Cleaning your rifle the Otis way.

By Seth R. Nadel

I have a long history with cord or “pull through” firearm cleaners. As a collector of military firearms, the pull through was a staple in many countries for many years. Take a piece of cord, attach a fitting for a brush at one end and a brass weight at the other, include a brush, patch holder, patches, and some solvent and oil, and you have a small, easy to carry cleaning kit for your rifle. In fact the butt trap in many ex-service rifles was designed just for that. In the recent past, the German Army issued a small tin with a chain type pull through for their service rifles, and the British Army used them into the 1980’s. Pull throughs have been in use since a ramrod was not needed to load your rifle from the front!

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Sadly, my experience with these was not good. I tried one many, many years ago that came in the butt of a rifle I had purchased. I wanted to see how the soldiers cleaned their rifles. So I undid the string, attached the brush, and tried it. I dropped the weighted end down the barrel, and I pulled….and pulled…..and pulled some more. No go – the brush was wedged in the barrel. I finally tied the string around a tree branch and pulled with all I had. Yes, I got it out, and yes, I ended up on my butt on the ground, and yes, that was the last time I ever used a pull through. Until recently.

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Times Change

That was then, this is now! The cord has been replaced by a polymer coated cable, which can be used to poke minor obstructions from the bore – a major issue if all you have is a cord! (Yes I have tried pushing on a cord – it does not work). In fact, Otis was founded by a woman hunter who slipped and plugged the bore of her rifle on a hunt!

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They are now available in several variations, for both rifles and pistols. The big difference is the cable – it rolls up into a neat little package, which can fit in a pocket complete with solvent, brushes, and patches! No ramrod? No problem!

One advantage to these systems is that you clean from Breech-To-Muzzle as Otis describes it. Of course, if you have disassembled your firearm, that does not matter. But if you are in the field or on the range, that may not be an option. I can guarantee that at some time, some small – but critical – part will jump out of your hand to either disappear into the weeds or roll out in front of the firing line. Game over! With the Otis products, all the crud comes out the muzzle, without the opportunity to fall into the action and gum things up even more.

Otis 17-22 Micro Cleaning Kit

The first Otis product I tried was the simple Otis 12-22 Cal Micro Cleaning Kit. I was sent the .17-.22 rimfire cable, but I had to use it on a .22, as I don’t own a .17 caliber anything. I started on THE basic rifle – a .22 rimfire bolt gun. Now, I rarely clean these, so the rifle I chose had not been cleaned in a long, long time. I must admit that the first time I tried it, I got a patch stuck in the bore.

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The real issue is with their specialized patches, which are to be used in a certain way. They have tried hard to make one patch fit as many bore sizes as possible. As with so many products these days, the written explanation does not make sense – at least to someone unfamiliar with their intent. On the upside, at Otistech.com are several videos on their products, including one that deals solely with the patches. I consider them a MUST WATCH to make sense of the written directions. They also have a video on how to remove a stuck patch, which proved very useful. I urge you to watch these brief videos! I did, and was able to remove the stuck patch and figure out how to put on a patch properly to fit the bore.

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Since we are dealing with a cable, you can stress it far beyond the limits of a cotton cord. This is the key to removing a stuck patch! They actually say you can stand on the cable to pull on the rifle and remove a stuck patch – which worked for me. After watching the videos, I easily cleaned my .22 bolt gun – for the first time since I bought it about 7 years ago (I know, shame on me!). Since I was using the Otis cable, I also used the Otis Mission Critical MC-10 Cleaner and MC-10 Lubricant/Protectant.

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Otis Solvents

That is solvents, plural, for a reason. I dislike the “one product does all” approach for a very simple reason – a good cleaner removes lubricants and protectorants. On two separate occasions, I had conversations with people from the lubricants industry. Both experts agreed that a single product can be a great cleaner, or a great lubricant, but not both at the same time. The modern one liquid does it all products, referred to as a CLP (cleaner/lubricant/protectorant) originated with a demand from our military. They always want to reduce the number of items in the supply chain, and going from three to one looked like a great idea. On the civilian side, perhaps not so much.

Otis figured this out, and they offer “Smart Gun Care” with their MC-10 Cleaner, MC-10 Lubricant, and a micro fiber gun cleaning cloth. Since I date back to the days of lubing guns with 3-in-1 oil, and homemade products like Snail Snot (made in a backyard shed with secret ingredients only on nights with a full moon, under a lucky horseshoe!), I am used to cleaning and then lubing! And based on the number of guns I have seen on various ranges that stutter and jam, lubrication remains an issue. Most of the time, unless it is an ammo issue, a few drops of lube in the right spots gets those guns running again.

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Bravo Otis, for recognizing that one liquid does NOT do it all. The cleaner does what it should – removes the ‘crud’ from the bore. The lube does what it says, lubricating the moving parts (always ‘slime the shine’ – apply lube to metal parts that rub against one another).

OK, it worked on a .22 rimfire, how about a centerfire .22 – say a .223? I grabbed an AR, cleared it of all ammo, and removed the bolt carrier group and charging handle. This disassembly was NOT necessary, as I could have cleaned it with the bolt locked back, the way I would in the field. You would be amazed at how much dirt and grit can get into the bolt carrier group when you drop it in the dirt – but I digress. The Otis cable system cleaned the AR in seconds, with no need to assemble a rod and disassemble it when done. Just add a patch, spray on some cleaner, and pull it through. Change to a dry patch, one more pull, and get back to shooting!

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The Bottom Line

Overall, I rate the Otis 17-22 Cal Micro Cleaning Kit and the Otis Mission Critical gun care a winner! Will I be getting rid of all my cleaning rods and traditional patches – no, there is something therapeutic about cleaning my guns after a day at the range or in the field as I have for the past decades. Will I be taking an Otis Cable and Mission Critical gun care kit to the range with me! They are already in my range bag, where they will stay!

See, even an old guy can adapt to modern ways!