Cleaning and Lubrication Products

From time to time, my customers ask what type of cleaners and lubricants I use on my own firearms and those for customer guns.  So, this short post explores those questions. Please note: my views are my views alone, no better or worse than another.  I do not receive any compensation for mentioning any products.

Word to the wise – it’s important to wear rubber or synthetic gloves when cleaning.  Some solvents may harm your skin over time.

A good place to start is with terminology.  People use different terms based upon their background and experience. For our purposes:

  • Cleaners are used to clean fouling from guns.
  • Lubricants help reduce wear on firearms.
  • Protectants protect the firearm from corrosion.
  • CLP” is a product that combines three functions, above.

Generally,  I see powder and copper fouling.  In shotguns, sometimes some plastic fouling in the bore.  Powder fouling comes from spent powder, copper from copper jacketed bullets, and plastic from shotgun hulls or, perhaps, plastic shot.

I use several Hoppes No. 9types of cleaners when removing fouling. The “go-to” product is Hoppe’s (pronounced Hop-eez) No. 9.  This brand is familiar to most shooters.  It’s been around since 1903 and has earned respect generation after generation for its effectiveness.  I use Hoppe’s as the first step in the cleaning process.  Soaking a patch, running it through the bore, and setting the barrel aside gives the cleaner some time to work on loosening fouling.  Using  soaked patch on other parts is easy.  It rapidly breaks down any powder fouling.  Only in the severe cases is a re-application needed.  Hoppes is also a “CLP”, so it may be left on parts and in the bore to provide some measure of protection.

Sweets 7.62 solvent Sweets 7.62 Solventis a bore cleaner I use from time to time, especially on copper fouling.  It’s especially good at raising copper fouling in the bore.  Patches emerge in a green or blue color, and that is Sweets breaking down and removing copper fouling.  It also does a good job on powder fouling, too.  Sweets is a cleaner and should not be left on parts after cleaning.  In fact, it is not something you want to leave on your parts too long.  Letting it ‘work” in the bore for about 10 to 15 minutes is Ok.  Beyond that may cause some issues.  To remove it from the bore, for example, I run a soaked patch of No. 9 followed by a dry patch.

Ballistol is Ballistolan interesting product in that it is biodegradable and is known to not “gum-up” in low temperatures.  It does a fair job as a powder fouling cleaner, but really excels in lubrication and protection.  Leaving it in the bore, especially for long-term storage is ideal.  It won’t hurt the medal, wood, or synthetic materials on your gun.  Ballistol, if left in the bore, will continue to work and loosen deeply embedded powder fouling.  This is the primary lubricant I use when lubing firearms.

Rem Oil, like Hoppe’s, Rem Oilhas been around a long time.  I use it in an aerosol form to spray on action and internal components.  It isn’t thick and leaves a thin protective and lube.  It also includes Teflon to help with wear on parts.

Those are my choices for CLP’s.  What are your experiences?  What do you use?


Loctite – Works Great! Which Do I Use?

I read this short article from Fusion Firearms and thought some of you may enjoy reading it as well.  We’ve all heard of “purple,” ‘blue,” “red,” “yellow, “and “green” Loctite, but what do those colors really mean?  Read this, you may be surprised!

LoctiteBob’s 1911 Tech Tip:

1911 Gunsmithing & Loctite.

Loctite adhesives have been used in many mechanical assembly applications for years. This is widespread through basically all industry sectors and the firearms industry is no different. Many old manufacturing methods such as staking parts have been replaced by space-age adhesives.

The biggest issue I see in many random 1911 services: folks don’t understand which type to use from the 100’s of products that are available. Or hearing “I used the green Loctite.” Which doesn’t mean much when there are 15 different Loctite with the color green and they all have different uses.

Well, I can make it simple and narrow it down to 3 Loctites that you should use.

  1. Loctite 242 or equivalent: For most sight screws, barrel threads, or screws that may be backing out on you from vibration. This adhesive is more of a “gumming” agent and you can also remove the screw with standard tools after it cures. This will work for most applications.
  1. Loctite 271 or equivalent:  For sight retaining screws, sight bases, sight dovetails etc.. that you wish to retain. This Loctite will generally have to be removed with the assistance of heat. Meaning you will have to use a small torch to heat the area and then remove the part loctite’d.
  1. Loctite 680 or equivalent: For pins, sight bases, sight dovetails, etc.. This Loctite is rarely use, but it still has some application retaining stubborn parts that continue to vibrate from where you want. You will generally have to remove the part with the assistance of heat just like the 271.

Note: Always clean all oil off the parts with alcohol or acetone before applying the Loctite. Follow the instructions on the Loctite bottle for proper cleaning and application instructions.

Cleaning Your Sig Classic Line Pistol

You’ve gone and done it – invested in a “top end” firearm from a renown manufacturer.  Shooting it feels great.  You want to keep it running smooth for years.  It all starts with basic maintenance, and that means cleaning.

