By Rob Kay and RN Price
If you purchase an AR (or any other gun for that matter) it stands to reason that at some point, you’ll have to clean it to keep it serviceable.
Cleaning a gun is not the sexiest thing in the world but it needs to be done on a regular basis. While some people look at it as some onerous task, others rather enjoy it. I look at it like cleaning your car. Sooner or later, you must attend to it.
We were lucky enough to look at kits from Otis Technology, a household name when it comes to cleaning systems and Bill Roger’s, 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. Talk about toxic mixes…using mercury and whale oil to remove lead to remove lead and who knows what other foul substances from guns.
Things are a bit different nowadays.
In this day and age, thong(s) aren’t the first thing to come to mind when it comes to gun cleaning, and whale oil (thankfully) went out with buggy whips. Modern pull-through cleaning gear 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 crown or the bore, at the point where it enters the barrel. You could even inadvertently nick or gouge your barrel with a rod. With a cable you’re less likely to do damage.
Otis Technology AR/MSR Rifle Cleaning System ($50.46 on Amazon)
With tens of millions a year in sales, Otis Technology is the largest manufacturer of gun-cleaning systems in the US. Founded in 1985, 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 an entrepreneur with some creativity and marketing savvy can find a niche, even in an area as picked over and timeworn as gun cleaning products.
What’s more exceptional, is that Otis was founded by a woman.
It’s not that women are not great entrepreneurs. I can think of many right here in Hawaii. It’s just that you don’t find many female CEOs in the testosterone addled world of firearms. Otis’ founder, Doreen Williams Garrett, comes from a long lime of hunters and she grew up around guns. On the Otis website she writes about a childhood incident that was the genesis of her gun cleaning empire.
As a 16 year old on a family hunting trip she dropped her grandfather’s prized rifle in the mud, in effect, obstructing the barrel. What became indelibly implanted in her was the need, in her words, for a “cleaning and clearing kit combined” that would allow individuals to clean their guns in the field. She started her research at age 16 and she said, “after much testing, failures and working with many people I finally had a product I was satisfied with.” Based on the success of her company, her customers are also satisfied.
She named the company “Otis” after her father who provided engineering expertise gun-knowledge and I suspect, inspiration.
On first glance, the Otis Technology kit looks like a wedding ring case or a jewel box. You open it up with an industrial strengh 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 their “Ultra Bore” cleaner/lubricant.
So much is packed in to so little space that one wonders (after removing everything) how they fit it all in there. The good news is that it’s so small, you can easily take it to the field. Of course, that’s what the founder had in mind. There’s also a belt loop on the container to carry it on your hip if you feel so inspired.
It’s not only great technology, it’s great marketing. The packaging is nifty, design is first rate and she leverages the Internet with good quality videos. At every level of this company, a great deal of attention is paid to detail.
We tested the system by cleaning a piston driven upper from Sig.
Maybe this wasn’t the ultimate test for this kit because the BCGs on piston uppers simply don’t get that dirty that quickly. 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 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.
Unlike Rogers, which uses a squeegee to clean the bore, Otis relies on a conventional cotton patch. However, they have developed a variation the theme that’s different from anything I’ve seen. Unlike standard patches, Otis’s patches have “pre-drilled” holes.
You place the fixture through the hole and after that, you’re instructed in the manual to do a little origami. This entails folding the patch (you sort of pinch the sides) commensurate with the diameter of the bore. Then slip the patch through the slot. (It sounds complicated but it really isn’t).
What you then have is a tulip shaped (see top photo) swab of cotton ready for dragging through the barrel.
The Otis people have given this lots of thought and experimentation so that the size of the folded patch is not too fat nor too slim. It’s just right to pass through the bore and drag the gunk along with it.
After it’s journey 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.
The upshot: 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 direct from the source.
Stay tuned for part 2 where we’ll review the cleaning kit from Bill Rogers.
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