The most important element in any gun cleaning kit is the rod, as any experienced gun owner knows. However, most kits themselves tend to come with subpar rods. While it may make sense to purchase a kit for the other supplies, it’s often a necessity to pick out at least one additional cleaning rod “ala carte.”
Your gun is only as good as the maintenance it receives, so having a top tier cleaning kit is an absolute necessity. In most cases, that means shopping around a bit for the rod that’s right for your gun and your cleaning habits. You might even have multiple kits, for different guns, or for varying levels of portability.
This guide will showcase a number of the best gun cleaning rods available on the market today. Check out our five comprehensive cleaning rod reviews to find the cleaning rod (or rods!) that’s best for you!
What to Look for Choosing the Best Cleaning Rod?
Properly maintaining your firearms is a labor of love, and it’s one that you need the right tools for. Among those tools, the cleaning rod may indeed be the most important. Using low quality cleaning rods can leave your gun corroded, dirty, or even damaged beyond repair. Here are a few things you should look for when purchasing a cleaning rod.
- Steer clear of cheap aluminum rods. Why? Well, aside from the fact that they’re prone to bending and breaking, they’re also too soft for the job in general. Of course, you want a rod made of a material that won’t scratch your gun—but you don’t want it to be so soft that it can get little bits of sand or metal embedded in it. Because once that happens, it can scratch up your gun.
- Sufficient Length. A rod that’s a bit too long can still be used to clean a firearm. One that’s too short, however, just cannot get the job done. It’s better to go a little longer than you think you need.
- The Right Accessories. Most cleaning rods will have 8-32 threads; if you find one that doesn’t, make sure you’ll be able to find cleaning jags and brushes that will fit it properly.
10 Best Gun Cleaning Rods to Buy
#1 Tipton Deluxe Cleaning Rods .22-.26.27- .45.17 and Shotgun
The Tipton Deluxe Cleaning Rod comes with a few features that should put a smile on the face of any gun owner. First, the carbon fiber construction means this rod is unlikely to break, and it also won’t leave any damaging elements behind in the gun barrel. Many people prefer carbon fiber to nylon coated cleaning rods for this reason; not only is it unlikely that anything might strip off the rod to damage the interior of the barrel, but also, there’s little likelihood that the rod will pick up and retain any grit, etc. from the barrel.
Of course, there’s also a downside to carbon fiber, at least in the eyes of some gun owners. Even single piece carbon fiber cleaning rods are likely to be more flexible (often described as “whippy”) than stainless steel rods. Whether or not you view this as an issue comes down to personal preference. Some gun owners prefer an extra bit of flex, as it can make the rod suitable for cleaning multiple calibers. Others, however, feel that this extra flex could lead to inconsistent cleaning or other problems.
Now, placing the rod composition aside, I can say that the bearings and the handles on these Tipton Deluxe cleaning rods are second to none. Extremely comfortable in the hand, and the bearings seem to be flawless. You can absolutely anticipate excellent performance from these rods for years.
Regarding sizing: I personally haven’t had any issues with the stated sizes of the Tipton rods, however, I have seen some reviews that state you should buy the size below your gun’s caliber. I’m not sure if this is a quality control issue, or a cleaning style problem, but it seems widespread enough to mention.
#2 Gunslick 32011 Gsl 1-PC Cbn Fib CL Rod 22-260
This is another carbon fiber cleaning rod which, overall, performs well. The bearings and swivel are very reliable, but something odd about the construction makes it difficult to actually feelthe swivel. It can seem as if the rod is actually stuck in a single position, when in fact it is working exactly as intended. Initially, this was really annoying for me, as I kept having to adjust and doublecheck. However, after doing so multiple times, I’m convinced that the swivel/bearings are very reliable—you just don’t “feel” the feedback as you usually do with a rod of this type.
I don’t mind the bit of extra flexibility from carbon fiber rods, but I also tend to treat my cleaning rods with as much respect as I do my firearms. In researching this item prior to purchase I did see some complaints about it breaking at the handle—usually in the same breath as describing how they were fooling around with the tool, rather than just cleaning with it.
The only real downside is the oddly loose muzzle guard. Now, don’t get me wrong, the muzzle guard shouldn’t be fixed in place. But with this particular rod, it was just sliding all over, practically defeating the purpose of the thing to start with!
