Swab-its Gun Tips & Bore Tips—A Good Idea

Bore Tips and Gun Tips are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

Bore Tips and Gun Tips are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

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 small Gun Tips do a great job in the star of an AR.

The small Gun Tips do a great job in the star of an AR.

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 Bore Tips are snug and really scrub the barrel

The Bore Tips are snug and really scrub the barrel

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!

Gun Tips can reach and clean places that might otherwise require a detail strip.

Gun Tips can reach and clean places that might otherwise require a detail strip.

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.

If used with solvent or cleaner, the Tips can usually be blotted clean

If used with solvent or cleaner, the Tips can usually be blotted clean

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.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • bob March 10, 2014, 6:35 pm

    I use these for my bore on ebay, called a bore wire. There are copper and stainless versions. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=171064988460

    I just cut up paper towels for the patches, or old t-shirts or old socks. For lube, I use synthetic motor old made for racing which has more zinc/ZDDP for metal to metal contact protection, it prevents galling etc. Then, brake cleaner to blast everything clean. There are lots of ways to spend big bucks for all this cleaning, but there are also lots of ways to save big bucks & use lubes already in your garage or lubes you can get cheap. A 16 oz container of Valvoline VR1 racing oil goes a long way when used for gun lube. I found the bore wire when doing research on the bore snake but decided that spending 15 bucks for a bore snake for each caliber I own was a bunch of BS as the bore wire will clean any caliber and does not get dirty like a bore snake that gets used over and over, the bore wire is super cheap and works perfect.

  • Austin February 28, 2014, 9:10 pm

    I just placed an order for 6 .30/7.62mm Swab-its to use on my Mosin’s “uncleanable” bore. I plan to leave a reply to this comment once I use them, so stay tuned.
    By the way, shipping to the continental USA is FREE!

    • Austin March 8, 2014, 12:11 am

      I have now received and used Swab-its on my rifle. My first impression was that these are a good idea economically, as $7 pack of 6 swab-its should give more cleanings than a pack of 500 patches which costs about $10. My first swab has been used for about 30 passes and still looks like new, with no indication that it will fall apart in twice as many more.
      The Mosin finally got the last of the WWII crud out of its corners with the help of Swab-its and an oversized brush, revealing some pitting underneath. I suspect that the pitting is why it was so hard to clean in the first place. The foam expanded nicely into the pits and irregularities to clean out solvent and carbon alike.
      The foam is easy to push through the bore, and I found that going slowly gives the best result. The soft foam probably contributes to the life of the product, as it wipes away the dirt with minimal pressure against the metal. Since they are so gentle on the barrel, I wouldn’t hesitate to use these to clean a varmint or target rifle. This leads me to the one issue that I found; they take a few more passes than a properly fitted patch and jag to get everything out of a good condition bore. On the other hand, many casual shooters just use a scrap of thin cloth in an eyelet jag, so this would be a major step in the right direction. The other common “convenient patch alternative,” the bore snake, takes more time and effort to clean after cleaning the bore a few times. You can just blot this off between passes and clean with spirits or solvent when you are done.
      One little thing: Swab-its can soak up a LOT of fluid, and when I saturated it with solvent then pushed a brush through the bore, it was so swamped that dirty solvent sprayed out the end! Keep a shop rag near the muzzle.
      Would I buy these again? Yes, and I plan to.

  • Mike February 28, 2014, 3:32 pm

    Thank you for the great product review.
    Just some quick notes:
    Bore-tips® are threaded to fit on standard 8/32 and 5/16-27 cleaning rods.
    Bore-tips® are not recommended for use with solvents designed to remove plastic.
    Also, just want to offer everyone here 10% off their first order, use coupon code “gunsamerica” to save 10% off your first order on swab-its.com.

    • Administrator March 1, 2014, 8:14 pm

      geez thanks Mike!

  • Peaver Bogart February 24, 2014, 2:27 pm

    What about bamboo skewers and cotton balls? It’s a heck of a lot cheaper and does just as well.

