Bore Snake: Review & How To Use

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As a gun owner, there are certain items that are “must haves”. This includes things like a good holster for your EDC (everyday carry) gun, a reliable pair of ear pro, and a bore snake. However, far too many gun owners do not even own a bore snake, much less know how to use one.

With that in mind, we have created this simple step-by-step guide to using a bore snake. We outline how to properly clean your rifle or handgun with a bore snake so that you can keep your weapons in top working condition all year round. 

What Is A Bore Snake?

a photo showing different types of bore snakes
Bore snakes range in size from rimfire calibers up to shotgun gauges.

Put simply, bore snakes look somewhat like coiled pieces of rope. Depending on the brand that you purchase, it should include some small bronze bristles about midway down. However, I have seen a few cheap ones that are made entirely of a cloth-like material. These do not include an actual wire brush section. It is important to note that bore snakes are caliber specific, so you will need to purchase the correct size for your weapons.

Bore snakes are much simpler than traditional cleaning rods and offer several distinct benefits too. These include:

Compact Size

If you are looking for a minimalist cleaning kit, bore snakes are the way to go. These simple cleaning devices can be rolled up into a small bundle and easily tucked away into your range bag. Plus, breaking out a bore snake is much easier than assembling a two-foot-long metal cleaning rod to run down the barrel of your rifle. 

Less Risk of Damage

When used properly, cleaning rods are a completely safe and effective means of removing debris from your barrel. However, many gun owners do not use cleaning rods correctly. This means that they can potentially damage the muzzle of their weapons. Ultimately, this can reduce the accuracy and performance of the weapon.

Bore snakes are a much safer alternative. While there is certainly a right and wrong way to use a bore snake, the risk of damage when they are used improperly is much lower. 

Easy to Use

The softness and flexibility of bore snakes make them easy to use, even in the hands of the most inexperienced shooters. You can run it through your barrel a few times and eliminate any harmful debris build-up in just a few minutes. When you are finished, simply roll it up and stow it back in your range bag or cleaning kit. 

How To Clean A Rifle With A Bore Snake

a photo of a dissembled ar-15 rifle
When cleaning with a bore snake, always be sure to start at the breech end of the barrel.
  1. Now that you know the perks of using a bore snake for gun cleaning, let’s break down this process step-by-step. As always, your first step should be to clear your rifle or long gun. This means removing the magazine (if applicable) and ensuring that the chamber is completely empty. I recommend developing the habit of checking your chamber at least two or three times as an added precaution.
  2. Now, you are ready to start cleaning. Start by spraying your go-to solvent on the section of the bore snake that has the bristles. If I am wrapping up a high-volume range day, I also like to spray some directly into the barrel and allow it to sit for a minute. 
  3. Next, drop the brass weight down into the barrel. Always start from the chamber side and run the string out of the muzzle of the gun. Once the weighted string has been fed through, pull the bore snake until it passes completely through your barrel. You should feel a fair amount of resistance.
  4. Never pull the bore snake back and forth through the barrel. Always go the same direction every time, starting at the chamber and feeding it out of the muzzle. Repeat this process 3-5 times or until you are satisfied that your barrel is fairly clean. Once you are finished, complete other cleaning steps as normal.

Cleaning A Handgun With A Bore Snake

While bore snakes are ideal for cleaning rifles and shotguns, they are also quite useful when used with handguns as well. Like before, start by ensuring that your magazine has been ejected and the chamber is empty.

Next, lock the slide to the rear and spray solvent as appropriate. Again, I like to spray the solvent directly into the barrel from the chamber side and allow it to run down towards the muzzle. I also apply solvent to the bronze brushes on the bore snake. 

Carefully feed the weighted tip of the string from the chamber towards the muzzle. Pull the bore snake through the barrel until it has been completely removed. Repeat this process 3-5 times or until your barrel has been adequately cleaned. 

Once again, it is important to reiterate that you should never pull the bore snake back and forth within the barrel. Doing so can damage the rifling of the barrel. Also, ensure that you use the correct caliber bore snake. Too large of a bore snake may get stuck while one that is too small may not adequately clean your gun.

How Often Should You Clean Your Weapon?

If you take care of your weapon, it will take care of you. With that said, the exact cleaning intervals that you should follow vary depending on several factors. For instance, rifles that you only break out during hunting season do not need to be cleaned as frequently as your EDC pistol.

Generally, I recommend cleaning hunting rifles and shotguns at the outset of the season and at the conclusion. If you take it to the range to properly sight it in, clean it after that trip as well. As long as you clean and oil it properly after hunting season ends, it should be fine until the following season. 

However, handguns need to be cleaned much more frequently, especially if you carry it every single day. Daily carry guns should be cleaned every time you take them to the range. Which, I hope for you is at least every few months. In addition, you should give them a preventative cleaning monthly. This is because the rigors of daily carry can cause dust and debris to accumulate in the crevices of the handgun.

Review: How Well Does It Work?

a photo of a sig p320 handgun with a bore snake
The bore snake is a useful addition to your range bag for quick cleaning.

The bore snake is easy to use and stows conveniently in your range bag. After cleaning four handguns, and two AR-15 rifles, I can say the bore snake clears about 85-90% of visible debris from the barrel. The average time spent cleaning was about five minutes per gun or thirty minutes total to clean all six guns. Clean up on the bore snakes was easy, I soaked them in my laundry sink with liquid dish soap, then washed them clean in about five minutes. 

Is it the most thorough way to clean a gun? No, not even close. However, it is an excellent quick cleaning solution. Time is valuable, and there’s no reason to spend more of it cleaning up after a trip to the gun range. The bore snake gets the job done, quickly and efficiently. It’s a great option for immediate cleaning that will remove most harmful debris from your gun’s chamber and barrel.  

Regardless of what weapons your current stable of guns includes, it is important that you properly maintain them. While I suggest having a complete cleaning kit on hand, a good bore snake is an excellent addition to your kit. This convenient and easy-to-use tool is just what you need to give your gun a quick cleaning following a trip to the range or trek on the trails.

My overall rating of the Bore Snake: 4.5/5 4.5 out of 5 stars