That said, the quality of the materials as well as the rod’s overall construction are definitely top of the line. It’s my understanding that while this rod is sold by Gunslick, the actual manufacturer is Bushnell, which makes sense. Bushnell is well known for their excellent reputation when it comes to hunting products.
#3 Pro-Shot 36-Inch Rifle .22-.26 Caliber
The Pro-Shot is a stainless steel rod, with a hardened and polished finish. Now, in my opinion, stainless steel is the best of both worlds, when it comes to stiffness and avoiding scratches. It doesn’t need a fancy coating that might pick up grit and debris in the barrel, nor does it have the excess “whippy” quality that (some) carbon fiber rods have.
Also, extra points for the precision threading for the accessories on this bad boy! No wobble, no looseness, absolutely fantastic quality control in this regard.
And one more thing—if it matters to you at all—this rod is made in the USA of US components, 100%. I’m not dead set against foreign tools, but I consider this a definite extra bonus. While I’ll always choose the best tool for the job, if all else is equal, not only am I going to choose the US made version, but I’ll even often pay a few extra bucks for it, so I thought it was worth a mention.
Is there anything about this rod I don’t love? No, not really… but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Each of the rods I tried out I also leant to my friends to hear their opinions. Two of them complained about the size of the handle. I’m a petite woman, so it didn’t occur to me—but it this rod does have a pretty small handle. If you’ve got particularly big mitts, it might be an issue.
#4 Tipton Max Force Cleaning Rod .22-.45 Caliber
I’ll be the first to say that I thought this was a little on the gimmicky side when I first read the description. Now that I have it, however, I have to revise my opinion. The Max Force is actually really cool. So, what makes this carbon fiber rod different from just about every other similar rod out there? A sliding handle.
This is a 40 inch rod, which is (quite obviously) a bit more than most people need for most guns. So it’s certainly not your typical rod to start with. What makes it special, and extremely practical for any gun, is the fact that the handle slides, to “customize” the length of the rod that you’ll actually be using for cleaning.
Not only that, but the rod still swivels the way you’d want it too, regardless of how long or short you’ve tailored it, and the fact that the handle is clamped down to alter the length.
Now, most gun owners probably don’t need such a highly customizable rod, granted. But if you do have a collection of guns that vary greatly in barrel length, this is a pretty awesome addition to your gun cleaning collection.
#5 Dewey 1-Piece Cleaning Rod 22 to 26 Caliber Nylon Coated 8 x 36 Thread
I’ve mentioned above that nylon coated rods can present some issues in terms of picking up grit, etc. which can lead to scratching. However, that seems to be an issue with lower quality rods (which probably are skimping out on using a quality, hard nylon finish), and I haven’t run into anything like that with this Dewey offering. On the contrary, I love the rod’s stiffness and sturdiness.
One thing you should know if you tend to use accessories—for whatever reason, Dewey’s rods come with male threading and their branded accessories with female threading. This is precisely opposite of what most other manufacturers in this field do, so bear that in mind. It’s not that big of a deal since this rod comes with a female to female adapter, but it’s a bit odd and unexpected and requires a little extra work. Doesn’t particularly bother me, but it’s certainly surprising.
You tend to see a lot of variance in reviews regarding whether or not a rod is “sized” correctly for the minimum size it purports to be designed for. In most cases, I don’t run into any issues. I will, however, admit that this Dewey rod was a bit of a squeeze for my 22. I won’t say it was too big to use, but it definitely came close, so that’s something to keep in mind if you are purchasing specifically for a 22 caliber.
#6 Gunslick 35002 Gsl 1pc Cbn Fib CL Rod 8″ 22 Cal
The next entry on our list is another excellent rod from Gunslick. At eight inches long with a four and a quarter inch handle, it comes it at just over a foot in total length. If you’re looking for a solid single piece rod that isn’t too long, this is a fantastic, compact choice. If you are looking just for a rod suitable for handguns, this would be one of my absolute top choices, for sure. Of course, the downside of a rod of this length is that it’s a bit specialized. If you have longer barreled handguns (something over six inches) that require cleaning from the loading side, this is going to be a little on the short side for that.
The ball bearings in this rod lend it silky smooth swivel movement, and each component of the rod seems to be attached very securely. It’s a quality build that’s noticeable right from the get go. The handle is soft and ergonomically shaped.
