A bad cleaning rod used in any manner, or a good cleaning rod used improperly, can wreck a rifled barrel in a surprisingly short time. So, start with a good rod—one that either doesn’t bend at all or flexes a little but always snaps back straight.
Steer clear of any rod made of aluminum or brass. Jointed rods, of any construction, also fall into this category: They’re simply too flimsy, and if the joints don’t fit together precisely (many don’t), little edges can stick out and cause all sorts of mayhem in the bore.
The Bore Guide
Bore guides are nothing more than tubes that lock into the receiver and keep the rod centered on its trip down the barrel. They can range from simple, inexpensive plastic models to the very elegant ones made by Neil Jones. Either way, it’s no accident that they’re held as sacred objects by knowledgeable shooters, since they make it nearly impossible to do anything bad to your barrel–provided you have a decent cleaning rod.
Rods have two types of tips: slotted and pointed (jag). Slotted tips don’t give you as good a patch-to-bore fit as jags, and they invite you to drag a dirty patch back and forth through the barrel. That is not going to do your rifling any good. With a jag, you impale the patch on its point and shove it down the barrel. When you pull the rod back, the patch falls off.
Don’t bother with stainless-steel brushes; they are an abomination. Use phosphor-bronze bristles instead.
The best thing you can do to a cleaning rod is wipe it off a lot. I keep a roll of paper towels over my workbench and wipe my rod every time it comes out of the bore.