A Complete Guide for Selecting the Best Gun Cleaning Rod for Rifles, Shotguns, and Pistols!
If you are not using the best gun cleaning rod for your firearm, you should be and here are the reasons why:
More than any other part of a gun, the barrel has the greatest overall influence on accuracy. And every time you fire a round a small amount of carbon from the propellant and fouling from the bullet metal becomes attached to the bore. That’s why it’s critically important to clean the bore after each shooting session to maintain your gun’s best potential accuracy. To assure the optimum results you should be using the best gun cleaning rod to fit your firearm and your budget.
Cleaning the bore of your gun can be a tedious and time-consuming task without the proper tools and accessories. The most important tool to help accomplish that task is a well-made and properly designed gun cleaning rod. Unfortunately, many of the rods currently available have design issues and are made from improper materials that could damage your expensive firearm.
Consequently, choosing the right one requires some thought and research which can be time-consuming and somewhat frustrating if you’re not sure what to look for.
What are the Best Gun Cleaning Rods?
In the years after World War II until the mid-1990’s your choice of cleaning rods was limited at best. However, with the increased demand for quality shooting accessories to fit specific needs manufactures have responded to the call. This demand has inspired innovative new rod designs to make gun cleaning easier and more efficient.
Today, there are gun cleaning rods designed for the casual shooter or the serious hunter and competitive marksman. One-piece rods have become the choice of precision long range hunters and target competitions and remain the choice for pistol shooters. Of course the familiar 3-piece, break-down cleaning rod design is highly popular for shooters with multiple types of firearms.
I have put my lifetime of experience with guns and my knowledge as a precision machinist to work researching gun cleaning rods to find the best ones available. Below, you will find an array of each type of rod that I confidently recommend for Pistol, Rifle, and Shotgun.
In my humble opinion, these are the 9 best gun cleaning rods currently available.
Best 1-Piece Rod:
Tipton 1-Piece Deluxe Cleaning Rod, 12″ to 50″ long
Recommendation: Pistols, Shotguns, and Rifles (especially precision long range)
Fits Caliber Sizes: .27 to .45 caliber Pistol / .17 to .45 caliber Rifle
Includes: Cleaning Rod ONLY
Tipton has taken gun cleaning to a new level with their Carbon Fiber One Piece Deluxe Cleaning Rods. US military armorers wanted a cleaning rod that could withstand extreme conditions US-based Tipton, LLC responded by engineering a rod to meet their requirements using Carbon Fiber.
Carbon fiber possesses amazing physical qualities that make it the ideal material for gun cleaning rods. Unlike aluminum, brass, or coated rods, carbon fiber won’t pick up grit that can destroy your bore. It has the necessary tensile strength to work tight patches and it can withstand bending and return to perfect straightness.
“..not just another fancy stick!”
The Tipton 1-Piece Deluxe Cleaning Rod is not just another fancy stick, it’s a thoughtfully engineered devise designed to provide the best gun cleaning experience. An Ergonomically shaped handle allows you to apply optimum force without tiring after a long shooting session. A dual set of Bearings lets the rod and attachment follow the rifling. This rod is built so strong it will withstand a moderate hammer blow for an extremely tight patch. And when you’re finished cleaning your firearm a hole in the handle enables you to hang it on the wall for easy storage.
Check Out this Brief VIDEO!
When I first took up precision long range shooting several years ago I wanted the best equipment, accessories, and maintenance tools available. My instructor advised against using my old multi-piece brass rod I inherited from my Dad. Since the bore is the most critical component of any firearm he told me I should treat it lovingly and recommended the Tipton 1-Piece Deluxe rod.
There is such a difference in the way it feels when you push or pull a cleaning attachment through the barrel. Once you have used the Tipton you will understand why they have become so popular..
Another feature I appreciate about this rod is the solid machine threaded Alloy 360 Brass thimble attached to the end. This allows jags or bore brushes to be tightened without fear of stripping the thread as with aluminum.
You Should be Using a Bore Guide to Clean your Rifle!
