The Lubrication Wars

Caleb lobs a grenade into the lubrication wars. I’ve never been convinced by the fancy oils either, but I do like to clean my guns with Gunzilla, because it has very little odor, and works well. I’ve done the brake cleaner thing, and while it’s quick, effective, and easy, I thought I could hear my brain cells crying in agony and dying every time I caught a whiff of the fumes. I agree with Caleb on motor oils though. If it’s good enough to keep a car running it ought to be good enough to keep a gun running. A common mistake people make with oil is using too much. ARs are especially sensitive to over-lubricating.

17 thoughts on “The Lubrication Wars”

  1. For a second I thought this was going to be about something else, then I realized how glad I am that this is a gun blog.

  2. “If it’s good enough to keep a car running…”

    I’d say most of the time I was growing up, all our guns knew was Hoppe’s No. 9, SAE 30 motor oil, and maybe 3-in-1 oil. Also, mineral oil, soaked in a rag and used to rub down the steel after handling. The need for hairier-chested solvents like carburetor cleaner came with ’60s-vintage ball powders, some of which could foul a barrel to an astounding degree.

    That said, and not being a lubrication engineer, I’d caution against applying “if it keeps a car running” assumptions too easily and without investigation and thought. The chemical contents of modern lubricants have very specific purposes, that may not always transfer well between applications.

    Not gun-related, but back in the late ’60s my dad developed the logic that if you added STP to $0.19 a quart Fox Head Motor Oil, it became as good or better than the best motor oil ever made. He convinced some of my buddies of that, and when one of them wiped all the lobes off the cam of his new SS 396, we learned it wasn’t true. So, better not to assume.

    1. Hoppes I learned, Hoppes I generally still use, though Rem oil is quite handy in wipe form. We wore old cotton uniform gloves for the skin oil/handling problem, though now latex suits me better.

      I have used nastier things on occasion when involved in more of a rescue project, but those are exceptions.

  3. One of the links in the comments to Caleb’s post gave a REALLY good reason to not use motor oil as a gun lube. There are chemical additives in the oil to help at high temperatures that you really shouldn’t have in constant contact with your skin, like say while it’s holstered day after day.

    Personally, I use M-pro to clean my guns, because it works well, has no odor, and it is pretty cheap if you buy it in larger quantities. For lube, I’ve got enough of various “super lubes” that I’ve picked up that it will be a while before I need to get anything else.

    1. I dunno about you, but I don’t lubricate the outside of my guns…

      The couple-of-drops of motor oil it’d take to lubricate the moving bits of any normal gun just aren’t going to cause skin issues in the vast majority of us (and those that it will, more likely to be “because it’s any oil”, not because of the additive package).

      (And I’m not worried about a trivial amount of potential benzenes in a trivial amount of lubricant Vaguely Near my skin.

      Shooting a gun exposes you to more environmental hazard than that.

      Btu then I also change my own oil on my ancient beater, covering my hands and forearms with pitch-black carbon-soot-filled old oil with god knows what combustion products in it.

      Plainly I’m gonna die … before I’m 120.)

  4. I’ve always been a fan of Break-Free CLP. It’s not as fancy as some of the stuff out there, but it’s cheap, works well enough at all three tasks its marketed for, and I’ve never had a problem. I’ve considered using something like FrogLube because it’s non-toxic, but generally consider the lubrication properties to be roughly the same as anything else.

    Motor oil’s great for lubrication, but I’m not sure how effective it’d be at “staying put” and protecting a gun against corrosion (as I’m living out of the country for a few years and storing my guns at a family member’s house, corrosion-resistance is an important consideration for me). After two years in a locked, non-air-conditioned (read: variable humidity and temperature) in the Northeast after being cleaned and liberally oiled with CLP, none of my guns had even the slightest bit of corrosion.

  5. “A common mistake people make with oil is using too much. ARs are especially sensitive to over-lubricating.”

    Larry Vickers on TAC TV did a segment on this. He literally drowned an AR-15 in motor oil and it ran like a champ. For what it’s worth, his opinion is that under lubrication is worse than over lubrication.

    1. I’ve always been of the opinion that the gases tend to foul the oil. I’ve done better when i just lubricate contact surfaces lightly. I had more AR problems back when I slathered them with oil. Someone (I can’t remember who, now) said that was likely my problem, told me to cut back on the oil, and I’ve had less problems. But then again, I have not replicated this experiment with dozens of ARs. Just the couple I own.

    1. It may be a myth, but it’s not convincing. I could piss on a gun and run ten rounds through it with no trouble. But what about 100? 500? 1000?

  6. Ballistol. The Germans got something right at the turn of the century as it’s good for guns, leather, and apparently small wounds.

  7. For general lubrication I use Rem Oil. To protect stored firearms against corrosion I use a couple of drops of transmission fluid wiped on with a piece of flannel cloth.

    I’ve been doing that for years as my uncle a former Marine did that to all of his guns. He also cautioned against over lubrication, saying it would just collect fouling and cause excessive wear. The only firearm of his that got more than 2 or 3 drops of oil was the Garand he carried in Korea.

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