How to Use a Bore Snake: The Guide for Beginners

Many of us don’t clean our guns as often as we should. For many, it’s a time-consuming job and we don’t always have time to clean our guns right after use.

Those gun owners in search of a tool that can give a handgun a thorough cleaning in a matter of minutes will fall in love with the bore snake.

When the bore snake first hit the market, most gun enthusiasts thought this tool was just a gimmick, but the bore snake surprised us and offered a better, easier and quick cleanup  method that made gun maintenance fast and simple, especially for shooters out in the field. Now, many of the biggest brands, such as Hoppe’s, produce some of the best bore snakes on the market.

If you’ve been doing a little research, looking for a pull cord bore cleaner that can replace your rod set, the bore snake can be a great option. In this article, I’ll go over what these tools can do, how to use a bore snake, and why you’ll definitely want one.

Regular Gun Maintenance

Most gun owners don’t have much time to set aside to clean their guns after a day at the range, but a responsible gun owner already knows that properly maintaining their firearms is the best way to ensure the gun fires accurately and smoothly. New gun owners are often guilty of failing to clean their guns as regularly as needed, or at all. A bore snake is a type of pull cord tool that you’ll commonly find in a gun maintenance kit or sold alone. Research has shown that the right bore snake can have a huge impact on a gun’s performance, making it one of the best cleaning solutions for the gun owner in need of a tool that works well and is easy to use.

How Does a Bore Snake Work?

Fortunately, learning how to use a bore snake will only take a few minutes.  Using a rod to scrub out a barrel can be a time-consuming process. Unlike other types of gun cleaning tools, what makes the bore snake rope such a popular option is the minimal risk of damaging the barrel of a gun. The bore snake is the perfect tool to use for load development and one that provides a great way to perform light routine maintenance. However, it should not replace quarterly deep cleans.

The bore snake is lightweight, portable and made up of four sections. Each of these sections plays an important role in the routine maintenance process. The bore snake itself looks like a piece of braided rope, with a brass tip.

The compact design of the bore snake is what makes it so portable. Their portability allows you to take your bore snake with you wherever you go, whether it’s on a hunt, your next camping trip, or you’re spending an afternoon at the range.

Are Bore Snakes Better Than a Cleaning Rod?

Yes and No. A bore snake is more portable, easier to use, and will cause less damage to your barrel, if you used correctly. With a rod, you’ll rely on jags and patches to clean out a barrel. This method is used to deep clean a gun, but it’s overkill for a quick clean after the range. A bore snake is a very efficient tool that comes equipped with a brass weight at one end and a bronze brush bristles along the length of the nylon cord. Unlike a rod, you won’t need attachments or pads, you’ll just rely on the bronze brushes to handle the job.

A bore snake is thicker than a rod and most brushes and has a larger surface. Both types of quick cleaning tools have their own pros and cons, but a bore snake is the go-to tool for faster cleanup jobs. With this tool, you can clean the muzzle to remove old powder and carbon fouling, which can have a huge negative impact on how your gun performs.


This tool is typically made out of thick braided nylon, although you may come across some ropes that are made from other types of synthetic materials.

Brass Weight Design

A bore snake has a brass weight, or another type of metal material located on one end for easy navigation. You’ll utilize the brass weight end to help feed it down the length of a barrel. Bore snakes also contain 1-3 sections of bore brush bristles that will give the bore a good scrub. You’ll utilize the last brushing section to apply some gun oil or a CLP.

Find the Right Caliber

Bore snakes don’t have a universal design. Instead, you’ll need to purchase the right caliber of bore snake, otherwise, a tool that’s too large can get stuck in the bore of a small caliber handgun. If you have different caliber handguns and a rifle or two, then you’ll need to purchase a bore snake for each of the barrels. Fortunately, you’ll have no trouble locating a bore cleaner in the caliber you need.


