At a Glance: The best AR15 cleaning kits on the market today
Comparison of the best AR15 cleaning kits on the market today
Our Top Pick
|Brownells – Ar-15/M16 Buttstock Cleaning Kit||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Hoppes – Handgun, Rifle & Shotgun Cleaning Kits||View Latest Price|
|Brownells – Ar-15/M16/ 308 Ar M-pro 7 Cleaning Kit||View Latest Price|
For most shooters, the first associations with cleaning AR-15s are stories they heard about the notoriously tedious process of maintaining the Vietnam-era M16 so it could work properly in jungle warfare conditions. That involved taking it apart and cleaning it 5 times a day. That’s not the case anymore with your AR, but even with the introduction of new materials and coatings that have significantly improved the resistance to wear and tearof most modern rifles, that still doesn’t mean these rifles are indestructible. A good cleaning kit and a good cleaning routine will ensure your rifle will function properly, and who knows, maybe it will even outlast you.
Brownells – Ar-15/M16 Buttstock Cleaning Kit
Brownells AR15/M16 cleaning kit is designed to be carried inside an A1 or A2 buttstock compartment of your rifle. They are made to be used as an emergency field cleaning kit, but only for 556 barrels, and contain 5 piece cleaning rod, bronze bore and bronze chamber brush, double-ended parts cleaning brush, packed inside a sturdy Nylon pouch made on purpose to be tight so all of those tools would not rattle in your buttstock. The deluxe version of this package also includes a solvent resistant Nylon brush, a 25-pack of patches, and a small bag of oil.
Even though the package isn’t anything to write home about, it still holds everything you’re looking for in a cleaning kit, but my suggestion would be to opt for a deluxe kit, because of the additions listed above. Just wanted to add, while it is a useful thing to have in your kit, I don’t know why people at Brownells decided to pack oil inside a bag that doesn’t have a resealing option, once you open it and use it, it will still have enough liquid to use it at least 2-3 times more, but you will have to either get rid of it or pour it into some other container.
It’s a no-frills package, when you’re on the go, even if you don’t have an A1 or A2 buttstock, just stick it in your bag or your pockets, it will do the job well, just make sure to bring an extra old T-shirt or some old rags with you.
- Easy and light
- Comes in a small and compact pouch
- Fairly good quality of parts included
- Made to be carried inside a buttstock
- Standard kit doesn’t include oil
- Has only the basic tools
Hoppes – Handgun, Rifle & Shotgun Cleaning Kits
Hoppe’s has always been a reputable company when it comes to gun cleaning products, their No. 9 solvent is, for the price to quality ratio it offers, still one of the best options in the market today. Considering it was first made in 1903 and is still immensely popular, it says even more about its quality.
This cleaning kit comes with a three-piece aluminum rod, which in the long run isn’t the best option because it will get porous and my suggestion would be to invest in something that will be more durable and sturdier. The kit also includes a brush, correct tip, a pack of 25 patches, and a bottle of No 9 solvent and Hoppes oil. That’s basically everything a novice shooter needs, but in my opinion, it could also include a spare brush, and maybe a rod made from a bit more rigid material.
If you decide on buying this cleaning kit, a good option would be also to get a bore guide, it’s not mandatory but still, using a rod that has to be screwed together from several pieces, it can potentially bend and damage your barrel during the cleaning if you force the rod too much. All in all, a good beginner’s cleaning kit, and a good introduction to what Hoppe’s has to offer for all shooters.
- Really cheap
- Good for novice shooters
- For all calibers and gauges
- Kit includes both oil and a solvent
- Box quality isn’t the best
- The cleaning rod isn’t sturdy enough
- Only one brush in the package
Brownells – Ar-15/M16/ 308 Ar M-pro 7 Cleaning Kit
M-Pro 7 has been in the business for over 20 years, and they have been successfully making maintenance products for law enforcement and the United States military so it’s fairly safe to say they know how to make good cleaning gear that will satisfy even the pickiest of consumers.
