On Oils for Guns

TTAG reader Dyspeptic Gunsmith posted this in the comments section. I’ve cut and pasted it here ’cause it’s the best damn gun lube guide I’ve ever read. Wait. That doesn’t sound right . . .

1. WD-40 is a mediocre lubricant and an OK rust preventative. It’s original purpose was as a water dispersant for machining – since the 60′s, machine shops have gone to water-based machining lubrication/coolants and when you’re done machining a part, you want to get the water-based lube/coolant off the part quickly. WD-40 does this well, and prevents corrosion on most naked machined steels. But, WD-40 then dries over a period of weeks, leaving behind not much in the way of lubrication. The downside of WD-40 is that is can harm some gunstock finishes and plastic parts . . .

When thinking of lubes and rust prevention, it’s best for people in high-rust areas (the high humidity south, or coastal areas near salt water) to think of lubrication and rust prevention as two distinct issues and use two different products on guns that won’t be shot/cleaned/lubricated on a frequent basis. RIG gun grease, Cosmoline, LPS-3, Boeshield T-9 are all good rust prevention products in areas with high humidity and salt water exposure.

These will have to be removed when you want to use the gun, but they will prevent rust in even the most humid and salty environments if applied correctly. Boeshield is good because it won’t act as a solvent on plastics, varnishes, etc.

In general, I like Boeing’s lubricants, whether we’re talking about Boelube for tapping/drilling/threading or Boeshield. Those boys at Boeing ain’t idiots.

For lubrication, think in terms of lubes that won’t run off or evaporate in high heat, are still lubricating (and not gumming up or congealing) at -30F. RemOil isn’t bad, Tetra Gun Grease, etc. I’ve started testing MilTec-1, have not used FrogLube (about which I’ve heard rather lofty claims).

For guns that I use or lube often, I make my own “bulk lube” from ATF (Mercon-III will work fine), synthetic motor oil, STP and Marvel Mystery Oil. It works OK for most everything, especially semi-autos where I’m going to run them sopping wet. For dry, dusty areas with fine blowing dust (much of the Great Basin region of the US, or southwest TX/NM/AZ), look into graphite or moly-based dry film lubes.

For people who want something non-toxic and food grade, examine Ballistol and Froglube. “Food grade” doesn’t mean that you eat it, but that it can be thought of as being “generally safe” to use, unlike many of the oils based on petroleum distillates.

2. Stock preservation: Boiled linseed oil is indeed the stuff to preserve wood… but it can take forever to dry to a non-tacky finish on a stock in some areas of the country. Like days and days, perhaps even weeks in cooler temps.

You can either cut the linseed oil with some mineral spirits, or go seek out a product a lot of gunsmiths and gunmakers (who make stocks, not just shine them up) use called “Lin-speed Oil.” It’s linseed oil that has some carriers and thinners in it to speed drying. It is used by many high-end custom stockmakers and gunmakers on stocks that cost more than a half-dozen Garands put together.

You can obtain Lin-speed directly from the maker or from Brownells. A 2 oz. jar would last the average gun owner nearly forever. You’ll need only a few drops of the oil on your fingertips and you rub it into the stock in a thin, uniform film and then allow to stand overnight in a dust-free area to dry.

Don’t use oils on the high-finish glossy acrylic stock finishes like Brownings and such. Those finishes aren’t restored by adding oil, but rather by buffing with a very fine buffing compound.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

68 Responses to On Oils for Guns

  1. avatarjwm says:

    What’s your opinion on CLP. I use it here in the bay area as a cleaner/lubricant and have seen no problems with rust or gumming of the actions. I clean after every range trip.

    I also use my guns on the ranges only. I haven’t hunted in years and never joined a militia so my guns live in a fairly civilized enviroment.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      CLP is OK, but just that – OK. It’s a pretty fair corrosion inhibitor. Remember, stuff supplied to the US Government is lowest-cost bidder. Remember also that in the military, grunts are told (ie, ordered) to clean their weapons on a regular basis. The grunt that doesn’t clean his weapon can be “NJP’ed” or Article 15′ed (non-judicial punishment) for “failure to maintain equipment.” Civilian gun owners are often more lax about cleaning and maintaining their guns – and they can spend more on the products they use to do this. If you’re former military and you like CLP and you maintain the sort of strict cleaning/lubing/wipe-down protocol that your years in the service taught you – more power to you.

      But back to CLP – There are better products than CLP in everything it does. Allow me to expand that… CLP works as a compromise in lubrication, cleaning and corrosion prevention, because grunts downrange can’t and don’t have the room to carry a huge cleaning kit with all manner of potions and products to do their jobs. They get a compact cleaning kit and one little bottle of stuff to do everything to their weapon. CLP works as a one-size-fits-all, but it is a far cry from being the best at any of those functions. There are better bore cleaners. It is very difficult to find a single bore cleaner that removes carbon, lead and copper fouling. There are better lubes (that function as a lube only) out there, and for rust prevention, there are much better products than anything that tries to serve as a lube or cleaner. The rust prevention products I mentioned above will, if properly applied, keep bare, in-the-white steel from rusting for years in high humidity or salt water humidity environments – some of them will prevent rust formation for years and years.