In addition to using a one-piece Carbon Fiber rod my instructor was quite persuasive in explaining why I should also be using a Bore Guide. He explained how it keeps the rod centered as it enters the bore to protect the lands. Additionally, it allows you to saturate the bore patch without dripping solvent into the lock works which dissolves oil.
In my opinion the Tipton Rapid Deluxe Bore Guide Kit is one of the best options available. In addition to the guide, the kit includes 4 Muzzle Guides that protect the rifling at the crown while cleaning.
Tipton offers their 1-Piece Deluxe Rod in 4 different diameters and 6 lengths to accommodate Rifles, Handguns, and Shotguns. Both Rifle and Handgun rods utilize #8-32 threads. .17 and .20 caliber rods are #5-40 and the Shotgun model has 5/16”-27 threads.
If you are a serious shooter or someone who just wants the best gun maintenance tools available the Tipton 1-Piece Deluxe Gun Cleaning Rod is the way to go.
Best Build Quality:
Hoppe’s Elite One Piece Carbon Fiber 36″ Cleaning Rod
Recommendation: Rifles and Pistols
Fits Caliber Sizes: .22 to .284 caliber and .270 and Up
Includes: Cleaning Rod ONLY
Frank Hoppe, a young US soldier, created the world’s most effective gun bore cleaner at that time. Since then Hoppe’s has emerged as one of the leading American gun care products manufacturers.
To quote a user review, “the Hoppe’s Elite One Piece Carbon Fiber Cleaning Rod oozes quality.” Every detail of this tool was thoughtfully designed to make gun cleaning an easier and a more pleasant task.
Ergonomic Design Features
Featuring an ergonomically designed handle with double ball bearings, this cleaning rod feels good in your hand and rotates easily while following the rifling. An undercut and 4-sided knob end make it much easier to push or pull a tight patch through the bore.
And, if you happen to get one stuck the large rounded end will allow you to bump it through with the palm of your hand instead of using a hammer (which I DO NOT RECOMMEND). Unfortunately, this rod does not have a hole in the handle for hanging on the wall.
A long brass thimble secured to the end has the standard #8-32 thread to fit the most common attachments.
Although the Hoppe’s Elite is as good a quality as the Tipton there are not as many size options available. There is not a size specifically for shotguns with the larger 5/16”-27 thread to fit most shotgun cleaning attachments.
The Hoppe’s Elite One Piece Carbon Fiber Cleaning Rod is available in 3 different lengths and Diameters to accommodate most Rifles and .22 Pistols:
In my opinion the Hoppe’s Elite is one of the best one piece carbon fiber gun cleaning rods currently available.
Choose the Size Hoppe’s Elite Rod that fits your firearm:
36” Length fits .22 to .284 Caliber Rifles
36” Length fits .270 Rifles and UP
8” Length fits .22 Caliber Pistols
Best One-Piece Import:
Raiseek Carbon Fiber One Piece 36″ Gun Cleaning Rod
Fits Caliber Sizes: .170 to .45 caliber
Includes: Cleaning Rod ONLY
The Raiseek Carbon Fiber One Piece Gun Cleaning Rod is one of the best quality imports out there. Although there are other similar imports I selected the Raiseek primarily because of the customer service.
Upon examination you can’t detect any noticeable quality deficiencies between this rod and the top domestic ones. It performs just as well with only a couple of minor differences.
Premium quality materials are used and the only significant physical difference is in the handle shape.
Although it’s a matter of personal preference the Hoppe’s and Tipton rods feel somewhat better in the hand. A feature that is lacking in the Raiseek is there is no hole in the handle for hanging.
Dual Ball Bearings
It does feature dual bearings in the handle that allows the rod to rotate with the rifling without resistance. Another important feature is the long brass thimble on the end with #8-32 threads to fit standard size attachments. Also Visit: Best Gun Cleaning Supplies
The Raiseek Carbon Fiber One Piece Gun Cleaning Rod is 36” long and available in 3 different caliber range sizes: .17, .22 to .26, and .27 to .45 caliber.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference it the LOW Price point. Personally, I’m a big fan of supporting domestic manufactures but sometimes you have to do what’s best for the wallet. This is a nice product and Raiseek offers a pretty impressive line of other gun care products. I highly recommend that you consider the Raiseek Carbon Fiber One Piece Gun Cleaning Rod.
