By Justin Opinion
If you’re anything like me, you have all kinds of tools, patches, swabs, solvents, and favorite rags for cleaning your guns. I’m old enough to remember when there was but one way to clean a gun – Hoppe’s No. 9, a firm brush, and lots of patches. While those items are still within easy reach on my bench, I have also been happy to embrace new ideas – especially if they save me time or money! The folks at Swab-its have a product line that they say does just that. Gun Tips and Bore Tips are foam swabs that come in many shapes and sizes and are engineered to provide superior cleaning and easy re-use. I put an assortment of these swabs to the test.
There are generally two kinds of gun owners when it comes to cleaning the guns: those who clean the gun thoroughly after every use; and those who try to see how long the gun can go without cleaning and still run. I belong to the former group. I’ve always looked at cleaning my guns as quality time with a loved one, and if I can’t be shooting it – I might as well be cleaning it. But I know a good number of people in the other category too, who see it as a chore to be done infrequently and quickly. The good news is that the Swab-it products will make both groups happy.
The product line is separated into two main categories: Gun Tips and Bore Tips. The latter is more self-explanatory, so I’ll start there. Bore Tips are designed to clean your bore and come in a large variety of caliber sizes for handguns, rifles and shotguns.
The swabs are made of tight-celled foam over a plastic stem that is threaded and ready to go onto your favorite cleaning rod. The Bore Tips are well designed and easy to use. Simply apply your favorite solvent to the swab, getting 360-degree coverage, and run it through the bore. The usage is similar to a bore mop, but the advantage is that these swabs make a tight form-fit into your chamber and barrel and perform very even cleaning and lubricating. The foam is oversized and compresses into the bore, which ensures uniform application and friction.
Gun Tips are of similar construction, but are produced in a variety of shapes and sizes and are intended for general cleaning and lubricating. I found the assortment of Gun Tips meets a number of gun cleaning needs. There are spade-like rectangular swabs that fit wonderfully into grooves and nooks. There are rounded cylindrical swabs of different sizes that are perfect for channels and-hard to-reach places. Specialty shapes that have pointed cone-shaped ends allow surgeon-like accuracy with a cleaner or lubrication. If you’ve ever tried to make a cotton swab fit in places it was never meant to, or have folded a patch over a small screwdriver or punch to try and clean a hard to reach cranny… you will love these!
I used the Swab-its tips in handguns and rifles with various cleaning products and lubricants. The swabs were compatible with everything I tried, including alcohol. I also used them dry in places where I don’t like to introduce solvents, such as near firing pins or action springs, etc. Even dry, these swabs have an abrasion and grip that really mops up the grime. I found that one of the most valuable applications for the Gun Tips is the precision application of oil or other lubricants. With the small pointed swab, you can apply the oil to the swab and then dab, stipple or wipe just the right amount onto a small hard-to -each part.
One important claim that Swab-its makes is that these foam tips can be easily cleaned and re-used. This was an important test for me, because these things cost roughly $1 apiece. As a once-and-done product I would have to pass – too rich for my blood. But if I can get half-dozen or so uses from them, then we’re talking. I found the foam tips are cleanable and reusable – but with some caveats. The Bore-Tips, if pre-treated with solvent and blotted immediately after use, do clean up pretty well. Good enough to use over and over again. The Gun-Tips tend to get dirtier, and because of where I used them they are picking up a mixture of soot, grime and lubricants. Cleaning these took more work. I tried using household dishwashing detergent (the stuff that is tough on grease), but it did very little to clean them. I also tried cleaning them with alcohol, but it also came up short. For a very dirty swab, I found the only thing that really cleaned them well was a solvent. The one I had the best success with was “Gun Scrubber”, a spray solvent that contains Trichloroethylene (nasty stuff, if you’re not familiar with it). It gets them good and clean, but be careful how and where you use it!
My conclusion is that the Swab-its tips are a good idea, work great and make a welcome addition to anyone’s arsenal of cleaning tools. Don’t throw out your patches, bore snakes or favorite rag… you will still use them. But these swabs definitely have a place in my cleaning kit, and I think in yours too.