Best of all, once the process starts it’s nearly 100% automatic so you can simply let the cleaner run while you watch TV and kick back and let it do all the hard (and boring) work.
Over the years, we’ve tested just about every ultrasonic cleaner on the market in either a personal or professional capacity, and while we’ve used a lot of crap, we’ve also found the ones that work the best and are actually worth your money.
These are the best ultrasonic cleaners on the market for shooters and reloaders.
We’ve included the best ones from each category, so whether you’re just looking to cut down on your pistol cleaning time, you want to be able to throw an entire AR upper in and let it run, or you’re prepping thousands of brass cases at a time, there’s something here for everyone.
What Are Ultrasonic Cleaners?
Ultrasonic cleaners are devices used in many industries to clean the surfaces of non-porous materials, particularly metal, precious stones, and the like.
Gun owners like them for two reasons. One, they’re very, very good at getting carbon fouling off of metal, making them perfect for cleaning firearms.
This is especially true for barrels, bolts, and the like…anything that’s liable to be covered in carbon and soot and other remnants from fired cases.
Speaking of fired cases brings us to the second big selling point of ultrasonic cleaners for gun owners: they’re great at cleaning cases for reloading.
Traditional tumblers will get the job done, don’t get me wrong, but they’re a little slow, and they’re louder than the end of the world. Ultrasonic cleaners are quicker, quieter, and in many cases just overall more effective than dry media tumblers are when it comes to cleaning brass.
Ultrasonic cleaners are definitely a little easier to use and more convenient, and they’re also much more versatile as well. They can actually be used to clean other things like jewelry as well, and in fact that was their original purpose when they were originally introduced back in the late 1950’s.
Today, they’re used in a variety of industries, but gun owners make up a huge portion of the market, especially given how useful these cleaners can be for all aspects of the firearms hobby.
What Are The Different Types of Ultrasonic Cleaners?
All ultrasonic cleaners work more or less the same way, so the big distinctions and differences between the different types are mostly related to the overall purpose of the cleaner.
Basically, you have big, expensive professional-grade ones for gunsmiths and pro shooters that reload a few thousand rounds a week, you have middle-sized ones that are geared towards hobbyists that shoot a good bit and have many different guns to clean, and then you have the smaller benchtop units that are a little more affordable and are available for considerably less than the pro models.
All of them work more or less the same way (more on that in just a minute), so the main thing you need to do here is decide exactly what you’re looking to get out of your cleaner, and how often you’re going to be using it.
If you want to fit rifle barrels in your cleaner, you’re obviously going to need something larger. If you’re just cleaning a pistol barrel or slide, or maybe a few hundred brass cases, you can get by with something much smaller and much more affordable.
Just be honest about what you need, and go with the one that makes the most sense. One isn’t necessarily better than others, it all comes down to what features you need and the overall quality of the cleaner.
How Do Ultrasonic Cleaners Work?
These cleaners, whether for guns, jewelry, or some other item, all use the same basic ultrasonic cleaning process.
To start, the device has a tub that you fill with a cleaning solution.
Most manufacturers sell a concentrated cleaning detergent that you mix distilled water to make your solution, or you can use many of the home brew ultrasonic cleaner solution recipes that work just as well (most of the time).
Next, you simply drop your parts or your brass into the tub, and turn on the device. If it has a timer, set it for about 15-20 minutes based on how dirty the gun parts or load of cases you want to clean are.
While the cleaner is running, a small device called a transducer will agitate the water with ultrasonic vibrations. This is the basic underlying principle of ultrasonic technology.
Basically, there’s a tiny speaker transmitting sound that’s too high-pitched for human hearing into the water. This causes lots and lots of super tiny cavitation bubbles to form in the water, particularly around whatever objects you’ve put in to be cleaned.
When these bubbles pop, they release a huge amount of energy on a microscopic scale, which then blasts the debris off the surface of what you’re cleaning. Don’t worry, as long as you’re using a solution designed for cleaning firearms, your steel, aluminum, brass, and polymer will all be totally fine.
The one caveat is some painted on things like sight dots may chip and wear, so don’t put anything like that in there if you aren’t willing to risk it.
Ceramic coatings like Cerakote are fine, spray paint probably not, and that nail polish you put in your fire selector markings to try and look cool is definitely going to come out.
Other than that, there’s not much to these things. You’ll need to change the cleaning solution after every use, but otherwise they’re relatively low-maintenance as well, and the cleaning action doesn’t really degrade as there aren’t any moving parts.
What Do You Look For In The Best Ultrasonic Cleaners?
There are a few things you’ll want to have if you’re looking for the very best ultrasonic cleaner.
First, look for one that has the sufficient tank capacity. This is going to be the chief consideration when picking the best cleaner for your specific needs.
Are you looking to clean long rifle barrels and handle other firearm cleaning? Aim for one of the cleaners with a long, shallow cleaning tank. Looking to clean lots of brass? Go for one that has a deeper, square tank as these are typically more affordable.
Next, look at things like placement and number of transducers, and whether or not the device has a tank heater.