This cleaning kit from Brownells, made in cooperation with M-Pro 7, has all the necessary gear that will satisfy the needs of the majority of the shooters. It comes in a sturdy hardshell case and contains their Gun Cleaner that will break up even the most stubborn carbon build-up from your barrel bore and chamber, it also has Gun Oil LPX for lubrication and protection from corrosion, but I should also mention that if you’re somewhere on the go, and don’t have the time to do a detailed cleaning, the Gun Oil LPX can also be used as a fast and convenient cleaning agent.
What surprised me the most was the selection of quality brushes that come included in the package, besides the ones for your standard AR caliber .223 and 5.56mm you also get brushes for .308 and 7.62mm and also 9mm and .45 chamberings. For cleaning the bolt carrier way, you also have a double-edged brush packed in this kit, also you won’t have to carry a bunch of old rags with you, because they also made sure to pack enough cotton patches to last you several cleaning sessions, in different sizes to match the calibers, plus also a lint-free cloth to scrub off the debris and gunk.
As mentioned previously, this cleaning kit is an excellent choice for everybody, the ratio of price to the number of accessories you get in a small, easily carried case is excellent.
- Sturdy and portable case
- Good quality of tools
- Good value
- Brushes for multiple calibers
- Plenty of patches
- Uses the same M-Pro 7 products as the US armed forces
- The only thing missing is a bore snake
John Masen – Mil-spec Cleaning Kit
Another buttstock pouch with all the important gear you will need, this time made by John Masen Co. Comes in a standard nylon pouch and it has all the essential tools you will need to clean your AR, granted you will have to provide for your own solvent and patches or rags.
The kit packs a standard three-piece cleaning rod with a combo handle, patch loop made of polymer, a bore and chamber brush, double-edged parts brush, and an oiler bottle. The oiler bottle has some issues with leaking, so a good option would be to carry the oil in a different container, or even better buy a separate bottle of a good brand of lubricant. Other than that, it’s your standard military-style cleaning kit, the materials are of fairly good quality and they won’t bend or break inside your barrel while scraping off the carbon. That being said, it’s important to mention even though it is a mil-spec, it isn’t compatible with other military kits and you will experience some difficulties when you try to combine rods from this pack with any other army issued. Threading was crudely done, the connections aren’t precisely machined so you will use a fair bit of your time and nerves if you decide to combine them with parts from other packages.
This is a standard, fairly authentic mil-spec cleaning kit that fits well inside your buttstock as a solid backup option, but I would choose a better brand for my go-to kit while out on the field, and use this one as a spare.
- Easily transportable
- Good quality
- Fair price
- Oil bottle tends to leak
- No solvent included
- Difficult to pack
- No patches included
Bore Tech – Ar Upper Cleaning Kit
Probably one of the most innovative companies in the industry when it comes to AR cleaning products, Bore Tech has managed to pack quite a few good products in this small package. Included in the kit are stainless steel rod, rod guide, and specially designed carrier and bolt scraper, polymer cleaning picks, cotton patches as well as polishing pads made to simplify and speed up cleaning your AR more efficiently than most of the kits on the market.
Tools in this kit can handle most of the gunk and debris accumulated inside your AR upper receiver, they are made to be safe and easy, and won’t damage the coating. The back of the carrier tool, which is their own design and still patent-pending, is made to scrape off the carbon from the bolt tail, while the frontend is used to clean the bolt carrier. The green pads are meant to be used in combination with the tool, but you can also use them on your own to clean away any remaining dirt, and in the end, use patches to dry up the parts and get them ready for lubrication.
The package was well thought out, including everything most users will need. The downside is they didn’t include solvent or oil, which would make this kit complete. The rod and the rest of the tools are made from durable materials, the finish is smooth and there are no nicks, dents or badly cut parts sticking out which would damage the rifle during cleaning.
- Available for both .223/5.56mm and .308/7.62mm calibers
- Exceptional quality
- Packs a lot of tools
- Uses innovative new technologies
- No oil or solvents included
- No bore snake
Real Avid – Ar-15 Cleaning Pack
Real Avid is a well-known company not just among gunsmiths, but also gun enthusiasts, and especially among people who are into customizing, personalizing, and building their own guns. It is also big among people who want to learn from the experience of assembling their own weapons. It is for those who believe that the Do It Yourself approach is the best one.