The first, best source for cleaning instructions is the owner’s manual or other documentation from the manufacturer.  “Read the manual” really is the best idea.  It may highlight special steps that need to be performed or provide insights how normal wear should appear.

The Sig Sauer Academy produced a nice video on cleaning their “Classic Line” of pistols.  We know those as the P22X series such as the P220 (popular in .45 ACP and 10mm) and the ever popular P226.  Check out the video, especially if you own a Sig.  Maybe you’ll pick up a new bit of knowledge or affirm you are doing everything right.

Ruger = Great Service

A good customer of mine, let’s call him Jay, recently purchased a Ruger revolver from an on-line distributor.  We completed the transfer without any issues.  When Jay got the revolver home, though, he noticed the barrel did not seem to align with the frame.  In fact, he was hesitant to even put a round through it.

We discussed his options.  Since the transfer occurred and title had passed, the gun could not be returned to the seller demanding a refund or replacement.   Once title passes, the seller can accommodate however s/he wishes.  Or, he could go to Ruger and seek a warranty repair.  Jay went to Ruger, and that was a great decision.

Jay wrote:

I sent the gun to Ruger for warranty repair and just got it back today.

It’s perfect now.  The repair order says they adjusted the barrel, polished the gun and replaced the grips.  I think they replaced the frame or maybe the whole gun. The grips are different. The originals were plain and the new ones have a beautiful grain.

Obviously, Ruger stands behind its products and its reputation.  It’s great to hear that Ruger still holds these traditional values!  Kudos, Ruger!


Mid-Atlantic Humidity

Summer has arrived and with it the high humidity in our region.  For owners of older firearms, there is a danger of creeping corrosion damage caused by air-based moisture.  Once started, it can be hard to stop.  Prevention is a good way to go.  Using some type of dehumidifier and cleaning your guns at least every six months  should help avoid serious corrosion issues.

electric rod
Dehumidifier Rod

Many gun safes have a place to mount a dehumidifier rod that emits just enough heat to keep the temperature just above the dew point inside the safe.  This is a good way to go.  The drawbacks are finding a safe that will accommodate such a device and the cost of maintaining and electrical cost of running it.

Another option is a self-contained silica beads dehumidifier that is mounted inside the safe.  Once the silica is filled with moisture it becomes ineffective.  This is shown by the color of the beads turning from one color to another (e.g., orange – little moisture; to green – cannot hold any more moisture).   When this happens, simply plug the unit into a wall outlet to “recharge” the beads.  Once it’s ready, just place it back in the safe.

battery dehumidifier
Self-contained Silica

A third option is a canister of silica beads.  Similar to the self-contained unit, they are easy, pretty effective, and simple to install.   When the beads need to be recharged, the silica must be dried and poured back into the canister.  Drying usually means spreading the silica on a cookie sheet and heating in an oven for a period of time until the beads turn orange again.

disicant container
Canister of Silica

All of these options are good, but nothing beats a good cleaning, inspection, and putting a heavy coat of oil on metal parts every six months or so.  This practice helps you detect any new corrosion that can be easily addressed.  My dates are in the first week of July and the last week of December.  While this may be a little time consuming, it’s well worth the effort.  Discovering a gun with corrosion is never fun and leads to a good deal of time working to clean it up and stop its spread.




What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Bronze Brush New
Bronze Brush Cleaning Pistol Barrel

Glance at the photo above.  See anything that may be wrong?

It appears this is a pistol.  Notice the muzzle and what I think is the recoil spring guide to the left in the frame.  If I am right, the photo depicts a non-recommended way to clean almost every barrel.

The preferred and appropriate way to clean your gun’s chamber and bore is to “push” your cleaning patch, brush, or jag from the chamber and “push” towards the muzzle, just like a bullet travels.  In pistols, this normally means removing the barrel from the frame and start your patch, brush, or jag from the chamber.  With rifles, the same rule applies.  You may need to remove the bolt to be able to push a rod straight through the bore.  “Pushing” helps reduce the risk of nicking your barrel crown.

In addition, you can insert the rod starting at the muzzle, pass it through the bore and chamber, attach your brush or patch, and “pull” it back through the bore.  The patch or brush still will be traveling as the bullet travels.  Of course, multiple passes will require you remove and then re-attach patch or brush each time.

An exception are revolvers, of course.  In most cases, you must start from the muzzle since access to the other end of the barrel is not possible with a standard cleaning.  Something like a bore snake or a bush that is on a flexible rod (such as is shipped with many new pistols) may give you the option to clean from the back towards the muzzle.

Be safe and shoot straight!

Has your AR Short-Stroked?

