I have wanted to add a borescope to my tool collection, but I have never been able to justify the cost. A good quality borescope starts at about $600 and the cost quickly rises as you add options. I recently came across a USB video borescope on Amazon that is only $25. I wasn’t expecting much but I figured that for the price it was worth a checking out.
It is listed as the DreamSky® 6 LED 5M USB Cable Waterproof Endoscope Borescope Inspection Video Camera 5.42MM Head (5M) on Amazons website. (Update: This model is no longer available see below for a recommendation on a similar item.) There are seven versions of it available for purchase. I chose the one that was listed as having a 5.42MM head and a 5 Meter long cord. I figured that the 5.42 mm was .212286 inches so it just might fit a .22 caliber firearm. The others versions come with different diameter heads and lengths of cord. Be careful witch one you choose the largest head had a diameter of 10.5 mm and would only be usable in your larger caliber firearms.
Remember the old saying “You get what you pay for”. When the package arrived it came in a box that contained the borescope and a small CD with the software and drivers for the device. There were no instructions of any kind included. There was no manufactures name listed on the box and no website available to find more information.
The borescope itself is just a USB cable with a camera on the end. The camera is so small that at first glance you could easily mistake it for a USB cable that someone had cut the end off of. The USB connector that plugs into the computer has a small thumb wheel that can be used to adjust the brightness of the 6 LEDs that surround the camera. The camera housing has a soft rubbery feel to it and the cord is covered in a soft plastic so I feel safe in putting it down the barrel of my rifle.
The computer I used for testing this device has Windows 7 installed on it. I plugged the USB cord in and watched as Windows detected and automatically installed the device. I did not have to install the drivers included on the CD. When I checked I found that Windows treats this device just like any other USB webcam. The borescope showed up as a camera in all of my webcam applications including Skype. I could have used any of my existing applications to view the video but I wanted to see what they included with the device so I threw the CD into my computer and installed the software that came with it. It installs a piece of software called Amcap that can be used to view the live video. You can also use this software to record the video or take still pictures. The CD does not contain drivers or software for Mac or Linux systems.
Once I had the software set up and I had familiarized myself with how to use it I went and grabbed my Ruger 10/22 to see how well it worked. It turned out that the diameter of the head was not 5.42 mm but was just over 5.6 mm so it would not fit in a .22 caliber barrel. I grabbed my Remington 700 chambered in 30-06 and started testing with it. It turns out that the camera has a very limited range in which it is in focus. The picture was only in focus when the camera was viewing an object that was about 1/2 inch to 2 inches away, anywhere outside of that range and the picture is blurry. As you can imagine, the camera is much closer to the barrel than 1/2 inch so the picture was blurry near the camera but was in focus further ahead. Because of this I was not able to closely inspect the lands and grooves to see how they were wearing but I was able to get an overall impression of the interior of the barrel. Any rust or pitting would have been visible as I proceeded down the barrel but a detailed analysis would have been impossible.
I recorded a couple of test videos and took some still photos that you can check out below. In the video you can see what I described earlier about the barrel only being in focus further down the barrel. I had gone shooting earlier that day and had not cleaned the barrel when I recorded the video. As the camera gets closer to the chamber you will see several spots where pieces of copper fouling are stuck in the lands and grooves. As the camera moves closer to the chamber you can see two pieces of copper get knocked loose and tumble down the barrel.
Is this a great borescope? No. As I said earlier you have to remember that you get what you pay for. Taking that into consideration I am happy with my purchase. For $25 bucks I have a tool that enables me to get a better impression of the condition of my firearms. If I connect this device to my laptop I can use it around the house for other tasks such as inspecting plumbing in a wall for leaks. One of these days I will convince myself that I “need” to make the investment in a proper borescope but until then this one will do just fine.
Update: The borescope that I purchase is no longer for sale. A simialr unit is available, I recommend that you check out the GCA 5.5mm Diameter USB Waterproof 6 Led Endoscope Borescope Inspection Wire Camera (5m) by Emax.