The kit they developed follows the same principles, they really made an effort to make a package that will contain all the essential tools for field cleaning your AR-15, starting from oil-resistant Smart Mat, to rods, brushes, and picks, not to mention a helpful cleaning reference guide.
What stands out most from this kit is the included scrapper, precision-made to match all of the surfaces of the 4 major parts that make a Bolt Carrier Group. Instead of using a brush or some other improvised tool to scrape off the carbon from your firing pin, bolt cam pin, bolt, and bolt carrier, Real Avid decided to design a special pocket-sized tool that has 12 surfaces that parallel those hard to clean or reach places on your BCG. It doubles down the amount of time needed to clean off that gunk and it’s quite practical to use in the field.
Also included in the package is an oil-resistant mat, on which you can place all the parts of the rifle, because honestly who likes to be yelled at by their nearest and dearest while they are cleaning their gun over a kitchen table that’s “been in the family even before this country was founded.” In case you don’t know what all the parts that came with your kit are, the good people at Real Avid also printed out a nice field guide on how to properly break down the rifle, clean it and reassemble it.
- Small and compact case
- Good selection of tools
- Reasonably priced
- Detailed cleaning manual included
- Comes with a really handy Scraper tool
- Oil resistant mat included
- Doesn’t come with oil or solvent
Sport Ridge – Ar-15 Cleaning Kit
A fairly good package from the guys at Sport Ridge, this 17 piece kit is well designed and includes most of the things you need to clean an AR-15 on the range or outdoors. The tools in the packaging itself are very well organized and contain a multifunction handle, coated flexible cable, bore brush and mop, slotted tip, standard double-edged brush, a “dental” pick that can be used as a scrapper, a nylon punch, a pack of patches and a 6-piece screwdriver set.
The multifunction handle is actually a nice touch, it can be used as a handle not just for the pull-through cable, as a bit driver, and also for the cleaning rod. For me personally, it was a nice surprise to see, instead of a multi-piece rod, a coated cable. Some people will argue that having a standard rod is better because the cleaning can be done more thoroughly, but I believe that a flexible cable makes the process much easier, even though it may last a tad shorter. If you are out in the field and don’t have enough space to properly disassemble and store all of your parts, the cable can be a lifesaver, because you won’t have to completely tear apart your AR in order to clean it.
The box itself is small enough to be carried around or stored inside your bag and while it does contain a fair amount of useful tools, one question pops up, is a screwdriver set really necessary for this kit? I couldn’t find any use for it while cleaning, but who knows maybe it will serve some purpose eventually, but not so much in the realms of gun cleaning.
- Includes a pull-through coated cable
- A surprising amount of tools packed in
- Six-piece utility bit set
- Well made tools
- The case is fairly sturdy and easily carried
- Only available for .223 caliber rifles
- No oil
Real Avid – Gun Boss Ar-15 Cleaning Kit
As was the case with the other item I reviewed from Real Avid, this cleaning kit did not disappoint. Everything that was packed inside, starting from brushes, aluminum made anodized rods, picks, chamber cleaning patches, and a handle for the rods was well made and neatly organized inside a lightweight Eva-molded case, organized to be rattle-free.
Probably the most important factor when shopping for a cleaning kit, is not just the amount of tools you will get, but also their quality as well, and in that, this kit really stands out. This isn’t your typical buy once, use a couple of times then replace most of the parts with new one’s kind of deal. The rods are sturdy enough to clean out any amount of carbon build-up from your barrels, brushes will also last much longer than you would expect from this affordable package, same goes for picks. The only things you will need to invest in are some rags or patches and of course oil and solvents. Also included, like with the other pack, is a handy 3-in-1 safety flag, that can also be used as a pin punch and bore light.
A nice addition to this kit would be a greater number of patches, maybe a mat, so you don’t stain the surface area underneath your rifle. A scraper could also be a nice addition, but with the picks that come with this package, you will also easily clean even the most difficult to reach spots, granted it will take you a bit longer.
