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Published Mar 7, 2022 11:32 AM

You count on rifles, pistols, and shotguns to work when the time comes, and that means using the best gun oil. This seems to be the age-old question when it comes to firearms: which type of oil or brand to use. Sure, people bicker over which caliber is the best all arounder or the proper technique to fire from certain positions, but everyone who has cleaned a gun has asked themselves if the oil they are using is the best. When I was on active duty in the Marine Corps, it was a no brainer: We used the free generic cleaner, lubricant, and protectant issued to us. Since leaving the military, I’ve searched for the best so my guns are fully operational. 

Picking the right gun oil boils down to intended use and desired performance. All-in-ones like the military-issued CLP sound appealing because of the convenience they offer. Are they as good as specialized oils or solvents, though? Let’s break things down so you don’t get stuck when you go to buy your next gun oil.

With a record performance in the ammo manufacturing world, it isn’t surprising that Hornady is producing a top tier lubricant. As the name indicates, this lube was specifically designed to prevent damage to the cases and dies while reloading ammunition. The unique formula gets help from DynaGlide Plus technology and is a clean and efficient lubricant.

One Shot Case Lube does a great job of penetrating parts and material at the microscopic level to create a solid coat that prevents friction. It is most likely because of this that One Shot offers superior corrosion and rust prevention. Keep in mind that this is still a chemical substance and must be used in a well-ventilated area. You’ll want to wash your hands after using it as well.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Hornady
  • Type: Lubricant/Protectant
  • Size: 5 ounces
  • Delivery: Aerosol
PROS

Works for shooting and reloading

Doesn’t contaminate powder or primer

Safe on non-metal parts

Formula includes DynaGlide Plus technolog

CONS

Higher price per ounce

Hazardous if consumed

Best Solvent

An integral part of American gun history, Hoppe’s 9 has been cleaning guns since 1903. It is the gun oil that most hunters and shooters have known since hitting the market. It is the gun world equivalent of AquaVelva. What sets Hoppe’s 9 apart is how effective this solvent works and how easily obtainable it really is.

Given how powerful it is against carbon, dirt, and grime, it isn’t surprising that consumption of Hoppe’s 9 is hazardous. Since it is a solvent, you’ll need to find a lubricant/protectant for daily operation (which Hoppe’s also makes). This formula is from a time before phrases like “eco-friendly” and “skin-safe” were even remotely a thought, so make sure to wash your hands after cleaning.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Hoppe’s
  • Type: Solvent
  • Size: 1 quart
  • Delivery: Liquid/bulk
PROS

Strong solvent

Available in large quantities

Grand-pappy would approve

CONS

Not an all-in-one

Strong odor

Editor’s Choice

Anyone who has been in the game for a while has at least heard of Break-Free CLP. Owned by SafariLand, Break-Free offers different types of CLP to meet specific needs. The basic CLP is what I’m currently using and I find it to work well. The four-ounce aerosol can comes with a straw and lasts much longer than one would expect from a low-volume canister. This isn’t as strong smelling as RemOil, but it’s still pungent and should be used in a ventilated area. Since Break-Free uses specially formulated synthetic oils, the CLP doesn’t lose viscosity, dry out, or resinify over time.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Break-Free
  • Type: CLP
  • Size: 4 ounces
  • Delivery: Aerosol
PROS

All-in-one CLP

Strong solvent

Excellent lubricant

Convenient aerosol can

CONS

Strong odor and fumes

Not labeled skin-safe

Higher price per ounce

Best Value

Remington may be one of the most well-known and respected names in firearms, but the company also makes merchandise, ammunition, and even gun-cleaning supplies. RemOil touts an origin of 1913 and is an all-in-one gun oil. This was the very first gun oil I bought after leaving the military and it works well. It is an affordable oil that cleans very well and is an excellent lubricant.

