USMC Returning to 3-Rod Cleaning Kits

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According to the Marine Corps Times (which is not formally affiliated with the United States Marine Corps), the USMC is starting to phase out the OTIS soft cleaning kits in favor of an old-time favorite – the three rod cleaning kits originally issued with the M16A1 rifles.

A result of the Combat Marksmanship Symposium at Marine Corps Base Quantico, the decision was primarily based on the ability of the new kit to clean the barrel and secondarily, to be able to clear stuck-case malfunctions that the new system was unable to do.

The “new” cleaning system, packaged in a small round MOLLE pouch manufactured by OTIS made use of small modular components, which while useful for nearly any cleaning scenario that a Marine would face, was prone to losing those said small components in the field.

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The kit made use of a flexible cleaning cable which according to Colonel Tim Parker, CO of USMC Weapons Training Battalion “…simply lacks the friction needed to properly clean a rifle barrel.” He continued,  “Quite Frankly, they don’t work as well as the old rods we had… This is what the fleet (the nickname for the active Marine Corps) was telling us, so we said ‘All right, we tried a good idea–now let’s go back to the original one..

The “old” kits cost 4 times less than the new soft-pack. No word on how Marines are supposed to carry the “old” kits on their physical combat loads, as the M16 with full butt-stock is being phased out in favor of the collapsible M4.



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • John Doe

    Yeah, because cleaning a chrome lined barrel is soooo important when firing 3 moa fmj with red dots and x4 acogs.

    • Rocky Chen

      when the cleaning kits are 4 times more expensive i wouldn’t mind switching back to a cheaper alternative

    • Blue Centurion

      Wow……never been been party to an IG Inspection have ya?

  • 2hotel9

    I have used the standard M16 cleaning kit setup for, well, everything, although, I added 2 extra sections of rod and an M14 cleaning rod base. That floppy T-handle in original issue was always crap.

    • USMC03Vet

      You take that back. That t-handle was stronger than a Nokia 3310.

      • 2hotel9

        hehehe, I think I got one of them in a drawer somewhere.

  • wetcorps

    Give the poor sods boresnakes already! 🙂

    • Big Daddy

      You still need a rod.

      • wetcorps

        I know, I have both.

        • Big Daddy

          I love the bore snake but you need a rod especially if you use cheap ammo and in some guns I do.

    • law-abiding-citizen

      Yeah, most serious shooters I know HATE boresnakes & won’t use them in their rifles. They tend to trap dirt & grit, which then scratch the bore & accelerate wear.
      Granted, Marines aren’t typically worried about shooting sub-MOA (or smaller) groups at 500+ yards, but there are better options than boresnakes.

  • Ron

    The Otis cleaning kits were a shinny thing, they were bought because we were drunk with GWOT money and since they were new they must be better.
    In reality despite costing 80 or so dollars a kit, and even more if you had the pre-deployment credit card and your command bought the kit for each Marine with the Gerber and flashlight, they did a worse job at cleaning the weapon than the older kits. Luckily up until recently armorers were not subject to FSMAO inspections hence were not too picky about accepting guns back into the armory.

  • 2wheels

    “This is what the fleet was telling us”…

    Ahem, if I may translate for the Marines…

    “We told the fleet we ran out of money, hope they enjoy these cleaning kits we still have left over from Vietnam”.

    • Ron

      Not really, I still have several hundred unissued kits sitting in my armory and about ever unit has similar stocks of them. Same with the older kits, they are in about every armory or in storage in Albany.

  • USMC03Vet

    Do they not have buttpacks any longer? That’s usually where the cleaning kit went anyway.

    • Ron

      Butt packs went away with the 782 gear, the MOLLE I kit came with one, but that pretty much went away also.
      Now most Marines either use the ILBE, FiLBE or commercially procured assault back in lieu of a butt pack.

      • USMC03Vet

        So no assortment of pouches to carry things in but just some day pack? Sounds terrible.

        • JML0399

          Butt packs were used to carry gear that was not immidiattely needed, such as poncho, poncho liner, field stripped MRE, snivel gear, rifle cleaning kit, etc. It was always with you, and as the old guys who used them, “a pretty darn good piece of gear”. Now a big assault pack is used, so instead of taking your stuff in a bullet pack, now you have a mini packthat holds more gear, just what grunts love to do, carry more gear on them. Good one….

        • Squirreltakular

          Our guys got issued the pouches that the ACOGs come with. Throw it on you belt or flak and it’s just big enough for some map pens and one or two radio batteries.

        • n0truscotsman

          Thats why I like the TT MAV. Two pouches for ‘other stuff’ which are more easily accessible than buttpacks.

