View Full Version : Swab-Its review

Harwood Loomis
7th August 2017, 15:09

Bore-Tips® Reusable Foam Gun Cleaning Swabs


When your gun cleaner is dirty, just clean it

Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis

There are some things in life that are inescapable. Among them, of course, are death and taxes. For those of us who shoot, another is cleaning our firearms. How much, how well, and how often we should clean is the subject of considerable debate but, sooner or later, clean we must. For some of us, cleaning a firearm is like the proverbial Saturday night bath: something to be undertaken once a year, whether we need it or not. Others may prefer to clean their guns after every trip to the range. However often (or however infrequently) you clean your guns, when you get around to doing it you need cleaning supplies to accomplish the task: solvents, brushes, patches, and something to provide lubrication and prevent rust.

As an old dog, I tend to be resistant to changes. In my view, if I have a product that has been serving my needs well for years (or decades), anything that comes along claiming to be new and improved is automatically suspect. Thus it was that I was not overly enthusiastic when I was asked to take a look at a new line of gun cleaning products, based on a bore wipe that’s reusable and washable. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I responded to our contact at Swab-Its® to arrange for a sample of the product to be sent to me for evaluation.

I’ll admit off the top that I apparently misunderstood something in the initial communication I received from Swab-Its®, because I thought they said they offered the product only in .30 caliber and a couple of others. I don’t own anything chambered in what I thought were the other calibers, but I do own an M1 Garand from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), so I arranged for my sample to be in .30 caliber. The problem is that I generally shoot at an indoor range that doesn’t allow centerfire rifle calibers, and I rarely get to an outdoor range where I can unlimber the old war horse. I wasn’t sure that using the new product to clean an already clean bore would be much of an evaluation.

Upon reviewing the literature that arrived with my sample product, I discovered that Swab-Its® does offer the Bore-Tips® product in .45 caliber after all. (Oops. I guess I need a remedial reading class.) Not wanting the folks at Swab-Its® to think I was trying to con them out of cleaning supplies for an entire company of militia, I swallowed my pride and ordered a set of Bore-Tips® in .45 caliber. I shoot 1911s regularly, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before there would be an opportunity to put the new product through its paces.

The Unboxing

It seems that while I was napping an entirely new genre of videos has arrived on Youtube: the unboxing video. For those who have thus far been spared the agony, these are videos produced by and starring people who think it’s vitally important to create a video of them opening the box in which a new firearm arrives. And that’s basically it. There’s no product review, no range session, nothing other than “Look! Here’s the box. Here I am opening the box. And here’s the Mega Blaster XYZ-23 Mark IV that came in the box. Doesn’t it look swell?”

Relax, we’ll spare you most of that. What we initially received from the folks at Swab-Its® was a sample of their multi-caliber Bore-Whips™, and a pack of six Bore-Tips® in .30 caliber. To that I added a pack of Bore-Tips® in .45 caliber. And that’s basically the heart of their system.

The Bore-Tips® with the Bore-Whip™

The Bore-Whip™ is a 45-inch long length of flexible plastic, set up with a threaded adapter on one end into which can be screwed any of the various calibers of Bore-Tips®. The fact that the whip is flexible allows it to be fed into any barrel, even a rifle barrel, from the chamber end and pulled through from the muzzle. Careless cleaning with metallic cleaning rods jammed into the muzzle can damage the crown and degrade the accuracy of a barrel. The ability to feed cleaning tools from the chamber end avoids that problem. In addition, the plastic isn’t hard enough to cause any damage to the rifling as it passes through the barrel.

The Bore-Whip™

Most of us probably use patches for cleaning our barrels. When I was growing up and learning to shoot, all we had was patches and bore brushes. Even the inexpensive, basic gun cleaning kits sold at places like Wal-Mart generally include an initial supply of patches, along with a cleaning rod (metallic, so be careful with it!), a tip with a loop to hold a patch, maybe a jag, and typically a small bottle of solvent and a small bottle of some kind of gun oil. And that’s all you need to get started maintaining that new Mega Blaster XYZ-23 Mark IV—until you’ve used up that initial supply of patches. Wal-Mart will sell you another cleaning kit, but they don’t sell replacement patches. You can order them on line, of course, but they’ll arrive in a week or ten days, and you need them tonight. Now what? If you’re like me, you look for your oldest, most threadbare tee-shirt and start cutting it into little squares.

Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about running out of patches? That’s the idea behind the Bore-Tips® product. Rather than disposable squares of cotton cloth that are thrown away after each use, these are molded lumps of resilient foam, mounted in a plastic shank that’s threaded to fit a standard 8-32 cleaning rod as well as the adapter on the end of their proprietary Bore-Whip™. The magic of this is that the foam cleaning tips can be washed and reused, time after time. They are fully symmetrical, so the bore of your barrel receives uniform cleaning. And they are claimed to be lint-free, so they won’t leave anything in the barrel.

The Bore-Tips®

But do they work?

Yes, they do work. The system is intended to be used in a progression: wet the first Bore-Tip® with your preferred solvent and run it through the bore to start loosening whatever is in there. Although the Bore-Whip™ is intended for this purpose, I was testing the system on a .45 caliber 1911, and running a 45-inch whip through a 3½-inch barrel seemed like a bit of overkill, so I took the standard cleaning rod from a handgun cleaning kit purchased at Wal-Mart and screwed the first Bore-Tip® into that. The plastic threads are industry standard, so it went right on.

The Bore-Tip® installed on the author’s cleaning rod

After allowing the solvent to work for a few minutes, the instructions say to follow with a bore brush to loosen caked-on deposits. After the brush, attach a fresh Bore-Tip® to the rod (or whip), wet that with a small amount of solvent, and run that through the bore several times to remove the dirt. Then attach another fresh Bore-Tip® to the rod or whip and run that through the barrel to dry it.

The tips come in sets of six, so you can use a progression of two or three during the solvent stage to progressively clean the bore. If you’re going to be storing the firearm after cleaning, a last Bore-Tip® can be moistened with your favorite lubricant/protectant and run through the barrel once to leave a film of lubricant to resist rust.

One of the minor problems (or perhaps I should say “annoyances,” since it hasn’t really been a PROBLEM in more than 60 years of shooting and cleaning firearms) is that a patch, whether pushed through on a jag or run through on a loop, is never really symmetrical. It needs to be run through the barrel a couple or three times to be sure all sides of the bore have been equally cleaned. The Bore-Tips®, being foam plastic, are fully symmetrical and provide uniform coverage all the way around as they travel through the barrel. This may reduce the number of passes needed to achieve the desired level of cleaning.

The Bore-Tip® on the author’s cleaning rod, shown on a final cleaning pass

Re-using Bore-Tips®

The “hook” to the Bore-Tips® system is that the foam tips can be cleaned and re-used multiple times. No more need to buy patches, or look for old tee shirts to cut up. The instructions say the tips can be cleaned using either mineral spirits (paint thinner) or soap and water. The instructions recommend mineral spirits for faster cleaning. That was a problem for me, because I live in a semi-rural location in an older house with a septic tank. It’s generally not a good practice to introduce petroleum-based chemicals into an on-site septic system, but the only other way for me to dispose of paint thinners and similar chemicals is to store them (hoping they won’t spill or spontaneously combust), and make a periodic run on a Saturday morning to a regional haz-mat collection site that’s 45 minutes away.

I elected to use dishwashing liquid for the cleaning. It worked reasonably well, in my opinion. The dirtiest of the tips didn’t come out pristine white, but they looked clean and I feel certain that there was nothing left that would be injurious to a barrel the next time the Swab-Its® system is used to clean a firearm. I laid them out on a hard surface and left them to dry overnight, but I suspect that under most conditions a few hours is probably all that’s required for drying.


The folks at Swab-Its® are continually expanding their product line. In addition to the Bore-Tips® and the Bore-Whip™, they also offer Bore-Sticks™, which are essentially the foam tips pre-installed on a plastic cleaning rod approximately 5 inches long, as well as a line of smaller foam swabs on plastic handles (Gun-Tips®) that are intended for reaching into the small spaces inside firearm actions for cleaning or lubrication.

What we can’t report on is how many times a set of Bore-Tips® can be washed and re-used. My set of .45 caliber tips looked as good as new (other than a slight grayish tone) after having been used to clean a 1911 after a heavy range session and then washed and dried. I’ll just keep using them until they surrender.

You may discuss this article here (http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?109792-Discussion-thread-for-Swab-Its&p=993187#post993187).

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After releasing this review, we sent the link to the folks at Swab-Its®. Very soon thereafter I received both a telephone call and an e-mail to inform me, unfortunately, I goofed. The multi-caliber Bore-Whip™ they sent me was a prototype; it isn't yet in production or available for sale. I didn't understand that in writing the review. I regret the error.



800 Worcester Street
Springfield, MA 01150

Tel: 413-543-1442
Web: www.bore-tips.com