This oil comes in a 10-ounce aerosol can, but RemOil can be bought in dripper bottles and wipes as well. Each form will sport a yellow and green label that stands out and makes it hard to lose. This oil has a scent that is a little stronger than other oils, so make sure you’re working in a ventilated area. What sets RemOil apart is how thin it is, which is what allows a little of it to work so well. It doesn’t contain CFCs or paraffins, but make sure to wash your hands after using it and do not consume this oil.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Remington
  • Type: CLP
  • Size: 10 ounces
  • Delivery: Aerosol
PROS

Lower price per ounce

Cleans tough carbon buildup

Is an all-in-one gun oil

CONS

Can be hard on gun finishes

Not labeled skin safe

Most Economically Conscious

Established in 2009, FrogLube hit the market with a unique take on firearms maintenance. Instead of using petroleum-based gun oils to make an all-powerful all-in-one CLP, FrogLube leaped on the scene with a greener solution.

These products are designed as a two-part system of cleaners/degreasers and lubricants/protectants that are made from USDA-certified biobased materials. This means that you could eat this stuff and not die because it really is non-toxic. You use the cleaners/degreasers to break down carbon buildup, dirt, and grime from your firearms first. This also helps get rid of old, gunked-up lubricant. Then when you apply the lube, it soaks into the metal and leaves a thin, dry slick layer to protect against friction.

Keep in mind that FrogLube is biodegradable, and over time it will decompose like other foods. If you left too much lube on your gun when you put it in the safe, you’ll have a surprise waiting for you. The thicker, water-based lube is also prone to freezing in cold weather and could hinder performance if too much is used.

Product Specs
  • Brand: FrogLube
  • Type: Cleaner/lubricant
  • Size: 4 ounces
  • Delivery: Liquid spray
PROS

USDA-certified materials are non-toxic

Dry slick affect doesn’t attract dirt and dust

Claims 40% reduced friction over petroleum based lubes

CONS

Not ideal for long-term storage

Can freeze up in cold weather

Not an all-in-one

Best for Cold Weather

Living and operating in cold-weather environments poses many challenges, including the risk of gun oils freezing up and jamming actions. In warm weather, we don’t have to worry about this and can lather our actions liberally. Doing the same in temperatures close to or below freezing is just stupid. This all-in-one CLP by G96 claims to work in temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Normally, I’d be skeptical of bold claims like that, but G96 has been approved by the US Army for use on issued weapons. Most shooters may never encounter weather that bad and need to operate, but just in case, you might want to grab some G96. This 12-ounce aerosol sports a yellow, black, and red label that symbolizes the three functions of the oil.

Product Specs
  • Brand: G96 Brand
  • Type: CLP
  • Size: 12 ounces
  • Delivery: Aerosol
PROS

Approved by the U.S. Army

All-in-one CLP

Doesn’t freeze or evaporate

CONS

Aerosol delivery can get messy

Best Multipurpose

Originally designed for use by the German Imperial Army in 1904, Ballistol has a rich history to complement its all-in-one gun oil. This oil was, in many ways, ahead of its time. Expectations by the army was that the oil could clean, lubricate, and protect guns, while also being safe to use on wood stocks and leather gear. Not only did Ballistol meet those requirements, but the developers also took extra steps to ensure the oil was environmentally friendly. While many claim that Ballistol is “non-toxic,” even the Ballistol FAQ page doesn’t use that specific phrase.

This six-ounce aerosol can features a bright green label and red cap that is unique to Ballistol. Included with the can should be a red straw for targeted application, so double check it didn’t fall off in transit. As with any gun oil, you’ll want to use it in a ventilated area and avoid consuming it, as these will be sure to cause a bad day. This oil is skin-safe and when used properly, shouldn’t cause any irritation or drying of the skin.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Ballistol
  • Type: CLP
  • Size: 6 ounces
  • Delivery: Aerosol
PROS

Eco-friendly and skin-safe

Protects wood, metal, and leather

Can be used on almost any material

CONS

Harmful or fatal if swallowed

Honorable Mention

Gun cleaners and lubes smell — that’s just a fact of life. Some smell worse than others, some don’t smell as bad, but all are strong and pungent. Slips 2000 turns that fact on its head with this odor-free synthetic CLP. It is boasted to be non-toxic, biodegradable, and eco-friendly as well. This green formula is what makes Slips 2000 safe to use without gloves, unlike traditional cleaners and lubricants. What sets Slips apart is how effective it is at soaking into the pores of the metal and staying put to reduce friction and heat from firing.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Slips 2000
  • Type: CLP
  • Size: 4 ounces
  • Delivery: Dripper
PROS

Non-toxic and biodegradable

Comes in dripper to prevent over-application

Odor-free

CONS

Higher price per ounce

Honorable Mention

Not all shooters fire the same number of rounds when they go to the range. This was a fact of life even before the Great Ammo Shortage began. That’s not just a fact of recreational versus professional shooters — even the job you have can determine the amount you fire like those on SWAT or in the special forces.