      While we are touching on the difference between “mil-spec” cleaning and civilian cleaning, allow me to make abundantly and forcefully clear that the single best thing everyone can do for your rifle’s bore when cleaning it is to never use those multi-segmented bore cleaning rods that are sold as ‘mil-spec’ or buttstock cleaning kits. Those joints, when sent down your bore, can function like a damned broach, ruining your crown, or the forward shoulder of your chamber, etc. Civilians don’t have a unit armorer backing them up with throat, bore and crown erosion gages and a ready barrel replacement, and most civilians don’t want to spend $400 getting a new barrel dropped into a rifle just for giggles.

      Invest in a good, single-piece cleaning rod – eg, Dewey one-piece rods or similar. Let’s not get into divergent discussions about the merits or demerits of coated cleaning rods, let’s just first put the jointed rods into the back of the closet and get a good single-piece rod. After getting a good single-piece rod, invest in (or make) a bore guide to keep your rod from contacting the edges of your bore features (chamber or crown) on the way in/out of the bore. After that (as long as I’m waxing philosophical today), don’t ever try to reverse a brush in the bore.

      I recommend better (higher cost) products in these areas because, let’s face it: Most civilian gun owners like shooting – but hate cleaning. I recognize this and recommend products that work better because I understand that people want to minimize the time they spend on gun maintenance.

      • avatarjwm says:

        Do you have opinions on or experience with Boresnake bore cleaners vs. cleaning rods?

        • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Boresnakes are good for a field expedient, better than a jointed rod. There are times when you don’t want to have a brush in the bore – eg, competition .22′s. They’re better on pistols and shotguns than rifles, in my experience. I own and use them in the field.

      • avatarJohn Fritz says:

        … never use those multi-segmented bore cleaning rods …

        Can you tape over the joints and leave the rods assembled?

        • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          I don’t think so. The tape will wear and expose the joint to your bore or worse, leave additional stuff (adhesive) in your bore. A good quality one-piece rod is an investment that rifle owners who are interested in maintaining accuracy should make.

        • avatarAlphaGeek says:

          Tape will get destroyed about six different ways at once. It would be a race to see which failure mode happened first.

          Use Red Loctite 271 after making sure the threads are reasonably clean. Once it’s set you’ll need to heat it to 500F to break it free again, and no gun solvent I’ve ever seen will affect it in the slightest.

          Or, y’know, just buy a single piece cleaning rod. They’re not expensive.

      • avatarLarry says:

        I don’t understand. if the joints never come in contact with the bore, what’s the big deal? Mine never do. Elucidate please.

  2. avatarAPBTFan says:

    I’m a huge fan of your “bulk lube”. It’s slicker than anything else I’ve used and for around $20 I get 3 quarts of the stuff. My AR runs like a raped ape with it and it made a huge difference on the bolt for my S&W i-Bolt whose action isn’t exactly a Krag or Enfield.

  3. avatarg says:

    What’s really in Froglube, anyway?

  4. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    I use Lubriplate products to lube moving parts. I use Eezox to hose down metal for corrosion inhibition and general cleaning.

    Check out Lubrication 101 by Grant Cunningham for the real scoop.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      I’ve had great luck with Eeezox for wiping down guns I don’t shoot often.

    • avatarsagebrushracer says:

      Plus 1

      Grant is a old school gunsmith who knows what he is talking about and been around long enough to have figured out the right way and the wrong way to do things, I have found his advice to be invaluable.

  5. avatarBrandon says:

    I would love to see an Ask Foghorn, or a review in general, of Froglube compared to some other all in one products. The claims are amazing, but are they legit? I love the smell of it, but my guns don’t need to smell good, just run right.

  6. avatarTeddy Ruxxpen says:

    Thank you. This is a lot of good information.

  7. avatardave says:

    Frogs and Lube. Duh!.

  8. avatarDon says:

    I agree with you on Ballistol! It cleans well and keeps the pistols and ARs running well. I have even used it to clean the stainless steel fridge and the wooden breakfast table…..good stuff…..not cheap though

    • avatarBen says:

      Sir,

      Thank you very much for the informative article. This is really helpful for new shooters like me that are sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of products (in every area) available for firearms.

      If you’ve got a second, do you have any more thoughts on Ballistol? I’ve read a lot about it and it seems like a great product, particularly for dealing with corrosive primers.

      EDIT: Oops, this wasn’t supposed to be a reply.

