SneakyArab over at Reddit says “I’ve got a Bersa Thunder 9 and as of right now no cleaning supplies. I’m just getting into the shooting scene, and have only been out to shoot it a couple of time, a few 17 round mags each time. Any recommendations on a cleaning kit that’s good for a beginner? I’m not looking to spend a whole lot on one, I just need the basics I guess. I do plan on expanding my collection to rifles (specifically an AK, most likely a WASR since I’m going to be looking around for one used and that seems to be the most common) so I could use a kit for both.” Good news! A suitable cleaning kit can be used for all different kinds of guns. Here’s what I’ve found works best for cleaning my guns . . .
Cleaning a gun, ANY gun, can really be broken down into three steps.
- Cleaning the barrel and chamber.
- Cleaning the operating mechanism.
- Lubricating the firearm.
Each of the three steps requires a different approach, but really only one tool is required — a cleaning rod. Cleaning and lubricating the operating mechanism is something that can be done with a rag and a finger whether it’s a little snubby wheelgun or a fiddy cal rifle. But some tools do make it easier.
The basics of a cleaning kit are pretty simple and universal. Here they are, listed in order of the ratio between usefulness and price:
- Cleaning Patches — Just about every gun store sells little white cloth patches specifically for cleaning guns. They’re only a couple bucks for a pack and last a good long while. The patches are usually single use, though. I usually get the biggest ones I can find, they seem to be easier to use and I can cut them to size if need be. Like these. Old thin shirts can be used in a pinch, specifically white undershirts.
- Lubricant — The enemy of mechanical devices is friction, and the enemy of friction is lubricant. While shooting, as grit and grime builds up on the mechanisms lubrication becomes increasingly important. Some prefer good old fashioned Rem Oil, others (crazies) prefer transmission fluid or motor oil. What I found works best for me is CLP for the guns I shoot a lot and white lithium grease for those I don’t shoot often.
- Cleaning Rod — A part so important that most Russian and Soviet weapons come with one attached to the weapon itself. I always keep one in my range bag, just in case I have a stuck case or some other malfunction. This one is pretty good, and cheap too.
Some companies, in an attempt to make a buck off our laziness, make kits that include all three basic elements of a cleaning kit into one cheap package. This kit is the one I got when I first started shooting, and it has proven to be useful and fairly rugged. The cleaning rod did break after about a year, but that’s because one of my friends tried to use it as a javelin.
Whatever you decide on, another critical element of the cleaning kit is the box. Cleaning and maintaining firearms requires tools, spare parts, and usually lots of little gubbins that like to run away and get lost in your carpets. That’s why I always recommend shooters have a box dedicated to cleaning supplies and spare parts. This one is cheap and close to what I use.
For me, I like to keep a couple extra things in the box. Again, ranked by the ratio of usefulness to price.
- White Towels — Wherever you clean guns is going to get messy in a hurry. A good way to keep your desk clean, keep track of all the parts and clean off some of the larger bits is an abrasive white towel. Not the soft and fuzzy ones, the “discount airport motel” level of discomfort is what we’re looking for. I actually absconded with the ones I use from a hotel in Texas where I stayed for a 3-gun competition. They’re reusable and they’re great for wiping the residue off the larger pieces. This one actually sits in a pile next to the box (not inside) but I think it still counts.
- Q-Tips — Nothing gets the residue off a bolt face and the inside of an AR-15 chamber quite like a Q-Tip can. They’re cheap and plentiful and you have no excuse not to own some.
- Dental Picks — Your fat stubby sausage fingers can’t always get the patches into those little nooks and crannies, so it helps to have some metal friends that were designed to do just that. Five bucks.
- Bore Snake — Running patches down a barrel gets boring and messy. Bore snakes make the process a lot easier, only needing one or two runs through the barrel to get it clean. The best part is that they’re reusable, so throw them in the washing machine once in a while to clean them up and you’re good to go.
- Screwdriver — Things break, and usually a screwdriver is all that’s needed to put things right again. It can also be used as a punch, a lever, a pick, a hammer… The list goes on.
- Hoppe’s #9 — Awww yeah. The solvent that smells so good they actually make an air freshener out of it. If there’s ever a bit of residue that won’t come off or some other fouling on your piece, slap some of this sweet, sweet stuff on there and it’ll be gone in a flash. I use this to clean out my Mosin Nagant after firing “corrosive ammo,” and it works well for that too. Just don’t leave this stuff in too long as it might eat away at your gun. It’s a solvent, not a replacement for CLP.
Every shooter likes their guns cleaned a different way. Some don’t like to clean them at all (John Hollister I’m looking at you…). In the end you just have to figure out what works best for you and your firearms. But this list should get you going in the right direction.
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