Updated Oct 20, 2022 5:39 PM
Shooting is a ton of fun, but it’s also inherently dirty. There’s powder residue, carbon fouling, copper and lead buildup, and more.
Whether it’s your granddad’s single-shot shotgun that plan on passing down to your own kids or a brand new long-range shooting rifle that you spent far more on than you care to admit, the goal is to keep them both running smoothly for decades to come. In order to do this, you’ve got to keep your guns clean. Regardless of what it cost or how old it is, the best way to do this is to use the best gun oil.
Things to Consider Before Buying Gun Oil
Just as there are a wide variety of guns on the market to choose from, so, too, are there a bunch of gun oils to decide amongst. Here are a few things to consider when choosing gun oil:
Most gun owners own more than one gun. The reason for this is because different guns serve different purposes. As such, you’ll want to use different oils for guns with different purposes. Here are some things to consider:
- Self-Defense: If you’re going to be using the gun for self-defense, you’ll want to make sure that the oil you use won’t have an adverse impact on your gun’s reliability. Make sure it doesn’t attract dust or lint particles, doesn’t get gummy over time, etc.
- Competition: Guns used in competition need to be smooth shooters. Pick an oil that offers top-notch lubrication in this case.
- Collectibles: Preservation is the name of the game here. A gun oil that doesn’t break down over time is a good option here.
Frequency of Use
You might have a couple of guns that get used regularly. Others may only come out of the safe during certain hunting seasons. If this is the case, then you’ll want to choose different gun oils for guns that see lots of use and guns that see only occasional use. Here are some things to consider when choosing a gun oil based on the frequency of use:
- Thickness: Some gun oils run like water while others plod along like syrup. Thinner oils are good for overall lubrication on guns that see frequent use, but a thicker oil will last longer on guns that aren’t shot as often.
- Scent: This might seem like an odd one to put under the frequency of use, but I promise it makes sense. If you only use a certain gun during a specific hunting season, then the scent is actually a big deal. A lot of hunters put in a good deal of effort to keep their scent signature down when in the field, and an aromatic gun oil will kill all that effort in an instance.
You wouldn’t wear a down parka in Hawaii because you’d overheat, so why wouldn’t you use a gun oil that works against rust in a humid climate? Here are some things to consider about gun oils based on your climate:
- Thickness: Thin gun oils spread more easily than their thicker counterparts, but they also evaporate more quickly. Choosing a thicker gun oil is better in a more humid climate because it will stick around longer – literally.
- Prevention: If you live in a coastal location or a place with high humidity, rust is going to be a bigger concern for you than for someone in a more temperate climate. Thankfully, there are plenty of gun oils that offer great rust prevention.
Best Old School
Why It Made the Cut: Hoppe’s has been around since 1903, so they’ve got the formula for gun oil down to a science. They must truly be doing something right, otherwise, the company wouldn’t have lasted this long. Plus, you can find it literally everywhere. So you’ll never have to worry about running out of it.
- Time-tested formula
- High viscosity
- Part of the larger No. 9 family of products
- Won’t gum up over time
- Available in different delivery methods
- Found everywhere
- The iconic scent may not be ideal for hunting situations
Anyone who has been around guns for five minutes has heard of Ballistol, CLP, and Hoppe’s. They’ve all got loyal followers who have been using their products for decades and for generations. However, if you want to go with the best old school gun oil, the choice is clear: go with Hoppe’s No. 9 Lubricating Gun Oil.
The Hoppe’s No. 9 line of gun care products is legendary. The company’s lubricating oil has a high viscosity to prevent gumming or hardening for an extended period of time. You can buy it in bottles, pumps, aerosol cans, and jugs to best fit your needs. Because it is part of the larger No. 9 product family, it works incredibly well with the gun solvent and grease. Oh, and who could forget the iconic Hoppe’s smell? You won’t find it anywhere else.
Why It Made the Cut: You won’t always be in a situation where you want or need to do a complete teardown, cleaning, and oiling of your gun. Sometimes, you just need a way to quickly oil down your gun and move on. One of the best ways to do that is with the best gun oil wipes, Clenzoil Field & Range Saturated Wipes.
- Perfect for quick use
- Can also be cut and used as bore patches
- Cleaner, lubricant, and rust preventative
- Formula is time-tested
- Convenient application method
- Wipes only come in one size
The green oil offered by Clenzoil has become iconic, but a liquid gun oil isn’t always ideal. To remedy this, Clenzoil created these wipes that are ideal for a quick and easy wipe down after a day in the field or on the range. Each container comes packed with approximately 50, 5 x 7-inch cotton fiber pre-saturated wipes, which ought to keep you good to go for quite a while. The only downside is that you might not need a full-size wipe every time, and so then you’ll be slowed down by having to cut pieces off or sacrifice a full-size wipe.
Clenzoil is another company that has been around for a long time. It was founded in 1948 by a World War II vet and thousands of gun owners swear by their products. Being able to have their oil in a pre-saturated wipe just makes things all the more streamlined for quick care wipe downs on the go.
Best to Prevent Rust
Why It Made the Cut: Since CLP is designed to clean, lubricate, and protect guns, it’ll take on any and all issues that rust may present. It’ll clean them to remove rust; it’ll lubricate them to prevent any function issues caused by rust; and it’ll protect them from rust in the future.
- Developed for the military
- Multi-function: clean, lubricate, protect
- Multiple formulas for different uses
- In use all over the world
- Do-it-all design is not ideal in certain circumstances
There’s an old saying that a gun’s two biggest enemies are politicians and rust. While we can’t help with your elected officials, we can help recommend a product to remove rust from your guns and then keep your guns free from rust in the future. To do that, use Break Free CLP the best gun oil to prevent rust.
Break Free CLP is more than just gun oil. Trusted by agencies and military units around the world, it was the first to pass official mil-spec standards. CLP cleans burnt powder residue and other fouling materials from the gun’s bore, moving parts, and exterior. The formula also reduces friction and protects against corrosion. Most importantly, CLP will not break down under extreme temperatures or pressure and is made from the highest-quality synthetic oils.
Best to Do It All: Ballistol
Best to Do it All
Why It Made the Cut: If you could buy the best gun oil to do it all from now on until the end of eternity, it would have to be Ballistol. They say it has 1,001 uses, and that might actually be an understatement.
- Won’t gum up
- Great for black powder fouling
- Use it on everything
- True do-it-all product
- Plenty of uses – not just guns
- There’s probably one person out there who has a complaint about Ballistol, but we haven’t found them yet!
There are other products on the market, but none have the same wide range of applications and capabilities as Ballistol. Ballistol can be used on just about everything a gun owner owns. That means guns, gun leather, slings, hunting knives, and anything else you might have in your range bag or hunting rig. Ballistol cleans and removes all types of bore fouling.
Cleaning with Ballistol will save you time, minimize the need for brushing, and also form a protective film on your firearm. Due to its slight alkalinity, Ballistol neutralizes and dissolves black powder and corrosive ammo residue. In addition, Ballistol will beautify gunstocks, and prevent them from drying out. As a lubricant, it will never gum up or harden. Without hesitation, it can be used to lubricate, penetrate, clean, protect, and preserve firearms, leather, knives, marine equipment, fishing gear, tools, locks, wood, metal, rubber, and so much more.
Best for Long Term
Why It Made the Cut: The Break Free line of products are incredibly popular for their performance, so it just makes sense that they would also develop a top-notch long-term gun oil. It’s trusted by high-end collectors and museums for optimum protection.
- Designed for the long-term
- Resists fingerprints and associated corrosion
- Exceeds military specifications
- Won’t degrade over time
- Provides up to five years of protection
- Can be used on knives and swords, too
- Formula is overkill for guns that are used frequently
Whether they’re guns that sit in your safe most of the time, or guns that are going to be in storage for an extended period of time (like during a deployment), then you’ll want to use a gun oil that is specifically designed to stand the test of time. For this, we’d recommend using Break Free Collector Long-Term Protectant, the best gun oil for long term protection.
Break Free Collector Long Term Protectant is the perfect product for preserving your investment guns or keeping them safe from rust and corrosion in situations where you won’t be able to inspect and clean them regularly. It won’t break down over time and it resists fingerprints and the oils that they leave behind. In one test, this gun oil protected steel panels from rust and corrosion for over 1,200 hours in 100% humidity. That’s certainly more than most people will ever need out of a long-term oil.
In my years as a firearm historian, I have used a variety of oils to ensure the arms in a collection stay protected. The number one concern of someone charged with the preservation of museum objects is to ensure their proper working order and their longevity. As such, I’ve also had plenty of conversations with colleagues at similar institutions not only in the US but around the world regarding what we think works best.
I chose the oils on this list with a variety of criteria in mind, including:
- Cost: In general, gun oils aren’t expensive. Still, money doesn’t grow on trees. You don’t want to waste your money on products that over-promise and under-deliver. You won’t find those here.
- Prevalence: If you see a certain product on every gun bench, chances are high that it isn’t a coincidence. There are some gun oils that are found everywhere and have been for decades, and that’s with good reason.
- Application: The gun oils on this list are available in a variety of application methods. This is important because not everyone wants or needs a giant bottle of oil when a precision applicator or wipe is really needed.
- Performance: If a gun oil doesn’t work well, then it isn’t worth using. That’s pretty simple, right? It’s got to be trusted to clean, lubricate, and protect your guns.
Q: Is it OK to use WD-40 on a gun?
No, you should not use WD-40 on a gun. It is not a cleaner. It is not a lubricant. It is not a protectant. In short, it is nothing you want on your gun and everything you don’t want on your gun. It may be tempting to use it because you’ve got it on hand, but it will cost you in the long run. Go buy yourself a bottle, can, or set of wipes of any of the gun oils listed above and use them instead. Do not, under any circumstances, use WD-40 on your gun.
Q: How often should I oil my gun?
How often you should oil your gun depends on the gun and how you use it. If it’s a gun that gets heavy use, then it should be cleaned and oiled regularly. If it’s a gun that sits in the safe for most of the year, then it won’t need nearly as much oiling. A good rule of thumb for those pieces would be to take them out and oil them twice a year.
Q: What gun oil does the military use?
The military uses a variety of gun oils. They include Break Free CLP, G96, Radcolube. You really can’t go wrong with any of those options. They’re all top-notch gun oils.
Q: What is the best rust prevention for guns?
The best rust prevention for guns is a good cleaning regimen. This means that you inspect your guns for rust, keep them in an environment with low humidity, clean your guns on a regular basis, and use good gun oils that will prevent rust from forming in between your inspections and cleanings.
Final Thoughts on the Best Gun Oil
Choosing a good gun oil is very important. But thankfully, it isn’t expensive or difficult to do. There are so many options on the market that it’s really hard to pick a bad gun oil. However, that doesn’t mean that every gun oil is right for every situation every time. They’ve all got their pros and cons, so just be aware of what they are before you buy some. Really and truly, though, gun oil is just like everything else in the gun world: you’re going to buy more than one kind over the years before you truly find the right one for you. It’s just like choosing ammo, holsters, etc. You can never have too many options.