When I got my first gun, a Marlin .22, one of the first things I did was buy a cleaning kit. It came with a set of jags, powder solvent, lubricating oil, patches, and a three-piece cleaning rod. I was diligent about cleaning that gun every 500 rounds or so and that rod got a lot of use. After adding a center fire to my collection it was still the only rod I owned. But I’ve since wised up and realized that there is a better way.
The multi-piece rods have their time and place but are not ideal for general cleaning. The multiple sections require junctions to come together, usually in the form of male and female threaded ends. These junctions create weak points that can flex in the barrel and come in contact with the bore. Although most of these rods are made of aluminum, they can still leave small abrasions for powder and copper fowling to accumulate in. And of course, weak points in a cleaning rod invite greater opportunities for rods to break, and with sufficient use, break they will.
|two cleaning rods, a multi-piece (bottom) and one-piece (top). The bore brush (left) and patch jag (right) are the only two jags necessary for almost all cleaning.|
Now I need to make myself clear: cleaning a rifle with a multi-piece rod will not ruin your gun. If done with care, it is unlikely you will have any significant problems. I have cleaned my .22 for almost 20 years with a three-piece rod and it still shoots a respectable group, provided it is fed good quality ammo. My 30-06 has seen just over ten years of cleaning with the same rod and it shoots as well as ever. For travel, a multi-piece can’t be beat. One recent alternative is the “cable” style cleaning arrangement, the best known of which are the those made by Otis Technology . These “cleaning systems” make use of a sturdy but flexible cable in place of a rigid rod, thereby allowing them to easily be stowed in a pack or range bag. I have not used the Otis systems or anything similar myself, but I know several people who do are very happy with them.
For most rifle cleaning a sturdy, one piece cleaning rod is the way to go. They will not flex and won’t spontaneously unscrew while being run through a bore. If you are cleaning a filthy, neglected bore they hold up better under heavy use than the other models. It would be quite an accomplishment to break one of these rods without intentionally trying. I settled on a stainless steel model but they can also be had in plastic coated, carbon fiber and several other materials as well. Whatever make and material you settle on, be sure to consider length. A 26″ rod will handle most rifles but if you have a barrel of 24″ or longer, 26″ isn’t going to cut it. Of course, longer rods are the most versatile but they are also awkward, especially for short barrels. Most single piece rods will cost 30 dollars or so, and it is money well spent because it is likely to be the last rod you buy.