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Posts published in “Firearm Cleaners & Lubricants”

Black Powder Stuff

Patch Lube
An excellent patch lube for black powder can be made with 1 part anhydrous lanolin or saddle soap, 2 parts “rust inhibiting water soluble oil,”* and 1 part Murphy’s Oil Soap. Shake well and apply to patches before loading. Cleaning is much easier when using this lube.

*Arco Emulsiplex or NAPA Soluble Cutting and Gring Oil (765-1525), Trimsol, Lyondell Satisol, or Tooltex cutting fluid can be used.

Thanks to George Stantis for this tip.

Bore Cleaners
Many black powder shooters swear by Simple Green™ and of all things Windex™ “glass cleaner with vinegar.”

If you will be using Ed’s Red mostly for black powder and old chlorate primed military ammo, there is a modification to ER that may be of interest. Substitute a “fire retardant hydraulic fluid concentrate,” or “rust inhibiting water soluble oil” suited for water hydraulics for four fluid oz. of the ATF in a gallon mix of ER. The resulting mix will form a stable emulsion when mixed in a 50-50 ratio with distilled water (NOT tap water). The resulting mix is very similar to “Moose Milk”, though it may actually be better. To do this, mix the ER as usual, substituting the water soluble oil for 1/8 of the ATF in the mix, or 4 oz. if you are adding a quart of ATF to mix a gallon of ER. Once the ER is mixed, heat the distilled water just short of the boiling point, steaming with bubbles just beginning to form, and pour this SLOWLY into the Ed’s Red while stirring. It should form a pink, soapy looking liquid like Pepto Bismol. Arco Emulsiplex or Trimsol, Lyondell Satisol, or Tooltex cutting fluid concentrate, or other water soluble cutting oils are suitable, as long as they DO NOT contain any chlorine or sulfur. That’s also why you should use distilled water instead of tap water.

Another black powder cleaner that is being used by Civil War re-enactors is composed of 1 part rubbing alcohol (70% or 91%) 1 part hydrogen peroxide (typical 3 percent drugstore kind), and 1 part Murphy’s Oil Soap or a generic equivalent. It cuts Black Powder (even caked on residue that has been left from one event to the next) very quickly. Because of the alcohol, it does tend to eliminate most of the oil it comes into contact with, so be sure to lightly oil everything unless you are going to be firing immediately.

Stock Finish Repair

This tip isn’t quite a cleaner/lube but it is worth while. To repair scratches on varnished or epoxy finished stocks try automotive “clear coat” touch up paint available at auto parts stores in little bottles with a brush in the touch up paint section.

Rust Removal

Brake Fluid
For rust removal, try automotive brake fluid. For light rust rub it on liberally with a patch, allow it to sit for a couple of minutes and wipe off. For heavily rusted items swab liberally with brake fluid and allow to sit over night. Burnish the finish with a wool pad or #0000 steel or bronze wool. Brake fluid may be damaging to some wood finishes so make sure you keep it on the metal.

Electrolysis Rust Removal
You can remove rust from metal using electrolysis, and it will not harm the bluing. The main advantage to this method is it gets all the rust in hard to reach places. You will need

* A plastic container that will hold the part and electrolysis solution.
* Water
* Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda. Washing soda can be found in your local grocery store with the laundry detergent. If you cannot find washing soda, pour some baking soda-sodium bicarbonate into a pan and heat it over low-medium heat. Water and carbon-dioxide will cook-off leaving washing soda-sodium carbonate. ) Another source is swimming pool “PH Increaser.” which is labeled 100% sodium carbonate. [Thanks to Bob Head for this hint]
* Battery charger or other high amperage power supply.

Cautions: Wear eye protection and rubber gloves when working with this solution is very alkaline and can cause irritation. The electrolysis process breaks down water into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen, which can be explosive. Work outside or in a very well ventilated area. Be sure your battery charger/power supply is unplugged before attaching or touching the leads.

