Lloyd Pattison runs through the products to properly clean and maintain your gun.
Gun cleaning. Some think it’s vital, others think it’s a waste of time. If you’re in the latter camp then this article is unlikely to change your mind.
However, if you are keen on keeping your gun in tip-top condition, you’ll need the right tools. This is my recommended list of essentials. All of the tools listed are available in a range of calibres and from many manufacturers, what you see here is just a representative sample.
Rods and Snakes
Rods come in many forms and are made from various materials, but here are two of the most common. Both comprise multiple pieces that screw together into a full size rod, to which various tools and brushes can be attached. The Bisley rod is built with a wooden shaft and brass fittings.
Brass is softer than steel, so it should present no hazard to your barrels. The GMK rod is aluminium, and in my opinion is the better buy because it is stronger and will not warp with hard use or the passage of time. Both rods are sold as sets with a jag, a phosphor bronze brush and a mop.
They represent an excellent starter kit for any new shooter wanting an all-in-one kit. As you can see, the GMK set even contains a small vial of oil and some four by two, meaning it provides all you need for your first few cleanings. Fancier boxed kits are available, but while the materials and the packaging varies, the function does not. A rod with the appropriate attachments is without doubt the most thorough way to clean your bores.
The Boresnake is clever idea that combines the three passes of cleaning a barrel into a single action. The snake comprises a thin weighted cord attached to a braided hollow ribbon of material with an integrated phosphor bronze brush. You apply cleaning fluid to the ribbon ahead of the brush, and some oil just behind, drop the thin weighted cord down the barrel and pull it through, as the snake is drawn through the barrel it theoretically cleans, brushes, and oils in a single pass.
The Boresnake is great for light fouling or if you want to give your bores a quick once over immediately after shooting, but it’s not a full system replacement. Keep one handy in your bag or box for those times when you’re out and about and you’re unable to bring your entire kit with you.
This stubby rod is designed specifically for cleaning the area around the chamber and forcing cones. These are great if you want to concentrate on that area and are having difficulty shifting lead or plastic residue.
Brushes and tools
A phosphor bronze brush is pretty much exactly what you would expect: a brush with bronze bristles, harder than the fouling in your bore, but softer than steel.
Most people find that this is a good starter brush for loosening the muck in their barrels before running patches through them to carry the material out. The pictured brush is from Bisley and is pretty representative of its type, which is commonly found in most gunshops.
Normally available in plastic and brass, jags are designed to have patch material wrapped around them so that you can make multiple passes in your barrel to remove debris that has been loosened by brushing.
This jag from Bisley is typical of the traditional design, but in modern overbored guns it’s difficult to get a decent fit without using a lot of material.
Payne Galway brushes are sometimes referred to as ‘chamber brushes’. They’re significantly denser than a standard phosphor bronze brush, and also slightly larger in diameter, however the bristle material is the same.
The Payne is theoretically a specialised brush for shifting the stubborn fouling in the forcing cones, but it’s actually my go-to brush for cleaning my whole barrel length, especially on overbored guns where I feel the standard brushes aren’t really getting the job done.
A good tip is that a worn Payne Galway brush makes an infinitely more effective jag than any purpose-made jag on the market.
The Paradox is a two piece fleece mop on a nylon rod that is a great tool for polishing your bores.
The full length of the rod means minimal effort polishing and stored in the handle is a little mop that can be impregnated with oil, this can then be attached to the end of the rod and drawn back through the barrel leaving a film of oil.
Again though, on modern guns with chromed bores oiling isn’t needed.
Jack Pyke Three piece Brush Kit
A handy addition to your armoury, this little kit comprises nylon and bronze brushes along with what looks like a plastic dental pick. These are great set of tools for removing any fouling or unburnt powder from your action and any of the nooks and crannies of your gun.
Four by two
This ubiquitous material is sold in rolls in various lengths depending on where you buy it. Four inches wide, with a red line woven into it every two inches, this absorbent disposable cloth is soft and easy to cut to length.
Notably I bought a full size roll of this stuff in 1996, as I recall it was about a foot in diameter. As of writing this in 2019 I am just about to run out as the last of the roll isn’t much bigger than the piece you see here.
Napier Ultra Clean
Ultra Clean from Napier is a relatively new idea that Napier claims cuts your cleaning time in half. Essentially Ultra clean is a two sided patch material with a rough side and a soft absorbent side.
Used with a jag, the idea is that the patches can be used instead of a brush/ mop combo. The rough side dislodges fouling and carries it out of the barrel, while the absorbent side polishes and lubricates with your chosen bore cleaner or lubricant.
Ultra Clean is ‘self amalgamating’, meaning it sticks to itself and won’t unwrap during use providing it’s wound tightly around the jag.
All in one
Magic Bore Drill Kit
Designed to be used without any fluids, the Magic Bore drill kit is an all-in-one solution to barrel cleaning, and pretty much the only new idea in gun cleaning for as long as I can remember. The Magic Bore is available in several versions, but the drill kit is the one for really shortcutting the cleaning process.
The unit comes in a protective tube so you don’t get any dirt on your hands from handling the rod, which is a stiff, oversized phosphor bronze, mated to a full length microfibre mop. This is fitted to a cordless drill (which must have a 13mm chuck), then you simply push the whole thing slowly into the barrel at a low RPM and pull it slowly back out.
Do both barrels, then give them a quick pass with a patch to carry any fouling out into a bin – job done. I have one, and can attest the product is really well made, and definitely does the trick on heavily fouled barrels.
Parker Hale 009 Another option for stubborn fouling is 009. This stuff comes in a bottle rather than a spray, and can be applied either on a mop or by impregnating a patch.
If you don’t want to have aerosol solvent flying about your workspace this can be a great option.
Parker Hale Express Gun Oil
This is excellent all-purpose oil for use on all the moving parts of your shotgun, where you need a little more viscosity and cling factor than you get from a regular cleaning spray.
Bisley Universal Sportsman’s Cloth
This silicon impregnated cloth is another useful thing to keep in your bag. Use it to give your gun a quick wipe down after shooting and get rid of any unwanted contaminants on the metalwork, or alternatively use it before putting your gun away.
A combination cleaner and lubricant from Browning, Legia comes in a variety of sizes. It’s a great all round spray to have on hand, I always have one of the big 750ml tins on my bench at home for cleaning, and a one of the small 125ml tins in my bag for wet days.
Napier Gun Cleaner
Also available in big 750ml tins, this is another combination cleaner and lubricant that is great for general use. The clever bit about the Napier spray is that you can also grab a GA connector tool to refill the small tins from one of the larger bottles.
Phillips Gun Barrel Cleaner
When your general purpose spray isn’t getting ths job done, particularly with stubborn plastic and lead fouling in the forcing cones, Phillips can be very helpful.
Spray it into the barrel and have a leisurely cup of tea while it soaks. On your return, scrub the barrels with your brush of choice. Phillips smells like pear drops, and works an absolute treat.
ProNatur Engineering grease with PTFE
This grease is a great choice for lubricating the major friction bearing surfaces of your gun. Many engineering greases are available, but this is the one I use.
I apply it to my gun’s stub pins, monoblock, fore-end, iron mating surfaces, and anywhere where the action locks up. It’s clear, so when it changes colour I know it’s time to change the grease.