the Cylinder & Slide website:
Proper Lubrication of Your Auto Pistol
or How not to have Jams with your Auto
And Keep Your Revolver from Squeaking.
I'm sure that you have all been told "don't
oil your pistol/revolver because it will
jam or lock up. WRONG ANSWER!
Ten or twenty years ago that might have
been partially true. The lubricants that
were available then were completely different
than the modern ones available today.
I have disassembled thousands of firearms
over the last thirty some odd years and
have also probably tried just about every
"Snake Oil" that's been available during
that time. It has been my observation
that the oils that were available during
the years prior to the 1970's and 80's
contained paraffins that turned gummy
with age and finally dried up leaving
a hard varnish-like coating on the surface.
These oils also became thicker as the
temperature dropped causing revolvers
to become harder to operate and semi-auto
pistols more likely to "jam."
I'm not going to get into recommending
any specific brand of lubricants as there
are so many good ones on the market today.
You will also find that some lubricants
are more suited for use under certain
conditions than others. I will leave the
selection of lubricant up to your judgment.
What I will do is give you the different
conditions that require the use of different
types of lubricant and what properties
the lubricant should have to be effective
under those different conditions. Another
variable that must be covered is the different
lubrication requirements of the semi-auto
pistol and revolver. To simplify the discussion
I will cover them separately.
First, let's cover the various types of
conditions encountered. For simplicity,
all temperatures given will be in Fahrenheit.
The temperature range of 40 to 86 degrees
can be handled by just about any oil as
there are no abnormal demands placed on
the oil. A light grease will work well
also as this temperature range will allow
the grease to stay soft.
The temperature range of 39 degrees and
below begins to change the demands placed
on the lubricant. As you well know, the
colder it gets, the thicker most oils
and greases become. As the temperature
begins to drop and the lubricant becomes
thicker, the energy needed to move a part
becomes greater and greater. If the energy
needed to operate the specific firearm
becomes greater than the energy available,
you will encounter a malfunction. The
semi-auto pistol will begin to malfunction
due to thickened lubricant sooner than
a revolver as the power to operate the
semi-auto is provided by the cartridge
instead of your muscle power.
If you are going to use your firearm in
a cold weather environment and need to
determine the suitability of a specific
lubricant the following tests can be performed.
Most of you probably have a freezer compartment
in your refrigerator. You will need a
thermometer that will register below zero
so you can actually tell just how cold
a temperature your test is being conducted
at. You will want to chill some of your
lubricant in a small container so that
you can actually see just how stiff it
will get at various temperatures. This
can be determined by placing the thermometer
in the lubricant and chilling it as cold
as you can and then testing the thickness
as it warms up. If you don't want to go
to all the hassle of freezing and transporting
a frozen gun to the range for tests, freezing
the lubricant and checking the increase
in thickness is a viable method to give
you a good idea of the suitability of
a specific lubricant to extreme cold weather.
If you can find a lubricant that remains
nearly as thin at extremely low temperatures
as it does at room temperature, you can
be pretty sure that it will not cause
a malfunction during cold weather use.
Most home freezers will not get below
zero. For extreme cold weather testing
you will need to find a method to reach
lower temperatures than your home freezer.
The next situation that may be encountered
is extremely hot weather - temperatures
above 85 degrees. Why test a lubricant
for high temperatures? You will find that
some oils will literally evaporate as
the temperature exceeds 100 degrees. Many
will become so thin that they offer almost
no lubrication and will run out of the
areas in the firearms that really need
to be lubricated. You will probably find
that a good grease is more suitable for
extremely high temperature operations.
If you intend to test lubricants at elevated
temperatures use only a heat source that
offers no flame or red hot elements. Oils
and greases can flash into flame when
heated enough. A source of heat that can
be closely regulated so as not to exceed
125 degrees without flame or red hot elements
is needed. Before you try the oven, remember
that there is an electric element that
can get red hot in there and some oils
and greases give off smoke or odor when
heated. Be extremely careful if attempting
this type of testing, wear eye protection,
gloves, and do the testing outside.
Two other extremes in the environment
can be encountered and that can have an
effect on the lubrication of a firearm
are wet and dry dusty conditions.
In wet weather, the best advice is to
protect the firearms from getting wet
if at all possible. Otherwise use a lubricant
that repels water and does not allow moisture
to emulsify or mix with it. Some oils,
when subjected to water during movement
of the surfaces that it's on, will allow
water to become trapped in it. This severely
decreases the lubrication ability of the
Severe dust conditions present another
circumstance that can cause problems with
lubrication. Once again, if possible,
protect the pistol from the dust. In the
desert, the dust is as fine as talcum
powder and gets into everything. It will
even penetrate the seals on a hydraulic
system. In this instance, the dust will
mix with the lubricant and form a lapping
paste that will cause accelerated wear,
and if the firearm is not cleaned daily,
can actually combine with oil to form
an extremely thick putty-like goop that
can actually stop the function of a semi-auto
and cause a revolver action to be almost
impossible to pull through. If the dust
condition is severe enough it may be advisable
to use no lubricant at all, or use a dry
lubricant. Daily cleaning is absolutely
mandatory if you want to keep your firearm
in operational condition.
