MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Old-school rifle cleaning kits are about to make a comeback as the Marine Corps phases out its newer, soft cable kits that troops used on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The throwback change is one of the decisions to come out of the October combat marksmanship symposium here, where leadership met to streamline the service's marksmanship program.

The newer kit’s thin, flexible cable simply lacks the friction needed to properly clean a rifle barrel, said Col. Tim Parker, commander of Weapons Training Battalion.

“Quite frankly, they don’t work as well as the old rods we had that you just screw together,” he said. “This is what the fleet was telling us, so we said ‘All right, we tried a good idea — now let’s go back to the original one.’”

The newer kits, which cost about four times as much as the legacy kits, contain a plethora of specialized precision attachments for almost every possible cleaning scenario. They were designed for Marines' modular lightweight load-carrying equipment.

The older kits, which date back to at least the Vietnam era, consist of three rods and a handle that can be screwed together, a tip for cleaning pads, three wire brushes and a toothbrush — all of which fits snuggly into the buttstock of an M16 rifle.

The newer kits are compact, but experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown that their small components are either not used or are easily lost, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Vince Pope, director of the combat marksmanship program’s management section.

“The big benefit of going back to the three-piece cleaning rods is it gives us the additional capability we used to have to clear when I have stuck brass in my chamber,” Pope said. “I can’t do that with the flexible cleaning rod.”

Matthew L. Schehl covers training and education, recruiting, West Coast Marines, MARSOC, and operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for Marine Corps Times. He can be reached at mschehl@marinecorpstimes.com.

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