This article originally appeared at Ammoland.

Are there more gun maintenance products than guns? Maybe...

Are there more gun maintenance products than guns? Maybe…

By Tom McHale

Tom McHale headshot low-res square

Tom McHale

USA –-( The gun lubricant market baffles me. Actually, calling it a market isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more like a kerfluffle, whatever that is.

For some reason, there are product categories that send us jogging gleefully right off the rational thought plank. You know, things like exercise and fitness gimmicks. When you step back and look at ideas like Prancercise, Thighmasters, barbell silverware, and Shakeweights, you have to wonder what the hell were we thinking? That stuff just gets weird, and often creepy. Is it even legal to use a shake weight in the presence of minors?

Recently, I’ve noticed that the gun lubricant market is going just as wonky. Consider the following.

A gun lube company is suing a blogger who thinks their product resembles cooking oil.

First, a disclaimer, so that the company in question company doesn’t sue me also. I don’t know jack about tribology. In fact, I’d never heard the word until I Google searched “lubricant science.” After turning my “Safe Search” filter back on and taking a cold shower, I figured out that tribology is the study of friction, wear, and lubrication. Nor have I ever used an infrared spectroscopy machine. I’m pretty sure I don’t even own one, but if I did, I know it would impress the neighbors.

Now that I’m on safer legal ground, I can share my opinions on the topic.

[Attention aforementioned company: I am stating my opinion only and making no claims, representations, or potentially litigious statements about your product, your company, or the southern yellow loblolly pine wood pulp content of the tissue paper in your family-friendly restroom.]

So anyway, you may have heard by now that Fireclean is suing blogger Andrew Tuohy and some other folks over issues related to their testing of Fireclean with fancy laboratory machines. I won’t try to rehash the issue here, but the long and short of it is that Fireclean is apparently comprised of several types of vegetable oils and unknown other ingredients. Infrared spectroscopy tests, which may or may provide a complete picture of the chemical makeup of stuff, allegedly show that Fireclean resembles canola oil. From an outsiders perspective, there is probably some truth to that. I only say this because the company openly states that the formulation contains some types of organic vegetable oil blends. Besides, from my layman’s knowledge, it’s a well-known fact that canola and other types of similar oils make great metal lubricants, so there’s no big surprise here. Heck, I use Fireclean and it seems to work pretty well on my stuff.

Time will tell the outcome of the lawsuit. Of far more concern for our collective sanity and ongoing education is the fact that a company is basically suing its own customer base and those who spend time and effort reviewing products. As a career marketing guy, I think that’s supremely dumb.

Hang on a sec, I have a quick question for all y’all. Can a company sue me for saying their strategy is dumb? If so, I was temporarily insane when I allegedly said that and have no recollection of ever making that statement. Back me up on that people…

You don’t win the battle of public opinion, which makes and breaks products, by making an appearance on Judge Judy. You win with information and education.This mess wouldn’t exist if Fireclean had just responded to these claims with factual information of their own. Here’s some advice guys, next time, spend a few hundred bucks developing and sharing a whitepaper called something like “10 Reasons Fireclean Is Way Better Than Canola Oil.” Make it funny. Or make it technical and boring. It doesn’t really matter, just be big boys and sell the benefits of your product. That’s your job after all. Or maybe you could invite said blogger to your factory. Cover up all the secret ingredient labels and educate your visitor on why your product and development process is so great. You don’t have to give away proprietary trade secrets to provide meaningful and beneficial information that will help sell your product. If your product is awesome, people will be happy to pay you for it, no matter what’s in it. Guess what? I don’t care if your product has canola oil, Mobil One, or K-Y Warming Jelly in it as long as it works. Hey, more power to you if you can figure out new uses for stuff.

Trying to stifle the flow of opinions on products via the legal system is bad for everyone. If you’re like me, you get a lot of information here at Ammoland. Some is factual, some is opinion, some I agree with, and some I disagree with. Regardless, it’s this free flow of information that helps me learn something new every day. To all of you engaged readers and commenters, thanks for that! I can’t tell you how many good ideas I’ve learned from all this online discussion. (P.S. – To Sidney from Birmingham: thanks for your suggestion on how to make a brass dryer out of scrap lumber and an old box fan – I’m totally stealing that idea.)

You can buy gun grease that smells like movie theater candy.

When I go to Chuck E. Cheese, which is never now that my kids are old enough to pay taxes, I expect to find candy and prize counter toys that smell like bubble-gum wintergreen lollipops. When I want to clean and lube my Springfield Armory TRP 1911, faux fruit pheromones are not a feature at the top of my list. Call me boring, but I’d prefer my pistol not smell like a squeeze bottle of My Little Pony perfume.

Come on folks, plastic candy fruit is for sugar highs and making your lips turn purple, not cleaning your gun. Then again, if you accept Skee Ball tickets for payment, I might look the other way on the whole silly fragrance thing.

94.87 percent of us can’t properly evaluate a gun lube anyway.

That’s a real number because I made it up in my head. But seriously, the way most of us use our guns, we could probably get away with using “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” with positive results. Actually, don’t do that even though it would make Fabio cry, I’m just exaggerating here to make a point.

But really seriously this time, you can’t really evaluate the real effectiveness of a gun lube without using for very long periods of time, firing thousands and thousands of rounds, in all sorts of weather and environmental conditions, and all under very controlled circumstances. If you go to the range a couple of times a month, and your gun works, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your gun lube of choice is awesome. It means that your lube managed to stay in place for a couple of weeks while being primarily stored in a dehumidified 70-degree clean environment. Then it didn’t manage to stop your gun from successfully firing a couple hundred rounds without seizing. OK, I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the point.

I’ve used (and still use) a wide variety of gun lubes and it’s pretty hard to find one that fails under normal operating and storage conditions. Slip 2000 EWL, Gunzilla, Fireclean, SlipStream, Italian Gun Grease, Militec, Break Free CLP, and a host of others work fine for me. If you made me pick the one that’s the absolute bestest ever, I couldn’t. Well, at least I couldn’t scientifically prove that one is better than the other. However, I clean my guns with some regularity, so it’s unlikely that any lube I use will have to perform over three years without reapplication after being subjected to nine Saudi Arabian sandstorms followed by cryogenic freezing.

I guess there’s some deep emotional thing that causes us to get all hot and bothered about gun lubes. Like exercise equipment, it’s not something that provides immediate and measurable feedback of success or failure. Maybe that’s why we have to work so hard to form all these irrational and emotional attachments to our bottles of Sham-Wow! That’s Slippery! Weapon Oil, Lizard Lard Gun Lube, and Slick Willy Weapon Wax.


Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.