The AR-15 has soundly replaced the venerable old Winchester lever action as “America’s Rifle”, and with literal millions of AR’s in the hands of law abiding gun owners, they are often left looking for the best AR-15 cleaning kit to keep their rifles in top running order. However, for something as simple as a cleaning kit, there is an awful lot of variety, and an awful lot of potential confusion. Ranging from the high quality Otis AR-15 cleaning kit, to inexpensive bore snakes, or even common cleaning rods and brushes, there is something for everyone, but not every cleaning kit is right for every application.
Like many gun owners, I have a lot of different AR-15 cleaning supplies. Some simply stay home in the gun room, while others live in range bags, or in the case of a bore snake, rolled up and stuffed into the pistol grip of one of my rifles. When selecting the best AR-15 cleaning kit, you need to first identify your own unique needs. Some people need a very lightweight and compact kit that can fit into a pocket or easily stow in a pack, and there is a universal need for a complete, and complex cleaning kit that can do everything. In between, there are a myriad of other AR-15 cleaning kits that can be overwhelming to the consumer.
In general, you are going to want at least one extensive cleaning kit, and probably a more portable lightweight kit or at least a boresnake. We are going to look over four of the best AR cleaning kits, and examine both their pros and cons. These will range from the affordable to the high end, and ultimately will let you select the ultimate cleaning kit setup for your favorite AR-15.
Considered by some to be the ultimate way to clean your AR-15, the Otis system is a lightweight, revolutionary cleaning kit that can be easily carried in the pockets of your cargo pants, or easily stowed in even a small pack or jacket pocket. It is well known that improperly used cleaning rods can wear muzzles and damage bores, and Otis attempts to solve the worst of those problems by using a flexible rubber coated cable with brass fittings. Simply attach the desired brushes or jags to the Otis cable and you can quickly scrub your bore nearly as easily as with a traditional cleaning rod. In addition, this complete kit comes with the right assortment of brushes to clean your bore and chamber, a bolt carrier cleaning tool, and even a tool to illuminate the bore. This complete kit bundles in a soft zippered pouch, making it an ideal M4 or M16 cleaning kit as well if you are deployed with the military or work in law enforcement. This is actually my personal choice for a regular AR-15 cleaning kit, and I use mine regularly, and more than once have appreciated having it at the range when testing new handloads or even as a loaner to a friend who may not have been keeping their AR as clean as they should!
However, nothing is perfect and the Otis MSR system has a few flaws. The most glaring being the polymer coated cable. In time this coating can and does crack and wear, although this isn’t much different than watching a jointed cleaning rod give out over time. You can get years of regular use from this kit, and really by the time it wears out you can justify getting another. Just be aware that this is a specialty cleaning tool that requires a bit more care and attention. While the initial upfront purchase cost is a bit high, remember this is a near complete AR-15 cleaning kit, and by the time it starts showing signs of heavy use, you’ve gotten years of good, solid service from it. My other complaint is that it is a bit awkward to use, as you don’t get a traditional handle, but rather have to pull up on a T shaped handle, and can only clean in one direction. But otherwise, this is a great kit.
- Lightweight and Portable
- Less likely to damage your gun than other tools
- Sleek, modern design
- High price compared to traditional cleaning kits
- Polymer coated cables can wear out
- Does not address all of the cleaning needs of an AR-15
- Cleans .223cal/5.56mm rifles
- 100% cotton 2" patches and small slotted tip
- .223cal/5.56mm bronze bore brush and Mongoose G2 combo swab/brush with size marked on brush...
This is another compact kit, but it’s really a proper AR-15 cleaning rod this time. This seven piece jointed steel rod is neatly packed with a full complement of bore and chamber brushes, cleaning patches for the star chamber, cleaning picks, a unique pin punch/bore illuminator/safety flag, and more. Literally everything you need to clean your AR-15 is right here in one handy camouflaged carrying case. I’m overly fond of this cleaning kit because it provides a proper cleaning rod, plus a nice set of cleaning patches and a wide array of brushes and picks that can clean every part of your rifle. This is a good regular use kit, or one to keep at home, although it is about as portable as the Otis we looked at above, and unlike the Otis, you don’t have to worry about the steel cleaning rods wearing out anytime in the foreseeable future.
The downside is that steel cleaning rods can be murder on your bore if used improperly. This is simply a phosphate coated steel rod that will tear up your muzzle if used without a bore guide, so you’ll need to be sure to clean from the chamber end. However, if you can’t use a steel cleaning rod properly, I’d argue that you have bigger problems than sloppy cleaning procedures. Using a standard steel cleaning rod makes this AR-15 cleaning kit a bit cheaper than some competing products, so if you are ok with that, or even prefer steel cleaning rods this will work just fine for you. It would be nice if this shipped with oil and bore cleanser, but that is hardly a deal breaker, and it’s plenty easy to toss your favorite lube and solvent in with your gear.
- Proper steel cleaning rod
- Also highly compact and portable
- Complete kit serves all of your cleaning needs
- Steel rod can damage your bore if used improperly
- Needs cleaning chemicals to really be a complete kit
- Multi piece rod can fail at joints, rendering kit useless
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- .223 Chamber Cleaning Supplies: phosphor bronze chamber cleaning brush; 5 precision cut chamber...