  9. avatarWLCE says:

    As hard as ive tried to hate it, and even going so far as to call it snake oil in many occasions, froglube has really grown on me.

    As a lube, it works stupendously well. for a rust/corrosion preventative, it also works well, though not as well as SLIP2000 in my opinion. I know froglube makes cleaning a even easier task and it does a exceptional job at killing cosmoline in many mosin nagant and SKS rifles.

    I have always used synthetic motor oil to lubricate my firearms and used a dewey cleaning rod with some patches, though have transitioned recently. I always appreciate a paste-like substance that doesn’t wander when I store my weapons.

  10. avatarAdam says:

    Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) is really just Cosmoline, without the stinky–and possibly carcinogenic–amber-coloured aromatics in it. Silicone oil is safe around rubber and plastics, but has poor wetting properties on metal. Walnut oil is an alternative drying oil you can use, rather than linseed, or tung oil (the latter implicated in some esophageal cancers). The cheap ‘Pellgun Oil’ is available at Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, and whatnot, and is a good-quality synthetic oil. Sewing machine oil is a clear, petroleum-based oil that’s useable. My experiences with plain old Hoppes’ are rather limited, but the Mounties did pretty exhaustive lubricant testing:

    http://www.g96.com/TR-01-97.pdf

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Just FYI: When you see a test where they measure wear with a set of calipers (and, BTW, there’s no such thing as a “digital vernier caliper” – there are digital calipers and vernier calipers and dial calipers – but no “digital vernier” calipers) and start calling out measurements of .001 or less… proceed with caution and suspicion.

      I use calipers every day (and I have three pair of them), and when I want to measure something precisely under .005, I break out the micrometers (of which I have a number in different applications and sizes). I can change the indication on a set of calipers by .002 easily by how hard I force the instrument onto the piece to be measured with my thumb(s). Calipers sometimes aren’t accurate to .001 over their entire range of measurement. Before I try to take away a reading of real significance from a caliper, I calibrate my caliper against a measurement block (or a wrung stack of blocks) which tells me whether my caliper is actually going to read correctly at the intended range of measurement. I’ve found that my dial calipers can sometimes be off by +/- .002 somewhere in their full range of motion.

      When you see someone call out measurements of less than .001″ and they don’t indicate whether they stabilized the temperature of the measuring instruments and the piece to be measured… don’t believe anything. In the machining profession, people who call out “tenths” without a temperature-controlled lab are known as BS artists. People who walk around with digital calipers, calling out measurements down to .0005, are a constant source of amusement among machinists. As an example of why: Starrett, the biggest name in American precision measurement instruments, sells 6″ digital calipers which have precision down to .0005″… but their accuracy is +/- .001 under 4″, and +/- .0015 over 4″ and under 6″.

      I’m not bashing your recommendations, just showing you the level of knowledge you must have to discern what’s what in some of these gun and gun product tests.

      BTW, the best old-school gun lube was Sperm Whale oil. No, I’m not kidding. You’ll see it mentioned in old gun manuals from 60 to 100 years ago. Sometimes, it is called out as “sewing machine oil,” which was Sperm Whale oil.

      • avatarAdam says:

        Good points, and thanks for the explanation of measuring protocols.

        A ‘;vegan’ version of spermaceti oil is jojoba oil, available in any health food store. Like spermaceti, it’s actually a liquid wax, rather than oil (and doesn’t smell like rotten fish). BTW, really old watchmaking books advocate something called ‘bone oil,’ which is a really disgusting product that isn’t available anymore. And castor bean oil is still used for model airplane engines. While it may be gunky and have a high pour point, the lubricity and tenacity with which it bonds to metal are unexcelled. Nowadays, though, I’d go for a synthetic. I’ve heard of people using Mobil 1, which is an ester and polyalphaolefin blend, but–barring proper gun oils–I’d suspect that a 2-stroke synthetic would be a better choice.

        I’m not in the habit of spending much outdoors in our nasty winters, but this lubricant looks interesting:

        http://www.biofirearmlubes.com/Bio_Arctic_Firearm_Lube.html

        • avatarAPBTFan says:

          Growing up in, and taking school field trips in, the Arizona desert I can tell you two things about jojoba beans. One, you can survive on them. Two, you’d damn near rather die than eating them.

      • avatar16V says:

        Adam, not sure where you’re getting you’re info, but model airplane nitro-methane fuel quit using castor-oil base lubes about 20 years ago.

        Even semi-synths are far better than that old gummy stuff. Yes, there are some guys who still use it, and there are some limited apps where it sorta works, but it hasn’t been the preferred lube for a long while.

