Gear Review: Bore-Tips Cleaning Swabs

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About GunsIf you’re like me you’ve got at least two dozen bore brushes, jags and swabs rattling around in your cleaning kit, along with at least one partially shredded pillow case that you cut up for cleaning patches. This can lead to some confusion and delay at cleaning time, especially after my jumbo shooting tackle box has spent the day tumbling around in the back of my truck, tossing my carefully sorted cleaning supplies into a metallic salad liberally doused with Hoppe’s No. 9 Vinaigrette. If you feel my pain, the Swab-Its company would like to help simplify your life, or at least your cleaning kit, with their line of Bore-Tips reusable cleaning rod swabs . . .

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About GunsThe idea behind Bore-Tips is simple: reusable open-cell foam bore cleaners that combine a jag and a patch, and which thread onto standard cleaning rods. It’s so simple I felt like smacking my forehead and asking “Why didn’t I think of that?” the moment I saw them at the SHOT Show in January.

Their booth was tucked away on the ground floor of the SHOT Show, far from the ‘Gunny’ Ermey photo booth and the Red Jacket paparazzi hysteria on the main floor, and they seemed genuinely happy to have some press to talk to on the last day of the show. They stuffed my bag with samples and urged me to try them out, and I’ve been doing just that ever since.

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About GunsThey also gave me some of their long-handled cleaning swabs (pictured at left, above) for cleaning my guns’ other internal bits, and who am I to say no to an offer like that?

Bore-Tips are currently made for .22/5.56/5.45, .243, .30/7.62, and .38/.357/9mm barrels. This covers just about all of my rifles and pistols, and when the .40 and .44/.45 versions hit the shelves later this year they’ll cover about almost all the rest. My .270 Winchester and Joe Matafome’s .500 S&W will have to wait even longer, however.

A pack of six threaded bore cleaners costs about $5; the same price as a pack of nine long-handled cleaning swabs.

How Well Do They Work?

I’ve used the Bore-Tips to clean just about every gun I’ve shot since the SHOT Show, and they do a bang-up job of routine cleaning and lubing on my 9mm pistols. After a quick scrub with a bronze bore brush, I wet the Bore-Tips with solvent and gave it a few passes through the barrel. The fit wasn’t terribly tight, but the Bore-Tips did seem to be removing the fouling from the lands and grooves. (The top photo shows this pretty well.) I repeated this until the Bore-Tip didn’t seem to be pulling any more fouling from the barrel, which never required more than a few more passes.

I followed up by forcing a cotton patch through the barrel on a very tight-fitting brass jag, and this usually scrubbed off a little more dirt that the Bore-Tips hadn’t removed. The .38/.357/9mm Bore-Tips didn’t leave my guns ‘dirty’ by any stretch of the word, but if you like to clean your guns to ‘USMC Inspection Ready,’ I don’t think Bore-Tips can get you there by themselves. All in all, they work fine for my purposes.

The Bore-Tips can be washed with dish detergent and re-used, and I did this several times with the 9mms. In this picture, I’d used the larger (bottom) Bore-Tip for about five complete cleanings before the foam swab started to pull off from its plastic jag core. I could have pushed it back in, but I pulled it the rest of the way off to show what it was made of.

The .22/5.56 Bore-Tips didn’t work as well for me as the .38/.357/9mm versions did. They had a big job cleaning two .22 rimfires, which were absolutely filthy with smeared lead and bullet lube. My cotton patches and brass jag found a considerable amount of fouling after the Bore-Tips had done their best, and my .22 long rifle barrels weren’t quite clean enough for my tastes.

The .22/5.56 Bore-Tips did a better job with my AR-15, which wasn’t loaded down with spoonfuls of rimfire bullet lube. The top of the photo shows the .22/5.56 Bore-Tip after its plastic jag pushed through the foam tip while cleaning its third gun. The foam tip seemed to get snagged a little inside the A2 birdcage flash hider on my AR, and the little swab gave up its ghost prematurely.

I didn’t test them for this, but I think the .22/5.56 Bore-Tips would be excellent for cleaning the corrosive primer residue from an AK-74 in preparation for a thorough barrel cleaning. This part of an AK-74 cleaning operation doesn’t require much scrubbing but it does require a lot of Windex, and just like a Sham-Wow these tiny Bore-Tips can soak up an incredible amount of liquid. The .308/7.62 Bore-Tips would similarly excel, I believe, at cleaning the corrosive primer residue from your Mosin-Nagant.

Courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About GunsThe threaded Bore-Tips worked pretty well at cleaning dirty barrels, but the long-handled cleaning swabs were fantastic at cleaning and lubricating all the other internal parts of a gun. The handles are long enough and stiff enough to reach deep inside the tiny nooks and crannies of a gun’s action and remove dirt, fouling and unburned powder residue. Unlike the old standby Q-Tip, the Swab-Its foam tip doesn’t leave shreds of lint all around the inside of your gun and it’s a snap to wash and re-use.

