Gun Cleaning Tips - Putnam Shooters
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Gun Cleaning Tips

Ed’s Red - The Best Gun Cleaning Solvent I’ve Ever Used

Like most shooters, I’ve tried lots of different solvents for cleaning my guns. I’ve always arrived back at the Old Standard, Hoppe’s No. 9. It works pretty well at dissolving powder deposits, and there’s not a shooter I know that doesn’t have an affinity for its distinctive smell.


If you can’t pick this smell out of a lineup, you’re not a real shooter.

Great stuff, but it couldn’t get my shotgun bores clean.

Then, in early 2010, I started trap shooting, and because I enjoy trying every little gadget, I use ported chokes on my shotguns. This introduced me to a new cleaning challenge: deposits mixed with fouling from the plastic shotshell wads, especially in the ports of the chokes.

Good ol’ No. 9 didn’t even make a dent, even after soaking the choke tubes in it. Break Free was equally useless. Shooter’s Choice makes a solvent that claims to break up plastic fouling, but I couldn’t find it for less than $20 for a 16 ounce bottle, and that was before shipping!

Then I discovered the recipe for Ed’s Red.

Ed’s Red is the creation of Ed Harris, (not the actor) developed in the early 1990’s. It was adapted from “Frankford Arsenal Cleaner No.18”, substituting modern ingredients.


Brownells sells Ed’s Red at $7.99 for a 4 oz. bottle to ‘save you the mess’. That’s $256 a gallon.

Thanks, I’ll deal with the mess and pocket the extra $230.

The details of Ed’s recipe and its instructions for use can be found here, but in short, Ed’s Red is equal parts Dextron ATF fluid, mineral spirits, kerosene, and acetone. As you might imagine from the ingredients, the fumes from this stuff will water your eyes, but WOW does it work!

As for the price, I mixed a gallon of it in a new empty paint can from Home Depot for around $20. There’s not another solvent out there that can touch Ed’s Red’s economy.

I soaked my ported choke tubes in a small jar of this stuff, and the fouling fell right off with some light brushing. For the bores, I ran a few wet patches through each one, let it sit for just a minute, then used a bore brush. The crap that came off of these previously ‘cleaned’ bores was amazing! After 6-8 passes with the bore brush, I finished each bore off with a pass of a BoreSnake. When I was done, the bores all looked like new.

There are lots of precautions in the directions, and you should heed them all, but here are a few key things to remember if you’re going to try this stuff:

  • Mix it outdoors. This should be a no-brainer, but don’t even think about mixing it in your garage.
  • Wear gloves. Again, a no-brainer, but they should be somewhat chemically resistant. I’ve found that disposable nitrile gloves work well for limited exposure.
  • Be careful where you dispose of your patches and rags. Remember, this stuff softens and melts many plastics, and that goes for your plastic garbage bag, too. I’ve read reports from users that melted a hole out the bottom of their trash cans. I use an empty baby formula can for disposal. It’s coated cardboard with a metal bottom and an airtight top, and it seems to be holding up. When it’s full, I throw the whole can away.
  • Make sure your containers are chemically resistant. If you try a plastic bottle, you’re going to have a gooey mess eventually. I used a new gallon paint can for mixing and storage, and small glass jars with good seals for my working supply.

Best of luck, and happy cleaning!