Airgun lubes – the good, the bad and the ugly

By B.B. Pelltier

Lubricating an airgun is necessary, yet it can be tricky at the same time. Let me give you some of my thoughts.

To begin with, airguns are often made of different materials than firearms, so just cleaning and lubricating them with the same products you use on the rest of your guns is not a good idea. You probably already know that O-rings and other synthetic seals may be sensitive to gun solvents, but did you know there are certain airgun METALS that are also sensitive?

Stay away from ammonia!
Ammonia will attack and dissolve aluminum parts. Some airguns, most notably those from AirForce, like their popular Talon SS, have lots of aluminum parts in them. Many other rifles and pistols have aluminum parts but do not advertise it. Were you also aware that many gun cleaning solvents, such as Sweets 7.62, contain a lot of ammonia? And, military rifle bore cleaner is also loaded with ammonia.

Airguns have no combustion and usually do not shoot copper-sheathed bullets, so they don’t get the same corrosive deposits that firearms do. So, it isn’t necessary to clean their barrels with nitro- or copper-dissolving compounds.

Avoid WD-40
Okay, them’s fightin’ words! Everybody likes WD-40 for the shine it puts on blued metal and for its pleasant aroma. Yes, that’s all true, but if you allow it to dry on things, it leaves a gummy film that can take weeks of hard work to remove. It has no place in airgunning.

Use silicone oil – wisely
Silicone oil, such as Crosman silicone oil, is an airgunner’s mainstay. It seals the pistons in spring guns and seals everything in pneumatics and CO2 guns. But, most airgun-grade silicone oil isn’t very good at lubricating metal-to-metal joints.

That’s not to say ALL silicone oils are poor metal lubricants. And, when used on synthetics that ride on metal, like some O-rings, silicone oil and grease may be best for the job. Thoroughly read the manufacturer’s recommendations to know what works and what doesn’t.

What about moly?
Over the past 15 years, lubricants containing molybdenum disulphide, or moly, have really blossomed in the shooting sports. Moly is a compound that forms a bond with most steels, making a slick surface that doesn’t wear away. It’s always best when adhering to metal in its dry state, where the grease that’s often compounded with it as a carrier does not remain on the surface. Unfortunately, many shooters are not aware of that.

Moly is very slick, but it can be hindered by its own carrier grease or oil. If the surface to which it is applied has extremely close tolerances, such as in triggers and some firing mechanisms, moly grease will actually slow things down and bind them from operating correctly.

On certain jacketed bullets in firearms, moly performs wonders, making the bore ultra-slick after long use. When applied to pure lead projectiles such as pellets, where the lead has great lubricity of its own, moly coatings are often a waste of time.

There are many more lubricants and applications I want to cover with you in the future. Until then, read the package carefully.

25 Responses to “Airgun lubes – the good, the bad and the ugly”

  • Anonymous Says:

    Of all the articles on air gun maintenace I have read, none ever recommend the use of a petroleum-based oil, ever, and yet several airgun manufacturers market them. Gamo Air Gun Oil, for example, is described as a general purpose oil for all air guns (with exception made for spring piston chamber) and is petroleum-based. My question is, exactly what aspect of airgun maintenance is an oil like this intended for? Why is it even on the market?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    All petroleum-based oils are for lubrication. Synthetic (silicone) chamber oil is for SEALING. That’s the difference. The piston seal needs a film of lubricant to seal its sides, and the adiabatic heat of compression upon firing is so high it also has to have a high flashpoint.

    Many silicone oils are actually not good lubrication oils because they have too low a viscosity.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Can Crosman Pellgun oil be used for putting on tips of C02 cartridges and lubricating moving parts? The tube doesn’t specify what type of oil it is, but the directions that came with my air pistol specify it by name for both purposes. But I thought I should check with you first. Can it be used for cleaning/lubing a barrel?Thanks.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Yes, Pellgunoil can be used to lubricate pqarts. Apparently, it is a type of automatic transmission fluid, so it lubricates as well as sealing.

    B.B.