Aside from choosing the right caliber bore snakes, you also need to find a bore cleaner that’s long enough. This can be a problem if you have an extended barrel. Make sure the bore snake you have is one to two inches longer than the barrel. This will give you plenty of room to solidly pull the snake through the barrel.

How to Use a Bore Snake

  • Grab your rifle and handguns, inspecting each barrel to determine what type of damage you’re dealing with. Next, you’ll gather supplies, such as a gun cleaner, gun oil, solvents, and whatever else you normally use for gun maintenance. Lay out your rifle or handguns, then check each one from end to end, to ensure they’re clear, with no magazine and nothing in the chamber.
  • Grab the head of the bore snake and your preferred cleaner and spray the solvent on the metal brush section.
  • Find the bit of the bore snake with the brass weight material and drop the brass section into the barrel of  your rifle or handgun. The head is the end that you’ll pull the bore snake through to clean the bore.
  • Listen for the sound of the bronze bristles making contact with the gun oil that was pulled through by the second section. As the bronze bristles make contact with the grime inside the barrel, you’ll notice that it’s more difficult to pull the bore cleaner through. You also may have issues with a tight barrel fit, if you’re using a snake that isn’t the same caliber as the firearm.
  • The portion of the rope behind the metal bristles is designed to go through the bore smoothly and helps to remove any carbon fouling that was loosened up by the third portion of the snake.
  • The last step is inspecting your work. If the inside of the barrel has a polished look, then you’re done with this tool. However, if you still notice powder, or any carbon fouling left inside, you should make an additional pass with the bore cleaner. Make sure you also check for any grime buildup on the muzzle and the chamber end of the barrel.
  • If it’s been months since you’ve cleaned your firearm, then you may need to run the boresnake through the bore two to three times total. Each round should only take about five minutes.

Can a Bore Snake Damage My Firearm?

Like all types of gun maintenance tools, using a boresnake incorrectly can damage your gun. Before you test it, make sure you carefully read the user’s manual. If you’re still not confident that you’re using it right the first time you can watch some YouTube videos on how to use a bore snake. The point is, don’t use a boresnake on your firearm until you’re confident you know how to operate it correctly.

Don’t Pull Back and Forth

Never pull the brushes back and forth when you’re running a boresnake through the gun bore. When you use a back-and-forth motion, you’re sending the gunk you just removed from the gun back in the direction that was just cleaned. Moving the snake back and forth can also damage your firearm. The bristles on the snake face one direction. When you pull the bore snake in the opposite direction, you’re twisting up the bristles, which can result in scratches on the barrel.

A Bore Snake Does Not Replace Deep Cleans

This tool is designed for a fast and simple way to clean your firearm. They come in handy when you’re short on time, but they’re definitely not meant to replace a proper deep clean. A deep clean usually calls for some jags and a cleaning rod. However, if you’re using the snake at the range or you’re hunting and need a fast way to improve your shot accuracy, a bore snake is the tool you want to keep on hand.

Don’t Deep Clean a Firearm in the Field

For a deep clean, you need to take your firearm apart to clean it thoroughly. However, if you’re camping out or at the range, you don’t have the time or space to take your firearm apart. All it would take is a strong gust of wind and you’ve lost some small parts. When you’re outdoors and you need to remove grime from the barrel a bore snake is the perfect tool to use.

Maintaining a Bore Snake

maintaining a bore snake

Read the owner’s manual carefully. Most models are machine washable. If your snake is filthy from fouling, you can toss it in the wash on gentle. Avoid washing it with your clothing since gunpowder residue and grime can transfer to your clothing during the wash cycle.

You can also wash it by hand in your sink and use a soft bristle brush or rag and pay extra attention to the tool’s floss area. This is the area that will have the most gunk and debris.

Never put this tool in a dryer. Instead, hang it up to air dry. Because any water left in the cord can damage your firearm, make sure you give the tool enough time to dry out completely before use.

Cleaning Frequency

This rope will need a quick cleaning after two to three uses. If you’re using the snake on multiple firearms in one sitting, then toss the tool in the wash after. On average, this type of tool can be washed a few times before it needs to be replaced.