        • avatarAdam says:

          Castor blends are still sold:

          http://www.byronfuels.com/pages/about_oil_and_nitro.html

          http://www.cn-morganfuel.com/omega_faq.htm#8

          Supposedly, it’s still advised for ringless engines. Does leave a lot of varnish, though. As far as vegetable oils, go, jojoba has been the subject of a great deal of research, including as an additive in engine lubricants. Again, jojoba is actually a type of wax, similar to spermaceti and the fluid found in some squids.

        • avatar16V says:

          Agreed it’s still out there on the fringes, and even NASA still uses spermaceti for some unique apps, my point was just that it’s no longer mainstream. I wasn’t terribly clear on that, my bad.

          There is some interest in biomimicry regarding jojoba (and spermaceti) because they do work rather well – we just need to chemically fab them.

        • avatarLarry says:

          16V…getting you’re info…YOUR, YOU’RE…the correct use in this instance is “YOUR”. “You’re” is short for “you are”.

      • avatarihatetrees says:

        Excellent observation regarding nuances of precision measurement.
        Just because a pair if digital calipers (or any other device) displays numbers down to .0001″ doesn’t mean it’s accurate to that level. Consistent micro measurement accuracy requires regular calibration – regardless of the tool. A set of certified pin gauges can be an excellent tool to judge error over a range for calipers, micrometers, and other digital indicators. But the costs of such a set can be eye watering for .0001″ levels of precision.
        And then there’s the problem of repeatability in measurement with any instrument. That’s a whole other issue.

  11. avatarcarlostakeshi says:

    Do you have any recommendations about getting Cosmoline out of wood? I’ve got a Mosin I want to finally go out and shoot, but I want to make sure it doesn’t have any residual Cosmoline in the stock before I’m out handling it all day.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Heat. Just get the stock warm and let the Cosmo oooze out of the wood. Sorry I don’t have much better ideas. You could use strippers or thinners, but in the end you end up with the surface wood being stripped to a point where you have to put oil or wax back into/on the wood anyway…

      The reason why your Mosin is in such good shape is that Ivan usually wasn’t sparing in his application of the stuff.

    • avatarJaxD says:

      Warmth and oil drying chalk. Available from Midway. Or warmth and a powdered oil drying clay. Plain clay kitty litter (Hartz), or oil dry used in auto shops, same thing. The finer the better. Pack on warm

  12. avatarGyufygy says:

    I propose a new column: How To Avoid Breaking Your Expensive Shit, You Ignorant Bubba Gunsmiths; by Dyspeptic Gunsmith.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I’m sorry that I don’t have the time for a regular contribution.

      There’s a heaping mound of misinformation peddled to gun owners in the guise of advice, but which is really just marketing and shameless hucksterism. Some of this is perpetrated by glossy magazines, some by product manufactures, some by people with hidden interests. I can and will say that if I have a financial or beneficial interest in anything I recommend, even in passing, I’ll clearly and forthrightly say it up front.

      Still, I have a full load of work on my plate as it is. I try to toss in positive contributions where I can, because I’d rather not have to tell a gun owner (or more likely have a fellow gunsmith do it) “You shouldn’t have done XYZ,” and the gun owner tell us “Well, no one told me!” or worse “I read about this over on Tactical Timmy’s blog and he said it was good!”

      The latter sort of thing usually gets a moment of calm silence from me before I ask: “Is Tactical Timmy in the business of looking gun owners in the eye and telling them how much it might cost to put things right? No? Hmmm. We might want to think about that for a few moments.”

      Gunsmiths often spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting the Quiet, Patient Face Palm.

      • avatarCarlosT says:

        Maybe Robert could collect questions for you and you could answer the ones that you have something to say about, when you have a moment to spare? Even a candle is invaluable in the deep of night.

      • avatarGyufygy says:

        Our loss, but thanks for what you do throw into the conversation.

      • avatarOther Derek says:

        With the economy as bad as it’s been, reading that you don’t have time to make a major contribution to the blog just made my day. Good to see people with all the work they can handle.

  13. avatarKris says:

    Graphite works well on the Glock as it “self cleans” all wet lubricants out of the gun after about 2 mags. For handguns that like it wet, such as my Sig and Kahr k9, I rub a minuscule amount of lithium grease on the rails, then add 75-90 synthetic marine gear lube. This keeps it just thick enough to not run all over the place and thin enough to not become gummy or retain a lot of particulates.

