smoothly, and that includes having the right solvents to get all the carbon and soot and other gunk and grime off.
We’re all shooters, hunters, and gunsmiths around here, and in my twenty years in the firearms industry, I’ve tested just about every solvent, CLP, and cleaning product made by man. We’ve tested and reviewed all of the best gun cleaners and solvents for this list so that you can make your own gun cleaning less of a chore.
Solvents, in general, are simply chemical solutions that can dissolve or break down other materials. Gun solvents are specifically formulated to break down all the carbon fouling, copper, lead, unburned powder and other debris that gets stuck to your gun and make it dirty.
These products then make it easy to remove all that crap with cleaning patches, which will leave you with a clean gun. They range from single-purpose products designed just for loosening up all the powder and copper fouling inside your barrel, to multi-purpose products that
What Are The Different Types of Gun Cleaning Solvents?
There are a few different types of cleaning solvents that you need to be aware of, and while they are fairly similar functionally, they are used in different ways.
First, you have dedicated bore cleaners. These are designed specifically to remove carbon, copper, and lead fouling from your rifle. These products have no lubricating or protective properties and have to be used in conjunction with lube, oil, and other cleaning products.
A high-quality bore cleaner is the best choice for removing set-in gunk and grime.
Next, you have lubricating gun oils and gun grease. These products don’t do great for cleaning and are more of a lube or protectant
Finally, you have 3-in-1 products like Ballistol and Break Free CLP that are commonly just called CLPs. Short for clean, lubricate, and protect, these products are multi-purpose and will not only loosen all the gunk from the nooks and crannies of your gun, but they will also lubricate everything and keep metal parts free of rust.
For the purposes of this article, we’re just going to focus on bore cleaners and CLPs, and we’re not going to touch on lubricating and preservative products like oils and grease as that’s a subject for another article that would take too much space here.
Let’s talk some more about how these solvents work, how to use them, and how to pick the best ones for your specific needs.
How Do Gun Solvents Work?
Whether you’re using an old standby like Hoppe’s No. 9 Bore Cleaner or a more modern spray like a Ballistol multi-purpose aerosol spray, the gun cleaning procedure is basically the same. You’ll also go through a different process for cleaning a black powder firearm, but that’s also a whole other thing.
This process is a general overview for cleaning a modern firearm and is a basic outline for gun maintenance.
First, you’re going to apply some of the solvent to the inside of your bore and you’re going to apply some to your brass or bronze brushes. If you’re using a bore snake, apply some to the tail of the snake as well.
Then, pull the bore snake or use a cleaning rod to push the brush through your barrel, working from the chamber towards the muzzle so you don’t dump all of the dislodged material into the action of your firearm.
Repeat this action three or four times to really break up all the gunk and debris, reapplying bore cleaner or CLP as needed.
Now, the fun part. Using a cleaning rod and a slotted patch holder or a brass jag, run cleaning patches through from the barrel from the chamber to the muzzle as before. Keep doing this, using a fresh patch each time, until a patch comes out completely clean.
Run one final patch through to verify, and then run one more with a protective oil to keep the firearm free or rust, and to inhibit the powder from sticking as well the next time you shoot it. Now it’s time to clean the bolt and other parts of the firearm.
Here, you’re following a similar order of operations as before.
First, apply a little of your cleaner to the part in question and to your cleaning brush. Brush as much of the carbon fouling off as you can, and then wipe it down with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Next, wipe the part down with some oil to protect it and make sure it is well lubricated.
At this point, you’re good to reassemble your firearm.
What Do You Look For In The Best Solvents for Gun Cleaning?
There are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating gun solvents.
First and foremost, is it actually going to clean your guns? There are a lot of solvents out there that just… don’t work as well as they claim. The firearms industry is a multi-billion dollar affair in this country, and there are lots of companies that have tried to cash in on that market with sub-par products.
Look for products from reputable manufacturers, and if you’re shopping online, try to find something with a large number of positive Amazon reviews if you can’t find something recommended by folks you trust, like say, the items on this list.
Beyond that, one of the most important things is understanding the potential hazards of working with these chemicals. Read the packaging and if possible the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for whatever you’re working with.
