Gun oils are an essential part of firearm cleaning and maintenance. These oils are used to lubricate friction surfaces, and protect your firearm from rust and corrosion.
This is so very important because an unlubricated gun will quickly run into reliability issues and stop functioning correctly, and it can even cause damage.
You’ll also want to keep your firearms safe from rust and corrosion. At the end of the day, guns are a significant investment and many of us rely on them to protect hearth and home.
Either way, rust is not something anyone can really afford on something as valuable as a firearm.
What Are The Different Types of Gun Cleaning Oils?
There are a few different types of gun cleaning oils that you need to be aware of.
First, there are gun oils that just lubricate and protect. These are your standard oils that you’re probably already familiar with and include things like Hoppe’s No. 9 Oil and Synthetic Oil.
These don’t offer any real benefit to the actual process of removing carbon fouling and such from your gun.
They are strictly for helping keep things lubricated and protected, though they will help keep carbon fouling, lead, and copper from adhering as well to the inside of your bore, which is a very good thing.
We can think of these more as gun lubricants and protectants than as gun cleaners, even though they do help with preventing the build up of carbon fouling and such.
These oils are generally applied to vulnerable metal surfaces such as the inside of the bore and to friction surfaces like slide rails on handguns and bolt lugs on rifles.
They are great for protecting your guns from everything from dirt and grime to saltwater and sweat.
Next we have 3-in-1 CLP products that contain cleaners, lubricants, and protectants. These products are do-it-all options that gun owners can use in place of dedicated oil and bore cleaner.
These are extremely convenient and can be a better value than buying all the things you need separately.
How Do Gun Cleaning Oils Work?
Whether you go with a dedicated oil, or a CLP, a gun oil works basically the same way across the board. These are types of machine oils that create a barrier between surfaces, or between a surface and the air.
This has a few benefits. Number one, it helps prevent the metal from rusting which is of course extremely important. Second, it prevents friction surfaces from wearing and binding, which is vital for keeping a firearm in working order.
These oils contain a number of additives beyond just oil though.
These are usually thickeners and other things to help the oil resist gumming up or becoming tacky when it gets hot (as firearms do) and to keep the oil from flowing too much and running away from the areas that you need it.
This is something you can’t get from say, a pure machine oil or motor oil.
There are also different oils that are more for long-term storage. These tend to be thicker and more geared towards rust protection than for lubrication.
This is the type of stuff that you’d put on an antique or a wallhanger that you aren’t looking to shoot anytime soon.
What Do You Look For In The Best Gun Cleaning Oils?
When choosing a gun cleaning oil there’s a few things that you want to keep in mind.
For one, you want something that’s specifically designed for firearms.
There are a number of things specific to gun oils that you want, and as tempting as it may be to use a standard oil, if you are about your gun at all you’ll go with a dedicated gun oil.
Gun oils have additives in them that help to keep carbon fouling from sticking, and they are high-heat oils that shouldn’t gum up at normal operating temperatures for firearms.
The last thing you want is your oil turning into something with the consistency of cold gravy that will then cause your gun to not cycle.
You’ll also want oils that have an added thickener or “boundary substance”. These additives keep the oil from running too much and flowing away from the friction surface or metal parts you need them on.
Next, you want to look for something that fits into your cleaning setup. If you’re just starting out and want the simplest solution, go with a CLP.
These products clean, lubricate, and protect (hence the name) and don’t require any other purchases really other than standard cleaning supplies like rods, patches, and a mat.
If you are looking for a slightly more involved solution that may provide a more complete cleaning then going with a dedicated oil and purchasing a separate bore cleaner/solvent may be the better option.
This route means you’ll spend a little bit longer cleaning and you’ll need more things in your gun cleaning kit, but it can provide a deeper cleaning in some cases.
Best Gun Cleaning Oils Reviewed
Either way you go, there’s something on this list for you. We’ve included both dedicated oils and 3-in-1 products that do it all in one.
This is the stuff that I personally use and keep stocked as someone who shoots for a living.