    But I’m really only experimenting at this point …

  14. avatarGunner442 says:

    I’m a big fan of Sentry Solutions “Tuf Cloth” Use it on all my firearms, even a rimfire .22LR Beretta 948 that has never has a hiccup since I switched. Pistols pretty much wipe clean after a range session. Advertised as tested and used by Navy SEALS( I can’t verify that though)
    http://www.sentrysolutions.com/

  15. avatarChris Dumm says:

    I’ve been using M-Pro 7 cleaner and lube for a few months. The cleaner does a good job of cutting through carbon on my AR bolt, and it doesn’t stink like Hoppe’s. My guns like it fine, and my wife loves that the kitchen doesn’t smell.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I’ve recommended MPro-7 for getting carbon fouling out before. The MPro-7 gel is excellent at another problem for gun owners, getting plastic shotcup residue out of badly fouled shotgun bores. Put the MPro gel into the bore liberally, then allow it to sit for, oh, an hour. Then go down the bore with a bore brush. In shotguns, I use both bronze and stainless steel brushes. If the fouling was very bad, I’ll slather on the MPro and then use a stainless steel brush, which is more aggressive than the bronze brushes. Then I’ll follow up with a jag with shop towels or bits of cotton rags (old t-shirts work well), then a light down the bore to evaluate.

      • avatarAccur81 says:

        I agree on your assessment of gun oil, and I’m currently vascillating on Slip 2000 vs. Frog Lube in my upcoming gas impingement 5.56 upper which will see both Russian ammo and high round counts. I’m considering a .22 LR conversion as well. Any thoughts on that application?

        How about the OTIS cleaning system and Ultrabore 850 (or 085)?

        By the way, your single piece cleaning rod with bore guide is a page that could have been taken straight out of sniper school.

        • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          No thoughts, as I don’t use Russian ammo (whether Wolf or Tula). I don’t know what their residue is like.

          Cleaning: I own a $100 Otis “universal” kit and augment it with one-piece rods, adaptors, various oils, cleaners, rust inhibitors and so on. I’ve cobbled together my own arsenal of cleaning tools and supplies over the years, so I don’t really have a recommendation on commercial, all-in-one (or similar) cleaning kits.

        • avatarAPBTFan says:

          I love my Otis kit. I have a Ruger Mini-14 and a Ruger 96/44 that can’t be cleaned from the breech with a normal rod and the Otis lets me get a good scrubbin’ in the bores without jacking up the muzzle crown. It’s also great in the range bag or hunting gear.

          For the Russian ammo/high round count scenario I highly recommend the home brew Dyspeptic Gunsmith mentioned earlier.

        • avatarWLCE says:

          “I agree on your assessment of gun oil, and I’m currently vascillating on Slip 2000 vs. Frog Lube in my upcoming gas impingement 5.56 upper which will see both Russian ammo and high round counts. I’m considering a .22 LR conversion as well. Any thoughts on that application?”

          really good question. To be honest, those two work exceptionally well on the AR15 DI system. SLIP 2000 is hard to beat, but Froglube works darn well too.

  16. avatarSteve says:

    People worry too much about what lube to use, rather than lubing often enough, and lubing correctly.

    A magic bullet is nice, but a regular bullet will do just fine.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Very much so. This all started by my reminding people, tho, that there is no magic “one oil does it all” product out there that cleans all manner of fouling out of bores and guns, lubricates moving surfaces in all operating conditions and prevents corrosion in all conditions.

      If someone hasn’t much money to spend on specialized oils and lubes, I’d say buy a quart of ATF and use that often.

  17. avatarAM says:

    >I make my own “bulk lube” from ATF (Mercon-III will work fine), synthetic motor oil, STP and Marvel Mystery Oil

    What specifically do you use and in what proportions?

  18. avatarPascal says:

    I will not claim to be an expert nor am I a gun smith nor have I been in the military. But here is my 32bits to the discussion.

    My brother is mechanical engineer, a machinest and also does a lot of wood working. His best friend is a Chemist with Mobil so I trust their judgement.

    The one thing you do not mention, is that some of these product only work if left on for some amount of time (including your car related oil/lubes which only work with heat). For example, CLP recommends one hour or over night. If you read the application directions, others have similar requirements. For Frog Lube, it only works if you use a hair dryer or heat gun. Its not wipe on wipe off which I see many do. I believe where Wipe on/Wipe off works is with RemOil which is best is if you get their hand wipe packs. Two weekends ago hunting season opened. It gets cold around here and there is dew in the morning and hard not to get wet in NE. The RemOil wipes work great after coming back from a hunt to wipe off the rifles to get the mud/dirt/water off the guns and keep them from rusting. Its the only time I use it and that method was given by an outfitter we use up in Maine.

    On the rust side for long term storage, we have always used Corrosion-X. It is used in industrial applications to prevent rust and is used in products my brother’s company ships all over the globe. They make a gun version but he and his friend do not believe it is any different than the commerical version except you can find it in small bottles. He applies it to all his wood working and 3 axis tools and has no rust or pitting in any of his tools. We also do a lot of car stuff and we use it there as well to stop or prevent rust in areas also with good results.

