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Ballistol Product Review

Does Ballistol beat our tried and true Hoppe's No. 9? Find out in our review of its effectiveness, smell, price, and other useful purposes besides firearms.
    I’ve been using Hoppe’s No.  9 to clean my gun since I’ve owned guns.  Mainly because they sell it everywhere here and it’s cheap.
    It was only well into my hobby that I noticed the little disclaimer on the label that said “Not recommended for use on Nickel plated guns”…which is lovely considering my first gun was nickel plated.

    I had heard the great Hickok45 wax poetic on YouTube about Ballistol on many occasions.  This is a man whose opinion I respect greatly so his enthusiastic praise of the stuff, which doesn’t sponsor him in any way, made me at least curious about it.

    Ballistol Uses

    As it turns out, Ballistol is kind of a universal cleaner.

    You can use it on guns, knives, bikes, cars, and even leather and wood.  They also claim that Ballistol leaves a thin film that acts as a rust-proof coating.

    Although they’ve yet to respond to my inquiry on the subject, there’s no warning about nickel plating and, from what I’ve been able to tell in my research, it’s safe to use on nickel.

    According to Ballistol “when used correctly, Ballistol is safe to use on nickel-plated firearms and gold leaf.”

    I’ll be honest, reading through their marketing materials leaves you with an almost “too good to be true” vibe.

    If it does even a fraction of what they claim, however, then it’s some incredible stuff.  Sadly, their site also showed that there isn’t a dealer anywhere near Jacksonville so I was restricted to only being able to buy it online.  Being a sucker for convenience and expediency, I stuck with Hoppe’s because I can drive 2 miles and buy some.

    I was out of Hoppe’s and so I figured what the heck.  I bought a couple of cans of Ballistol off Amazon for less than $10 each and awaited its arrival.


    By some strange, cosmic coincidence, it arrived on a day that I needed to clean my guns so I put it right to work.  No better trial than a trial by fire, I always say.

    My first observation: the smell.

    I’ve seen a lot of people talking about the smell of Ballistol.  Some don’t like it, some do.  Some say it smells like licorice combined with feet and burning.

    In my opinion, this stuff smells like potpourri compared to Hoppe’s No. 9.  It actually does have a bit of a flowery smell.

    Not very manly but still.

    My opinion might be a bit tainted as I am a huge fan of the unique odor of WD-40.  In fact, I’ve written countless letters to Yankee Candle Company suggesting they make a WD-40 scented candle.  They’ve responded with a restraining order.  I’m sure that was a mistake on their part and they meant to send a letter saying “we’re totally on it”.

    WD-40 Aftershave
    WD-40 Aftershave


    Anyway, you don’t buy gun cleaning solution for the smell.  The big question is “how well does it work?”

    I’m happy to report that it works phenomenally!

    Starting with my .22LR pistol, I soaked down the barrel and the various components and let it sit for a moment or five (as per Hickok45’s suggestions).  The red straw attachment makes it easy to coat the inside of the barrel with it.  I used a Q-Tip cotton swab to apply it to the smaller components and let those soak for a bit as well.

    Then I brought out the scrub brushes and the carbon just wiped right off.  A couple of passes through with a bore snake and the barrel was sparkling.  I rubbed a nice thin coat over the slide and then wiped everything down with a microfiber cloth.

    Nice, easy, and I didn’t have to break out the little cleaning pads.  The gun looked brand new when I was finished, which is exactly how I like it.

    Ballistol In Use
    Ballistol In Use

    I don’t like to use the phrase “the difference was night and day” but I almost used it here.  Yes, Ballistol is noticeably easier to use and smells better but the end result was a clean gun and that’s the same result with Hoppe’s.

    So it’s more of a “difference of night and dawn”.

    The big and most important difference is how easy it was to get to that point.  I can’t believe how much easier it was to clean with the Ballistol.  I don’t know what kind of voodoo they’re distilling into this stuff but it works and works well.

    I’ve taken the challenge and come out a true believer.  I’m now a Ballistol man.

    But if you’re into cleaners that have no smell and are non-toxic, check out our How to Clean and Lube a Gun article for our newest suggestions.

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    19 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Glen R Graves

      I thoroughly enjoyed your piece. I'm looking to using it possibly for cleaning my cap and ball revolver. I need to find a way to make that cleaning chore go faster!

      April 16, 2023 6:14 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Ballistol is excellent for black powder since it is alkaline and helps neutralize the salts that form in the barrel.

        April 22, 2023 7:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      John K

      It works great but the smell is horrible ! You need a well ventilated area and try not to get any of it on your clothing.

      April 16, 2023 6:13 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      It's a multi purpose CLP, based on pharmaceutical grade mineral oil, star anise and different types of alcohols. It was invented in Germany and originally made for hunters, even though it is most popular now with military, law enforcement, bikers and farmers.

      It's good for cleaning and lubricating anything metal - guns, knives, tools, hinges, machines etc. It's also good for leather, but it might soften sheaths and darken bright leather too much though, so careful with that.

      It's good for wood, very useful on guitar necks too. It good for the skin, hair and nails. Horse and dogs owners use it too. It helps with blisters, small wounds, insect bites...so many uses.

      November 17, 2021 8:52 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      James Lumsden

      One downside of Ballistol is that it turns into a gel at very low temperatures. This is a factor that the Wehrmacht discovered when using it on their weapons in a Russian winter during WW2.

      November 10, 2021 2:04 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Oh so you’re fighting out in the coldest temperatures recorded almost in Russian weather ? Like Germans were ?

        A lot of other things don’t work in this type of weather.

        June 13, 2022 12:15 pm
        • Commenter Avatar

          Ballistol actually makes a grease for low temp applications so the low temp argument was moot from the start.

          April 22, 2023 7:22 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      kent san

      Sorry. I used it and in fact using it as we speak. Just looking to use it up rather than throwing it away, so using it on my recleaning schedule for stuff sitting in the safe for a long while. Not a carbon cutter IMHO. Does nothing there. Maybe the alkaline chemical base is good for black powder shooters. Have at it. There's no risk of harm and sadly, that's in part because there's little risk of it helping clean.

      March 26, 2021 4:10 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Shooting for 52 years...
      After first year using Ballistol, gave all cleaners solvents and oils away, 2 shoe boxes full.
      The only items I kept were sharpshooter products-(wipe out, lead remover, patch out) these are also outstanding products.
      In the summer I’ll shoot 5,000+ 9mm, 2,000+45 and what ever else I can fit in.
      Besides what I shoot in a week, also must clean 3 firearms a week so that I touch each one 3 times a year. I have a spread sheet to keep it active.
      So, back to Ballistol.
      I use it on my guns inside and out. Was in contact with Patrick at Ballistol for info on using it as a cleaner in my sonic cleaner. His professional opinion was to mix it 10% Ballistol to 90% water so that it could cavitate properly and when done just dry the parts they now have a thin layer of lube.
      ( shocker when mixed it now looks like skim milk, and still smells like licorice. Strange!!!)
      So now I put in pistol barrels, slides, rods springs, etc.—-
      And magazines as they are, with these I just use force air to dry. After scraping off lead and carbon from my suppressor parts (not the Hollywood term Silencer) also drop them into the sonic cleaner, only issue a bit smoky on the first 2 shots. Another way I use it is with a needle Oiler for my slides at the range when shooting past 200 rounds.
      Personally have only seen it in one gun shop and I was using it long before he started to sell it.
      I buy it direct $80.00 a gallon.
      Check out the site, available in multiple size containers.

      Remember...Take a youngster shooting!!!

      July 25, 2019 6:37 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I used my first Balistol patch on recommendation from the oldest employee at my regular gun shop, when I asked how to get rid of surface rust that had appeared on my new 870 after one day of use, and one week in my closet. I'm used to having to scrub surface rust, but this was a simple wipe on, wipe off.

      Only downside is that it smells like absolute SHIT.

      December 7, 2018 12:59 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Clark Kent

        So sh*t in your neck of the woods smells like black licorice? Consider yourself lucky. Or breathe through your (big) mouth.

        April 2, 2019 10:53 pm
        • Commenter Avatar

          Your comment is Super, man! Get it? Get it? :)

          May 26, 2021 5:55 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      It's good non toxic CLP that is safe on leather and wood.

      August 20, 2018 7:07 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Arc Angel

      Wait a minute! I've been using Ballistol, now, for I'd say at least the past 25 years. Ballistol AIN'T the best thing to come into a gunman's life since non-mercuric primers, or smokeless powder — It ain't!

      Yes, Ballistol is wonderful for cleaning black powder firearms. There's no better commercial cleaner. Ballistol works well on leather hunting gear, too. It does a nice job of keeping leather supple, and reasonably waterproof; HOWEVER, I personally would not use Ballistol on any modern firearm that I did not intend to use within the next succeeding 3 or 4 months.

      As a matter of fact I actually do use Ballistol; there's even a 16 oz can of it sitting right in front of me on my desk as I input this text! If I'm taking a gun to the range with me several times a week I have no hesitancy, at all, about cleaning it with Ballistol; but if I know that I'm going to be storing the gun for several months, or longer, then I will NOT clean it with Ballistol. I'll use a superior, non-mineral oil based (Stoddard solution), noncorrosive gun cleaner like Safariland's current formulation of BreakFree CLP, instead.

      So, go ahead and do whatever you want. 'New girlfriends come; and old girlfriends go!' I am not a gun newbie, though. I’m a heavily practiced, longtime, certified firearms instructor who also happens to own a large collection of genuinely valuable firearms; Every week I shoot many different guns; and I get to watch the people around me shoot even more!

      I've been involved in the shooting sports for more than 50 years, now; (and I’ve got the tinnitus in my ears to prove it, too!) During this time I guess I've tried all of the more popular commercial gun cleaning products (Along with several bottles of good ole homemade 'Ed's Red' cleaning solution — OK!) To one degree, or another, all of these bore cleaning solutions work; the usual questions are (1) how fast, (2) how easily, (3) how thoroughly, and (4) how non destructively?

      Ballistol is an OK gun cleaner; but if you're not careful with it, one of your guns might end up looking like my own Smith & Wesson Model 59: One day I cleaned it very thoroughly with Ballistol and, then, I decided to store it for something slightly longer than 2 years inside my humidity-controlled gun safe. Guess what happened! The mineral oil base in the slight Ballistol coating I left on the gun congealed, acidified, and left my valuable S&W Model 59 with several areas of (albeit) slightly pitted metal — Something that no formulation of BreakFree CLP I have ever used did to any of my guns.

      Yes, Hoppe's ole ‘No. 9’ works; but it also stinks up the house; and, if you do a lot of gun cleaning I'll just bet that some shooters might end up getting divorced because of ‘that original Hoppe's stink'. Ballistol is a good gun cleaning product; BUT, it is not designed— nor do I believe that it was ever intended — for either long term storage or use by the German WWII Wehrmacht army for which it was originally (and somewhat expediently) invented.

      Safariland's 'BreakFree CLP', 'M-Pro 7', and Birchwood Casey's 'Gun Scrubber' are among the better gun cleaning products. By the way my general experience with ALL of these bore cleaners is that they ALL work better if you let them sit in the barrel for, at least, several hours before you start any serious cleaning.

      So, what bore cleaner do I rely on most often? Personally I absolutely swear by ‘Flitz Metal Polish’. (There’s no waiting, nor barrel soaking time, either, OK!) I’ve used Flitz for longer than the past two decades, now; and it's been both fast to use, and perfectly restorative for any gun I've ever used it on, (Which is all of them — OK!)

      December 20, 2017 6:09 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Clark Kent

        There is no such thing as a 'valuable' S&W Model 59 (aka the boat anchor). Nice try; no cigar.

        April 2, 2019 10:55 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          Ted Johnson

          Since "Clark Kent" is not your real name and everything you write defends Ballistol, why don't you be honest and identify yourself with the product.

          July 29, 2019 4:06 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Ballistol was not originally invented for the "German WWII Wehrmacht army". It was invented by the Germans... but looong before WWII and even before WWI... about 1904 actually.

        August 9, 2020 8:47 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      If you cut it 1 in 4 or 5 with water you get "moose milk" which is used by all because the water goes everywhere and when it dries it leaves the Ballistol ....I shoot a flintlock rifle and 9mm hand guns, use in all. (Black powder is very corrosive....no rust after three months in storage.)

      November 21, 2016 6:48 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      This stuff sounds like it's a dry lube, how much and what cleaner/solvent does it have ?

      December 9, 2014 10:35 pm
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