Some of these solvents are incredibly toxic and carcinogenic, and some of them are non-toxic and completely safe.
Alright, with all that out of the way, let’s talk about the top 5 gun cleaning solvents on the market today.
Best Solvents for Gun Cleaning Reviewed
Over the years we’ve tested just about every gun bore cleaner, lubricating oil, CLP, and every other gun cleaner sprays on the market. These are the best bore cleaner options on the market today for gun owners to protect their handgun, rifle, or shotgun.
Hoppe’s No.9 Gun Bore Cleaner
Of course if we’re talking about the best gun cleaning solvent, we have to talk about Hoppe’s No.9. Here we’re talking about the bore cleaner in particular, not the oil which gets used on everything with small moving parts (watches, fishing reels, and of course guns to name a few).
Hoppe’s Bore Cleaner is a little different and is a pure solvent, but it is also absolutely great as a cleaner. This coupled with other Hoppe’s products, particularly their oil, makes for a great combo to clean and protect your firearms from even the harshest of abuse. Pros:
Ballistol Multi-Purpose is another gun solvent with a long history. It was originally developed for the German Army back in 1905, in a search for a multipurpose gun cleaning spray that was non-toxic and easy to use.
Today, it’s still widely used all around the world, and if you can ignore the fact that it was used by the wrong side in both World Wars, it really does do a great job of cleaning firearms, and unlike a dedicated bore solvent, this also lubricates and protects from corrosion like a good oil.
This 3-in-1 nature makes it a great option if you’re looking to pare down your gun cleaning kit and only have one consumable in your bag instead of two or three. It’s also an aerosol spray so it’s much less likely to leak in your bag compared to oils and other liquid products. Pros:
You should alway choose the product that best meets your specific needs, whether you’re choosing gun solvent or…well, anything really. Your needs are probably different from mine, so it’s difficult for me to say what will work best for you.
That said, for me, Sage and Braker’s CLP is the way to go.
This is the best CLP that I’ve used, and it even works better than most dedicated cleaner/oil combos I’ve tried. For an all-in-one solution it works really well, and it’s non-toxic and biodegradable so not only is it fine for you and your family, it’s fine for the environment as well.
The major issues are it’s a little pricey and the factory bottle, at least the three or so that I’ve used, tend to leak if the bottle gets squished or knocked around, like say loose in a range bag. Store it upright on a shelf or in a pocket of a bag that stays pointed skyward and you’ll be fine. Pros:
Breakthrough Clean Technologies Military-Grade Solvent is relatively new, but it’s already making waves as a combat-ready solvent that can help get severely dirty guns back in working order quickly.
It was designed to meet US and NATO military standards, and it exceeds them in most respects. Don’t be surprised to see US and allied troops using this stuff because it works great for dirty semi-autos.
I keep a bottle in my range back so I can get problem guns back up and running at the range, which is especially handy if I’m teaching or taking part in a class.
I don’t do anything that knowingly puts me in a position where I may have to use a gun to defend myself, but if I was in the field with a semi-automatic (or fully-automatic) weapon, I’d have a little bottle of this stuff with me if I could. Pros:
Great for quickly getting a gun back up and running
PH neutral and non-toxic, safe for you and all firearm surfaces
We’re going to end on something a little different. This is a dedicated copper solvent called Copper-Klenz. Copper fouling is one of the hardest things to get out of a barrel, and this does a great job of that, and really works for getting all the copper out of rifling grooves.
Other cleaners can dislodge copper as well, but for a gun with a large copper buildup, like maybe that AR you haven’t cleaned in a thousand rounds or more, this is a great thing to have on hand. One bottle is likely to last you a lifetime so it’s worth picking some up for those once-a-year deep cleanings. Pros:
That’s about it for this one. Gun solvents are a tricky subject because everyone has different needs and a different cleaning ritual. Hopefully this list has given you an idea of what gun solvents will work the best for your personal needs and situation.
These are all products we’ve used and loved, so it’s really just about picking the one that works the best for you.
And hey, if you still aren’t sure, give a few of them a try. You can never have too many different ways to clean your guns lying around.
What do you think of these gun solvents? Do you have a favorite? Or did we leave your favorite off the list? Let us know in the comments!