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How to Properly Use a Bore Snake

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​Knowing how to use a bore snake is a great backup cleaning solution to your regular deep-cleaning kit. You can easily carry one or more folded-up bore snakes in different calibers with you while practicing at a shooting range or out hunting.

You may not want to carry your bulky cleaning kit case around with you, but a bore snake will clean your firearm quickly whenever and wherever you need it in the field. However, you need to know how to use a bore snake properly to maximize its value.

First, we look at what a bore snake does.

​How to Use a Bore Snake

​The simple overview of how to use a bore snake is that you first feed the brass weight into the bore at the chamber end of your firearm. Then, grab the weight when it comes out the other end. The second thicker section, with an applied cleaner solution, is pulled through next, to soften any grime.

The third section, consisting of one or two embedded copper brushes, removes and carries the grime and particles out the muzzle. The last and fourth section oils the bore of the barrel on the way out.

Green bore snake tied with a blue ribbon

There is more to this process on how to use bore snake techniques effectively. We give you the complete step-by-step process further on in this article. First, here is how to choose the right one for your firearm.

​How to Select the Right Bore Snake

​There are many different brands available to choose from, as well as places to buy one. If ordering online, choose a reputable brand. Make sure when you get it, it is in the manufacturer’s packaging and not a plastic bag.

Always check customer comments about their experiences with the product, for both negative and positive feedback. You may learn enough from them about whether to buy it or not.

You may use a varied choice of firearms you want to buy bore snakes for. Make a list first of what calibers go with each firearm (rifle, pistol, shotgun) you use often. Then, enter the caliber information into the brand website store’s search box, such as the term “.357 bore snake.”

Close up of a green bore snake that has a checkered print

You should receive a list of available kits that apply in this caliber range, which would be for pistols and revolvers using .357, 9mm, .380, and .38 ammunition.

Or, you can search for “rifle bore snake.” Once you get your list, select a brand kit that gives you the choice to select the caliber needed from a drop-down list. The caliber designations are shown on the front of the package.

When you receive the package, look everything over. Most of all, be sure the caliber is inscribed on the brass weight. This is important if you have several bore snakes that go to different firearms. You do not accidentally want to use the wrong caliber bore snake for the firearm you are using that day.

We have an in-depth review on the best bore snake on the market. Give it a read before making your final decision.

​Parts of a Bore Snake

​When we speak of the caliber of a bore snake, this relates to the copper brush that is embedded in the material of the snake, called the bore brush. This is like the caliber of brush you would have in your standard deep-cleaning kit that is screwed on to the end of a cleaning rod during your deep-cleaning sessions.

​Brass Weight

​The bore snake, as previously said, has a small elongated brass weight at one end that fits into any barrel size. The weight is attached to a heavy-duty fiber rope about the same width dimension. You hold and pull on this, once the weight and rope have come through the barrel.

​Cleaning Solution Application

​The next section of the snake is made of a thicker, tough but absorbent material, on which you apply a cleaner solution. This solution dissolves any grime or dirt in the bore as it passes through.

​Copper Brushes

​The third section is formed of the copper brush, which “scrubs” whatever dirt is left on the bore surface. Some manufacturers have two brushes embedded in the material, giving a double-scrubbing action as the snake goes through.

Close up of a bore snake's copper brushes
Source: guncleaninghq.com

​Dry and Oil

​The fourth, and final section of the bore snake is the same durable material, on which you add oil at the very end of the material. The front of the fourth section dries the cleaner from inside the bore as the snake is pulled through. As the last part passes through and out the muzzle, the oil coats the surface of the bore.

​Using the Bore Snake in the Shooting Range or in the Field

​Some videos of professionals using the bore snake, take apart the firearm and clean each part of it, including running the bore snake through the barrel.

Taking apart the firearm to clean it is a preferred method from time to time while doing a full-out deep cleaning. However, you do not want to do this while on the shooting range or in the field while at the campsite.

The most obvious reason would be in losing any small parts, such as springs when a big gust of wind blows up. Instead, we look at using the bore snake with the firearm intact as if we were at the shooting range or spending a weekend out on a hunting trip.

​Quick Cleaning

​Many shooters now use a bore snake to quickly take care of any problematic grime build-up during the shooting session.

If your bore is getting a grimy build-up more often than normal, you may need to check the powder of your ammunition. Check to see if it is dirty powder, rather than clean powder that leaves far less residue.

​Quality Powder Check

​Check with your ammunition provider to give you the information you need about the powder in your ammunition. You may need to buy a cleaner powder ammunition brand. If you are reloading your own brass, check on using a different cleaner powder.

​Quality Check Bore Snake

​If you have been using your bore snake regularly to clean your firearm, check first if you need to wash the bore snake. Then, check it for any frayed sections, such as the pull rope in the first section of the snake. Any frayed sections should be re-secured with a quick sewing job before you head out, or before you store everything away in​ a good firearm case on the market.

