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The Search for the Perfect Firearms Lubricants
by Roy Seifert


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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.  All tools were purchased from Brownells unless otherwise indicated.

Introduction
Like many firearms enthusiasts, I want to keep my firearms in tip-top condition, which means cleaning and lubricating them properly.  We all have our favorite cleaners and lubricants, but I wanted to find a cost-effective product that would lubricate and protect my firearms from corrosion when stored long-term in my gun safe.  (As you will see, I did save money per use, but not on the initial cost.)  I have used all the cleaners/lubricants pictured above at one time or another; some worked well and were easy to use, and others did not work or were difficult to use.  Iím sure one or more of your favorites is here.

In an effort to save money I was searching the Internet for a homemade lubricant and stumbled on Grant Cunninghamís excellent article Lubrication 101:  Gun oil, snake oil, and how to tell the difference.  His article explains all about firearms lubricants; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I am going to start using the oil and grease based on his article.  I also watched some YouTube videos on testing firearms lubricants, which I found interesting and enlightening.

Gun Oil

For years I used Hoppeís #9 gun oil as my final preservative, but I discovered that it dries out, and when dry it provides little or no protection.  This may be why when I purchase a used gun it comes to me bone dry.  The oil used by the previous owner has probably dried out while the gun was stored.

Years ago, I read an article in a gun magazine about a corrosion test where the author coated iron nails with different lubricants and suspended them in jars of water to see which provided the best corrosion protection.  Breakfree CLP (Clean Lube Protect) was the hands-down winner, so I stopped using Hoppeís and began using CLP.  CLP has Teflon suspended in it, and when left sitting, the Teflon will separate out, so it should be shaken (not stirred 😉) before each use.

It seemed to take forever to clean a gun with CLP, so I called the manufacturer and was told that CLP should not be used as the primary gun cleaner; itís better to use a dedicated solvent/cleaner for the initial cleaning, then finish lubricating with CLP.  There is a cleaning component added to CLP in case the firearm is still a little dirty, but it should be used only as a lubricant and final preservative.  I have a rag (old T-shirt) that is so soaked with CLP that I use it to wipe down my guns after handling.

In the processing of fabricating parts I found LPS Tapmatic #1 Gold.  This is designed as a cutting fluid, but on firearms it works great for long-term storage.  It sticks to metal and wonít dry out like Hoppeís.  I have been using this on all the surfaces of my guns where there is no part interaction, i.e. not on pins, sears, slide rails, etc.  The MSDS shows it is composed of:

  • Distillates (Petroleum), Hydrotreated Heavy 064742-52-5

  •  Methyl Ester of Soybean Oil 067784-80-9

  •  Dipropylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether 029911-28-2

  •  Methyl ester ES 061788-61-2

For me, this seemed to work very well as a preservative/final coating after thoroughly cleaning a gun.  I havenít done any corrosion testing with this oil, but I like the fact that it sticks to the metal.  After reading Grantís article, I will no longer be using this oil on my guns, primarily because I havenít researched or tested it as thoroughly as Grant.

For use on sears I have been using Brownellís Action Lube Plus which works well.  Iíve had a small tub for years and apply it with a toothpick.  I will continue to use this on internal parts as recommended by Grant.

For slide rails I have been using Gun Butter.  Itís expensive, but a little goes a long way.  I put a few tiny drops on the slide and frame rails, move the slide back and forth on the frame a few times, wipe off the excess, and Iím good to go.  Again, based on Grantís article, Iíll be using the SFL-0 grease.

I really like the needle attachment that comes with Gun Butter because it allows me to control the amount and location of the lubricant.  Most firearms lubricants come with a spout with a large opening that causes you to apply way too much, which you then must wipe off.  This wastes the excess lubricant, which means it is used up more quickly.  Maybe that is the manufacturerís plan to get you to buy more!  (You can purchase empty needle oilers from Amazon.com to help control your application of oil.  I have included links in this article for everything I purchased from Amazon.)

Yes, I have used automotive wheel bearing grease to grease up my M1 Garand.  Garandgear.com recommends any NLGI #2 grease.  I also use this grease on my Ruger Mini-30, and other firearms with high-friction, high-demand areas.  I apply the grease with either a cotton swab for large areas, or a toothpick for small areas.  I apply a thin layer; a little goes a long way.  Grant says to avoid most automotive products because they are designed for vehicles and may have qualities/additives not good for firearms use.  His exception is good olí Dexron automatic transmission fluid (ATF) which he says has most of the qualities a good gun oil should have, with some exceptions.  He doesnít care for the red dye that stains, the odor or the toxicity, and it only provides average corrosion protection, so he doesnít recommend ATF anymore.  For the M1 Garand, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) recommends using the same SFL-0 grease as recommended by Grant.

