Lubrication is a fact of life for machines. When you take away the unbelievable mass of emotion people attach to firearms, you’ll see that they’re simply machines. Machines that do not care about your feelings.
I always laugh when some brand fanboy says something ridiculous like, “Glocks don’t malfunction” or “1911s don’t malfunction”.
That’s as stupid as brewers advertising how cold their beer is. Guess what? It’s as cold as I make it.
Reliability with firearms is exactly the same way. Lubrication (both in maintenance and in firing) is one of the ways you “make your beer cold”.
It’s simple enough to grease the long bearing surfaces and oil the pivot points on a smokeless cartridge gun. Lubrication for black powder guns is an entirely different story.
Lubrication is Different for Black Powder Guns
Black powder doesn’t like petroleum products. The fouling from firing black powder will turn into gritty crud in the presence of petroleum based lubricants.
This wasn’t an issue back in the day, because the people who lived and died by their black powder guns didn’t use these oils. So, then, what did they use?
They used natural, edible oils.
You had hogs? You used lard. If you were a hunter? Deer tallow. Really, whatever edible oil you had was what you used.
How I Lubricate My Black Powder Guns
I use olive oil to lubricate my black powder guns. It’s business as usual, same as you’d oil any gun. I just use olive oil instead of whatever the latest whiz bang wonder lube is popular at the time. It works great.
That’s not all I do, though.
See, you also have to lubricate your bore. Think about it, a lead bullet traveling down a steel barrel is metal on metal. Without sufficient lubrication your barrel would wear out in short order.
In cartridges loaded with lead bullets, there is a grease groove below the crimp groove of the bullet. Bullets that don’t have a grease groove are tumbled to give a total coating of lubrication.
So how do you accomplish this in muzzle loading guns firing round balls of lead?
In revolvers, some people smear the front of their cylinders with lubricant like Bore Butter or Crisco. This is great, if your goal is to get lube everywhere except down the barrel.
Think about it…you get lube down the bore for your first shot. The blast of recoil is going to send the lube on the other 5 chambers everywhere. Your hand, your trigger, your loading lever, everywhere you don’t need lube.
Other people load their revolvers similarly to their rifles, with a lubricated piece of fabric under the bullet. In rifles, these patches also work to achieve a proper gas seal. This works great…in rifles.
In revolvers, people use Wonder Wads. I don’t use wads in revolvers, because they limit the powder capacity of your gun.
If you load too much powder, the wonder wads will eventually decompress and go back to their normal size. This pushes the bullet out of your cylinder and leaves you with a squib round.
Brother, there is a better way. And the best part? You don’t buy it, you make it yourself at home.
Homemade Bullet Lube
I don’t know where this recipe comes from, but it’s damned brilliant. An Australian friend showed me how to make the stuff and after a lot of shooting we came to the conclusion that it’s perfect.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Crisco should only ever be in your pantry if you’re going to make some of this lube and haven’t had the time yet. If you’re eating a lot of the stuff, you’re at risk of turning into soy. It’s better to shoot with than to eat, friend.
Crisco is ideal because it is solid at room temperature, just like the lard it was marketed as a substitute for. Why don’t I recommend you use lard instead? Well, you could, but then what are you going to cook with?
Beeswax is used to raise the melting point of the Crisco. How much you need really depends on how hot it gets where you live.
After you make your mixture, you will have to play around with it to find the right consistency. If it doesn’t melt easily enough, you need to add Crisco. If it won’t stay solid enough, add Beeswax.
Making it is simple.
Heat up a skillet, but not too hot. NOTHING should boil during this operation.
Slap some Crisco in the skillet.
Wait for it to melt.
Start cutting in your beeswax, allowing it to melt.
Stir the melted mixture to ensure integrity.
To make lubricated patches for your rifle, all you have to do is melt your homemade bullet lube and soak your patches in it. Make sure they aren’t stuck together, because when they dry you’ll have uneven saturation.
To make revolver lubrication cookies, you’ll need a punch. I like to use either a .38 special or .44 special fired, deprimed cartridge case. I just push the open mouth of the cartridge down into the lube and you’ve got a .36 or .44 caliber lube cookie.
If you’ve got too much beeswax or too much crisco in the mix, you’ll find out here. It’ll be damned hard to get the cookie out of the cartridge case.
To use the lube cookie, you treat it just like you would a Wonder Wad. Obviously, you’re going to want to use more Crisco for rifle patches and more beeswax for lube cookies. If your lube cookies have too low of a melting point, they’ll turn your last couple of rounds into duds.
That’s all, folks.
I’ve found that the combination of homemade bullet lube and olive oil results in a spectacularly easy to clean gun. It’s all I’m ever going to use, and a little crisco and beeswax will last you years so it costs next to nothing next to the store bought stuff.
Besides, there’s something enjoyable about making something yourself to fulfill your own needs.