Firearm lubrication is an interesting topic for the off-the-grid lifestyle, especially if a situation develops which threatens normalcy in the future. Not having access to high quality lubricants in a stressful or necessary situation could have a negative impact in your survivability or comfort. Very few guns can function on minimal lubrication, no matter what you do, so you will want to take a look at the options and reinforce your supplies to meet the need going forward.
Lubrication isn’t just about oil though; greases, dry lubes, and finishes can be a big part of the overall health of your gun and help you to achieve specific goals with your firearm. But what do you need to know?
The most important fact is this: ANYTHING is better than nothing. If you have a choice between none or some of the lesser quality stuff, at least stock up a bit on SOMETHING.
From ninety-nine-cent metal oilcans to a tube of lithium grease, there are myriad options for lubrication of your family guns, hunting partner, or self-defense specialist. While it is obviously better to have quality lubrication whenever possible, even the cheap stuff heals a bit.
First, you will want to understand where each type of lubricant makes sense. Grease is for heavy tension spots, where tolerances are looser, and where it’s possible to have outside contaminants. Oil and specialty lubes will usually be for ultra-high-tolerance areas, where lubrication is necessary, but where “gumming” or heavy weight will not promote the best activity.
Grease is almost never used in firearms, not because it doesn’t work, but usually because it’s harder to apply and the same parts can usually be taken care of with oil alone. If you go the grease route, use it in areas like railways (areas where lugs or slide rails fit) and in areas where there will be heavy tension, like in roller lockups or indexing pieces. Grease is a good choice for rails, bolt lugs, and in certain areas of the action, especially in guide rods or spring guides in general. DO NOT use grease on the bolt face, or any other part where tolerances could be pushed to the limits by a film of grease only a few thousandths thick. Also, don’t use oil with grease. Try to keep them separate to maximize the properties of each for the specific areas.
Some good grease options for firearm use are choke tube lube, molybdenum disulfide, and copper disulfide. These lubricants have body, but they also provide exceptional lubrication and have good contact and crush strength, to avoid premature wear on parts and premature breakdown of the lubricant.
A tiny tube will go a long way. One dab of high-quality choke tube lube on each railway or bolt lug interface will last a long time and provide good protection. But remember: don’t use these types of grease in closed holes where a part must move. Specifically AVOID using grease of ANY type in the firing pin hole or any holes containing a tight-fitting spring.
Oil is used for the more specific purposes of high tolerance lubrication and corrosion prevention. It’s important to note that unlike oil, grease is never mandatory, though many use it for specific high-wear, low-tolerance areas. If you have to pick between grease and oil, go with oil, and maintain the firearm more judiciously. Oil is much more susceptible to foreign object contamination, breakdown, and overuse. It should be used in moderation, in a double-dose application, whereas grease would be a single application typically. Oil should be used to coat the entirety of a specific surface or action area, and then wiped off to spread the oil and thin the application, at which point a second very minimal and focused application should be used. An example would be to use oil to cover a sear/hammer/trigger/disconnector area while assembled, and then to wipe that area down to make sure excess is removed and oil is fully distributed. At that point you, will want to apply a drop or two of oil to each crucial bearing surface, i.e. hammer/sear connection or trigger/hammer connection, etc. A gun should always be wiped down and shaken to ensure excess oil is clear of areas where it can span a distance and cause reliability or functionality concerns.
A firing pin channel, bolt-to-breech opening, or gas piston could be disrupted by over oiling. It’s important not to be aggressive with oiling and to exercise a multi-application approach.
There are several ideas for using oil. The old spray oil is an easy way to apply it, but it’s wasteful, expensive, and there is a lot left to be desired with the spray platform. Generic gun oils are priced well, but aren’t as great as they could be. Pundits who advocate expensive treatments mock the detergents in homemade oils that use motor oil as a base. There are a ton of hurdles to finding good oil. Let me remind you that Iraqi freedom fighters, Afghan warriors from the Cold War, United States Armed Forces snipers and countless other teams of operators have used motor oil to solve a problem many armchair gun lube experts would have you believe cannot be solved with motor oil. Below is a recipe for homemade oil that contains a low amount of detergents, costs little to make, and will give you enough lube to last you many years if stored properly.
- 4 parts Mobil One synthetic oil
- 2 parts Dexron ATF
- 1 part Hoppes #9
- 1 part STP oil treatment
The yield is about eight ounces. Each eight-ounce batch costs about $3 or so.
It can be used for any material (though plastics should not have heavy applications of petroleum-based products on them), lubricates well, and costs next to nothing. Combine this recipe with a two-ounce container of choke tube lube, and you have a set of lubricants ready to service a firearm for years, and the cost is under $20, with some of the most effective lubrication you can imagine.
In lieu of this recipe, you can always opt for higher-priced or specialty oils, but make sure you have enough to suit your needs and protect your firearm for an extended period of time.