My Cleaning Routine
We all have a specific cleaning routine for our guns.  My cleaning routine consists of the following procedure:

  1. Run a dry bore brush through the barrel and cylinder chambers to loosen soot particles.

  2. Run a patch wetted with Edís Red (formula at the end of this article) through the barrel and cylinder chambers.

  3. Run a bore brush through the wet barrel and cylinder chambers to scrub them.

  4. For barrels with lead or copper fouling, I plug the breach, fill the barrel with Butches Bore Shine, and let it soak for a couple of hours.

  5. Run patches wetted with Edís Red through the barrel and cylinder chambers until they come out clean.

  6. Take the patch used in the previous step to wipe down exposed areas of the cylinder and frame/ receiver, barrel and muzzle.  Donít forget to clean the magazine tube if your gun has one[i].

  7. Use a cotton swab wetted with Edís Red to clean out all the nooks and crannies.  I am constantly amazed how gunpowder residue gets everywhere; especially on semi-auto handguns and rifles[ii].

  8. Once clean, dry thoroughly with patches, cotton swabs, and a cloth.

  9. Run a patch wetted with oil through the barrel and cylinder chambers.  Use the same patch to coat all external surfaces of the gun.

  10. Run a dry patch through the barrel and cylinder chambers.  This leaves a thin coating of oil on the metal.

  11. Apply a thin layer of grease to slide rails and bolt carriers or other recommended areas (as on an M1 Garand).

  12. Use a gun cloth to wipe down all external surfaces of the gun.  Try not to touch the metal surfaces of the gun when putting it in storage, or wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints on the metal.  Fingerprints contain oil which can cause corrosion.  Never store a gun in a bag or leather holster as these can absorb moisture and cause corrosion.  ďBut I just oiled my gun!Ē  Gun bags and leather will absorb the oil leaving the gun dry and susceptible to corrosion.

I use an old T-shirt as a gun cloth.  It has been liberally coated with my favorite gun oil, which I use to wipe down my guns after handling.  I have one coated with Breakfree CLP, and one coated with Tapmatic #1 Gold.  After you wipe down a freshly oiled gun, your gun cloth will absorb more oil, which makes it perfect for wiping down already-clean guns.  After reading Grantís article, I will have a gun cloth impregnated with the FG 68 oil.  To make your own gun cloth, take an 18Ē x18Ē piece of flannel, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of oil all over the cloth, then roll it up and wring it out like a washcloth.  The oil will impregnate the cloth which you can use to wipe down your guns.

Grant Cunninghamís Article
So, did you read Grantís article?  Based on his article I decided to change my firearm lubricants.

Grant recommends Lubriplate FMO-350-AW as his primary lubricant.  It is a non-toxic, food-grade mineral oil with additives that provides excellent lubrication, migration, and protection for firearms.  It is cheaper than any specialty gun oil, but it is only available in large quantities.  Amazon sells a 4-gallon case for $135.87 with free shipping which comes to 26.5Ę/ounce.  Lubrikit www.lubrikit.com is selling this oil and the SFL-0 grease in a kit.  The kit consists of two 15cc Syringes of Lubriplate SFL-0 grease plus a 4oz bottle of Lubriplate FMO 350-AW Oil for $16.95 plus shipping.  15cc is about 1/2 ounce so all together there are 5 ounces of lubricant, which comes to $3.39/ounce plus shipping.

 

Bluesky Lubricants sells an exact replacement for the Lubriplate FMO-350-AW lubricant called FG 68 manufactured by Stratus, a German company https://blueskylubricants.com/lubriplate-fmo-350-aw-equivalents/.  Amazon.com sells it in a 5-gallon pail for $86.40 + $24.99 shipping for a total of $111.39, which comes to 17.5Ę/ounce.  Cheaper than the Lubriplate product, but still expensive for the large quantity.  I purchased this 5-gallon pail which will last me a lifetime, so guess what my shooting friends will be getting for Christmas?  Not everyone can afford to purchase this much oil, but if several friends get together, or maybe a gun club makes the purchase, it can be very cost effective.

 

Grant also recommends using Lubriplate SFL-0 food-grade, aluminum-based grease.  I purchased a 15oz. tub for $25.87 with free shipping from Amazon.com which should also last me a lifetime.  MidwayUSA.com sells it for $15.99 plus shipping.  Because I travel for a living and get to save my air miles, I converted some of those miles into Amazon gift cards and purchased the oil, grease, and packaging shown below for free.  Purchasing from MidwayUSA.com would require that I pay with cash.

Repackaging

 

Because I had so much oil and grease, I decided to repackage it into easier to use containers for myself and for gifts for my shooting friends.  I purchased some 10ml/10cc syringes with caps and some with 1.5Ē blunt needles.  I also purchased 1-ounce bottles; some with caps, some with long needle caps, and some with short needle caps.  My wife found a case of 60 10cc makeup/candle tins at a discount store for $2.00 which worked great for the grease.

 

The 5-gallon pail of FG 68 came with a spout in the lid.  I purchased a pump from Amazon.com that screwed onto the spout which allowed me to dispense the oil directly into a container.  I pumped the oil into a 1-pint plastic bottle, then from the 1-pint plastic bottle into the 1-ounce bottles.  I also made some flannel gun cloths impregnated with FG 68 oil to give to my friends.