  • Jim Says:

    Hello. What lubes do you use to lubricate the air compression chamber and air compression seal for an izh-46m. Also, what do you use to oil the cocking lever and bolt pivots. Thanks

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Jim,

    Use Crosman Pellgunoil on the pump head. On the 46, the pump head serves the same function as the inlet valve of the compression chamber. Use regular machine oil to lubericate all the pivot points. Three-in-One is fine.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    dear BB, may i use toyota silicone oil ( http://www.zhome.com/ZCMnL/tech/FanClutch/FanClutch.htm ) for my walther CP88 . i want to use it forits seal.

    thank you

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Toyota,

    If I said yes it would be a guess. This stuff isn’t made for that purpose. It may work well, but there’s nothing to recommend it. It’s a hydraulic oil used for fluid couplings, not for sealing.

    Why don’t you just spring for a bottle of Crosman Pellgunoil, or, if mail-order is too much of a problem, just buy a quart of 20-weight non-detergent motor oil with as few additives as you can find.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    thank you for your answers B.B,

    btw, yes the problem is i can’t find the crosman pellgun oil here in my city, even in my country.

    so, now i just use “all purpose silicone spray” which doesn’t contain petroleum.

    it is said that it is “safe for rubber”. I spray the tip of CO2 cartridge until it gets a little bit wet before install it on my CP88.

    Yet i haven’t had any problem with its seal, because i have been using it for 2 month yet, but i’m not really sure about what i have done.

    do you think it is safe for my CP88?

    thank you

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    What I think doesn’t matter, You have been using this material and it hasn’t done any damage. Even if you were to stop using it, the seal has already been exposed.

    I think if it was going to damage the seal it would have done so by this time. You might as well keep using it.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    thank you , BB. your reply make me sure about what i have done know. i think i will keep using this silicone spray.

    thanks again

  • Anonymous Says:

    Where can I get a piston O-ring for my Bsa scorpion air pistol??

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Scorpion,

    John Knibbs will probably have them. Contact this man in the U.S.:

    John Groenewold, PO Box 830, Mundelein, IL 60060-0830, (847) 566-2365
    http://www.jgairguns.biz

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    is the crossman silicon oil one of the best silicon oils available? Can u suggest other products?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Any airgun silicone oil will be good, because it will have the necessary high flashpoint. One is as good as another.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    hi BB

    i ve read that using silicone oil in the compression chamber or any metal to metal causes galling. Is it true?

  • Anonymous Says:

    following the above post which is also mine, you mentioned that there are guns that they are well lubricated during manufaction and dont need oiling (springs, compression chamber) for several years:

    1) is hw97k one of them?
    2) does the hw97 needs chamber oil?
    3) does it need lubricating on the chamber walls?

    thnx

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Silicone oil,

    What you have heard about galling applies only when there is metal-to-metal contact. In the compression chamber you have synthetic-to-metal contact. The oil is not for lubrication, it is there to seal the edges of the piston seal, like the oil in your car’s engine.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    HW 97K,

    Weihrauch guns typically have too much grease on the mainspring. It migrates to the compression chamber. So most of them don’t need chamber oil for at least the first 5,000 shots.

    If your gun squeaks when it is cocked, it needs three drops of silicone chamber oil.

    If the gun is ever tuned with moly grease on the chamber walls, it won’t need chamber oil for many years.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    so you say that applying oil on the chamber walls is not needed for now and when it does(after how many shots), applying silicone oil inside the compression chamber becomes unnecessary

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    HW 97K,

    I said it PROBABLY isn’t required now because Weihrauch guns TEND to be over-lubed at the factory.

    I said to wait about 5K shots, or until the piston seal squeaks.

    The chamber walls are synonymous with the inside of the compression chamber. They are what gets lubed when you lubricate the compression chamber. You drop the oil through the air transfer port in the center of the sliding compression chamber.

    The exterior of the sliding compression chamber needs very little grease, but if that is what you have been asking about, it doesn’t hurt to put a couple of dots of Tetra Lube grease on the exterior chamber walls.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Hey, can I use crosman pellgunoil to lubricate the slide of my gun? I have a blowback so I need to.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Pellgunoil works fine for lubrication like the slide.

    B.B.

  • Vicente of Barranquilla Says:

    Hi B.B. As always helping people. I have a Gamo Big Cat .22 and put 2 drops of Break Free CLP oil inside the trigger area with the intention to soften it since it quite heavy, will it work? The screw to shorten the firing road is very tigth, and until now I could not made nothing. Please, give me your advise. Thanks a lot. Vicente.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Vincente,

      Welcome to the blog.

      You say you have already done this, so what I say means nothi ng. Tell us what has happened.

      I would think that this of okay. But I don’t think it will change anything.

      B.B.

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