Educational Zone #192 – Gun Lubrication

In a recent discussion about gun lubricants, several people stated that they used Mobil 1 Synthetic oil as a gun lube. This got me to thinking……

As a guy that worked in an oil refinery, I knew that different oils are developed for different uses. Some can be used in other applications and work well, but as far as I am aware, none had been specifically designed as a gun lubricant. I thought what we really needed is a true expert in lubrication design to answer some questions. And then I remembered that I knew exactly the guy to ask, my old buddy Joe.

Joe holds a doctorate in analytical chemistry and is retired from a research laboratory where he played a significant role in lubricant testing and evaluation.

I took Joe shooting a while ago and asked him a bunch of questions. Here are his suggestions regarding gun lubricants.

  1. The most important thing in any lubrication oil is the “base oil”. Joe said information led him to believe that Mobil 1 contained a highly stable synthetic base oil that would not lead to gumming or varnishing due to heat or long term oxidation.
  2. He stated that Mobil 1, like any premium engine oil, also contains additives such as detergents and anti-wear components. Some of these may not be necessary for gun lubrication, but probably should not cause any harm.
  3. He stated that contrary to what some might expect, the use of a lubricant on an AR-15 is not anywhere as hard on an oil as the use in an internal combustion engine. But higher viscosity (thicker) oils will work better as they will stay where they are applied. He suggested a 10W-30 or 10W-40 oil as a good range for an AR-15. (This would also disqualify lighter oils like transmission fluid, as their viscosity is too low.)
  4. While Mobil 1 is not “designed” as a lubricant for guns, it should work well in that application.


I bought a quart of Mobile 1 Synthetic oil for about $9. I found a small container to use to apply it to the guns. That ought to last me for the rest of my life.

There you go. Lubrication advice from someone that is a true expert on the subject.

8 Comments on Educational Zone #192 – Gun Lubrication

  1. I read this tale some time ago. When Mobil 1 came out, is was based on “plastic” oil. A little later, another brand came out with a “synthetic” that was petroleum based but with enough additives to go 15k miles. Mobil 1 took them to court over the “synthetic” claim. The court decided that synthetic was a rating and not based on the composition of the oil. So now, all synthetic is petroleum based and is not plastic.

    FWIW, I cannot find the article to back up this tale. However, a good site for oil nuts is Those guys truly are insane about oil.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, wasn’t rapeseed oil, aka canola oil invented in Canada as a light machine oil with the specific request that it double as a front line firearm lubricant??

    Of course the war ended and a use for all that oil was needed, so it was sold as cooking food oil thereafter?

  3. A little oil will do you. Gun oil, motor oil or olive oyl.

  4. Michael Hulen // May 22, 2017 at 7:18 pm // Reply

    I wonder how 3M Copper brake lube would work as a lube?

  5. Great article, thanks. I’ve been using full synthetic motor oil in all my firearms for at least 10 years. They don’t rust, and jams have been almost completely eliminated. The expert has confirmed my hypothesis. The heat and pressure in firearm chambers is somewhat similar to the cylinders in an internal combustion engine. If synthetic motor oil can withstand my wife’s driving, surely it can keep my firearms working, right?

  6. Just as beating your head against a wall is made more tolerable by having a pillow in between, some pillows are better than others. I have a preference for using high quality gun oils for my guns. Does that mean or imply that motor (mis named) oil is no good? No, only that it has been formulated for specific applications. Those applications are not guns.

    If you can’t “afford” good gun oil, can you . . . really . . . afford to shoot?

    Just my opinion. Do what . . . you . . . like.

  7. Randy Phillips // October 15, 2017 at 9:26 am // Reply

    My new old saying is. Any oil is better than no oil.

  8. QUOTE: “The heat and pressure in firearm chambers is somewhat similar to the cylinders in an internal combustion engine.”

    Yes, but if there is oil inside your firearm’s chamber, you’re going to have other problems.

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