The Best AR-15 Cleaning Kits

What are the best cleaning kits for your AR-15?

Despite some myths that were circulated in the late 1960s to catastrophic effect in the jungles of Vietnam, the AR15, like any other firearm, needs to be cleaned regularly to maintain maximum effectiveness. 

When it’s time to do so, which you should do after every range session, having the right rifle cleaning kit for the job will make cleaning your AR faster, easier, and produce better results.

The doctor will see you now...

When it comes to cleaning, the name of the game is getting carbon buildup (or ”fouling”) out of all of the nooks and crannies of the gun. “Carbon” in this context refers to sooty deposits that can be found in the barrel, action, chamber, and the exterior of the gun. The fouling is created by unburnt gunpowder which is deposited throughout the components which come in contact with the residue.

No gunpowder will burn completely – and no cartridge will create an air-tight seal in a chamber. These gaps and inefficiencies in powder-burn cause the carbon to work its way throughout a firearm’s action as well as onto the receiver, frame, and stock.

The AR runs fairly dirty compared to its contemporary, the AK 47: this is because the AR has a direct gas impingement system. That means that hot, and very dirty, gas from the barrel gets blown right back into the BCG to cycle the action.

This means chamber cleaning is a major part of ensuring your AR doesn’t get bogged down with excess fouling, which can cause issues with accuracy, cartridge feeding & cycling, jams, or even failure to fire. We’re here to help you pick the best cleaning system to keep your AR running and looking like new.

The Best AR 15 Cleaning Kits:

  1. Best Cleaning Kit: Otis All Caliber Elite Cleaning Kit
  2. Runner-Up: Hoppe’s Deluxe Cleaning Kit
  3. Also Great: Real Avid  Gun Boss Pro Cleaning Kit 
  4. Best Small Kit: Otis AR15 Grip Cleaning Kit
  5. Must-Have Accessory: Tekmat AR-15 Cutaway Mat
Sale
Otis All Caliber Elite Range Box with Universal Gun Cleaning Gear
  • Cleans all rifles pistols shotguns inline muzzleloaders with 100% cotton 2" & 3" patches, 3 Slotted...
  • 4 firearm specific ripcords for quick one-pass Cleaning in the field (. 22/. 223Cal, . 30/. 308Cal,...
  • 5. 56mm B. O. N. E tool quickly and easily cleans the bolt, bolt carrier and firing pin

The All Caliber Elite Cleaning Kit, by Otis Technology, is our experts’ top pick because it has all the things you’d need in a rifle cleaning kit, while also including enough to get any number of other gun cleaning jobs done. 

The inclusion of picks to get at hard- to-reach areas is a great touch, and the kit has a fantastic assortment of brushes, pull-throughs, and patches to clean your AR and any other firearm in your collection.

What We Liked

  • Comes with many of the tools you’d need to clean everything from a .22 to a 12 gauge shotgun
  • The hard case is a nice touch to keep things organized
  • Comes with small sizes of both cleaner and lube to get you started
  • The addition of lens cleaning supplies was a nice touch

What We Didn't Like

  • Doesn’t include CLP
  • The box is large but not particularly well organized
  • The hard case is a little flimsy
Sale
Hoppe's No. 9 Deluxe Gun Cleaning Kit
  • Made for universal cleaning
  • Lubricating oil
  • 3-Piece brass rod

The all-in-one Hoppe’s Deluxe Cleaning Kit is a common place to start: in fact, one of our experts has this one right on his desk. This rod-based cleaning system has some patches, some brushes, a cloth, and the necessary solvents and lubricants to keep guns well maintained. If you already have some tools lying around but want a nice box to put them in, this kit is a good call.