Conclusions:

.38/357/9mm Bore-Tips 
I’ll be buying more of these with my own money once I wear these out. They last for several cleanings, so this will probably take a while. They’re not up for serious bore-scrubbing, but 9mm and .357 handguns don’t need much of that anyway.  Recommended.(Also the .40 and .44/.45 versions, when they’re released.)

.22/5.56 Bore-Tips
These  weren’t great at cleaning my .22 rimfire barrels, and my A2 flash hider kind of shredded them. They will excel at cleaning corrosive primer goo from my AK-74, and I’ll be buying a pack of .308/7.62 Bore-Tips for my Mosin-Nagants for the same purpose. Recommended for corrosive primer cleanup; not for rimfires.

Long-Handled Cleaning Swabs
I’ll definitely buy more of these puppies, when and if my samples ever die. They’re fantastic at removing inaccessible grit and crud, and they’re a snap to clean and re-use many times. Strongly Recommended.

12 Responses to Gear Review: Bore-Tips Cleaning Swabs

  1. avatarRob in Cali says:

    I have a crap load of these sitting on my desk from Shot Show… Still haven’t used them, but I’m thinking I’ll break them out now!

  2. avatarMatt in FL says:

    They have a direct-buy store at http://shop.swab-its.com/swabs-c3.aspx, and their shipping isn’t at all unreasonable. They have a free (presumably slow-boat) shipping option that I was still eligible for with $50 worth of stuff in my cart.

  3. avatarDavid W. says:

    I’m thinking medical grade q-tips might be cheaper. Anytime anything is associated w/ anything tactical the price jumps. But looks cool.

  4. avatarTom says:

    Wonder if they will later have these available for shotguns.

  5. avatarSkyler says:

    Those USMC cleaning standards are actually a problem. The commanding officer of the Weapons Training Battalion, the unit responsible for almost all weapons handling policy, way back in 1985 told us that the cleaning standards in place were ruining our weapons from excessive wear. You simply don’t need to clean them so thoroughly and the sergeants throughout the Marine Corps were using this traditional standard from institutional inertia. He doubted it could ever change.

    At around the same time I was told the perhaps apocryphal story of back in the 1950′s the USMC, or maybe it was the army, realized that shiny boots were too visible from a distance in a combat environment. They issued hush puppy boots to some units to test them out. The problem is that the NCO’s and SNCO’s would have none of it and made their Marines (or soldiers) polish the hush puppy boots until they somehow shined anyway.

    I’m glad that we have finally done away with boot polish for our field uniforms. Maybe we’ll bring sanity to weapons cleaning someday too.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      It’s funny you should say that. I don’t have an AR (yet), but my understanding is they’re quite happy running a little dirty. One of my friends who has one is sorta-fanatical about cleaning it. He doesn’t do it every range trip, maybe every second or third, but when he cleans it, it’s a 90 minute detail strip so-you-could-eat-off-it clean. I question it because it’s an all-or-nothing for him. It’s either a q-tip job, or nothing at all, not even a bore snake down the barrel before it goes in the closet. That just seems somehow… not right to me. Am I crazy?

      • avatarMark says:

        You’re not crazy; it makes more sense to do a reasonable cleaning job after EVERY shooting session so the firearm is ALWAYS ready to go.

        • avatarM&P 9 L says:

          Im pretty sure a firearms ready to go, even with a few hundred rounds thru it without a cleaning

  6. avatarRalph says:

    Chris, you had me at Mosin Nagant.

  7. avatarMike says:

    Thanks for the review. To answer a few questions.

    We will be selling Shotgun sizes later on in the summer. We will also have the .40 and .45 later this month on swab-its.com.

    Free shipping ships same business day and is shipped with USPS first class mail, so that is about 3 to 4 days. On larger orders and cases, we ship with UPS Ground, which takes about 2 to 3 days.

    If you use promo code boretips at the checkout screen, you will get 10% off your first order on swab-its.com.

  8. avatarAustin says:

    I have used Swab-its as well, with basically the same findings and thoughts as Chris here on TTAG. GunsAmerica also did an article on Swab-its, and I left my review in the comments there. One really nice thing is being able to clean pitted old surplus barrels, as the foam fills the pits and lifts out the solution and various crud in it. If you haven’t used Swab-its yet, at $7 for 6 swabs that will last you for hundreds of cleanings, just try them!

  9. avatarLen says:

    Any thought to making some 16Ga shotgun swabs for us old timers who still shoot the side by side doubles? I do have a 12Ga and 20Ga so i will be buying some. Thanks for a good idea and product.

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