Cleaning rods are a lot like those sandbags that you use for weight in the back of your pickup.
When you need them, they are great. When you do not need them, they are in the way.
The need for cleaning rods is obvious, but not so obvious, are the hazards involved in using a cleaning rod. Cleaning rods have been blamed for destroying many a bore. They have been known to damage the Crown, the Bore and the Throat of the chamber. While many advances have been made, there still is no fool proof cleaning method that I am aware of. Simply practicing careful procedures combined with a good quality cleaning rod, will be your best bet.
Storing and transporting cleaning rods makes a multi-piece rod appealing, however, the joints in the less expensive rods, can leave a raw edge that could do a great deal of damage. If you insist on using a multi-piece rod, buy a good stainless rod and be careful. One trick that works is to wrap the joints with teflon tape. It is cheap insurance.
Though more cumbersome to deal with, a single piece rod eliminates the raw edges of the joints and are faster to get to the job at hand.
Coated vs. Non-Coated, in certain circles, will start a flame war. The argument is that coated rods will get impregnated with debris that could scratch the throat or bore. While this makes sense, I can not prove it either way. Stainless rods on the other hand are blamed for ironing the lands as they flex.
I have both stainless and coated and prefer the stainless. While using either rod, I wipe off the rod between passes down the bore. If residue on the wiping rag is any indication, it will encourage you to continue wiping the rod off.
My preference in a stainless 1 piece.
An area that should not be overlooked is the handle. A ball bearing handle is ideal as it is intended to allow the rod to rotate with the lands, as it travels down the bore. I have a "quality" rod that should rotate but it does not always and that aggrivates me. I have oiled the bearing and done what I can, but under pressure of a tight patch, it does not rotate.
At the other end of the stick are the threads that accomadate the jag tip. Of course there are a couple of different thread patterns just to complicate your life. The better rods are pretty standardized and this saves a lot of frustation.
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