There are some times when you look at a piece of kit and wonder why it's not been done before and you can't help but think you've been wasting your time on something that's just been made so much simpler.
Enter Hoppes Boresnake Viper, a quick and very effective method of cleaning the barrel of the SA80.
"We've got something that does that already, it's called rag on a rope."
True, but how many times have you sat there, fiddled about with ripping a square off, threading it through the eye, pulling through and then doing it again, and again, and again? Can that piece of cloth really get it spotless? Yes, it can, or we wouldn't have it, but it's just a big, whopping pain in the ass.
The Boresnake Viper is an obvious answer to the problem. Instead of one piece of fabric a few millimetres squared it's a long length of material that when pulled through carries out a constant cleaning motion by the virtue of both its length, width and its design.
The Viper is essentially made in three sections: the head of the Viper which incorporates bronze threads that scrub and loosen as the pass is made, the body which catches and pulls along the now loose debris and the tail which is coloured orange and is where you apply any cleaning substance you may use and which swabs the barrel clean. The entire area of the Viper is 200x larger than the standard square of cleaning rag you'd normally use so you can see how much more effective it is compared to standard methods.
As far as using the Viper is concerned it doesn't get much easier. Simply cock the weapon and hold open, then thread the pull-through cord down the barrel (the brass weight lets it drop down easily enough), grip and pull. It's ideal for use in the field when the barrel gets contaminated with dirt and other crap that could have numerous effects on the way the weapon fires (Any SASC out there?)
Hoppes say that the Viper is not designed to get the barrel clean to an inspection level standard and when you have a peek up you may find that towards the breech end there is a few small particles still remaining. In fairness to the Viper I couldn't get rid of these with a standard pull through either and it required the use of cleaning rods. The important factor here is that it will keep the weapon combat ready without having to strip down or mess around with it.
The Viper is machine washable which means once it's become clogged and full of carbon you can simply chuck it in the wash, let it dry naturally and it'll be good to go again. Speaking to Tom Fuller from Hoppes who's an ex-SO soldier from the US military he mentioned that from his personal experience with the Viper the only thing you really have to watch for is the problem of the Viper falling into the dirt if it's been oiled up as all you'll be doing is dragging something very dirty through the barrel and you'll achieve the opposite effect. A simple, sealable sandwich bag or ammo bag to keep it in will do the job of protecting it from contamination.
I did query the lifespan of the Viper and Tom says it's never been tested to destruction due to the logistics involved in that process however the one I've been testing has now cleaned over 100 barrels used in live firing ranges and is still in workable condition though it could probably do with a wash now. There was some slight fraying at the head of the Viper where a small plastic collar joins the cleaning material to the pull-through rope but Tom says that is natural and does not indicate potential failure. In fact the only reason Tom stopped using his in theatre was because he lost it (or did some thieving scrote nick it as is more likely the case?!)
The real issue with the Viper is the cost. At £28 from Dixies Corner it's not a cheap tool to buy and some might say it's more a toy than a tool due to the fact we've already got a workable bit of kit that does the job. This comes down entirely to personal preference and what you want to waste your time on. It could be worth getting one for the section and get the lads to chip in a few quid each or just charge 50p a go!
First reactions were hostile and when the price was mentioned guys seemed to take an allergic reaction to it but sure enough everyone wanted to try it. It's now a firm feature in my cleaning kit and I feel that the amount of use I've had out of it and the amount of time I've saved merits the cost incurred. It also promotes good practice by making cleaning the barrel quicker and dare I say it, almost enjoyable!
The Boresnake is also available in a variety of different calibre sizes and from what I've seen it's a firm favourite amongst hobbyists as well as being used extensively in the US Military. So really, it comes down to what you want more at the end of the day; fiddly and irritating or quick and easy?
Six year update: This bit of kit went to Kenya and the Falklands where I was range safety and I donated it to the sections for their use. It sat in with the replen and ammo at the waiting point for the ranges and basically got absolutely hammered by everyone for several solid weeks at both locations.
Everyone loved it, especially in Kenya where dust, sand and grit was inevitable. In Kenya, I handscrubbed it in hot water and left it to dry on top of a Bedford in the sun and it was fine.
Definitely does the job, definitely worth having.