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I wouldn’t say this is the best AR-15 cleaning kit on the market, but it is a pretty decent one when you consider you get both a .223 AND a .308 bore snake, four ounces each of special gun cleaner and gun oil, a handy nylon brush, cleaning cloth, carrying case and instructional guide. Bore snakes are a fantastic way of cleaning a bore, and are among one of the most popular modern methods, especially if you are just doing light cleaning, and making a few passes through with copper solvent. Modern bores do not need extensive cleaning after a shooting session if there is no noticeable accuracy change, so a solvent soaked bore snake does the job quite nicely, and this is really a quite nice pair of bore snakes, especially if you keep a .308 AR or a .300 Blackout upper around.
On the other hand, this really is just a pair of bore snakes and some common cleaning chemicals. The instructional guide is meaningless frippery in my mind, as it doesn’t take much of a rocket scientist to figure out how to use a bore snake. The hard carrying case is cool too, but seems excessive, although some may appreciate the durability it offers. This entire kit looks designed to look good on a retail shelf or in a gun store, but at the price you are still getting a decent kit. Go ahead and pull the trigger if you want a good pair of bore snakes, a fresh set of oil and solvent and not much else.
- Solid cleaning kit for boresnake users
- Includes two different caliber boresnakes, ideal for owners of multiple common uppers
- Ships with a correct set of cleaning and maintenance chemicals
- Gimmicky kit is overpackaged and overhyped
- Includes needless items to increase perception of value
- Only cleans the bore, does not clean chamber, bolt carrier group, etc…
- Made of highest quality material
- Manufacturer: Hoppes
- Hoppes M-PRO 7 tactical Cleaning kit AR box
Clocking it at just under $14, this is an oddly well thought out set of AR-15 cleaning tools. You get the traditional brass rod, chamber and bore brush, a bore mop, jags, and pick. But it also adds a set of common screwdriver bits and a screwdriver handle which will allow you to maintain most common scopes and attachments on a rifle. In this day and age of having half a hardware store hanging off your gun, and probably using three different kinds of bits to maintain it all, having a set of bits and a screwdriver is a must have with any AR-15 cleaning kit. While not a fully complete kit, this is a basic set of hardware that will let you clean and maintain your AR without breaking the bank.
Now at this low cost, there are going to be shortcomings, and there are some pretty glaring ones. Cheap brass rods don’t have a long life compared to other rods, but they will give you plenty of good service and are less likely to damage your bore if improperly used. There is a shortage of traditional cleaning tools in here, like a bore illuminator, dental picks, and a dedicated bolt carrier group cleaning tool. Some patches for the bore and chamber would be nice too, so this won’t be a turn key cleaning kit. However, it will serve as the basis for assembling a complete kit, or just as a source of spare parts. It’s $14, something has to give, and what gives is most of the extras we’ve come to expect in cleaning kits.
- It’s absurdly affordable
- Well thought out set of tools
- Central core of cleaning accessories for building on
- Low cost parts will have a higher failure rate
- Missing important cleaning tools for upper and lower receiver
- No cleaning patches
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Choosing the Best AR-15 Cleaning Kit for You
Cleaning an AR 15 isn’t hard, and really choosing the right AR cleaning tools isn’t hard either. It is only because of the huge demand for both the AR-15 and cleaning kits for it that there is such a confusing array of products on the market. However, when you choose a good cleaning kit look for a few things
- Full compliment of brushes. At a minimum, unless you are buying a boresnake, you want a chamber brush, bore brush and either a bore mop or a jag for holding patches.
- Bolt carrier group cleaning tool. A dirty BCG is an unhappy BCG, and probably a jammed rifle.
- Fine picks. The gas impingement system of the AR-15 runs fairly clean with the right powders, but you still will get carbon building up inside your rifle. Dental picks help keep various nooks and crannies clean.
- Solvents and lube. If you are going through the trouble of getting an AR cleaning kit, you might as well get cleaning chemicals with it. If you are like many gun owners, little bottles of lube and bore solvent seem to vanish like matched socks in a dryer. You can’t have too much of this stuff.
Ultimately, I’d choose both a good cleaning rod kit (or the Otis kit) and a bore snake. This gives you the best of both worlds, and addresses the reality that most of the time you just need a quick swabbing of the bore and little else. From time to time you will of course need to give your AR-15 a deep cleaning and that largely depends on the kind of ammo you are using, how heavily lubricated your rifle is (wet guns get dirtier quicker) and how hard you use it. For that you will need a proper chamber brush, special star chamber cleaning swabs, a bolt carrier group cleaner, and probably dental picks if you want to get real hardcore about the cleaning.
AR-15 cleaning isn’t all that difficult, and for the most part, it’s as easy as popping out the rear pin, lifting the upper up, and giving your bore and chamber a solid scrubbing, and maybe wiping down any fresh carbon deposits you might see before lubricating any moving parts. You can realistically go thousands of rounds of ammo before a far more intensive cleaning needs to take place. You’ll find too that most solvents and lubes are all basically the same thing, despite marketing hype. It’s mature and proven technology, and a smart shooter can save a lot of money by not buying this years fancy cool sounding tactical gun oils and cleaners. In the end, choosing the best AR-15 cleaning kit is a mix of having the right collection of tools, and knowing when to use them.
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