Now that we have covered the various environmental
concerns of proper lubrication, let's
get down to the proper methods of lubricating
the semi-auto and the revolver.
First the semi-auto. The semi-auto, which
I refer to from now on as a pistol, relies
more heavily on the proper lubrication
than the revolver because it depends on
the power of the cartridge to operate
it rather than your muscle power. I would
like to state that most good quality pistols
that are clean but dry of lubricant will
function through several magazines before
a stoppage is encountered. The stoppage
that is usually encountered first is the
failure to close with a dry pistol.
Let's set up the usual scenario that I
have encountered - too many times to remember.
The customer on the phone has had a problem
with his or her pistol jamming when they
were out to the range last week end and
they are concerned that they may need
some special reliability work or repair
done so that it doesn't happen again.
They cleaned the pistol completely after
they were at the range the time before,
and, yes they lubricated it before they
reassembled it after they cleaned it.
How long ago was that before this session
on the range? Oh, three or four weeks
ago. What caused their "jams?" The oil
that they so carefully used has run out
of the pistol during storage. Their pistol
was actually almost dry of lubricant when
they started shooting. After several magazines,
the failures to close began. Also known
as "jams." If you are going to use only
an oil to lubricate your pistol, you must
re-oil it just before you step up onto
the line to start shooting if you have
had it stored for several days or more.
You also should re-oil the pistol after
each 50 rounds to keep things moving properly.
Now I don't mean that you should soak
the pistol with oil every 50 rounds, but
just a few drops in the right places.
Just what are the right places? With the
pistol unloaded and closed, put three
or four drops on the barrel hood that
is exposed in the ejection port. Then
lock the slide open. Put a ring of oil
1/4 inch back of the muzzle of the barrel.
This will keep the barrel/bushing area
lubricated. If possible, put a couple
of drops of oil in the open ejection port
where the slide and frame touch on both
sides. Turn the pistol upside down. The
rear of the slide is now sticking back
of the frame. Place two or three drops
of oil in each slide rail groove and one
or two drops on the center rail that cocks
the hammer. Now close the slide and hand
cycle the pistol half a dozen times with
the muzzle pointed down. This will spread
the oil. Wipe off any excess that might
run out at the rear of the slide/frame
area and commence firing.
This lubrication procedure done every
50 rounds will keep you from having any
malfunctions due to dry and/or dirty pistol.
Your pistol is getting dirty with carbon
fouling and unburned powder as you keep
shooting. The lubricant will keep this
fouling in a suspension with it instead
of becoming hard and slowing down the
cycle of the pistol as it would if it
For those of you who carry a pistol on
a daily basis, I would like to recommend
that you use a light weapons grease instead
of oil when you complete your weekly cleaning
routine. You do clean your carry pistol
weekly, don't you? It's real cheap life
insurance, you know. Anyway, if you use
a light weapons grease, the grease will
not run out of the pistol as it rests
in the holster in a fixed position day
after day. When you go to the range to
practice or qualify, be sure and do the
50 round lube with oil as recommended
Let's say that you have just finished
cleaning your pistol and are ready to
lubricate it and reassemble it. I would
advise you to have several cotton tipped
swabs handy along with the lubricant of
your choice. If you are using a bottle
oil and it comes with the little pipe
that sticks into the opening of the bottle,
use it! This little pipe allows you to
apply small amounts of oil evenly to the
pistol without mass quantities of oil
running everywhere. It also saves on oil.
If you are using grease, you can dip the
swab in grease and apply a smooth, light
coat of grease. The swab is also useful
in spreading oil into an even, light film.
I'll use a 1911 style pistol as an example
of where to put the lube, but this will
apply to all pistols.
Let's lubricate the slide first. The inside
bore of the slide needs to be lubricated.
This is the part of the slide that has
the locking lug grooves in it. The top
of the barrel bears heavily against this
part of the slide during recoil as the
slide moves back during the firing cycle.
Put a light coat of lube in the locking
lug recesses and all along the curved
surface ahead of the locking lugs. Next,
put a light coat of lube in the slide
rail grooves, and on the surface below
the groove, as well as on the bottom of
the slide rails. The center rail, which
cocks that hammer as the slide moves rearward,
and has to slide over each cartridge as
the pistol cycles, needs to have a light
coat of lube applied. If you have a series
80 style pistol, you also need to apply
a light coat of lube to the firing pin
plunger hole. A very light coat of lube
can also be applied to the firing pin
hole. All parts can be wiped with a light
coat of oil. If you are using light weapons
grease, use it only on the bore of the
slide and locking lug grooves as well
as the slide rail area. Oil is recommended
on all other areas of the slide and the
internal parts. Grease is especially suited
to the high load areas such as the bore
of the slide and the rails, but is a little
too heavy for the small parts that exert
only a light bearing load as they function.