  • ABS February 24, 2014, 1:57 pm

    Yes, they are compatable with Otis systems …

  • ABS February 24, 2014, 1:54 pm

    Just use diswashing liquid and water to clean your Swab It’s … dab them with a paper towel and let them dry before next use. I’ve been using this method for over a year now and it works great. Swab It’s are great !

  • Evan February 24, 2014, 10:20 am

    I’d also like to know how solidly made these bore tips are. I don’t want the foam popping off the plastic while I’m trying to swab my bore, then I have to dig out a rigid cleaning rod and poke it through.

    • Justin Opinion February 24, 2014, 12:22 pm

      Years ago (nevermind how many…) I worked in a manufacturing plant, and we used amazing foam swabs for industrial purposes, some for very special jobs and some for general purpose. They were indestructible and were always discarded because they were filthy, not because they were torn, etc. It didn’t really occur to me until after I had completed this review, but I am 99% sure this is the same brand – Swab-It’s – that makes these.
      My time with them on the bench has indicated they are very strong and reliable. I will buy more.

  • Chris michael February 24, 2014, 9:45 am

    Why not throw a patch over one, thereby keeping the bore tip clean, but still taking advantage of the uniform pressure provided by the foam.

    • Justin Opinion February 24, 2014, 12:06 pm

      Chris – that’s a pretty good idea! I might just have to try that. Only downside I can think of offhand is that the patch might “fold” and “bunch” and create little gaps. But worth trying!

  • Vann February 24, 2014, 9:18 am

    Good review. I’d be a little wary of the tips. I’m constantly poking patches into sharp places on the inside workings if handguns to get them really clean. 🙂 At a buck a pop I’d probably tear them up. I’ve been shooting Glocks for years so I use Q-tips for small places, a brush, patch, 10W-30 synthetic motor oil for lube (works fantastic on all guns especially full auto) and brake cleaner when actually cleaning to wash everything away and leave a “dry” gun before lubrication.

    • Shooter February 24, 2014, 10:07 am

      Vann, I heard that brake cleaner can actually make firearm metals more brittle…is that true, or an old wive’s tale?

      • Austin March 8, 2014, 12:24 am

        It can damage polymer (read: Glocks, AR-15s with poly receivers, some stocks, plastic buffers, etc.) but should not damage steel if you oil it IMMEDIATELY after use. The brake cleaner completely gets rid of the oil, and if you live in a humid climate, this can be a real problem. It can also damage some finishes.
        What you said comes from the Army refusing to use brake cleaner on the aluminum M16. I doubt that it would damage aluminum, but to my knowledge no scientific testing was ever carried out. Folks in the automotive world use brake cleaner on aluminum parts regularly, so that should tell you something.

  • Michael February 24, 2014, 7:21 am

    Looks like an interesting product that I’ll have to try. I’m especially interested in the specialty tips to reach areas Q-tips and patches just don’t get to. I’ve already invested a bit in items that clean bores pretty well, so until I run through my supply of brushes, mops, etc. I think I’d save a few bucks.

    One thing you didn’t mention is how they did threading onto standard cleaning rods or “cable system” kits like Otis produces. Did the plastic bore tips thread on smoothly and easily? Did they get chewed up in long barreled rifles at all? A follow up of your experience would be helpful.

    But I appreciate the well done review.

    • Justin Opinion February 24, 2014, 12:04 pm

      Michael – the tips thread on easily (actually some Hoppe’s tips and attachments have been plastic for years) and I didn’t experience any problems with them ‘holding up’ to the task. I didn’t run them through anything longer than an AR barrel, but I don’t think you’d have any problem as long as you size the Bore Tip to the caliber. Of course with any plastic thread to a metal rod you have to be careful not to cross-thread or it can damage the threads. Otherwise they go on and off many many times with no problems at all. Good question – thanks for asking it!

  • DD February 24, 2014, 6:04 am

    Great review. Thanks alot.

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