A test of gun oils vs multipurpose oils

Every time I enter a gun store, I see a lot of new, “miracle” gun oils. Some of these will even publish results of tests showing how their product is superior to every other product on the market.

I decided to run a test to compare some of these products to see if any really were superior, in regards to lubricity.

As a disclaimer, I realize lubricity is only one of many important characteristics of oil. Some others are film strength, viscosity, corrosion resistance, ad infinitum. The scope of my testing did not test any of these other characteristics. I was only interested in how slippery the oils were. One of the claims of the newer oils, which looks promising, is that they penetrate the metals on a molecular level, leaving a slippery surface, even after the oil is wiped off. I also tested this claim.

My apparatus consisted of two 1 ¼” chrome plated steel ball bearings, welded together. I also had a piece of extruded aluminum angle, hinged at one end. I put the balls in the “v” groove of the aluminum, and elevated one end. From the angle of the aluminum at which the balls began to slide, I could calculate the amount of force necessary to move the balls (Force=m*a*sine?). From this I could calculate the frictional force we had to overcome (Friction=N*m), and the coefficient of friction for each oil (N). However, all of these numbers are proportional to the angle involved, so I am simply showing the angle involved in each case. The smaller the angle, the slicker the oil.

Upon completion of one sample, I would clean the apparatus by wiping everything with a solvent. Then, I would re-test the balls dry (no oil present), as a control. In this manner I felt that I could determine if any of the oils really were penetrating the metal. If this occurred, I would abrade the surface of the aluminum with Scotch-Brite until the control returned to normal, before going to the next sample. The oils which penetrated the metal are marked in the note section as leaving residue after cleaning.

Test Results

OilManufacturerAngle (deg)Notes
3 in 1oil18 
Apiezon LApiezon18 
Break FreeCLP17 
Castor oil 18 
Corrosion X 19left residue after cleaning
Dillon Case LubeDillon17Lanolin with alcohol carrier
Hoppe's gun oilHoppe's23 
Imperial Sizing Die WaxRedding18 
Lee Case LubeLee13 
Lithium greasePermatex19 
Lube ShotBrowning 18 
Lube-it 8Syon19 
Marvel Mystery Oil 20 
Mil Oil 46 17left residue after cleaning
MilitecMilitec19left residue after cleaning
Mobil 1Mobil18 
Moly Dry Spray 32 
Motor OilValvoline20 
No Oil (dry) 27 
Penn Reel OilPenn22 
RemOil w/TeflonRemington17left residue after cleaning
RIG Oil 16 
RP-10 MPCReel Power21 
Shimano Reel OilShimano19 
Silicote Reel OilAbu Garcia21left residue after cleaning
STP Oil TreatmentSTP19 
Suber Lube 21left residue after cleaning
SynFilm 32Royal Purple18 
Tetra Gun GreaseTetra21 
Tetra Gun OilTetra20left residue after cleaning
Ultra fine Gun OilBrowning 17 
Vacuum Pump oilVarian24 
Vaseline 17 
WD-40 15left residue after cleaning
X-1R Grease 19 
X-1R Oil 18 
ZeroFriction 19left residue after cleaning


Initially, I expected to see a few oils which would really stand apart from the crowd. This did not prove to be the case.

As far as firearms and fishing reels are concerned, a person would do well to try any of the oils which do, in fact, penetrate the metal. Please note that these types of oils should be applied to a clean metal surface to work properly. Also note that some of the synthetics will not mix with the hydrocarbon oils. However, it is a mistake to assume that the $10.00 per ounce oils lubricate any better than the cheaper ones. The differences are relatively minor.

As for myself, I will not be concerned for many years, as I still have to use up all of these samples I purchased for testing.

November 19, 2002
Wm. George