The barrel must be lubricated before you
install it into the slide. A light coat
of grease or oil may be applied to the
locking lug area and the top of the large
diameter of the chamber area. A light
coat is also applied to the outside of
the barrel tube where the bushing will
rub during firing. The locking lug and
link area needs to have grease or oil
applied to the bearing surfaces also.
If you are going to the store the pistol
for a long time - months, a coat of grease
can be applied to the chamber and bore.
THIS IS FOR LONG TERM STORAGE IN AN UNLOADED
CONDITION AND MUST BE REMOVED BEFORE YOU
CAN LOAD AND FIRE THE PISTOL. FAILURE
TO REMOVE EXCESSIVE LUBRICANT FROM THE
CHAMBER AND BORE CAN CAUSE EXCESSIVE PRESSURE
WHICH CAN CAUSE DAMAGE TO THE FIREARM
The frame comes next. If you have completely
disassembled the frame, all internal components
should be given a light coat of oil before
reassembly. Once again, if you have light
weapons grease, the frame rails are the
only area that needs that type of lube.
Let's not forget magazines. You should
disassemble the magazines and clean them
at the same time that you clean the pistol.
Magazines need only the barest minimum
of lube. Don't forget the spring. The
word again is very, very light lubrication.
If you are going to be shooting practical
pistol courses and will be dropping you
mags in the dirt, I would recommend that
you use no lubricant on your mags at all.
Any lubricant will pick up and hold gravel
and dirt which will cause the ammo to
stick in the mags.
Now we'll cover revolvers. First, most
people don't take the side plates off
of their revolvers when they clean them,
so we'll cover that type of lubrication
first. After you have cleaned your revolver's
chambers, barrel, and external surfaces,
a light coat of oil is recommended. The
cylinder turns on a shaft that can be
called the crane or yoke. You can put
one or two drops of oil at the point that
the cylinder and yoke join. Tip the revolver
muzzle up as you apply the oil and rotate
the cylinder after each drop. If you continue
to hold the muzzle up and turn the cylinder
for a few moments after you apply the
oil, it will run to the rear of the moving
Next, you can apply one drop to the hand
that rolls the cylinder, while keeping
the muzzle pointed upwards. Immediately
after applying the oil, cycle the action
several times. Open the cylinder again
and put one drop of oil on the rear of
the cylinder in the center where it turns
against the frame. On S&W revolvers, there
is an ejector rod lock up in the front
of the ejector rod. Place one drop of
oil into the end of the ejector rod. Once
again, tipping the muzzle upwards and
turning the cylinder will help spread
the oil to the moving surfaces. With the
cylinder closed, cock the hammer. Put
two drops of oil along each side of the
hammer while it's cocked. Now cycle the
action twelve times double action to spread
the oil, Turn the pistol upside down.
Put two drops of oil on each side of the
trigger. Now cycle the revolver twelve
times while it is upside down to spread
the oil. This is about as good a job of
lubrication that can be done if you do
not remove the side plate. If you do not
remove the side plate at all, I would
recommend that you have the pistol completely
disassembled at least annually by a pistolsmith
and thoroughly cleaned and lubricated.
If you carry the revolver daily, the complete
disassembly should be done semi-annually
at a minimum.
If you can remove the side plate and do
a complete disassembly of your revolver,
you should do so every 500 rounds. In
this case, you can use a light weapons
grease on the internals. Again, a very
light coating. Don't over do it, you're
not greasing the front end of your car.
You should also remove the cylinder from
the yoke when you do the complete disassembly
so that you can clean the yoke shaft and
the inside of the cylinder area that turns
on the yoke.
A word about lubricants. I highly recommend
that you use a lubricant that has been
designed for use in and on firearms. Many
specialty lubricants have additives that
will eventually harm your firearm and
may cause unforeseen problems.
And now for the commercial! If you use
our Dunk-Kit to clean your pistol or revolver,
you will spend much less time getting
your firearm clean and Dunk-Kit will not
strip it dry as many of the spray cleaners
do. It leaves a very light coat of oil
on the firearm that will protect it, however,
you will still need to do the proper lubrication
as explained in the preceding paragraphs.
For those of you who don't completely
disassemble you pistols or revolvers,
Dunk-Kit will get down inside of the actions
and help flush out the crud that can build
up. I still recommend that you have your
firearm completely disassembled annually,
at a minimum, for complete cleaning. For
you revolver shooters, if you hold the
action under the surface of the Dunk-Kit
and cycle the action slowly, the Dunk-Kit
will flush out the dirt and junk and keep
the action very clean without removing
the side plate. You can let the revolver
drip dry or blow it out with air before
applying the oil as recommended.
For you auto shooters, remove the grips
and submerge the frame assembly in the
Dunk-Kit. Use a toothbrush to scrub the
areas that you can get to. Then hold the
frame by the front of the recoil spring
cover and agitate the rest of the frame
in the Dunk-Kit. This will allow the Dunk-Kit
to circulate through the action and remove
the crud you can't reach with your toothbrush.
Again, I recommend at least an annual
disassembly for proper cleaning.
I hope that this discourse on cleaning
and lubrication will help maintain your
pistol or revolver in top condition and
add to its reliability.