- Waterproof, zippered case
- Easy to carry
- Fairly priced
- Tools made from long-lasting materials
- Doesn’t include a mat
- Doesn’t include a scraper
- No field guide
What should you consider when choosing an AR-15 cleaning kit
Whether you’re using your AR-15 for tactical, competitive shooting or hunting you will need to clean and properly maintain your rifle. The carbon, dirt, debris, and old oil that will build up in your weapon with regular and frequent use will have to be properly and regularly removed unless you want your accuracy to deteriorate, cartridges stop ejecting, or, worst-case scenario, the gun malfunctions when you need it the most.
With so many kits available today, you will have a hard time choosing which one to pick. Large bulky ones that include everything from a mat to solvents, that is, oils, a myriad of different scrubs and brushes, several picks and jags, specialized scraping tools, detailed instructions how to disassemble, clean and reassemble the rifle will probably benefit those people who like to do a thoroughly deep clean in the privacy of their kitchen or garage. Or just those who suffer from a severe case of OCD.
Small kits, like the ones issued to every grunt, are immensely helpful if you need to do a fast cleaning out in the field, but sadly most of those don’t come with either oil or solvents needed to break down gunk accumulated inside the rifle and lubricate it later. They will do a fairly decent job but most of the time they are used for quick and superficial cleans.
As is always the case in life, the trick is to find that sweet middle ground. Think hard about what your needs are, where the cleaning wil be done, whether you are a novice or an experienced shooter, and how many rounds you usually shoot in one session. Will you carry the kit with you, or keep it in your home? A good intermediate kit, easily stored and carried, with high-quality tools, your old cotton T-shirt, a bottle of oil, and a solvent is a combo worth considering.
What should an AR15 cleaning kit include
A good cleaning kit should pack all of these items, or at least a majority of them:
A bore cleaning rod
It doesn’t matter if you choose a solid rod or a multi-piece threaded one, make sure that the one coming in the kit is made of good quality materials, preferably coated so it doesn’t accidentally scrape the barrel. Pay attention to how it’s cut and machined, be careful of any splinters or any metal shavings and nicks sticking out, it will cause more damage than it prevents. To avoid that from happening I use a standard one-piece rod in combination with a bore guide, which is a “compromise” I made with my paranoia. No, you don’t have to go out now and immediately buy one too. Focus on quality, maneuverability, and ease of use.
A bore snake with attachment
A bore snake is another useful tool to have in your cleaning kit, some people use it exclusively, as it has proven to be quite effective for a quick brushing, cleaning, and oiling. The design of the bore snake incorporates both elements of a brush and a cleaning textile, with the weighted attachment on one end of the snake serving as a guide. When you insert it into the barrel, the gravity will pull it down, all you have to do is grab the attachment when it exits on the other end, and pull it until the entire length of the snake passes through. The front section of the snake has small bronze bristles incorporated into it which act like a brush after that section is just standard textile that cleans up dirt after the brushes have scraped it off. Finally, onto the end section, you can apply oil to lube the barrel.
The most important adapters for your rod are brushes, both bore brush and a good chamber brush. Good quality ones are not difficult to find these days, because most of them are made from materials that will prevent damage to your rifle. Bronze brushes are standard these days because they are hard enough to clean the carbon, but soft enough so as not to leave marks and scratches on the inside of your bore and mess up the rifling. Chamber brushes are made with bronze brushes at the top, and steel ones at the bottom for cleaning locking lugs, which are made of harder materials. Nylon brushes are also a good option, a lot of solvents now incorporate chemicals that are corrosive and damaging to the bronze used in brushes, so nylon could be a good alternative.
A patch loop
A patch loop is a tool that is attached to the end of the rod, resembles a slightly large needle’s eye. A cloth patch is inserted through the loop, then the entire loop is pushed or pulled through the barrel to clean off the debris after it was scrapped by the brush. A good patch loop should be wide enough to accept the patch, but tight enough to hold it in place while running dirt out of your rifle. The choice of materials it’s made of, whether it is bronze or polymer, that’s all up to you. Use white-colored patches made out of cotton, insert them in the loop, run them down the bore, if dirty, throw away the old one, place a new cloth, and repeat the process until the last one comes out clean, without a single black speck or mark on them. It sounds tedious, but the next part of your kit will minimize the steps necessary to clean the rifle.