    On the gun stock side, the CMP forums which I have done a lot of reading of today seem to lean towards 100% Tung Oil versus BLO because BLO treated stocks will swell in high humidity versus Tung Oil. While Tung Oil is a pain to apply, the recommendation is 50/50 with mineral spirits for the first two applications. For stocks that are going to be put away for some time, we have always used Feed-n-Wax before putting them away and it seems to hold up especially in the winter where humidity drops to below 40 which can cause other problems for wood.

    Cleaning, I believe Hoppe’s works best at least for me for barrels, but for the most part I use Ballistol. I plug each end of the barrel and let it sit for at least an hour.

    On semi-auto rails, I like Slide Glide with the lite version in the winter and medium version in the hot summer. Where I need oil on parts I use Frog Lube although in the past I have used Brownels gun oil, I still use oil for my carry pistol.

    I have never had issues with rust or fouling including with my Stag AR and some very old CT Made Marlins, Winchesters and Remingtons. Not sure if I have been lucky or just diligent in my cleaning. None of my guns ever get put away dirty.

    I am not a fan of ATF, synthetic motor oil, STP and Marvel Mystery Oil because I do not believe they where formulated for the way firearms work. I am not saying they do not work and I cannot argue with your results, but I do not believe the detergents and solvets they use are ment for guns. I followed a very long discussion thread with Bruce Gray (grayson guns) and his opinion from his extensive experience is the general car stuff does not work. That opinion I have also heard from LEO Armorers and instructors I listened to at Glock, M&P and Sig Armorer classes I have taken. If it works and you have empirical evidence — then I don’t see a reason to stop but I rather stick to the gun specific products and IMHO most gun owners should as well.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      From an engineering standpoint (being that I’m a retired engineer), guns are nothing more or less than simple machines with sliding or rotating surfaces which put lubricants under rapid shear forces (especially semi-autos) or requirements for long periods of sitting unused, with no maintenance, which meant that the lubrication used could not dry up or turn to gum or varnish.

      Some lubrication points in guns will have issues of dirt and dust intrusion or carbon fouling from burnt powder. These are all issues addressed by industrial and automotive lubricant engineers. Auto engine oils use detergents to float carbon residues into the oil stream to have them filtered out by the oil filter, transmissions and geartrains have to deal with shear forces far in excess of what guns can produce. I use the above mixture because I go through a lot of it in semi-auto applications, and I’m not about to pay absurdly high prices for lubricants where I’m not shown actual lubrication testing per ASTM or ASME standards – and that describes most “miracle gun lubes.” An example: FrogLube’s MSDS doesn’t even give the most simple characteristics of the product in the MSDS:

      http://www.froglube.com/docs/FROGLUBE%20MSDS%203_8_12.pdf

      There’s a sometimes humous obsession by some American gun owners on getting the “perfect” accessory to put into their firearms which has arisen since WWII. When one reads the manuals for manual machines (lathes, mills, etc) and guns before WWII, the number of lubricants were counted on one hand. Since WWII, there’s been an explosion in the number of lubricants in all areas of mechanical applications, and firearms are no different. Some of the modern gun lubes are offering actual benefits, some of them offering such minor improvements that they’re nearly undetectable in common use. There’s plenty of examples of crude, but rather successful lubricants in guns from days past. For example, in Ye Olde Days, machinists used “lard oil” for cutting lube (in the manufacture of firearms) and black powder shooters used lard or tallow, or even bacon fat to lubricate their bullets. Cartridges for the Springfield rifles in the Civil War were lubed with tallow and beeswax. I have used bacon grease or lard oil for some machining applications (eg, tapping in stainless steel) because it works.

      All of these seemed to get the job done pretty well, all things considered.

      Since this started on the M1 Garand thread, I might as well mention that the actual spec lubricant for the Garand (and M14/M1A) is Lubriplate 130A “rifle grease.” Here’s the MSDS for Lubriplate 130-A:

      http://www.lubriplate.com/PDFs/MSDS/130-A.pdf

      Use what you will, just use something that doesn’t gum up when left for months, doesn’t run off or evaporate at high temps and doesn’t congeal at low temps.

      • avatarAPBTFan says:

        I’m sure you’ve seen it but the 12th edition of “Cartridges of the World” has a very interesting article on the rise and fall of Mobilubricant to ease the fouling of the cupronickel jackets of the day.

  19. avatarAlphaGeek says:

    WD40 is fantastic — as a machining lubricant for aluminum. I have spray bottles of WD40 permanently stationed at bandsaw, mill, lathe, and drill press.

    Sometimes I’ll use a spray can of WD40 as metal surface cleaning solution, though I will normally use brake cleaner and/or dry compressed air.

    I’d never let WD40 anywhere near my guns, though. I will admit to using CLP when I don’t want to put a gun away dirty after a trip to the range, but it can wait for a proper cleaning.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Agreed – there’s nothing better for a mirror-like finish on aluminum than a quick spritz of WD-40. Especially when flycutting…

  20. avatar16V says:

    The sad thing is we’re still talking about lubing non-cryoed, non-coated guns.