 

The SFL-0 grease is so light (NLGI #0) that I could draw it directly into a syringe through a small PVC tube.  I used the syringe to fill a 10cc tin, then covered the tin and sealed it with tape around the seam.  After I filled all the tins that I needed, I refilled the syringe once more, then cleaned and capped the tip.  I labeled each bottle, tin and syringe with a marker.  So, each of my friends received three bottles of oil, two 10cc syringes of grease, a 10cc tin filled with grease, and a flannel cloth impregnated with FG 68 oil to use as a gun cloth.  This will probably last them many years, but I have enough to replenish them if necessary.

 

I placed everything in a plastic sandwich bag because I didnít want the oil to leak.  I purchased a bundle of 25 4Ē x 4Ē x 8Ē shipping boxes also from Amazon.  I used these to package the oil bottles, tin and syringes which I wrapped and gave to my shooting friends for Christmas.  I also provided a copy of Grantís article in each box.  I reformatted it to fit in a 5 1/2Ē x 8 1/2Ē booklet.  This gives my friends some justification why I am providing oil and grease as a gift.

Here are the links for the items I purchased from Amazon.com:

Summary
If you watch You Tube or read articles on the Internet, everyone has their own take on firearms lubrication, and often their own recipe.  Many follow the general rule of lubrication; oil for rotating parts, grease for sliding parts that carry a load.  Some say not to use grease because it attracts and holds dirt and grit and will eventually cause excessive wear.  Hopefully this shouldnít be a problem because the SFL-0 grease is so thin.  Excessive oil will also attract dirt and grit, which is why oil and grease should be used lightly and sparingly. 

So, was the use of this oil and grease worth the cost?  Because it lubricates and protects my firearms, the cost was far less than specialty gun oils and greases.  Yes, the money spent could have purchased a lot of more expensive specialty lubricants, but again, I want the best for my firearms.  When lubricating firearms, less is more, so small amounts will last a long time.  But because my guns spend more time in the gun safe than at the range, I needed the corrosion protection.  The cost to me was $0 because I used air miles to purchase Amazon gift cards.  However, each lubrication kit would have cost me $6.10, which is much less than a small bottle of many specialty gun care products available on the market.  And rather than relying on marketing and advertising ďhypeĒ about the next miracle lubricant/protectant for firearms, I based my purchases on facts backed up by knowledgeable experts.

Thanks to Grant Cunningham for sharing his research, findings, and suggestions in his excellent article.  If you havenít already read his article, please click on the link at the beginning of this article or down below.  Like me, you will probably find it both informative, and a little bit embarrassing because I, too, have been caught up in the expensive, marketing hype searching for the perfect firearms lubricant!

Lubrication 101:  Gun oil, snake oil, and how to tell the difference  

Ed's Red Formula

  • Acetone, 1 quart

  • Kerosene, 1 quart

  • ATF, 1 quart

  • Mineral spirits or turpentine, 1 quart

Many years ago, I mixed up a gallon of Edís Red and I think Iím about half-way through.  I keep it stored in my gun room in a 1-gallon pickle jar but keep a quart of it on my cleaning table in a Mason jar.  It took a while to get used to the smell, but the next time I mix up a batch Iíll be using odorless kerosene and odorless mineral spirits.  The red dye used in the Dexron ATF will stain, so I wear a shop apron when cleaning guns.  Edís Red does a poor job of preserving firearms, so I only use it as a cleaning agent.

Homemade Firearms Lube (CLP)

I did find a homemade lubricant formula on the Internet; here it is:

  • 2-Quarts Synthetic Motor Oil.  We used 10-30 but weight isnít important.

  • 1-Quart Automatic Transmission Fluid.  Brand and spec. donít matter.

  • 1-Bottle of original STP.  The blue bottle.

  • 1-7 oz. bottle of Hoppe's #9 Solvent.  (This is the cleaning agent.)

Get a one-gallon container; be sure it is clean.  Pour the oil and ATF in first and shake well.  Add the STP and then the Hoppe's and mix well.

A little goes a long way.  Give your friends some.  It is some amazing liquid.


[i] I once had a lever-action rifle stop feeding cartridges during a cowboy match because the follower in the magazine tube bound up.  Because I was shooting light loads the brass didnít expand to seal the chamber so soot got down into the magazine tube.  Over time, the build-up of soot caused the follower to jam.  Not a good thing to happen in the middle of a match.  Also, this soot attracts moisture.  The magazine tube in my Winchester í97 was very pitted from rust because the previous owner(s) never cleaned and oiled it.

[ii] .22s are notoriously dirty and soot gets into many nooks and crannies of a gun, especially semiauto handguns and rifles.  I have also found Alliant powders to be more dirty than other powders.

 
   © Copyright 2019 Roy Seifert.