Cleaning fluids and lube
The hardest job in this process is done by a solvent. Finding a good one will save you a lot of time and nerves, so I suggest if your kit doesn’t include a bottle of cleaner, which is most likely, go out and buy one. Good news, the majority of solvents on the market today do the same job, the only difference being the time it takes them to do it. When you strip down your rifle, apply not a too generous amount, but make sure to cover every fouled up area and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Now, it won’t flush out the dirt by itself, they will just loosen it, so take your brush and a rag and scrub it all off. When done, it’s time to apply oil or lube, the main purpose of which is to protect the rifle from corrosion and wear caused by friction. Don’t overdo it, a thin layer will do the job fine.
What if you neglect to clean your AR-15?
Do not neglect it. Just don’t. The corrosion on the metal surfaces will cause damage to mechanical parts, which can be detrimental to your accuracy or cause malfunctions, like jamming. The build-up of carbon and debris inside your rifle will produce wear over time and you don’t want loose components to rattle in your AR. It could become unsafe.
How often should you clean your AR-15?
There is a lot of debate among shooters on how often you should clean your rifle. Some users suggest you should clean it each time you finish your hunting trip or a session at the range. Some like to stick to timing data that they can measure, and clean it after firing 500 or 1000 rounds. Others will do a quick clean with a CLP and a bore snake while on the range, and once a month perform thorough maintenance. Hypothetically speaking, in a home defense scenario, probably the scariest sound you definitely don’t want to hear is the sound of your gun jamming in the dark. If you want to have a firearm that will operate reliably and accurately each time you pull the trigger, do it as often as you can, whether that is once a day, once a week, after running a magazine through it or after 500 fired rounds, the choice is yours.
How to use an AR15 cleaning kit
To simplify there are four steps to this. Cleaning, brushing, drying, and oiling. The most important step is to make sure your AR doesn’t have any ammo in it. Unload the gun, and start disassembling it. Place everything in front of you, and now a useful thing to have is a small tub or a plate where you will put all the small parts, should you choose to thoroughly clean, for example, your Bolt Carrier Group. If you have a vise block, place the upper receiver upside down in it for better access to the chamber and the barrel. Apply solvent to the BCG, the chamber, and trigger grouping inside the lower receiver, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, make sure that liquid penetrates deep into any gunk that’s accumulated. Attach the patch loop onto the rod, and place a cloth patch through the loop, soak it well in solvents, then run it through the barrel, making sure the entire length is well soaked. Remove the loop and attach the brush, do the same thing, run it through the barrel several times, until you’re sure you have brushed everything inside. When done, return the patch loop, this time use a dry patch, force all that residue after brushing out and clean the barrel dry.
The next step is to use a double-edged brush and clean every surface of the rifle where you have applied the solvent. When you’re satisfied with the cleaning, run that brush again just in case. Following that, use a dry rag and wipe the inside and the outside of the rifle clean. Now it’s time to oil the gun. A light coat will do, most people exaggerate with the amount of lube they use, but remember the more you oil it, more dirt, shavings, and debris will cling to that liquid and foul the gun. When it comes to oiling the barrel, use the same procedure when you applied the solvent. Lastly, reassemble the gun, and store it in your safe.
What causes fouling in an AR15?
As is the case with all gas-operated weapons systems, the gas firing system of the AR platform will cause a build-up of carbon inside the rifle. A trip to the range or anywhere outdoors will attract dirt and dust, in combination with oil or lubricant it will create grime, which will jam the mechanical parts and limit the efficiency of the rifle in the form of short-stroke, failure to feed, fire or extract the spent casing. Carbon build-up produced after every fired round will form layers inside your barrel, which, if not regularly removed, will worsen your accuracy in the long run.
The title of the best one of the bunch will go to Real Avid AR-15 Cleaning Pack. Mostly because of the options it provides in such a small package, whether you’re a novice shooter or an experienced one, tools provided in this cleaning kit will surely help you to maintain and clean your rifle no matter how dirty it gets. If used properly it will add years of life and good service to your rifle, making sure that it fires each time you pull the trigger.