by Rob Kay and RN Price
Cleaning your firearms is something that everyone has to do. We had the chance to look at the latest in cleaning kits from Otis Technology, a household name when it comes to cleaning systems, and Bill Rogers, the iconic competitor and inveterate inventor.
Both the Otis and Roger’s technologies take slightly different tacks when it comes to cleaning methodology. However both have at least one thing in common—they employ cables instead of cleaning rods.
This is a classic example of “what’s old is new again”.
Pull-through barrel cleaning systems go back to the mid-19th century where they were made from thong, rope, cord or links. Early American gun cleaning supplies included brick dust, mercurial ointment and whale oil.
Mention “thong” nowadays and the first thing to come to mind won’t be gun cleaning gear. Likewise, whale oil is no longer a popular lubricant for firearms. Modern pull-through cleaning apparatus from Rogers and Otis is made with thin, precision cables, which have advantages over rods. When you clean the bore of a gun, the cleaning rod can rub against the bore at the point where it enters the barrel or even cause one of the attachments to inadvertently nick or gouge the barrel. With a cable you’re infinitely less likely to do damage.
Since the theme of most of our columns has revolved around ARs, we thought it appropriate to scrutinize the MSR/AR Cleaning system from Otis Technology a firm headquartered in Lyons Falls, New York. (A long way from Waipahu).
Otis is reportedly the largest manufacturer of gun-cleaning systems in the US. From what we gathered, clients include the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Army.
Not a bad customer list. It shows you that with creativity and marketing savvy it’s possible to find a niche, even in an area as picked over and timeworn as gun cleaning products.
The company was founded by By Doreen Williams Garrett, an entrepreneur who understood at the tender age of 16 that having the technology available to clean a gun out in the field is indispensable. Her lesson came to her (as so many discoveries in life do) by accident.
On a family hunting trip she dropped her grandfather’s prized rifle in the mud and in effect, obstructed the barrel. It was rendered useless and she watched in dismay at the buck that got away.It proved to be a nodal point in her life. One of those moments that would both haunt her and later, propel her into a very successful career. It became her goal to develop a combination cleaning and clearing kit that was portable enough to be carried into the field.
There aren’t a lot of female CEOs in the testosterone addled gun world, and Ms. Williams Garrett has surely carved out a niche for herself. To her credit, she has done a splendid job of both packaging and marketing. It doesn’t hurt that her technology is good but to be a success in any business venture, marketing is absolutely essential. (Think Apple Computer). This is where many in the firearms world crash and burn. They just don’t get the marketing right.
On first glance, the Otis kit looked like a jewel box or a wedding ring case.
You open it with an industrial strength zipper and the jewel box analogy is even more apropos. Inside, embedded in a black plastic receptacle, is a gleaming collection of bronze fittings, picks, scrapers, brushes and cables. There are also specialty items such as a tool for cleaning a bolt carrier assembly and, a small container of
Ultrabore cleaner cum lubricant.
So much is packed in to so little space that you wonder (after removing everything) how they all fit it in there. The good news is that the pack is so small, you can easily take it to the field. There’s a belt loop on the container so you can transport on your hip if you feel so inspired.
We tested the system by cleaning a piston driven upper from Sig.
Maybe this wasn’t the ultimate challenge because the BCGs on piston uppers simply don’t get that dirty. Other components certainly do, so we concentrated our efforts accordingly.
So how does the Otis kit differ from the standard cleaning kits? As we alluded to above, the main difference is that you’re employing cables.
The Otis cables differ from the Roger’s kit because they have a sort of polyurethane coating analogous to the outer skin of an electrical wire, which adds an extra layer of protection. Like the Roger’s kit (but unlike the standard cleaning rod set up) it’s designed specifically for a breech to muzzle journey down the bore. Whereas the Rogers kit uses a squeegee to clean the bore, Otis relies on conventional cotton patches. However, they have developed a variation on the theme that’s different from anything I’ve seen elsewhere.
Unlike standard patches, Otis’s patches have pre-formed holes. Instead of simply inserting the patch through the little slot on the fixture, you’re instructed to poke the attachment through the hole and then do a little origami.
You pinch the side of the patch at a predetermined point on the patch (read the little pamphlet they provide) and slip it through the opening in the slotted fitting. The result is a tulip shaped clump of cotton that is perfectly suited for the .223. After passing it through the bore you can refold the patch with the area that hasn’t been soiled and reuse it, thus maximizing the surface area.
This is Yankee ingenuity at its best. Nothing is wasted.
Here’s a movie from youtube uploaded by Otis that will be helpful in cleaning a conventional AR upper:
The Otis system works very well for the AR 15 style rifle.
Quality is first rate, the compact size is handy and it’s obvious a lot of thought and engineering has gone into the development.
The only caveat is that you’ll have to order their proprietary patches when you run out. Or..maybe you can drill your own holes. There’s only so many that come with the handy little pouch. Cost for the MSR/AR System is $50.79 on Amazon which includes free shipping.
Stay tuned for out next column in this series on the cleaning kit from Bill Rogers.
All photos, except for top, by Rob Kay.
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