    Raw metal on raw metal friction with only a lube betwixt and between? Oh well. It’s like drag racing, 30 or 40 years late, they will finally hit the state of the shelf…

  21. avatarJim22 says:

    Grant Cunningham has a couple of informative treatises on lubrication on his blog. The first one is called ‘Lubricants 101′. It’s here:

    http://www.grantcunningham.com/lubricants101.html

    The second is called simply, “Lubrication”. Find it here:

    http://www.grantcunningham.com/blog_files/tag-lubrication.html

    He goes into a lot of detail.

  22. avatarRalph says:

    Thanks for a great article, Dyspeptic.

    Question: I’ve been using white lithium grease on slide rails for years and it seems to work very well, but I have no idea what it’s doing on a molecular level. Any thoughts?

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Ralph,

      Rather than type in another rather long answer, I went looking for my favorite engineering book on lubrication… and lo! I found it for you (and everyone else).

      The ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) has a tidy little book titled:

      “Lubrication and Lubricant Selection” by A.R. Lansdown, which can be purchased here:

      http://www.asme.org/products/books/lubrication-and-lubricant-selection,-third-edition

      available for $129 (I’m assuming most all here are not ASME members), plus shipping…. but a copy of which you can find here:

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/7363043/Lubrication-and-Lubricant-Selection

      For greases (including lithium greases), you want to start reading at p. 127 and go forward from there. Molecular level chemistry is discussed, as well as the actions of actual lubrication.

      Lithium #2 grease is a fine lube for sliding surfaces and is very commonly available. The “#2″ is the NLGI (National Lubricating Grease Institute) number, which gives an idea of how thick the grease is. Most all greases you’ll run into in automotive, farm, heavy equipment, etc will be NLGI #2, NLGI #1 in cold weather, and NLGI #00 for some types of gearboxes that move at slow speed. Stick with #2 or #1 for firearms.

      Another grease that would work very well on metal-on-metal sliding surfaces in firearms (eg, the 1911 slide, or WWII semi-auto rifle slides) would be a moly disulphide grease. The moly adds lubricity to the grease base. The downside of moly greases is that they’re capable of making you look filthy – they’re black, staining concoctions that seem to get everywhere once you touch them. But for bearingless sliding or rotating metal-on-metal contacts, they work wonderfully well.

      The upside of greases is that they adhere to that which you wish to lube wonderfully well – much better than oils. The downsides are that they start becoming very viscous in cold temps, possibly hindering operation, and they have a habit of attracting and retaining fine grit, which where I live in the intermountain west, is a big deal. The only way to deal with this latter downside is to clean out all the grease and put in new lubricant.

  23. avatarMC says:

    Some gun shops offer ultrasonic cleaning. If I have access to an ultrasonic bath, is there any reason I couldn’t clean it that way myself? What should I be mindful of? Is there anything it might damage?

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      If you’re using a water-based degreaser/cleaner in the ultrasonic bath (and most ultrasonics do use a water-based degreaser solution), you’ll want to drive the water out with a complete immersion after the ultrasonic bath. Get a tank or tub that can completely contain your firearm and fill it with a water-dispersing oil like WD-40 or LPS-1, (I prefer LPS-1) and dunk said firearm in the oil. You will see a “cloud” or “fog” come off the gun, and that’s the water being driven off. Let it sit in there for, oh, five minutes, pull it out, drain, wipe down, and do whatever you were going to do next.

      Ultrasonic cleaners are good, but there are times that there’s gunk on a gun that an ultrasonic bath won’t completely remove. Plastic fouling in a shotgun is one example, copper and lead fouling in rifles/pistols is another. Ultrasonic is great for basic dirt, oil residue, carbon, powder fouling, etc. It’s not a replacement for a detailed strip, clean, oil and inspection.

  24. avatarJAS says:

    After years of trying every oil and grease on the planet I have now settled on Mil-Comm’s TW-25B grease and MC2500 gun oil. I was sold when I read that this stuff is what the Air Force uses on their fighter jets’ 20mm Gatling guns. Even more sold now after using it for a whole year on all my firearms.

    For bore cleaning I still use Hoppe’s copper fouling formula, but I now follow this with Wilson Combat’s Bore Polish:

    http://shopwilsoncombat.com/Ultima-Lube-II-Bore-Polish-4-oz-Bottle/productinfo/604-4/

    Expensive, but it works incredibly well. So well in fact that be prepared to go through a lot of patches!

    J.