Best Gun Cleaning Rod for Accuracy-Minded Shooters:
Pro Shot Premium 1-Piece Micro-Polished 8″ to 42″ Stainless Steel Cleaning Rod, w/ 8 x 32 Thread
Recommendation: Handguns, Rifles, and Shotguns
Fits Caliber Sizes: .22 Caliber and UP
Pro Shot is a pretty familiar name in shooting circles. That’s because its established itself as a reliable producer of quality, Made in America gun care products.
What I like about the Pro Shot Premium 1-Piece cleaning rod is its made from micro-polished stainless steel. The first thought that comes to mind is “is it safe to push and pull inside my expensive gun barrel?” The answer is YES! That’s because of the micro-polished finish there is no chance of the rod picking up abrasive grit that will scour or scratch the bore surface. The finish on the rod is actually like a mirror and it won’t flex under heavy load. This is the reason that many serious long range precision and bench rest competition shooter prefer a one-piece polished steel cleaning rod.
This gun care product is high quality from the tip to the smooth-rotating handle. There is nothing special about the shape or size of the handle but it works perfectly as it should. It turns easily as the attachment tracks along the rifling.
At the tip, the #8-32 thread is held to a Number 2 fit so the attachments won’t wobble. SEE: Best Gun Cleaning Supplies
The Pro Shot Premium 1-Piece is available in 8″, 12″, 26″ and 42″ with #8-32 threads in the end. This will accommodate bore sizes from .22 caliber and UP. If you are an accuracy-minded shooter this may be the best gun cleaning rod for your needs.
Most Popular Pistol Gun Cleaning Rod:
Shooter’s Choice Looped Pistol Rod
Recommendation: Pistols and Revolvers
Fits Caliber Sizes: .25 and UP
Includes: Rod ONLY
It doesn’t get much simpler than the Shooter’s Choice Looped Pistol Rod with its one-piece looped handle design. This highly popular pistol cleaning rod is made from steel so it will last forever. The tip is tapped with a #8-32 thread to accommodate the most commonly used jag and brush calibers. A slot near the tip run a patch through the bore without attaching a jag.
Check Out: Best Gun Cleaning Supplies
The looped handle allows you to comfortably push and pull a patch or brush through the bore. It’s only 8-1/2″ long overall and 7 inches without the loop. It can reach the full length of a 7.5″ barrel with a brush or jag but won’t quite work with an 8-3/8″ barrel such as a S&W 29 or 28 model.
If you want a rod made just for pistols and revolvers this product is all you need. And, the best feature of all its extremely inexpensive.
Best General Purpose:
OUTERS Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun 41616 Brass 3 Piece Rifle Cleaning Rod
Recommendation: Rifle, Pistol, & Shotgun
Fits Caliber Sizes: .22 caliber and UP
Includes: 3 Section Cleaning Rod, Nylon Spear-Point and Slotted Jags, and (1) #6-32 to #8-32 Adaptor
If you have decided a break-down cleaning rod is the way to go the OUTERS Model 41516 is a smart choice. Its made from brass so its strong and the threads will last a lifetime with a little care.
The T-Shaped handle gives plenty of gripping surface and rotates easily although there are no bearings.
The OUTERS 3-piece rod is designed to fit almost any pistol, rifle, or shotgun in your personal arsenal. The end section is tapped with a #8-32 thread to fit the most common medium to large caliber cleaning attachments. An adaptor is included that screws into the #8-32 thread and has a #6-32 thread to accommodate the smaller .22 attachments.
The OUTERS Model 41516 cleaning rod is an ideal choice for cleaning your firearms at home or at the range. At only 11-1/2″ long when disassembled it easily fits in a drawer of range bag.
My only criticism is that unless you tighten the joints pretty snug they can begin to unscrew when running patches through the bore. This is a typical complaint with multi-sectional gun cleaning rods.
Other than that the OUTERS Model 41516 is a good product that will serve you well and last for years. And, the price is basically a Non Issue!