In the container, mix 1 tablespoon of washing soda for each gallon of water to make up your solution. Be sure the washing soda is thoroughly dissolved. Place a steel rod either through the part to be cleaned (use o-rings to prevent the part from touching the rod), or numerous rods around the inside of your container. Connect these rods with wire; these will be the anode. You must be sure that the part to be cleaned is not touching the rod(s). Suspend the part in the solution with steel cable or wire so that it makes a good electrical contact with the part; this will become the cathode. Connect the negative lead (black) to the part being cleaned, connect the positive (red) lead to the rod(s), then plug in the charger. You will immediately begin to see bubbles; this is hydrogen and oxygen as the water breaks down. Allow the part to “cook” for 3-4 hours. The time is dependent on the size of the part, amount of rust, and the current of the power supply. After you remove the part, immediately clean and dry it off, then coat it with a good quality gun oil or rust preventative oil.

Thanks to Roy Seifert for this tip

Roy reports that he used this process on a 1911 frame that had a lot of surface rust all throughout the inside. He set the frame upside down on wooden blocks in the electrolysis solution and placed a rod with o-rings through the magazine well. He used a 1.5 amp trickle charger and left it for about 4 hours. When finished, the frame was completely free of rust, and the bluing was intact.

Case Sizing Lubricants

Spray Lube
The spray-on case lubes are probably the best thing to happen to reloading in years. You can make your own spray case sizing lube in bulk by mixing liquid lanolin and 99% isopropyl alcohol. (While you can (kind of) use 91% isopropyl alcohol, its higher water content causes the lanolin to settle out and it must be shaken frequently during use. The more common 70% isopropyl “rubbing alcohol” will not work at all as its water content is much to high.)

Liquid lanolin, which is a refined lanolin oil with the solid fats removed (the reason why solid anhydrous lanolin doesn’t work well in this application) is available from health food stores and sources specializing in ingredients for cosmetics. You want to get pure liquid lanolin without additives. Online sources include VitaGlo ( and Select Oils (–Lanolin-Liquid–SO-LanolinLiquid.html).

I just recently discovered that my local Safeway store carries 99 percent isopropyl in their drug/cosmetic isle for $0.99 for a 16 ounce bottle. Ninety-nine percent isopropyl alcohol is also available from many large paint stores (used for some finishes), some electronics stores (it’s used for cleaning electronics) or local industrial chemical suppliers.

A solution of 1 part liquid lanolin and 4 to 5 parts parts 99 percent isopropyl alcohol (4 oz of liquid lanolin to16 – 20 oz of isopropyl) works well. When mixing you may find that the lanolin mixes better if you warm both the alcohol and lanolin in a bath of warm water to about 105 – 110 degrees F before mixing. DO NOT WARM EITHER OF THEM OVER AN OPEN FLAME! Once the solutions are warm, pour together, mix thoroughly, allow the mix to cool (mix occasionally as it cools) and store in an air tight container to prevent water from being absorbed by the isopropyl.

For a spray bottle you can use an old commercial spray lube bottle or an old pump hair spray bottle that has been thoroughly cleaned. To apply the lube, spread the cases in a single layer on a clean surface like an oven tray (those disposable aluminum oven liner trays are great and prevent the wrath of your chef when it is discovered that the cookie trays were used) and lightly and evenly spray the cases. Allow the cases to sit for a couple of minutes, roll the cases around and lightly spray again. Wait until the alcohol has evaporated (about 5 minutes) and start sizing. Properly lubed cases will have a slightly greasy feel to them without feeling slimy.

Another neat idea for spraying the cases is to put them in a plastic bag, spray, and then mix the cases, dump out on some newspaper, and let dry. Less messy than putting the cases on an oven tray and less likely to get you in trouble with the head chef.

Thanks to Steve Dzupin for this tip.

One of the advantages of using sprayed on lanolin as a case lube is that, in the quantities used, any residual lube has no effect on powder or primers.

Solid “Wipe On” Lubes
You can also use plain anhydrous lanolin straight from the can (but not as conveniently) for sizing by putting a little bit on your fingers (just lightly rub your fingers across the lanolin) and then rubbing the cases. “Mink Oil,” a refined lanolin leather preservative also works well as a case lube.

Many large drug stores have bulk anhydrous lanolin or they will order it for you, or you can order in it 4, 8, or 16 ounce containers, from Majestic Mountain Sage, 881 West 700 North Ste 107, Logan, Utah 84321, Phone: 435-755-0863, or online at:, and from Select Oils at–Lanolin–SO-Lanolin.html.

Many people have reported that they have used a little bit of STP oil treatment on their fingers or commercial water based silicone cable pulling lube as a sizing lube.