Tetra has created a unique formula for their gun lube that excels at protecting actions during high-volume shooting. It is a fluoropolymer-based synthetic lubricant that doesn’t feature any teflon or lithium. This causes the lubricant to be a little thicker than traditional or petroleum oils, but that’s not a bad thing. Tetra gets into the pores, nooks, crannies, and hard-to-reach places so that it can prevent friction and the damage it causes. While there isn’t any information about the hazards of using Tetra, I’d strongly discourage consuming it and recommend washing your hands after use.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Tetra
  • Type: Lubricant
  • Size: 8 ounces
  • Delivery: Dripper
PROS

Long-lasting lubrication

Wide range of temperature resistance

Also available in a grease form

CONS

Higher price per ounce

Not available in aerosol format

Why you should trust us

My personal experience with firearms and gun oils has been around 15 years. From my time in the Marines until now, I’ve personally used a variety of gun oils. I’ve also built friendships with experts and professionals who have developed their own opinions and perspectives. For this article, I reached out to gunsmiths, professional competitive shooters, SWAT officers, special operations warriors, and many more, to consolidate their experiences with mine. This is what I combined with detailed research to offer you these recommendations. 

Types of gun oils

There is more than one way to classify gun oils depending on use, delivery, and materials used. In the spirit of simplicity, I chose to classify the oil by its intended usage. 

Solvents

If you’re unfamiliar with solvents or have never heard of a solvent before, think cleaner. These are chemicals that dissolve other substances, specifically for cleaning purposes. When you fire a round, the carbon emitted from the burning of the gunpowder will accumulate in almost every nook and cranny of your gun. The buildup can be tough to remove, so using a solvent or soaking the parts in one will help dissolve the carbon buildup and make cleaning easier.

Lubricants

Nobody likes friction — it burns and is uncomfortable. Guns don’t like it either, as bare metal to metal action has the potential to cause critical failures. We’re talking broken pieces, worn down parts, or worse. To ensure the action works properly and smoothly, all you have to do is apply lubricating oil. These do not clean and are solely meant to prevent unwanted friction and heating of parts. 

Protectants

Whether you’re storing your gun for months at a time or shooting regularly, it’s important to have oil that protects the metal from rusting or damage. These oils are designed to enter the pores of the metal or wood and fill them up. Some oils harden a little, a process called resinification. Filling the pores is what protects the material from oxidation or other chemicals, like skin oil, that break it down over time. 

Key features of gun oils

When we talk about the key features of gun oil, I look at the delivery system. Each oil has a specific use, but how you deliver that oil is important to look at. This is a bit more a feature of the container, but the delivery method could change how you utilize the oil. 

Aerosol

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, an aerosol is essentially a liquid stored in a pressurized container, and it sprays as a mist or foam. This is what Lysol and WD-40 are. Many gun oils can be found as an aerosol and it works great. Some containers have little straws to attach for localized application, which works as long as the straw stays in. Spraying without a straw normally gets messy since the spray covers a larger area. Ideally, you’d use this form of oil when cleaning large weapons or spraying all the components when taken apart. 

Dripper

You’ve probably seen the little half-ounce or one-ounce bottles of gun oil with long, pointy caps and wondered what they were. Or, you’ve used one and are laughing at me for having to explain this. Either way, using a dripper bottle is awesome for pinpoint delivery of essential gun oils. The smaller nozzle prevents overflow while trying to apply to small parts or openings in the guns. These are also great for range bags or cargo pockets since they’re not very large. 