Like the other Gunslick rod reviewed earlier in this list, this one is carbon fiber construction. I feel that this eight inch rod is less “whippy” than the longer carbon fiber rods, even if they are essentially the same material. Something about the shorter length seems to tone down the flex in the rod which, in my opinion, is a good thing. In fact, I’d characterize it as being about as stiff as a comparable coated or stainless steel rod. It’s suitable for use with a 22 caliber, but you’d be fine using it for larger bores as well.
#7 Hoppe’s Bench Rest Stainless Steel 1- Piece Universal Rifle/Shotgun Cleaning Rod (All Calibers and Gauges)
This is an all-in-one cleaning rod option for those who want to keep their equipment minimal and appreciate a rod that can be used on almost any firearm. At 33.5 inches, you’d be hard pressed to find a gun barrel this rod won’t clean, as long as it’s 22 caliber or higher.
The Bench Rest is definitely a step up from the multi jointed rods that typically come in cleaning kits, with sturdy, hardened stainless steel and ball bearing swivel handles. It’s not quite on the premium level of some of the other brands in this list, but makes up for it a bit with its extreme versatility.
Right out of the box I found the swivel to be a little lacking, compared to some other rods I’ve reviewed. However, just a bit of cleaning oil in the swivel/joint mechanism seemed to do the trick, at least for the time being.
One nice thing about this rod is that it comes with accessories that really seem to focus on the versatility of the tool—Hoppe’s really knows their target consumers! There are three cleaning jags, and thread adapters for shotgun gun cleaning accessories as well. If you have a varied gun collection and you want a rod that “does it all,” this is an excellent choice.
#8 Pro-Shot .22-.45 Caliber Universal Pistol
This is a nice, compact stationary cleaning rod built with pistols and handguns in mind. Its small size and simple construction makes it a good choice for carrying to the range, and of course, it’s also a handy little cleaning rod to keep at home. It uses standard 8-32 threads, so you can rest assured that all of your favorite attachments will be compatible.
One thing about this rod that’s a bit odd is the locking nut mechanism in the handle. It’s advertised as a stationary rod, and works best for that purpose. However, there is a nut/bolt on the handle which appears to be an addition in order to keep the rod stationary. If you wanted to use this as a rotating rod, it seems plausible that you could. However, in practice, it seems that loosening the nut enough to allow the rod to rotate results in it becoming too loose and even wobbly. That’s obviously not something you want.
When used as advertised—as a stationary, non-rotating rod—this is one of the best. If you need a rotating rod, you’re better off going with one that has a ball bearing swivel mechanism, in my opinion.
|#1 Tipton Deluxe Cleaning Rods .22-.26.27- .45.17 and Shotgun|
|#2 Gunslick 32011 Gsl 1-PC Cbn Fib CL Rod 22-260|
|#3 Pro-Shot 36-Inch Rifle .22-.26 Caliber|
|#4 Tipton Max Force Cleaning Rod .22-.45 Caliber|
|#5 Dewey 1-Piece Cleaning Rod 22 to 26 Caliber Nylon Coated 8 x 36 Thread|
|#6 Gunslick 35002 Gsl 1pc Cbn Fib CL Rod 8″ 22 Cal|
|#7 Hoppe’s Bench Rest Stainless Steel 1- Piece Universal Rifle/Shotgun Cleaning Rod (All Calibers and Gauges)|
|#8 Pro-Shot .22-.45 Caliber Universal Pistol|
Bore Snake vs. Cleaning Rod
Whether you’re a new enthusiast or an old hand, you’ve probably heard some of the back and forth debate about whether a bore snake or a cleaning rod is a better tool for maintaining your firearms. The truth is, they both have different advantages and downsides. For example, it’s nearly impossible to cause any damage or undue muzzle wear when using a bore snake to clean your guns. You’re simply not exerting enough pressure to cause anything even approaching that as an issue.
On the other hand, that same lack of pressure has its disadvantages, because you also won’t be cleaning your gun as thoroughly—which itself can result in damage. Basically, a cleaning rod is the more efficient and effective tool, but it does come with greater short term and long term risks than using a bore snake. However, if you’re in a situation where you have a valuable gun and cannot, for whatever reason, clean it with a rod from the breech end, it can be handy to have a bore snake around until you have the opportunity to clean it more thoroughly with an appropriately sized cleaning rod.