The Best Gun Cleaner and Lube Options
There are lots of magic formulas and snake oil in the world of firearms. While these marketing departments try their best to make a product stand out from the crowd, most are repurposed industrial chemicals. If applied correctly, all these years of experience from industry can benefit the gun community. Most of the things that I’ve had the chance to use over the years, from Hoppes to CLP to cherry-scented grease worked from well enough to surprisingly well. There have been a few wastes of money that would get gummy in storage way too quickly. But, there are some really good options hiding among the overhyped ones. These are a few products that stand out in their categories which I have used over the years.
If you are in a hurry and not too worried about perfection, then CLP might be your go-to option. This is an acronym for Clean, Lube, and Protect with the goal of doing a decent job in each category. Getting metal surfaces really clean is kind of the opposite of slathering them with a thick oil in order to slick things up and keep rust away. Unsurprisingly, CLP products are mostly a product of modern chemistry that gained popularity in the 1980s as a “one fluid to solve all gun problems” kind of option. The military thought this was a great idea. Rifle doesn’t work? Then just squirt the new stuff on it and go shoot more. Hornady One Shot is pretty much as easy as it gets for a fire-and-forget kind of solution that generally does “good enough” for most folks in all three CLP categories. If you hate gun cleaning, give this one a try.
When it comes to cleaning gun parts, Hoppes No. 9 is the classic that dates back to 1903. It has a wonderful smell that not all spouses seem to fully appreciate. It is also a little on the toxic side by modern standards and the MSDS does have the disconcerting “H351 Suspected of causing cancer” warning, which caused us to start trying newer options. The best yet is Breakthrough Clean Gun Cleaning Solvent which seriously works better than anything else even marginally safe that I have tried for jobs like getting cabon off of AR bolt parts. It also has no scent, which makes it possible to once again quietly clean firearms at the kitchen table, with no one being the wiser.
Although nothing might ever protect metal as well as cosmoline, removing that dried waxy mess was a chore. The modern “what is easy and actually works” replacement is Birchwood Barricade. If a gun is going into the safe for a while, a coating of Barricade will go a long way to keeping the rust at bay. There might be better options, but this is the best one that I have seen yet.
Although it is kind of a niche product gun-wise, Super Lube Dri-Film is worth mentioning. When disassembling and cleaning magazines, I’ll spray a quick shot of Dri-Film inside the magazine body, on the spring and follower. Here is a walkthrough of how to clean Glock magazines if you want a play-by-play of the process. There is a noticeable difference in how smoothly a freshly cleaned magazine runs.
When it comes to gun oils, we could come up with a box full of ones that work just fine. After many years I have yet to find something that has just blown me away compared to all the others. But with the goal of having one oil for everything from trigger groups to knife bearings Breakthrough HP Pro is just as good as anything else so far and certainly better than some. The needle-tip oiler container is now something that I would not go without. Lucas Gun Oil is another good option with basically the same bottle cap if you only have one or the other at your local mom n’ pop store.
Before the CLP craze started, our military came up with LSA Weapons Oil as the best gun lube around. Old, green bottles can still sometimes be found at army surplus stores. LSA was somewhere between regular gun oil and a really thin grease. The basic logic was that grease is made from an oil mixed with a thickener/sponging agent to keep it around as sliding parts try to push the lubricant off. This concept makes a lot of sense for firearms, but most greases are way too thick to work well. Black Rifle Balm got off to a solid start as an LSA upgrade but ran into some supply chain issues that seem like they have been tough to resolve. The School of the American Rifle’s SOTARacha is a gunsmith’s workbench fix for this same problem. It is made by mixing a good synthetic grease with a synthetic oil until it is the consistency of honey. One batch of this will last most shooters for years and it is our baseline for this type of gun lube moving forward.