If you are still using pads to roll your cases on for resizing you can simply use regular undyed dishwashing liquid. Reports are that it works as some commercial liquid case lubes. Simply put a very small amount on your pad and rub it in with your fingers. Roll your cases across the pad and resize.

Chemical Case Cleaning Solutions

While tumbling cases in an abrasive media provides the best finish, extremely dirty cases can be decapped first (using a non-sizing die) and then washed in one of the following solutions. The final rinse in soapy water helps prevent tarnishing. All of these methods were approved by Frankford Arsenal and will not weaken your brass.

* A 5 percent solution of citric acid (available from your drugstore) and warm water for about 10 minutes. If your water is very hard increase the amount of citric acid. You can add some Dawn™ or Cascade™ dishwasher liquid soap (which does not contain ammonia–be careful some do), to the solution for extra grease cutting ability. Follow with a rinse in hot soapy water (Ivory™ works well) and allow to dry.
* A solution of 1 quart of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt. Soak with some agitation for 15 to 20 minutes and follow with a rinse of soapy hot water and allow to dry.
* A solution of 1 quart of water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup laundry or dishwashing detergent, 1/8 cup salt. Soak with some agitation for 15 to 20 minutes and follow with a rinse of soapy hot water and allow to dry. This may leave brass with a slight pinkish cast which will disappear with a short tumble in media.
* Military arsenals use a heated 4 percent sulfuric acid dip with a little potassium dichromate added. The solution is heated until bubbles rise slowly without it boiling and the cases are dipped into it for 4 -5 minutes using a basket of copper screening or plastic. A final rinse using plain hot water is followed by hot water with Ivory™ soap in it and the cases are left to drain and dry. Because of the use of heated sulfuric acid this method is probably impractical for home use but is given here to show what can be safely used.

Cases which have been fired several times and which show signs of carbon build up internally can be rinsed in straight paint & varnish makers (P&VM) naphtha available at any paint store. Decap, soak for 5 – 10 minutes, drain, allow to air dry and then tumble as usual. Cases will be sparkling clean inside and out but not any shinier.

An interesting idea is to use an “air stone” and a small air pump from a fish aquarium tank to agitate the liquid cleaning solutions.

Thanks to Randy Wood for this tip.

Another case cleaning method is the use of an ultrasonic cleaning unit. These units are available from several online sources and the biggest problem is finding a reasonably priced unit with about a 2 liter capacity. While you can only clean small quantities of cases at a time this way they will be clean as new, inside and out. Once you’ve acquired the unit you’ll need to also acquire a glass beaker of sufficient size for your use and make a cover and beaker holder.

Cut a piece of Plexiglas to cover the tank and cut a hole the size of your beaker (use a fly cutter and a drill press or jigsaw it out). Make a collar for the beaker out of plastic foam that fits very snugly so the beaker can be raised or lowered. You want the beaker to not sit on the pan of the cleaner.

Fill the cleaner tank with water and by adjusting the level of water in the tank, the liquid in the beaker, and depth of the beaker in the water it can be “tuned” so that the liquid in the beaker appears to boil while the water in the tank is calm. This has a major effect on how long it takes to clean the cases.

For cleaning you can use either of these procedures but the second one leaves the cases the shiniest.
24 minutes – 50-50 Vinegar and water + 1 Drop Dish Soap per
8 ounces water Use cool water. Do not use hot water!!!
8 minutes – Baking Soda & water (1 grain BS per ounce of
8 minutes – Hot Water
8 minutes – Distilled Water 24 minutes – 50-50 Vinegar and water + 1 Drop Dish Soap per
8 ounces water Use cool water. Do not use hot water!!!
6 minutes – Birchwood Casey Case Cleaner*
6 minutes – Hot Water
6 minutes – Distilled Water
* The Birchwood Casey case cleaner is listed as their “Brass Cartridge Case Cleaner # 33845”

This idea was originally presented on the 6 mm Benchrest site at by Jason Baney, and more info and test results are published there.

Case Tumbling Media

Many pet stores carry ground corncob media for small pet bedding. It is usually a little coarser than most normal tumbling media but it should still be perfect for tumbling cases (and not get stuck in flash holes). Prices at my local Petsmart were about 2/3 of the shooting stuff. For ground walnut shells many pet stores sell it in the same grit size as the shooting stuff as “lizard litter” or “bird cage litter.” The local price seems to be about a 30 percent cheaper than the shooting product.

