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 about other gun cleaning gears? Check it out here…
5 Best Gun Cleaning Rod Comparisons & Reviews
|Gun Cleaning Rod||Dimensions||Rating||Price|
|#1 Tipton Deluxe Cleaning Rods .22-.26.27- .45.17 and Shotgun||36″ x 12″||5/5|
|#2 Gunslick 32011 Gsl 1-PC Cbn Fib CL Rod 22-260||25″ x 18″||4.9/5|
|#3 Pro-Shot 36-Inch Rifle .22-.26 Caliber||33″ x 9″ x 6″||4.8/5|
|#4 Tipton Max Force Cleaning Rod .22-.45 Caliber||36″ x 12″||4.8/5|
|#5 Dewey 1-Piece Cleaning Rod 22 to 26 Caliber Nylon Coated 8 x 36 Thread||25″ x 12″ x 10″||4.8/5|
#1 Tipton Deluxe Cleaning Rods .22-.26.27- .45.17 and Shotgun
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
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
- US made from US components
- Very stiff
- Great accessory threading
- Small handle, might not be appropriate for some grips
- Not really a con of the product itself, but it typically doesn’t come with the muzzle guard/centering guide, so you need to purchase those separately if you require them
- May be too stiff for those who prefer a bit more flex
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
- Easily adjustable length. Not only does this let you clean longer guns, but it also allows you to adjust the handle to achieve maximum leverage exactly where you need it.
- Very reliable bearings/swiveling despite the adjustable handle!
- Perfect for a wide range of calibers (22-45)
- If you really don’t need 40 inches of cleaning rod for anything, it’s a bit unwieldy to handle—you’re better off with a couple of shorter rods
- The threading for the cleaning brushes seems to be a bit touch and go. I’ve noticed on more than one occasion that the swivel itself seemed to be resulting in my brushes being unscrewed. I never let it get to the point where I lost one down the barrel, but it was a little too close for comfort.
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
- Sturdy, reliable finish that doesn’t pick up grit
- Very stiff, sturdy construction
- Comes with adapter for accessories that might have different (i.e. opposite) threading
- Threading is opposite of most other manufacturers (male threading on the rod)
- Size—this rod is a very tight fit for a 22, at least when it came to my personal firearms
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.
What to Look for When 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.
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.
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.