A heated tank is much more efficient when it comes to cleaning anything with carbon fouling and the like, making it a must-have if you really want to get the most out of your ultrasonic cleaner investment.
The placement and number of transducers can make a difference too, especially in larger tanks. You want to make sure the cleaner has enough transducers to cause cavitation (the tiny bubbles that drive the cleaning process) all throughout the tank.
Next, you’ll want a timer. Ultrasonic cleaners designed for jewelry typically only have a set cycle time of five minutes or so, and that’s fine if you’re trying to get some shine back in your wedding band, but it’s not nearly enough for firearms parts or brass cases.
For that, you’ll need around 20 minutes so having a timer that supports that length of time is a big help. Otherwise, you’ll be coming back to the device several times to reset it and nobody needs that.
Best Ultrasonic Gun Cleaner Reviews
Over the years, we’ve tested just about every ultrasonic cleaner on the market, from the cheapest budget models, to the high-end, professional-grade models that are geared towards businesses like gunsmith shops and gun ranges.
When we put together this list, we tried to take into account the different needs of gun owners looking for an ultrasonic cleaner, so there should be something on this list for everyone.
We’ve got budget models, high-end pro models, and ones that are good middle-of-the-road options for the average shooter, hunter, or reloader.
Let’s start with our best overall pick.
Hornady 043320 Lock-N-Load Sonic Cleaner 2L (Best Overall)
Hornady is one of the premier names in the world of firearms and reloading, so it’s probably not a surprise to find them on this list.
Their Lock-N-Load series is geared towards reloaders, and this is just about the perfect ultrasonic cleaner for anyone looking for a more efficient way to clean their brass.
This cleaner has a two-liter square tank that can hold three hundred .223 cases or over five hundred 9mm cases, making it a great option for most average users.
The tank also has a ceramic heater and is large enough to accommodate smaller gun parts like AR bolts and pistol barrels. Overall, this is the perfect addition to any cleaning kit.
Remember how we said that ultrasonic cleaners were primarily designed for cleaning jewelry?
The Famili FM8000WW jewelry cleaner is perfect for cleaning small amounts of brass or small parts like pistol barrels.
Oh, and it’s only about a third the price of the next cheapest option on this list.
Now, granted, it’s not quite as efficient as some of the other cleaners, but it does still work. It doesn’t have a very large tank or a heater, and it times out after a five-minute cycle and you have to restart it after that, but if you’re willing to work around that you can start out with ultrasonic gun cleaning without a huge upfront investment.
It’s designed mostly for eyeglasses and jewelry and it works extremely well for that.
Great for coins, jewelry, and other small items as well
Hornady 043310 Lock-N-Load Hot Tub (Best High End)
If you’re already sold on the idea of an ultrasonic cleaner and are ready to jump in with both feet, the Hornady Lock-N-Load Hot Tub may be the best option, even though it is a little pricey.
If you’re a competition shooter or even a semi-pro gunsmith, this is a phenomenal option for you. You can clean thousands of rounds of brass at once, or even an entire AR-15 upper assembly. That’s what it gets used for the most around here, and it does a phenomenal job of cleaning even the dirtiest rifles.
It also has multiple hanging cords and a separate mesh basket that you can use for smaller parts or even to run a different cleaning solution.
RCBS is another huge name in the world of reloading, so of course they offer a case cleaner. And make no mistake, this is definitely designed to be a case cleaner. The stainless steel inner basket makes it a little difficult to use for gun cleaning purposes, but for cases and other small objects like say, brass cases, it’s just about perfect.
The large tank gives you the room to clean several hundred .308 cases at once, so while it isn’t the best option on this list for cleaning guns other than a handgun barrel or something, it is maybe the best at cleaning brass cases at this price, especially on Amazon.
The Hornady Hot Tub model has a larger overall capacity but is almost twice as expensive.
Lyman Turbo Sonic Case Cleaner (Runner-Up Overall)
Lyman is another big name in reloading, and their case cleaner is absolutely excellent as you might expect. The Turbo Sonic Case Cleaner is on par with the Hornady Lock-N-Load base model in almost every aspect, including price.
The one thing that separates this particular cleaner from the top spot was simply the fact that this one didn’t do quite as well in our testing. The difference in cleaned brass, using the same cleaning solution, was very very slight, but the Hornady model won out.
If you’re cleaning very dirty found brass that you pick up from the range, go with the Hornady model. If you’re cleaning relatively new brass and you can find this one for a lower price, go with Lyman.
Good Cleanin Capacity
Tank Heater and Timer
Didn’t work quite as well as the Hornady model on very dirty brass
That’s about everything you need to know about ultrasonic cleaners. The cleaners on this list are all solid choices, it just depends on your specific needs and how much you’re looking to spend on it. They’re a worthwhile investment for any gun owner, and they’re almost mandatory for modern reloaders looking to churn out thousands of rounds a month.
Whatever you need an ultrasonic cleaner for, one of these options should work for you. With these cleaners, prepping your cases and getting your gun parts clean will be easier than ever.