          I do like the later though, being a tad antithetical to assault packs in general. Maybe its nostalgia.

          I think increased mechanization led to the demise of the buttpack.

    • Evan

      My friend’s platoon leader decided that all his Marines would wear butt packs on their gear. Nobody ever put anything in them, they just had them there because of what some idiotic lieutenant decreed. Nobody else I knew ever used a butt pack after SOI. A pouch right behind your back where you can’t actually reach it is a pretty useless piece of gear if you ask me. I always kept my Otis kit in my cargo pocket.

      • Helkas

        I wore my butt pack every day. It was the perfect size to fit a fully inflated regulation size nfl football. 🙂

  • hking

    I have always wanted a modular boresnake that I could put a series of brushes inline, like a nylon, brass, and patch/jag, oil patch all in a line. Pull something like that through a few times and you are golden. Wont fix the issue of stuck cases.

    • Evan

      The Otis Ripcord is something like that. It has a place at the end to attach brushes or whatever.

  • Lance

    M-16A4 are not being phased out. They are being reorganized to support units and reserve units.

    • Ron

      The Marine Reserves mirror their active component, so if the active unit a type is going M4 pure the reserve unit of that type is also.
      The hindrance (and slowing down) to fielding service wide to infantry and infantry type units is getting a hand on who has want weapons and where they all are at.

  • Captain obvious

    The Otis works well out in the field for cleaning. They are not ideal because the are for field use. Want ideal? Clean your rifle with a rod when you get back to camp/ base or have one rod per Squad out in field.

    A good field rod is the collapsable Rapid Rod which will fit in a small pouch. Our instructors carry them in all our rifle classes for stuck cases or squid loads.

  • Harry Bedford Exeter

    The “Fleet” actually isn’t a nick name, but is the shortening of an acronym, FMF, Fleet Marine Force. This designates all units that are deployable and not those involved with training, so the MEUs, the UDPs, the victor units, etc… In addition it goes much further than simply the “active” side of the Marine Corps because although Parris Island or Camp Geiger are certainly apart of this active duty side of things, they are by no stretch apart of the Fleet.

    • Ron

      The Fleet is the Operating Force Marine Corps, as opposed to the supporting establishment.
      At one time prior to the Marine Corps being a separate service, the FMF was the Marine Component (Landing Force) of the numbered fleets (FMFLant supported, 2nd and 6th Fleet and FMFpac supported 3d, 5th and 7th fleets). However the FMFs become MARFORs providing forces not to the Navy but to Combatant Commanders. The only Marines who provide Green in Support of Blue are the Marine of the Marine Security Force Regiment.

  • Kyle

    Now that I think about it with five years served I don’t think I ever saw a squib. Well excluding sim rounds. Those goddamn things got stuck in the barrels of the AR blue barrels all the time. So goddamn unfair training with those. The instructors knew it too. They loved to just run up and shoot you from about 5 feet with their M9 blue barrel that actually worked.

  • Darhar M.

    I use the Mil Issue cleaning kit for pretty much every firearm I own.
    Not some cheap knockoff but mil issue surplus I picked up at
    Ft. Sam well there. I have 4 pouches with tools. All I have replaced
    are the wire brushes and plastic toothbrushes.

  • Joshua

    Was this a “accuracy is falling off due to copper fouling and we can’t fix it via the current kit, but tests with the old rods shows a marked improvement in moa after cleaning vs the current kit”

    Or a “I can take this white patch and lubricate it and pull it through the bore and get mild discoloration, and my white glove pinky comes out discolored after I stick it in your receiver test”?

    There is a difference.

  • Smedley54

    Forty years ago we used boot laces in the field and rods back in the world. Everything old is new again.

  • Tony O

    Not sure if it’s relevant, but my reserve unit just went through every Marine’s OTIS kit and removed just about everything except the cable, wire brush, patch puller, and toothbrush head. The explanation was inventory (they don’t want people losing all the other stuff in them…cheap bits that they are). My guess is, with this bit of news, that they’re gearing up to pull all of them soon. Makes sense to me anyway.

    That being said, I always use the 3-rod system that comes in the bigger OTIS kit I got “issued” (it was actually issued by supply, but not inventoried) for a deployment shortly after joining the unit. Pretty good kit that includes the rods, t-handle, full toothbrush, cables, and assortment of rod attachments. That plus a bore snake and the AR star patches have served me well for the last several years. Much better than just the small OTIS kit did.

  • Hilltop

    I own all of the Otis products. I like all of them for the most part although I go back and forth between them and traditional rods. However, the shotgun specific cleaning kits with the rubber disks are SPECTACULAR!