Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gun Lubricants

There's a lot of information on the gun boards lately about proper gun lubrication. While many of us want to properly lubricate our firearms, I've got to remind everyone that firearms are simply machines and the lube industry has been making good solvents and lubes for many years. There have been thousands of guns with multiple decade lives that ran on a simple combination of kerosene solvent and 3-in-1 oil as a lubricant.

Most industrial lubricants are manufactured in huge quantities by the lube companies. There have been huge leaps in lubrication science over the past twenty years, and most of those have an automotive or industrial application. Put simply, would a lube manufacturer rather sell lots of good motor oil, or relatively tiny quantities of gun oil?

That's not to say that some of the gun lubes aren't very fine lubricants. But, I'd bet that the vast majority of what we call gun oils can be found also as industrial lubricants, simply repackaged in smaller quantities for the home hobbyist. In this article, Grant Cunningham explains the general qualities of a good gun lube. He sums it up very succinctly:
Let's be clear: there are no "new", "revolutionary" lubricant products made for firearms. That's a flat statement, and it's intended to be. All of the lubricants, bases, and additives of suitable use are already well known to the lubricant industry. Specific combinations might be unique, but it's all been tried before - if not necessarily on guns.
And there you have it. There are good oils, solvents and greases out there, and most of them can be found in any good auto-parts store. The newer ATFs (auto transmission fluids) are very good boundary lubricants. As are the newer synthetic motor oils. Some guys are using Mobile1 motor oil almost exclusively on their firearms. A quart will last a long time, and you can use it in your lawnmower too.

I use Hoppe's solvent for cleaning, but that's simply tradition on my part. I also use CLP for some lube tasks, but I'd be just as well served by using a good Dexron ATF. I've got a tube of white lithium grease that I bought at an auto parts store several years ago. I paid $1.19 for it, and I've still got most of it.

Most folks don't know it, but the Alox we use to lubricate bullets is an industrial lubricant. One grade of Alox is used to resist corrosion (rust) on large sheets of industrial steel. Alox is currently made by the Lubrizol Corporation. The folks who sell Alox for bullet lube buy it in 30 gallon barrels and repackage it for the gun trade. In just a few minutes online I found one guy who's doing just that. He called it White Label XLox and sells it in larger bottles. I might have to give him a call.

Don't be afraid to use a good quality oil or grease on your firearms. It doesn't have to say Gun Oil on the package.


be603 said...

I with you on this. Got exposed to a lot of this in my past life training as an aircraft mech.

For my part, I've still got most of a gallon of homebrew Ed's Red. It's terrific and will last me a long time ('cept I keep giving samples out).

I would add however that science hasn't stood completely still. There have been recent advances partcularly (no pun intended) in the use of nanoparticles in lubes. I've been trying out Slipstream lately and I swear it's witchcraft.

J said...

Save your money on the xlox, Pawpaw. You buddy, Junior, has either a 1/2 gal or a qt of it . . . somewhere. Also, the lsstuff NRA alox stick is good stuff. It's what Junior uses in his world famous Junior Lube.

Old NFO said...

Good post Paw, and lubrication IS critical to semi-autos and AR type rifles... Bill Laughridge has quite a tech article saying the same thing...

Rivrdog said...

Two words: Ed's Red.


Stoddard's Solvent is also known as Paint Thinner. Acetone is also known as Lacquer Thinner.

I'd leave out the Lanolin, it's a biological, and all biologicals change over time. To preserve the bore if you're not going to fire the gun for a while, us a sticky-residue stuff like CLP or LPS-3

By all reports, Ed's Red WORKS as a cleaner, and will get ALL the fouling out of a barrel, but it will NOT strip all the lube out of the metal's micropores, like using straight solvent will (it puts it back at the same time, sort of like changing your gun's oil!)

Skip said...

Madogre's Slipstream is good and I like the needle aplicator.