A white and green bore snake inserted through a rifle
Source: brigadeqm.com

​Bore Snake Packing

​You can use a plastic bag that seals at the top, in which you can put in your bore snake, cleaning fluids, and oil for easy transport. Always check that you are pulling out the right caliber bore snake when getting ready to clean the firearm.

Add in a soft cloth for cleaning the outside of your firearm too. Carry everything in a small shooting bag that holds what you need. Your unloaded firearm goes in a suitable padded carry case.

​Looking for the best storage unit for your ​firearms – make sure to check out our buying guide!

​6 Steps on How to Properly Use a Bore Snake

​Before starting your bore snake cleaning process, drop your magazine out if using a semi-automatic handgun, for example. Then pull the slide back to eject any ammunition currently sitting in the chamber.

If you have been shooting for several hours, you may forget there is still one in the chamber. Make sure any firearm is safe. Check it twice, maybe three times.

If using a semi-automatic firearm, lock the slide back in the open position. If you have a break-open shotgun, complete steps 1 and 2 below, and lay it open on a soft but flat surface. Use this same process with any other long barrel firearms.

If you are using a revolver, open (or remove) the cylinder, push the cylinder rod to remove the cartridges, leave it open, and complete steps 1 and 2 below, while firmly grasping the frame base from underneath the barrel by the chamber. Now we move to reviewing the expanded version of properly using a bore snake.

Step 1: Prepare the Second Section of the Bore Snake with Cleaner

​Apply your cleaner on the first section of the thicker material, found before the scrub brush(es), which we called the second section earlier. Let the cleaner soak in but not for too long.

​Step 2: Feed the Brass Weight into the Bore

​Open your firearm and, while holding your firearm with the muzzle pointed downwards, slide the brass weight in at the chamber end of the barrel. Gravity guides the weight down through the muzzle. Always feed your bore snake from the chamber end to the muzzle. Not the other way around.

Close up of a bore snake brass weight
Source: 3gun.pl

At this point, if this is a rifle or a shotgun, you will lay it down on a padded firm surface. You can also do this with a semi-automatic handgun, or you can hold it under the frame base, like you will have to for a revolver.

​Step 3: Feed the Rope through the Barrel

​Once the weight exits the muzzle, lay your firearm on a flat protected surface. Begin pulling the rope section through in a straight line, until you meet resistance when the thicker material hits the chamber end.

​Step 4: Set the Thicker Material Directly into the Barrel

​This part can be a little difficult as the thicker material may, initially, give some resistance going in. You will need to first guide and set the thicker tip into the barrel before pulling hard on the bore snake at the other end.

This is to make sure that when the embedded brush goes into the bore, it is also straight and aligned properly. It is important that you pull the bore snake in a direct line rather than at an angle.

You want to avoid embedded brushes that go in angled and may get stuck or scrape the bore the wrong way. That can leave marks in the bore which will change the accuracy of your ammunition.

As the brush section does its work, the dry material coming through behind it, dries and carries out any grime and particles found in the bore.

​Step 5: Oil the End Piece of the Bore Snake

​Before the fourth section of bore snake fully enters the chamber end of the barrel, add lubricating oil on the end material. Let it soak in, and then pull the bore snake all the way out through the muzzle. The oil coats the dried bore and protects it against moisture and potential rust.

​Step 6: Check the Bore for Residue

​Once you clear the bore snake through the muzzle, hold the barrel up to the light and look through the bore to see if there is any remaining residue. If so, repeat the bore snake cleaning process again to get it out.

You can also invest in a portable basic borescope. This gives a closer view of your bore and how clean it is, including any bore scoring that might be occurring.

Photo of a borescope being used within a gun

You also want to check for grime on the edges at both the chamber end of your barrel and at the muzzle. You can remove any buildup with your cleaner and a patch cloth or soft cloth.

​How to Use a Bore Snake on a Pistol

​Earlier, we briefly touched on how to use bore snake on a pistol, which is any handgun that is not a revolver. Clear your pistol first, then continue with steps 1 through 6 above.

It is very important to feed the snake through in a straight line from the chamber end of the barrel to the muzzle, and out.

Never hold the pistol by the grip while feeding the bore snake through. Lay the pistol down or hold the open revolver underneath its base by the chamber.


​Once you have finished with the bore snake, be sure to use a clean soft cloth to wipe your firearm clean of any outer debris. You can continue with your shooting practice or safely store your firearm until the next time.

James Forrester is a lifelong gun and firearms owner, and an even bigger advocate for gun safety. He created KeepGunsSafe.com with the purpose of sharing helpful tips and educating others on how to keep guns and weapons safe and secure.