  25. avatarScott says:

    Not one person has mentioned anything about “Tetra” lube. I was given a bottle of the lube and a can of the spray back in 1995, I lived in Michigan at the time and hunted from November to April with a Mossberg 835 scoped rifled slug barrel and a shot barrel. I cleaned all of my guns (Rossi 357, new england single shot 410, and my Mossberg ) with #9 solvent and the Tetra lube in the barrel and all the sliding parts and used the spray on the hard to reach places. I have never had a problem with the difference in temperature acting on the lube and I think it even improved my accuracy. I have been using it ever since on every gun I own and have been living near the gulf coast in Texas for 5 years now and no problem with rust. After I clean the gun, I use a mop to apply the lube to the barrel and a cloth to apply to all of the other surfaces, I put a couple of drops on all of the sliding parts and spray the trigger assembly with the Tetra spray, re assemble them, work them over a couple of times and wipe off the excess and put them away. The next time I am ready to shoot I load and go, and when I am ready to clean if it is that day or a week later everything cleans real easy and I have even gone to the non disassembly cleaning spray for the trigger parts. Nothing has given me a problem or rusted and I keep my guns in a hard case in the closet or in a holster on my hip. Now I have my grandfather’s bolt action and a lever action single shot 22, a synthetic Mossberg 835, the other 835surfaces from 1995, Rossi 357, hi point 45, smith and Wesson 40, and a Taurus PT 145. Ally of them get the same treatment and all of the handguns at one point have been carried concealed and now my children shoot and clean them about once every 3 weeks. Never once have I had an issue with excessive fouling (unless I shot the winchester value pack) or anything mechanical (even the hi point). I can’t find Tetra at stores, so I have to order it on line from Tetra, but the 8oz lube and spray has lasted me a long time and I think its like $12.00 for the lube and $10.00 for the spray. They have a lube in a tube, but I haven’t tried it yet and a cleaning spray that I haven’t tried yet either. For $20.00 you can get what I call a trial package that has all of their gun maintenance stuff in a small size. I don’t work for them or sell the product, I am just like everyone else here who wants to find something that works and works good without have 20 different products that cost a fortune. If someone else tries it or has tried it, let me know what your results are, it works for me and is cheap so I will continue using it unless some says they had a melt down with the product.

  26. avatarChris says:

    First I liked to address boiled linseed oil. It works great on plain, non-glossy wood stocks. Wait for warm weather, and coat the exposed wood. After it is dried, rub with extra fine steel wool, leaving a warm, semi-gloss finish. Repeat if desired.

    Never had a problem with most gun oils except when they get old. Also, as they tend to evaporate, sometimes flat, metal on metal surfaces can get gummy. Isopropyl alcohol (97%) takes care of that.

    Bought a new Sig P239. Asked about a grease, but the gun store guy recommended some graphite based choke lube. Its ok for slide rails, but leaves a black residue on external parts. The Sig came with a small amount of TW25B, which has good reviews but is a bit pricey, and a neighbor uses Froglube. Both are synthetic, and non-toxic. Ordered some TW25b and it should do the job without drying or gumming up.

  27. avatarPete says:

    This is one of the coolest discussions I’ve found on the Internet!
    I’d like to add a couple of thoughts:
    1 I shot m14 in service and used grease. Ran like a champ! Recently, I tried using some green product … Carbon killer, a green color non-toxic carbon remover. It cleaned out carbon like majic! However, I started to have feeding issues. Switched back to more traditional products… No problem. Bought an ak-47, the gun that has reputation of being super reliable. My gun had the worst feeding issues with clp type lubes. I thought about it and realized that it is not a modern gun, but a peer of m1/m14. Pulled out grease, and voila! No feed problems! Older firearms were not made like newer model like ar. M1 and m14 float bolt till they lock into battery. Harder to choke gun:) My uncle served in ww11, he loved his m1. It never let him down. Until I tried newer cleaning products, never had problem with m14, m1a. I easily put over 15,000 rounds thru 2 of them.

  28. avatarMaciek says:

    First of all WD-40 is not a lubricant, but “water dispersant” (anybody ever wondered what that WD stands for?). It is to displace any residues of water. That’s why it is good for rust as it evicts water that with proper elements (e.g. salt) causes rust. It will also break up some rust while preventing it. It will do wonderful things, but do not use it as lubricant on anything. It is not meant for it. Or should I say temporarily it will lubricate, but that lubrication will be too thin and not long term. So do not rely on it. And do not use it for joint pains or as sunscreen either. Some tried that ;)

  29. avatarPaelorian says:

    Dyspeptic Gunsmith, I trust your expertise. I would gladly travel out of my way to visit you and patronize your business. If I knew where to go, I would certainly make note of it, and I imagine many of the other readers on this website who are familiar with your erudite comments feel the same. A good gunsmith—experienced, competent, learned, and wise—is a valuable person to know. It’s definitely worth putting up with a dyspeptic attitude to have an amicable relationship with such a man. I can’t judge your work on blog comments alone, but they’re certainly a promising lead.

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