Keith Costley: New carbon rod makes it easier to clean rifles

Cleaning is an important factor in extending the longevity of firearms. Courtesy | Keith Costley

Ol’ Betsy, my beloved .243 Remington Mohawk 600 carbine rifle, was in need of a dire cleaning.

After harvesting a mature doe in Southeast Kansas on an antlerless hunt in early January, I am embarrassed to confess that I finally got around to performing the task five months later.

My father, who introduced me as a kid to quail and rabbit hunting on his mother's 80-acre farm north of Carl Junction, would've dished this irresponsible nitwit a tongue-lashing — and deservedly so — for sinful procrastinating.

Ralph L. Costley was a staunch believer of cleaning his shotgun the evening after every hunt. I was only spared of his wrath of fury because he passed away a few years ago.

In my defense, powders aren't nearly as corrosive today as a half-century ago. That wouldn't have cut the mustard with Dad, though. He was old-school.

Much to my father's chagrin — as far as the delinquent cleaning of the firearm was concerned — the "better late than never" philosophy would have to suffice.

After setting my kit up to clean Ol’ Betsy’s bore, a mishap occurred: The aluminum cleaning rod snapped during the second pass, rendering it useless after many years of service. Thankfully, I didn’t have a devil of a time dislodging the pieces from the bore.

My efforts to locate a replacement rod locally were futile. I could’ve purchased another economical three-piece aluminum one; however, this time around, I opted to buy a one-piece rod. I've tinkered with the notion of purchasing one for years. The choice was easy: Tipton was the only brand on the shelf — a no-brainer.

A day later, after initial setup, I discovered that the new carbon rod was a noticeable improvement over the aluminum version. It's strong, lightweight, softer than the bore’s steel and slick for pushing patches.

The rod spins freely on twin ball bearings — allowing the copper brush sprayed with a light coat of solvent, followed by oiled and dry patches to efficiently follow the contours of the rifling. In order for that to happen, the shaft is planted solidly through a 6 1/2-inch palm-friendly handle. It's easy to grip and sports a comfortable, ergonomic shape.

The handle turns independently from the shaft, making it easier to negotiate patches through the rifle's bore. A loop on top of the handle is designed for hanging storage. It can also be stored in the plastic case it came in.

On one website, the Tipton rod has proven to be popular, receiving 4.7 of 5 stars from 97 reviews. That's a lot of happy customers.

The downside of this rod is it isn't manufactured in the United States. On the flip side — like many products made in China — the product may more economical to purchase due to lower labor costs.

Tipton claims its rods are the best money can buy. With any rod, the company says some precautions need to be taken to ensure safety and longevity:

• Always follow safe firearms safety practices. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and make sure that your firearm isn't loaded.

• Use safety glasses when cleaning or servicing firearms.

• Pushing the rod with too much force will make it bend, possibly causing breakage and exposing sharp carbon fibers.

Tipton believes that carbon fiber is an ideal material for cleaning rods and is better than stainless steel. Stainless steel rods are hard and will wear rifling on the throat and crown of rifles, and stainless steel shafted rods will take a “set” if bent too far and never return to their original form. Carbon fiber is also better than coated steel, which is covered with a synthetic material that will embed damaging grit in the bore over time.

Tipton claims that its rods were used during Operation Iraqi Freedom to clean service rifles in demanding conditions.

If Tipton rods are good enough for the U.S. military, they’re plenty good enough for my rifles.

Keith Costley lives in Baxter Springs, Kan., and is an avid fisherman and hunter.