Hoppe’s No. 9 Synthetic Lubricating Oil (Our Top Pick)
Of course, we have to include the legendary Hoppe’s No. 9 Synthetic Lubricating Oil. And this is the synthetic option as our number one pick, not the conventional version.
This one is a little bit less fumey and a little more effective in side by side testing.
This oil is specially-designed to work well with firearms, particularly modern firearms and semi-autos, but it also works very well with anything mechanical.
It’s particularly great on fishing reels, and I’ve even used it as a cutting oil (don’t do that). Basically anything mechanical with lots of moving parts can be oiled up and brought back to life with this stuff.
Beyond that, it’s just a good product that moves well and gets into all the nooks and crannies you want it in without flowing off and running to places you don’t want or need it.
This is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to purely lubricating gun oils, and is never a bad choice.
If you’re looking for a cheap option that will last forever, it’s hard to do better than a can of Ballistol Multi-Purpose Aerosol Spray.
This stuff works great as a cleaner, lubricant, and protectant all in one. It was originally developed for the German Army and is actually fairly safe and toxin-free, unlike some other options.
This simple spray can be used as a bore cleaner, lubricant, and protectant. As a protectant, it works on wood, leather, and all types of metal.
This makes it a good option for anyone looking for an easy solution to their gun cleaning issues, or for those who want something that’s easy to carry in the field.
I actually keep on of the small cans in my range bag just to fix any issues that I or my buddies might have, and I’ve even saved somebody’s competition run with it when their AR locked up and wouldn’t cycle (they went on to beat me in the scoring, so kind of a mixed bag there).
M-Pro 7 Oil is the best lubricating gun oil I have used, and I swear by it when anybody asks me what gun oil they should buy, assuming money is no object.
It is expensive, and it’s just an oil without and cleaning properties, but in my experience it is just the absolute best stuff on the market.
No gun lube I’ve tested has done as well, and this stuff even beats some gun grease.
It doesn’t run or gum up even under extreme temperatures, and was actually originally designed for use with machine guns.
I have noticed that it isn’t as great with rust prevention as some of the other options, though it does work. I would just keep some Hoppe’s or our next option on hand as a touch-up option just in case.
Sage & Braker makes the best CLP around, full stop. I’m not willing to debate on this one, but meet me in the comments if you want to fight about it.
Seriously, this CLP has by far the best performance of any CLP I’ve ever used, and I’ve used all of them. This is the best option for anyone that is looking for a high-quality, one-stop solution to gun cleaning.
You don’t need to buy separate cleaners and lubes, you just have one simple spray bottle that does it all.
Spray some on your cleaning brush and down the bore, spray some on your cleaning cloth to protect the inside of your bore when you’re done.
So why not just have this on the list and nothing else?
Well, first and above all it’s expensive. As much as I think it’s worth it, it’s around $30 a bottle on Amazon which is much more expensive than our other options.
Also, and this is kind of a nitpick, but the bottle sucks. It leaks if it gets turned upside down. This is maybe just an issue with older stock, but it’s something to be aware of.
Best CLP on the market
Non-toxic and environmentally friendly
Best lubrication of any CLP
A little pricey
Bottle sucks (easy to replace, new stock may be fine)
Not including the original Hoppe’s No.9 Oil on this list would feel like blasphemy. This is what I started with, and is what my father and grandfather started with as well. This is the OG, the original, the standby.
It moves well without being too runny, it doesn’t gum up, and it won’t let you down if you use it properly.
There’s other stuff that lubricates a little better, and there’s things that protect a little better, but for a familiar, readily-available option there’s basically nothing better.
If you’re somewhere that you can’t get Hoppe’s No.9, in my opinion you need to move.
Gun cleaning oils can be a difficult thing to choose because there’s so many seemingly great options.
In truth, there’s no perfect choice but there are many good options and there’s sure to be something that works well for you.
All of these oils are good, and I would trust any of them with a valuable gun or even my carry gun. These are all oils I’ve relied on for years, and they far out performed the competition in our testing.
Which of these gun oils do you like the best? Do you have a favorite, or one you’re looking to try? Let us know in the comments below!