Bore Snakes and AR-15s

If you own a complex firearm, such as an AR-15, then you know the importance of keeping it clean and well-maintained. But if you’ve never used this type of  tool before, then you may not know which tool is better, a cleaning rod or a snake? When precision is required, a cleaning rod is the tool of choice. With a rod, you can clean out the barrel thoroughly, more so than with a snake. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to rely on a rod for every maintenance job. Additionally, rods can cause damage to the crown or muzzle of a gun, if not used carefully. This type of damage can negatively impact an AR-15’s shooting accuracy. Rods may have a better reputation for doing an excellent job of removing fouling, but if you need a gun cleaner you can rely on for fast and easy cleanup, then this tool is definitely the way to go.

This tool is easier and faster to operate, and you won’t need to take your gun apart to clean the bore. There’s also a lower risk of damaging a bore with this tool versus a cleaning rod.

Bore Snake Tips

  • Instead of using a lubricant and a solvent on the same tool, purchase two snakes. One tool can be used for solvent, while the second one can be used to lubricate the bore.
  • You can add some oil to the very last section of the tool. This will leave behind a light coating of oil.
  • When you’re done using the tool, always make sure that you wipe your gun down.
  • These tools are highly portable and can be used at home or outdoors. This means you can bring it along on your next hunting or camping trip.
  • If you’re using the tool on a pistol, make sure it’s fed through in a straight line.
  • When feeding the cord through the bore, avoid holding a pistol by the grip. Instead, you need to hold the open revolver under the base by the chamber or lay it down on the table.

Read Bore Snake Reviews

You’ll come across many sites and forums where editors have put together an article that discusses the pros and cons of using this type of tool for bore cleaning. These editors usually offer great information regarding bore snake quality and why it can be a great alternative to cleaning rods. Usually, this type of article will also recommend a product or two, such as the best bore snake for a certain caliber. This is the type of article you want to pay attention to, especially if the editor has personal experience using a specific product, so they can provide great feedback based on their research.

In Search of the Right Tool for the Gunsmith

While it’s clear to many of us that this type of tool can’t compare to the type of deep clean that you’ll enjoy with a rod and some patches, it has proven to be a great choice for a quick clean, when you’re not at home, or when you are, and you simply don’t have time to sit down with your gun maintenance supplies and get to work.

Unfortunately, a lot of us are guilty of not cleaning our firearms as often as we should. This tool offers the solution that many of us are looking for, and that’s one that’s easy to operate and does an excellent job of cleaning out a bore within a matter of five minutes.

Our Product Recommendation-Hoppes Bore Snake

The Hoppes bore snake is equipped with a bronze brush designed to scrub and remove carbon fouling. The tail of the tool removes loose debris from the muzzle, for a fast and simple gun cleaning process. The Hoppes bore snake features a compact design and a small carrying case and handle, for easier transport. Basically, the Hoppes bore snake will be the perfect addition to any range bag or bug out bag. You’ll come across many posts online dedicated to this particular model. Why? It’s durable, versatile, and simple to operate. It’s also available in several different calibers, so you should have no trouble finding the right size for the guns in your collection.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to use a bore snake gives you a fast and easy cleaning solution after the end of a long day hunting in the backcountry. Many people don’t want to bring their entire gun maintenance kit with them when they’re camping or hunting. But a dip in performance can happen if you fired your gun several times. That’s what makes this tool so valuable. It will be a true asset when you’re in the field and need a quick way to improve shot accuracy and to remove fouling.

Now that you know how to use a bore snake, you can take better care of your firearms by cleaning out the bore the minute you notice a dip in firing accuracy. These tools are effective, affordable, and should be part of any gun owner’s maintenance kit. However, it should not be used in place of a true deep clean. Instead, these tools are a better choice if you want to quickly clean your gun after a day hunting or at the range, or if you need a boresnake you can rely on to clean out your barrel when you’re hunting or practicing at the range.

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