Raiseek Flexible Threaded Bore Cleaning Coated Cable Set 8″ and 33″ for Pistol & Rifle
Recommendation: Pistols and Rifles
Fits Caliber Sizes: .22 Caliber and UP
Includes: Nylon coated flex cable 8 inch, Nylon coated flex cable 33 inch, T-handle, and Zippered Pouch
The Raiseek Flexible Threaded Bore Cleaning Coated Cable Set is certainly a departure from the typical cleaning rod. It is not designed or intended to be an alternative for one but it does have an important function.
This bore cleaning cable is designed for PULLING a bore brush or jag through the bore. It is not intended for pushing.
I used this tool for cleaning my Colt Python with 6″ barrel. It works just fine as advertised but I wouldn’t want to do a heavily fouled barrel with it. It would work but it would take too much time compared with a solid rod.
“..great for Occasional Use!”
This clever cleaning tool has the ability to be rolled up and slipped in to the included zippered cloth pouch. Its a good option as a carry-along auxiliary bore cleaning tool for occasional use at the range or in the field. If you are a hunter the Raiseek Flexible Threaded Bore Cleaning Coated Cable Set is a great tool to have handy for a quick light cleaning.
Since it is designed for pulling you will need a Slotted Jag/s with an 8-32 thread (affiliate link to Amazon.com) for patches such as the on in the photo. Any bore brush (affiliate link to Amazon.com) will work for rifles and pistols. If you intend to use it to clean a revolver make sure the jags and brushes are short enough to fit in the cylinder opening of the frame. Otherwise you won’t be able to pull it into the forcing cone.
The quality is excellent with machined brass tips and a good molded plastic T-Handle that lets you get a good grip. The cable is coated with what black Nylon so it won’t scratch the bore. I did check the diameter of the female brass tips and they measure .197 making it too large for a .177 caliber.
Its a great tool for carrying along in your rifle case for hunting or in your range bag.
I bought one of these and I think its a great idea. I don’t expect to use it much but I’d prefer to have it for those unique situations when I don’t happen to have a cleaning rod available.
Best Multi-Piece Rod:
Shooter’s Choice Sectional Gun Rod Cleaning Set
Recommendation: Rifle, Shotgun, and Pistol
Fits Caliber Sizes: .30, .30-06, .30-30, .303, .308, 300 Win Mag, .32, 7.62mm, and 8mm rifles. 9mm, 40, and .45 Caliber Pistol. 20 GA and 12 GA Shotguns
Includes: Cleaning Rod (Selected Caliber), 20 count 2. 5”x2. 5” Cleaning Patches, Nylon All-Purpose Cleaning Brush, Brass Pierce-Point Jag (Selected Caliber), Bronze Bore Brush (Selected Caliber), Bore Mop (shotgun sets) and 0. 5 fl. oz. bottle of Shooter’s Choice FP-10 Elite lubricant
The Shooter’s Choice Sectional Gun Rod Cleaning Set is an excellent choice for the gun owner who wants the best break-down, cleaning rod matched to his/her firearm. With the exception of bore solvent, this set includes every item necessary to professionally clean your firearm.
The rod components are made of Alloy 360 Brass with proper fitting threads at the joints. The nicely molded T-Handle has a brass insert for a secure fit that won’t wear out with repeated hard use. A Muzzle Guide is included for those rifles and pistols that requiring cleaning from the muzzle end. Also included are a bore brush and a Pierce-Point Jag to fit your caliber. This is an important feature to protect the rifling at the crown and you won’t find this accessory with any other kit.
Another important tool is the all-purpose nylon cleaning brush for scrubbing around the receiver and other areas. A count of 20 flannel bore patches are included to get you started. And when you are finished cleaning the bore and other areas apply some Shooter’s Choice FP-10 Elite lubricant.
The Shooter’s Choice Sectional Gun Rod Cleaning Set is the best option if you have one or multiple firearms in the same caliber or gauge. Its great for the workbench or for carrying along to the range. The quality is excellent and its made in the good old USA!
Best Cleaning Rod for In-Field Use:
Atsko SNO-SEAL Rapid Gun Cleaning Rod
Recommendation: Rifles and Shotguns
Fits Caliber Sizes: Rifle calibers .22 to .54 w/ barrels up to 27″ Long / Shotgun gauges 20 thru 10 w/ barrels up to 32″. 410 gauge barrels up to 27″.
Includes: Rod, 5 Jags, .22 cal. slotted patch tip, and Ballistic Cloth Pouch
Atsko SNO-SEAL Rapid Gun Cleaning Rod is designed for use in the field or at the range and not as a primary cleaning tool.
To appreciate the usefulness of this cleverly designed rod, imagine yourself on a hunt and you’re a mile from camp. While making your way through the terrain you loose your footing and jam you rifle or shotgun muzzle in the snow or mud. (NOTE: Firing a gun to clear an obstruction is highly dangerous and could cause serious injury or death. There is a very high probability that it will rupture the barrel or possibly bulge it, ruining the firearm.)
With that in mind your only safe option is to trek back to camp and hope there’s a cleaning rod there that will fit your gun. Or, you if you were well-prepared, you could reach in your pocket and quickly assemble your Atsko SNO-SEAL Rapid Gun Cleaning Rod and easily clear the jam.
The six sections are held loosely together with a flexible cable allowing the rod to fold into a small, 4-1/2″ size. The cable is to keep the sections together and from getting lost. To assemble simply screw each section together and apply tension with the handle. Now, you are ready to clear even the toughest obstructions you are likely to encounter. (SEE User Manual pdf for complete instructions)
Although I don’t recommend the Atsko SNO-SEAL as a primary gun cleaning rod there is no reason why it can be used for a full bore cleaning.
The Atsko SNO-SEAL Rapid Gun Cleaning Rod is a quality built tool that every hunter should have at the top of his/her list for take-along gear. This is the ideal cleaning rod for the well-outfitted prepper.
What to Look for When Selecting a Gun Cleaning Rod or Kit!
As the shooting sports have evolved to include the use of highly expensive custom-built rifles and pistols, cleaning rod design has also evolved. A typical custom rifle built for f-Class or Palma competition is capable of amazing accuracy at extraordinary ranges. Some of the match-grade barrels used in these sophisticated guns cost upwards of $700 or more. The bores are hand-lapped and held to amazing tolerances of +/- 0.0001″ over the entire length of the bore. Consequently, you don’t want to poke just any old cleaning rod through it because it could cause damage or abnormal wear. Even the slightest damage could be catastrophic to the gun’s accuracy.
Although firearms used for hunting and home defense are typically not capable of .500 MOA (minute of angle) accuracy its still imperative to exercise proper care when cleaning.
So, what should you look for when choosing a cleaning rod that’s best for your gun? Below are a few features you should look for that will enable you to make the right choice.
- Rigid Non-Flex Material: All of the pro shooters I am familiar with agree: the best rods are made from rigid materials such as brass, aluminum, or state-of-the-art composites. A rod made from one of these materials will resist flexing when forcing a tight-fitting patch down the bore. The reason this quality is important is because you don’t want the cleaning rod to actually make contact with the bore.
- Comfortable, Rotating Handle: The Handle on the end should feel comfortable in the hand and rotate easily as the rifling forces the rod to turn. If the handle is hindered from rotating the cleaning attachment (brush or jag) will likely come un-screwed and become lodged in the bore. Some of the more expensive rods feature dual ball bearings for the least amount of friction possible.
- Close-Fitting Threads: Multi-sectional rods should have close-fitting threads for each joint to so each section is concentric with the other. This is important to assure there no steps that could damage the rifling when pushed down the bore. Accordingly, the threads at the end of the rod should fit the attachments without excessive slop.
- Portability: Whether you happen to be a casual shooter or an avid hunter, its important to select a cleaning rod that’s easy to carry along to the range or in the field. The familiar 3 piece rods are handy to pack in your range bag or rifle case. If you happen to be involved in one of the long range rifle disciplines you are limited to using one-piece cleaning rods. Although not as portable, a proper carrying case should be used to protect the rod.
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Break Down Multi-Piece Rods VS One-Piece Rods
In the 18th century when muzzleloaders were used the ramrod doubled as a cleaning rod. It didn’t matter that it was in one long piece because it was stored in a recess beneath the barrel. But as firearms evolved and become shorter (especially military weapons) it became necessary to make cleaning rods in multiple pieces. This concept made it possible to store the rod in a hole in the butt stock or carry along in a gun case or range bag.
A multi-piece rod is well suited for the shooter who has multiple types of firearms that include rifle, shotgun, and pistol.
With the popularity of long-range precision shooting single piece cleaning rods have become the go-to tool for cleaning those expensive custom made barrels.. A solid full length rod is inherently stronger than a break-down type and less likely to break under load.
Cleaning Rod Materials
Alloy 360 brass is a good material for break-down and one piece cleaning rods. It has good tensile strength and won’t damage the bore. However, brass is relatively soft compared to other metals and abrasive grit can become embedded that can scratch the bore. Brass has better wear characteristics than Aluminum and is less prone to wear from threading and unthreading. The downside to a brass rod is its heavy weight.
6061 Aluminum is one of the more common alloys used for gun cleaning rods. Its lighter than brass and it’s also less inexpensive. Since it is also very malleable abrasive grit can become embed that can cause serious scratches to the bore. Aluminum has good tensile strength per weight but not as good as 360 brass. It is prone to wear from threading and unthreading and is commonly used to make budget gun cleaning rods.
The space age material carbon fiber offers outstanding characteristics that make it ideal for gun cleaning rod application. It’s strength per cross section easily withstands the rigors of forcing tight-fitting patches through a rifle bore. This is especially important for cleaning long-barrels typically found on precision long range rifles.
Another highly desirable characteristic is it’s ability to withstand extreme bending out of column and return perfectly straight. This amazing composite is light-weight and won’t harm an expensive custom made rifle barrel as long as its kept clean, The only negatives with carbon fiber is that it’s relatively expensive and it can break or splinter under extreme conditions. Since SS is relatively soft compared to metals it can become scratched making it prone to picking up abrasive grit that can destroy the accuracy of a the bore.
Stainless steel is a very rigid metal so it won’t bend while under heavy load. This quality makes it an excellent choice for cleaning rods. Like other metals in the annealed state (soft) it can pick up fine grit that could scratch the bore. To eliminate that problem the best one-piece rods are made from stainless steel that is hardened and polished to a mirror-like finish making it impossible to pick up grit.
Because of its superior strength stainless steel is the preferred cleaning rod material by competition and other accuracy-minded shooters. The down side to stainless steel is its heavy making it less desirable for carrying to the range or in the field.
Brief History of Gun Cleaning Rods
In the 1700’s the early marksman used a simple Hickory rod with an undercut near the end to clean their Kentucky Rifle. The popular Hawken rifles, preferred by the mountain men featured a threaded brass thimble pinned to the end that would allow the rifleman to attach a jag or a ball puller they would carry in their patch box. I guess you could call that the forerunner of a gun cleaning kit.
Most gun cleaning rods didn’t have handles so the shooter had to have a pretty strong grip to push a patched ball the full length of a 42″ rifled barrel. And if you happened to have a touch of arthritis you might as well forget it.
Fortunately for us shooters modern-day materials have made it possible to create stronger and more functional gun cleaning rods.
Contents at a Glance
- 1 A Complete Guide for Selecting the Best Gun Cleaning Rod for Rifles, Shotguns, and Pistols!
- 2 What are the Best Gun Cleaning Rods?
- 2.1 RECOMMENDATIONS
- 2.2 Best 1-Piece Rod:
- 2.3 Best Build Quality:
- 2.4 Best One-Piece Import:
- 2.5 Best Gun Cleaning Rod for Accuracy-Minded Shooters:
- 2.6 Most Popular Pistol Gun Cleaning Rod:
- 2.7 Best General Purpose:
- 2.8 Most Unique:
- 2.9 Best Multi-Piece Rod:
- 2.10 Best Cleaning Rod for In-Field Use:
- 2.11 What to Look for When Selecting a Gun Cleaning Rod or Kit!
- 2.12 Brief History of Gun Cleaning Rods