You can also try your phone book’s yellow pages for an industrial abrasives dealer. While you’ll have to buy the corn cob or walnut media in 50 pound bags from them the price is usually about half (or less) of the price from firearms related sources, and it should keep you in clean tumbling media for the next several years. For an extra high polish add a small amount of non-ammonia containing automotive rubbing compound to the corn cob media and run your tumbler for a few minutes before adding the cases.

A word to the wise. If you share your home with furpeople keep your tumbling media covered or you may find some strange “cases” in it. Cats think its a dandy litter box filler.

Another case cleaning method that works well in rotary tumbler, like the 1-gallon Thumblers Tumblers, is to use the following media.

2 lb yellow or white corn meal
1 cup plain table salt
1/4 cup corn starch
5 or 6 pieces of scrap 2 x 2 or smaller wood cut into blocks

Add everything to the tumbler, close up the drum, and turn it on for a couple hours. Remove cases from tumbler, shake out the media from cases. You can blow them clean with an airgun or rinse them off if you like. The wooden blocks seems to knock the brass around and keeps media moving in and out of cases. They also seem to add a little extra friction to help polish and clean. Note that corn meal does not clog the flash holes, it’s dirt cheap, and lasts for hundreds of rounds!

Bore Paste

An excellent bore polishing paste that works as well as JB’s can be made from equal parts of BonAmi™, paste wax (like Johnson & Johnson or Butchers), and light oil. The BonAmi is the “doesn’t scratch” product. Regular abrasive cleansers may be too harsh for use in a bore.

Another old standby is to use a hand type automobile rubbing compound and a larger than normal sized bore brush (say, one size larger–.25 in a .22 bore, .33 in a .30, etc.).

For both of these methods you will need a rod that allows the tip to rotate as it passes through the bore.

To use either of these solutions strip the action and clamp horizontally in padded vise jaws. Clean the barrel normally. Then, run the rod through the bore from the breach end, attach the oversized brush and coat with the compound. The pull it back through the bore to the chamber (don’t allow it to clear the chamber, to help keep “stuff” out of the action) and repeat this 25 or 30 times. Then with the brush outside the muzzle remove the brush and then pull the rod out of the barrel. Then attach a proper sized jag and a clean patch to the rod and from the breach work the patch back and forth several times. Repeat this with clean patches until the patch comes out clean.

Thoroughly flush the chamber and action with solvent to remove any grit, and then reclean the bore and chamber with normal bore cleaner. Your bore will be noticeable cleaner and smoother.

I recently tested some MAAS Metal Polishing Creme made by MAAS International. While not designed as a bore paste it did a very nice job on smoothing out several barrels and left them very clean and shiny. First clean the barrel normally with both regular bore cleaner and a copper remover. Then coat a patch with the MAAS and using a tight fitting jag work it through the bore using a series of short strokes. Repeat several times with a new patch and polish and then final clean with bore cleaner to remove any residue. It is not as aggressive as JB or the above homemade stuff so it may not work as well on a really rough bore. The MAAS Polishing Creme is available at some Walmart, Home Depots, Walgreens, ACE, Tru-Serv, others in a 2 ounce size for about $4 and on line at in a 4 ounce size for about $12.

Lead Removal

Liquid Solution
For really stubborn lead removal try a 50/50 mix of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (the common drug store variety) and white vinegar. Plug the bore, fill it up using a dropper or syringe and let it stand for 2 to 3 minutes. (Do not let it stand for too long.) You may get some foaming so protect the barrel’s external finish as this solution is not kind to bluing. Drain and wipe out the black muck that used to be lead and then immediately clean well with bore cleaner.

Thanks to Joe Sledge for this recipe.

While most people have used this solution without a problem there have been reports of this solution pitting some mild steel barrels. The factors involved in this seem to be the type of steel, the presence of rust in the barrel, and excessively long soak times leading to chemical changes in the solution. I strongly recommend not letting this solution soak more than 2 to 3 minutes.

Pure turpentine has reportedly also been used as a lead remover.

Lead Removal Cloth
Lead deposits on the face of revolver cylinders and similar places can be removed with a lead wiping cloth prepared as follows.