What We Liked

  • Comes with a good supply of lube, cleaner, and patches
  • The wood box is a classic look that we enjoy
  • Push rod-style cleaner comes with a wide variety of tips and brushes
  • The silicone cloth is great for cleaning exterior parts

What We Didn't Like

  • Some people would prefer a bore snake to a rod
  • The plastic insert of the case is a little flimsy
Sale
Real Avid Gun Boss Pro .22cal - .224cal: Gun Cleaning Kit for American Platform Rifles with...
  • Comprehensive cleaning and maintenance kit for America’s favorite platform firearms chambered in...
  • Essential cleaning tools: phosphor bronze bore and specialized chamber brushes, slotted tip, bore...
  • Premium brass rod, 4-sections, combining to up to 29" of length; ergonomic, dual-function T-handle,...

The Real Avid Gun Boss Pro toolset is a great one if you want what you need to clean an AR specifically: the scraper and pin pusher are specialized tools that will come in handy. With this one, though, don’t forget to buy lubricants and solvents separately.

What We Liked

  • Comes with a chamber flag, which we like as a safety practice
  • The case is compact enough for a range bag
  • The rod comes with a nice T-handle for leverage
  • The pin punch will come in handy when things are gunked up

What We Didn't Like

  • We worry the case might crack over time
  • You’ll need to provide any lubricants or cleaners
Sale
Otis Technologies FG-901-5576 Cleaning System, Defender, 5.56mm/7.62mm
  • Fits: 5 5.56mm/7.62mm configurations
  • Memory-flex cables
  • All-purpose receiver brush

If you didn’t already know, standard A2 style pistol grips have a compartment inside of them!  The Otis AR15 compact cleaning kit fits right inside and has what you need to quickly swab the bore. It’s about perfect in case you drop the rifle in the dirt and want to clear it to be safe, or to use if you want to get a head start in cleaning. We’d especially recommend this if you shoot corrosive ammo.

What We Liked

  • This fits in the grip of most AR15s! 
  • Perfect for clearing any debris from a rifle barrel
  • Even the T handle for the bore snake collapses

What We Didn't Like

  • This isn’t a full kit, just an emergency or range kit
  • You’ll need to do a full cleaning later
TekMat Ultra Cutaway Gun Mat for use with AR-15, Black, 15" x 44" (TEK-44-AR15-CA)
  • PROTECT YOUR GUN AND YOUR WORK AREA - The soft surface ensures your gun doesn’t get scratched, and...
  • OVERSIZED DESIGN - This AR15 gun cleaning mat measures 15” x 44” and is. 25” thick. The...
  • QUALITY GUN CLEANING MAT - This gun cleaning mat is waterproof, scratch proof, fade and oil...

To finish up, we’re recommending a cleaning mat that our experts personally use. Tekmats are a great cleaning mat solution, and you can get them with all of the parts of an AR labeled on them, which we like. These have a good bit of padding, so they stay in place and will save your table from dings and stains.

What We Liked

  • Durable cleaning mat that will save your table
  • Come in a wide variety of sizes and patterns
  • Roll up nicely to carry in a range bag

What We Didn't Like

  • This isn’t a cleaning kit, simply a cleaning mat
  • Since they do soak up the solvent, they might get a little oily over time

Conclusion

Here, we’ve looked at some of the best cleaning kits on the market for the AR 15. We think that the Otis All Caliber Elite Cleaning Kit is as good as it gets, especially considering it has everything you’d need to clean about any gun. 

With that said, the other kits here meet more specific needs well. Also, no matter what, we recommend picking up a cleaning mat to keep the finish on your rifle, and your kitchen table, looking great.

Sources:

  1. James Fellows, The Atlantic, M-16: A Bureaucratic Horror Story, June, 1981
  2. Steve Adelmann, Shooting Illustrated, AR-15 Cleaning & Maintenance: A Complete Guide, August 4, 2018
  3. Cameron Hopkins, American Rifleman, AR Operating Systems: Gas Impingement vs. Piston, January 8, 2017
  4. Tim Hofstetter, What is carbon, when discussing gun cleaning?, June 21, 2917
  5. Bryce M. Towsley, American Rifleman, Dealing With Fouling: Getting Out What You Put In, October 23, 2019
  6. Gun News Daily, Here’s What to Do If Your AR-15 MalfunctionsJanuary 10, 2020

MICHAEL CRITES is el jefe around here. He writes about guns and gear.

Read more gun & gear reviews: