Gun oil is a necessary, but often mystifying and perplexing part of owning a firearm.
Some will say you should never ever use such-and-such. Others will tell you only idiots use anything but such-and-such.
We know it’s confusing. We’re here to help.
We tested, evaluated, and finally narrowed down the best gun oils and lubricants out there. We’re going to go over everything we learned, and maybe drop a little knowledge about the whole thing along the way.
Curious about what we found?
Need some help picking the best gun oils and lubricants? (Gun lubricants, that is. This isn’t that type of site).
By the end you’ll know everything about gun oil…and the best one for you.
If you’re looking for all-in-one kits…check out Best Gun Cleaning Kits where we got the most popular ones and put them through the test.
Table of Contents
Why You Need Gun Oil
Modern firearms, especially combat-focused ones, can run for a really long time without any maintenance at all, but that doesn’t mean you should.
You wouldn’t drive your car for tens of thousands of miles without an oil change, and you wouldn’t let your house become too filthy to live in.
Just like your car, your gun needs an oil change every so often too, and just like your house, you have to clean things up when it gets dirty.
For the full rundown on cleaning say, an AR-15, be sure to check out our guide to get an idea of how the whole process goes.
This is the same process you’ll use for all your firearms, it’s just the disassembly and where you lube will be different from one gun to another. (Be sure to check your owner’s manual for the disassembly procedure and recommended lubrication points of your specific firearm). We also have a general cleaning and lubrication guide for firearms if you need a refresher.
Basically, you start with a solvent to break everything loose, then a wire bore brush to scrub everything out, then follow up with some more solvent to make sure everything is cleaned, followed by some sort of protectant.
I know, it’s a pain to clean your guns, especially if you shoot often, but it really is something that will extend the life of your firearms, and will keep them working when you need them most.
Types of Gun Lubes and Cleaning Products
Now, there are a few different types of gun oils/lubes/solvents out there.
First, you have dedicated products that do just one job, such as a dedicated solvent or a dedicated oil.
Then you have three-in-one products that act as solvent, protective oil, and lubrication all in one.
Traditional wisdom says to avoid these products where possible, as most three-in-one products tend to either not offer the corrosion and rust protection of a traditional oil, or they tend to run.
While that is true, and like most things a “do it all” product isn’t going to be as good as a product that has one job it does well, most modern CLP (Clean, Lube, Protect) products will work just fine for the average shooter, especially when combined with another product here or there.
After the triple-action CLP products that do it all, you have dedicated oils like the famous and beloved (for good reason) Hoppe’s #9 oils that are just for lubricating.
These oils, when combined with a proper solvent, are an excellent way to protect and lubricate your firearm.
They’re also…kinda expensive. You can get by with regular ole motor oil in a pinch, or if you want something cheap. In fact, I know of at least a few high-speed, low-drag operator types in the military and professional door-kickers in law enforcement who all swear by 5W-20 motor oil.
Now, these are people running M4’s and actual honest-to-God machine guns with at least the capability of full-auto fire, so they’re not exactly what I’d call typical users, but if that sort of thing matters to you, it’s worth noting.
It also means that if you’re ever stuck in the zombie apocalypse and have to keep your rusty, trusty SHTF rifle running, you can get by on some good ole motor oil from your zombified neighbors minivan.
Grease is the final option for keeping your firearm from frictioning itself to death, and it’s another option for keeping your firearm running smoothly.
It’s a bit thicker than your typical oils, and it can attract grime if you’re not careful which will, of course, make your gun run worse, but it can also last a very long time, and it doesn’t tend to run like some of the thinner oils out there.
That’s because most grease is just a thickened oil with some kind of polymer or silicone added to it to help it not attract dust, dirt, and carbon and to improve lubricity (yes its a real word).
A good example of gun-centric grease would be Tetra Gun 004B11.
Three-In-One versus Oil versus Grease
So, which one is the best?
Like most things, it comes down to preference and what trade-offs you’re willing to accept. In general, there are pros and cons whichever way you go.
In the end, whatever you use is probably fine, especially if it seems to work for you.
I know you probably came here expecting me to tell you to use this product with that product, and then maybe chant this one particular Latin phrase over the gun, and then it would run for a thousand years.
And there’s a shit ton of people out there who will tell you that this product or that product or this other product is the undisputed best thing out there, and it only costs *some totally unreasonable amount*.
In the end, you have to decide what you’re looking for, and how much effort vs cost you’re willing to accept.
Are you looking for one product that may very well last you a lifetime and will probably do everything you need it to, even if it won’t do it as well as other, more expensive products? Get a can of Ballistol or Break-Free CLP, call it a day.
If you’re prepping for the apocalypse or otherwise have a bunch of firearms you want to bury in the desert and dig up in working order later (I’m not here to judge, but this is in no way meant to be legal advice) go with a nice grease.
Are you an average shooter who wants to spend a little more to take the best care of your gun? Maybe start with a solvent, a dedicated lubricating oil, and then wipe the gun down with a good protective oil.
Remember, you’re very unlikely to ruin a gun with any relatively sane thing you put on it, you just might find it doesn’t get as clean, or it develops a bit of surface rust, or it gums up faster. In that case, change up what you’re doing.
Try new things.
Look for a better way of doing things. I think you’ll find that the people with the best setups are the ones that are constantly changing what they do and using the best products on the market, not the guys that heard you should only use Ballistol back in the 60’s and ran with that knowledge like it was the one true path to firearms Nirvana.
Sidenote: Don’t Google “Firearms Nirvana” without thinking like I did. It…gets really dark.
In short, try a few things, spend a little too much money, and figure out what you like best, and what works best with your level of gun use and abuse, and your budget.
Now if you need a place to start your search, here’s where you should be looking.
Best Traditional Gun Oil
These products are dedicated lubricants specifically designed for firearms use.
Does that really mean anything?
I dunno. Nobody does. There’s a lot of marketing hocus pocus surrounding everything firearms related, but especially gun oil, which isn’t regulated like motor oil and machine oil. They don’t have to really test it and put meaningful numbers on the bottle for you.
Not to say there aren’t excellent products out there. Products like…
Hoppe’s #9 Lubricating Oil
Good ole Hoppe’s #9 (pronounced “hops” for those unfamiliar) is always going to be a part of the conversation when you start talking about gun oils, and for good reason.
This old standby is great for lubricating and protecting your firearm, and it won’t gum, harden, or evaporate unless you bake it in a kiln. Protip: don’t bake your gun in a kiln. Especially if you’re a GLOCK owner.
The only problem with it is it may run a little bit, but the precision applicator on most bottles means that you’ll have an easier time putting it just where you want it. Also, it smells a little, which may be a good or bad thing.
Honorable Mention: If you don’t like the smell, I suggest the synthetic version.
Best Three-In-One Gun Oil
Three-in-one gun oils are for the shooter that is just looking to spend as little time cleaning and as much time shooting as possible. If you’re looking for one product that does it all, you’re in luck because that’s exactly what these products do.
If Hoppe’s #9 is the standard for oils, Break-Free CLP is the standard for 3-in-1s. This stuff will do it all, and do it well, from cleaning fouling from the inside of the gun, to protecting a variety of surface materials from rust and corrosion. It’s available in an aerosol spray and in wipes that you can find below.
Best of all, it works at any sane temperature without gumming or hardening, so no worries about using it a gun that gets hot under rapid fire.
Finally, it’s been used by militaries around the world for decades, so it’s got a pretty good rep and has been literally battle-tested in some truly inhospitable places.
What’s your take on Break-Free?
Honorable Mention: Ballistol. The only problem with Ballistol is that it isn’t a copper or lead solvent, so it may leave tiny bits of either in the rifling of your barrel, requiring a dedicated solvent for those things. It is non-toxic (unlike Break-Free) and just as battle-proven however.
Best Gun Grease
I’ll be honest, I don’t like gun grease unless I’m putting a firearm away for a long time, but there’s something to be said for a product that can keep a firearm running for a long time in the field, and under really adverse conditions.
Mil-Comm TW25B Gun Grease
So, if you’re walking off into the bush or are an operator operating operationally in some capacity, or just want a product you don’t have to reapply often (even if you should) Mil-Comm TW25B is for you. It also costs about $20 an ounce, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.
This formulation has the approval of US/NATO forces, and is found anywhere firearms have to keep running, no matter what.
Honorable Mention: Now, if you’re a more sane individual and you want a grease that doesn’t require a second mortgage, Tetra Gun 004B1 is about $5 per ounce and is going to be just as good in almost every possible real-world application, but I did say “best” grease, so we had to talk about the Mil-Comm stuff first.
That about does it for this one. Remember, you’re very, very, very unlikely to really screw up your gun if you just read the package directions for what you’re using, so feel free to experiment a little. Find what works best for you.
Got any thoughts about gun oil? What’s your preferred product? Let me know in the comments below! Want more? Check out our picks for Best Gun Cleaning Kits.