Mix the following ingredients

500 gr – 400 grit or finer aluminum oxide powder
450 gr – kerosene or #2 fuel oil
4 gr – lemon oil (for a more pleasant smell)
5 gr – ammonium chloride

Evenly saturate a soft thick cotton cloth or flannel with the solution and allow to dry. (There is no reason it won’t work wet though.)

Carefully remove any very heavy lead deposits with a scraper and then wipe the remainder with the cloth to remove.

Notes: The active ingredient in commercial liquid lead remover products is Ammonium Oleate (CAS 544-60-5). It is however difficult to get. Most of the formulas are basically ammonium oleate, ethanol, and some petroleum distillates as a carrier.

Gun Oil Substitutes

Keep in mind that no matter what lubricant you use, you should use
the minimum amount of lube possible. You want it lubricated and not an oil field.

Synthetic Automotive Oils
Synthetic automotive oils (such as Quaker State High Performance Synthetic) work well as general lubricants and because of their detergent capabilities they will help to remove “crud.” (Synthetic oils handle low temperatures better than regular oils.) Just remember, as with any lubricant, not to over lube things. Valvoline Semi-Synthetic Power Steering Fluid has also been used with great success by many folks as their normal lubricant.

Air Conditioning Refrigerant Oil
Air conditioning refrigerant oil, available at most auto dealers and auto stores, is highly penetrative and makes an excellent lube and a rust preventative. It works at high temperatures and very low ones (won’t freeze even when mixed with Freon) and should be just the ticket for Alaskan use.

Slick Stuff
This very “oily”, (i.e. slick, greasy) lubricant appears to adhere very well to metal, with little or no creep. Thus it does not appear to drain from slides and parts during extended storage. From the formula it appears that it might not be suitable at very low temperatures.

2 parts Dexron II or III automatic transmission fluid
1 Part Mobil-1 Synthetic Oil, 30 weight, or 10W-30
1 Part STP Oil Treatment (the stuff for “old” cars w/ over 30,000 mi.)

Thanks to John Nichols for this tip

Another excellent home brew lube is Amsoil Synthetic ATF with some lanolin added to make it even slicker. A synthetic grease from MS Moly called Arctic Grade 67 also makes a great lube especially for cold weather. It is a totally synthetic moly grease with the consistency of chocolate mousse. It does not run, weep or smell (very important for the SAF (spousal acceptance factor)). It is reported to work fine at -30 degrees.

Thanks to Roger Rothschild for this tip.

Slippery Stuff
Try 80 percent Marvel Mystery Oil mixed with 20 percent Slick 50 .

Humpy’s Bullet Cleaner

Soaking Method

Those of you who used surplus pulled M118 / M72 173 gr Match or other pulled GI bullets have probably been baffled about how to removed the asphaltic sealant from the bullets. The safest way is to get a bottle of Orange Clean Concentrate and mix it 1/100 with water. Drop bullets in a salsa jar, mayonnaise jar etc and allow to sit for 24 hours. The following day agitate the jar and the mouth lacquer will literally fall off in flakes leaving the bullets not only clean but nice smelling. Unlike lacquer thinner which actually doesn’t work very well, this method is not flammable nor a breathing hazard.

Tumbling Method

You will need: a carton of BBs. (costs about five bucks from Walmart), a rock tumbler (flea markets, ebay, and commercial vendors), and a bottle of Ultra Ivory dishwashing detergent.

With a small rubber drum ( 1 1/2 lb size) tumbler add maybe 200 BBs, 100 pulled 173s, fill with hot water to just above bullet/BB level. Add about a tablespoon of ivory liquid and seal the drum with the screw lid on and put on tumbler and let it tumble for about an 45 minutes and check. (Mine come out looking better than new Sierra Matchkings) Take the bullets out with you fingers and dump in rinse water. Add another hundred bullets and tumble the next batch. Solution good for a number of cycles. When you finish dump the solution in a big jar and save it for washing your tires or something real greasy down the road. When you are not tumbling remove the BBs and dry them. If you have a bigger tumbler you can tumble more bullets.

Making up a Pre Tumble Dip with Ivory and letting the bullets soak a bit before putting them in tumbler might cut down the operation to less than thirty minutes.