Cleaners, Lubricants, and Protectants

From time to time, my customers ask me what I use to clean and maintain firearms brought to me for service. There are many products for shooters to consider and try. I’ve tried quite a number, and settled upon a few that I use for both my guns and firearms I service for my clients.

Before going too much further, please know that these are my opinions only, and opinions vary! I receive no compensation or incentive whatsoever for products, tools, or techniques in this blog. Any actions you may take as a result of reading this information is at your own discretion.

First things first – let’s make sure we are “speaking the same language. I use three general terms when talking about this topic: cleaners, lubricants, and protectants.

  • Cleaners remove powder, copper, and sometimes plastic fouling. Powder fouling, of course, results from spent powder when firing a cartridge. It can be found almost anywhere in the gun. Copper fouling is the small amount of copper that is left in the bore after firing copper jacked bullets. Plastic fouling is sometimes found in shotgun bores, and is the result of heating the shotgun hull or, potentially, firing plastic shot.
  • Lubricants reduce wear on gun parts that occur when a gun is fired. Lubricants can sometimes “double” as a protectant.
  • Protectants a help avoid corrosion or other damage to a firearm that can result from moisture – either water or water vapor (as in high humidity conditions.)
  • CLP” products combine all three functions of cleaning, lubricating and protecting.

A word of caution. Always wear protective gloves (e.g., latex or nitrile gloves) when working with these produces,. Some are not very “skin friendly” and, over the long term, damage your skin.


Hoppes No. 9

To say there are many cleaning products on the market would be an understatement. One in particular, and the one I use extensively, is Hoppes No. 9 (pronounced “Hop-eez”.) This product has been used by shooters since 1903 and has earned respect of generations of shooters. I find it excels at removing powder fouling and does a decent job at copper fouling, too. One of the first steps I take in field stripping is to run a patch soaked in Hoppes down the bore and set it aside to “let it work.” Hoppes is designed not to damage any part of the firearm. If it unintentionally gets on something your don’t intend (e.g., the stock), simply wipe it off. Hoppes is also a protectant. That means if left on the gun (such as the bore or exterior of the barrel) it will help against corrosion.

Sweets 7.62 Solvent

Sweets is another cleaner I use from time to time, especially with Copper fouling. It does very well loosening copper from the bore in a relatively short period of time. Sweets is a powerful cleaner intended primarily for use in the bore. Sweets recommends it sit in a bore for no more than 15 minutes or so. Run a patch soaked in Sweets through a copper-fouled bore and let it “cook” for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, run a dry patch to see how it’s doing. A turquoise, blue, or green color on the patch indicates the copper fouling is loosening up. At that point, run a patch with Hoppes to remove the Sweets and let it cook some more. Running a dry patch at that point will take most of the fouling that is left.

I use a third CLP, Break Free, in aerosol form once in a while. It will foam and get into places not easily accessible without further disassembly. Once in a while I will squirt it down the bore to get the foaming action into the lands and grooves.It does a good job at lubricating and protecting, too.



My “go to” lubricants are Ballistol and Rem Oil. Ballistol has been around long time. It was invented in 1874 and has been produced in Germany since 1904. It is a blend of natural oils and is intended for use on all parts of firearms (and other things, too.) It is bio-degradeable and not harmful to skin. Ballistol will not “gum up” even in old conditions. It comes in aerosol and in liquid form. Ballistol is a great lubricant that also will work on powder fouling that may be remaining. It’s not unusual for me to clean a bore, run a patch of Ballistol for down the bore for storage. When I get the gun out again and run a clean patch, it often will have more powder fouling raised from microscopic parts of the bore metal.

Rem Oil

Rem Oil is another great lubricant I used in its aerosol form. A few quick squirts helps lubricate the action of the gun. On the market since 1913, Rem Oil has stood the test of time with shooters for generations. At one point, it contained Teflon, too. It may still, it is not listed as an ingredient. Re Oil dries quickly leaving a dry lubricant on the surface, This helps reduce fouling build-up (fouling loves to stick to wet surfaces more than dry.)


Ballistol and Rem Oil are the protectants I use. Ballistol does a great job as a barrier between metal and the air. For internal mechanisms, either Rem Oil or Ballistol in an aerosol form do the trick for me.

Wrap Up

Whatever product you choose to use, I recommend it specifically states it is intended for use on firearms. What products do you use? Why do they work well for you? Leave an comment and share you ideas. Thanks for reading!

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