Ever heard of a pistol or a rifle “short-stroking?”  No, it has nothing to do with the 1981 hit single “The Stroke” by Billy Squire (what was that all about, anyway?)  Firearms are said to “short-stroke” when the bolt (or slide) does not travel far enough rear-ward to eject the spent case, cock the firing mechanism, and chamber a new round.  Technically, short-stroking can occur with any action (yes, even manual bolt-action rifles – think about it.) but it is most associated with semi-automatic and automatic firearms.  This short Youtube video shows a couple good examples of short-stroking.

So, why my interest in sharing about short-stroking?  I was at the range shooting my gas-impingement AR the other day.  I planned to shoot 40 rounds, in two magazines of 20 rounds per.  First magazine, no problems.  Shot it pretty well for a guy with older eyes.  Second magazine… problems.  The bolt stopped cycling at all (the no-stroke!)  I could manually operate the charging handle to eject the case and chamber a new round, turning my nice AR into a bolt action rifle.  Like most people, since the first magazine had worked and the second did not, I figured “bad mag” or “something broke.”  Let the diagnosing begin.

Ok, specifically with short-stroking, what can go wrong?  Remember, the bolt is not traveling far enough rear-ward to eject the spent case, cock the firing mechanism, and chamber a new round.  Therefore, bolt can be obstructed, something can be slowing the bolt down (too much) as it travels rear-ward, or the bolt isn’t getting enough “push” from gas or the piston.  Why this is happening can be explained by a few hundred things (that’s an exaggeration.  For those of you that know me, I like to stick to the most likely.) However, if you are interested in a lively discussion many of the possibilities, check out this thread from Calguns.

Most of the time, short-stroke problems are caused by insufficient gas to operate the piston or bolt.  Let’s assume we have a gas impingement system and we have two fully functional AR’s (because one is never enough, right?)  Not enough gas could be caused by:

  • Something wrong with the bolt/ bolt carrier (gas rings, gas key, bolt and/ or carrier ports)
  • Something wrong with the gas tube (separated from the gas block, kinked, broken)
  • Something wrong with the gas block (shifted off the port)
  • Something wrong with the gas port (plugged or too small)

As with anything on the internet, you perform any of the actions in this article at your own risk.  I specifically suggest that people who are not qualified to work on firearms bring them to a qualified armorer or gunsmith.

That being said, here’s a quick way to diagnose the issue.

  1. Swap the bolts/ carriers in the ARs.  NOTE – there is some risk here.  It is possible (but not likely with mil-spec ARs that are chambered for the same round (e.g., 5.56)) there may be a head space problem with swapping the bolts.  If you are not sure, SKIP THIS STEP.  Do they both work?  Yes?  Not the bolt/ carrier.  Does one work and not the other?  You’re right,  it’s the bolt/ carrier. Check the key, the rings, and the ports.
  2. Visually inspect the gas tube.  Is it connected to the gas block?  Is it noticeably bent, kinked, or broken?  Is the gas tube pin still securely in the gas block?

    A2-type Front Sight and Gas Block
  3. Check the gas block.  Is it installed permanently (e.g., as in some A2 gas block/ front-sight) or is it a “low profile” block installed with set screws.  If it is not permanently installed, the gas block may have shifted.  In the case of the set screws, this is probable, especially if the barrel was not dimpled and/ or the screws were not set with a thread-locker.  Look for discoloration around the base of the gas block and the barrel.  If you see it, gas is escaping, and that isn’t good.
  4. Check the gas port.  Attach a small piece of rubber tubing to the end of the gas tube in the upper.  Blow through the tube and listen to learn if any air comes out of the gas port in the barrel.  If so, that’s good.  If not, the port is misaligned with the gas block or the port has become obstructed.

My guess is that one of these checks will help you quickly find the issue.

My problem?  I started simple and checked the mags.  You already know that the vast majority of feeding and ejection problems are related to magazines.  Not enough “spring,” too much “spring,” bent feed lips, bad mojo, whatever.  No problems, though.  Both were factory Colt and both were in good shape.  Both worked Ok in my other AR.  Not the mags.  I swapped the bolts/ carriers, no issues.

Moving along to the gas system.  For this AR, I had purchased a complete upper from a manufacturer with a low-profile gas block and a free-float quad rail.  Off with the rail so I could look at the gas block.  Lots of discoloration and it seemed to have moved forward towards the muzzle.  The block was installed with set screws.  No dimples, no thread locker.  In fact, looking more closely and shifting the block a little, the gas block had shifted forward nearly choking off the gas port.  Ah, simple.  Completely remove the set screws and realign the gas block and gas port.  Use thread locker to reinstall set screws.

Time to test fire.  Load and insert a mag with two rounds.  Manually chamber.  Bang.  Good ejection.  Good chamber.  Bang.  Good ejection.  Lock back on empty mag.  Fixed!  Re-install rail.  Get a beverage.

That’s my story on my short-stroke adventure.  If you have any similar issues, this may help you get to the bottom of them.  Or, you can always give me a call.

For a more complete article on short-stroking, check out the article by Foghorn in The Truth About Guns.