Wipes

Several gun oil brands have become available in presoaked, prepackaged wipes. It’s like Clorox wipes, but for guns. This delivery system is rather convenient for wiping down the exterior of a gun, as well as the surface of components or bolt faces. These wipes are rather limiting though, as they’re only good for one use and can only reach surfaces. 

Bulk

Like most products, gun oil can be bought in large quantities. Buying in bulk is better-suited to professional shooters and gunsmiths rather than casual shooters or hobbyists. That being said, if you buy in larger quantities, you tend to get a better deal. One advantage to this is having the amount to be able to soak components or whole firearms. Submersive cleaning isn’t necessary for every gun, but restorations and heavily-fired weapons would benefit from the occasional soak. 

Benefits of gun oils

At the risk of sounding repetitive, there are three benefits to using gun oils. 

Cleans

As described earlier, carbon buildup can be detrimental to gun performance. When carbon sits for extended periods of time, it begins to harden. Layers upon layers of carbon can interfere with the gun’s ability to operate efficiently. It is strongly recommended to clean a gun after every use to prevent this. A clean gun is a happy gun.

Lubricates

Adding lube is not just a euphemism, it’s an obligation. Your gun may fire dry, but that doesn’t mean it should. Applying lubrication can extend the lifetime and performance of metal parts. You don’t have to drench it, though. Just a thin layer of lubrication gun oil will help keep things operating properly. 

Protects

From air to water, skin oil to hot sauce, there are a myriad of threats to firearms. Metal oxidizes when wet, including humidity in the air, and can rust incredibly fast. Blueing isn’t enough to protect your gun. The oil from our skin can wear away at the metal, coating, and even wood components of your gun. Using a protectant is much like wrapping the glass in bubble wrap. The oil repels water and other liquids to prevent rust or worse. We all want our guns to last a lifetime, and that won’t happen if we don’t use the right oil. 

Pricing considerations for gun oils

Normally there’s a breakdown here for three different price ranges. Gun oils aren’t like other products. It’s not like there is a $100 option of the same size and make as the options we have listed here. Most gun oils are going to come in 12 ounces or less and cost under $20. 

The only reason you should pay more than that would be if you’re getting more than 12 ounces or it will cure cancer. If you’re paying only one or two bucks, double-check what it is to make sure you’re not getting some BS byproduct that’ll harm your finish. 

How we chose our top picks

Recommendations were received by gunsmiths, SWAT officers, professional competitive shooters, Army Special Forces operators, and gun store owners. These recommendations were compared to my personal experience and combined with in-depth research, like this comprehensive test, for validity. All products selected had to be affordable to the average shooter and meet specific criteria for the category chosen.

FAQs on gun oils

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: What gun oil does the U.S. military use?

A: The U.S. military utilizes CLP. As an all-in-one oil, it’s easy to store, transport, carry, and use.

Q: Should I oil the barrel of my gun?

A: Yes. For optimal protection and performance, one should apply oil to the inside and outside of a barrel. Don’t go overboard though, oil collects dirt when applied too heavily. 

Q: What is the best gun oil to prevent rust?

A: Any gun oil that is a protectant. Most CLPs work just fine. The biggest cause of rust is water though, so keep that gun dry. 

Q: Can I use motor oil on my gun?

A: No. You should avoid doing this. Motor oil is designed for cars and would work fine as a lubricant if shit hits the fan and you can’t find gun oil, but it won’t clean or protect your gun. 

Q: Can I clean my gun with soap and water?

A: Yes, but you need to understand the context before you do. You should use soap and water to remove corrosive chemicals (like after shooting some inexpensive Russian surplus ammo) or if you want to strip away the lubrication. However, you should immediately rinse and dry afterward, and then apply a light coat of lubrication to protect your firearm. 

Q: Is WD-40 safe to use on guns?

A: Yes, but I wouldn’t rely on it. It is a solvent only and designed to break things down. If you did use it, you would still need a lubricant and protectant. 

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Scott Whisler is a Marine Corps veteran and family man. He’s an avid student of philosophy who strives for self-growth and challenge, both found in his outdoor adventures.  As a new Okie, his focus is on exploring the South Central region. His lifetime goal is to have excursions in all of the National Parks.

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