How to lubricate pellets

by B.B. Pelletier

In last week’s report about Crosman pellets, I received two comments on how to properly lubricate pellets. If two people asked, there are 40 more in the wings waiting to hear the answer.

When to lubricate
Before we know how to lube pellets, let’s learn when it’s needed. I already mentioned that Crosman pellets are hardened with antimony, causing them to smear lead when driven to higher velocities. In truth, this can be anything above maybe 750 f.p.s., depending on the smoothness of the barrel they pass through. When the velocity moves above 850-900 f.p.s., the leading becomes almost a certainty in just about any gun. In spring-piston guns, every time the gun fires, the piston blows a tiny amount of oil vapor into the barrel. This oil is cumulative and thus keeps the barrel lightly lubricated. So, unless the gun has been tuned with moly and has no chamber oil in it, it doesn’t need to be oiled.

PCPs do not have an equivalent oiling function. They don’t blow any oil out when fired. CO2, however, can. If you lubricate the tip of each new CO2 cartridge with Pellgunoil, a tiny amount blows through the gun and out into the barrel. A multi-pump pneumatic will do the same, if the pump head is kept lubricated. A PCP blows no oil into the barrel…just dry air. So, PCPs, in general, can stand some kind of lubricant on their pellets at all velocities above 750 f.p.s. (approx.). Below that velocity, the lubricity of the lead takes care of things. So, no need to oil pellets for 10-meter guns.

What to use
I’ve covered this in several other places, but it here goes once again. I use Whiscombe Honey. It’s an oil mixture told to me by John Whiscombe, though I recently learned that he may not have discovered it. Apparently black powder shooters also use this stuff on their patches. Mix two-thirds Hoppes Gun Oil with one-third STP Engine Treatment by volume. Mix them thoroughly, and they’ll never separate. I store mine in a plastic squeeze bottle designed to hold fluids like oil.


My bottle of Whiscombe Honey is over 8 years old.I wrote the formula on the label to preserve it.

You can use other things besides this. In fact, the 1990s were filled with tales of comical mixtures that airgunners traded like love potions, in the hope that the right one would give better accuracy, higher velocity or, who knows, smarter children. One UK company still makes a concoction they claim will increase velocity AND accuracy! I tested their claims and found no truth in them (surprise!). All you want from pellet oil is pellets that don’t lead the bore. Here are a few other commercial products that I know work:

1. FP-10
2. Break-Free
3. Sheath
4. Ballistol

I guess the sky’s the limit when it comes to pellet lubes. I like mine best for a very simple reason – SCOTT298, ARE YOU LISTENING?

The name of my lube is Whiscombe Honey. Now, what kind of airguns does John Whiscombe make? Springers – right? And not just any springers either – the most powerful springers on the market. And, yet, here he is recommending a petroleum-based product to go into a spring gun, where we all know it will lead to detonations. Right?

Wrong!

Whiscombe Honey doesn’t detonate if used as I am going to describe. At least I haven’t had a detonation yet, and I’ve been using it for a long time. The STP probably does the trick.

Application
Take an old empty pellet tin. A .22-caliber tin works best because it’s deeper. Cut some good foam for the bottom of the tin. Real airgunners will cut the foam from one of the two foam pads found in every cardboard box of Crosman Premiers. Insert the foam into the tin and press it to the bottom. Put about 20 drops of your chosen oil on the foam, then cover the foam with a single layer of pellets.


This is what a tin set up for oiling looks like. Those are Premier 7.9s from many years ago when I competed in field target with a TX200 Mark II.


Twenty drops on the foam to start off and after that, 10 per month to keep up, if you shoot a lot.

When I competed in field target, I used to weigh all my Crosman Premier heavies and use only those from a specific weight group (weighed to the nearest tenth of a grain). These I loaded into a tin set up to oil the pellets. By spreading a single layer of pellets on the foam, they’ll roll around as the tin is carried, thus transferring the oil to the OUTSIDE of all pellets equally. How much oil pellets need varies with who does the telling, but I have found that a light coat is all it takes. When your fingers become oily from handling the pellets, that’s enough.

Reduced velocity
You probably expect increased velocity from oiled pellets, but that’s not what happens. They will either shoot at the same speed as dry pellets or the velocity will drop a little. Oil works well on relatively slow-moving objects such as lawnmower engines and door hinges, but on high-speed objects like pellets the surface tension can increase friction. That’s one reason that claims that any oil-based product can increase velocity are false.

Well, that’s the skinny on oiling pellets. I hope it helps.

47 Responses to “How to lubricate pellets”

  • Anonymous Says:

    As an aside – I recently acquired a factory refurb Panther in .177, and your comments about it vs. the old ’34 seem to be right on the mark.

    After about a dozen break-in pellets, my first 10-yard group came in under 1/4″ with open sights, and that’s without finding the best pellet or the best hold. The ’34 that I had bought 13 months ago was NEVER that easy to shoot.

    Vince

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Vince,

    Nice to see someone else having the same experience.

    B.B.

  • Dr. G. Says:

    B.B.,
    For purposes of balance, I think it important to mention that other experts (e.g., Van, the .25 calibre Condor Man at another retailer, and Tony the Air Force Tuning expert) believe that lubing pellets is not necessary. My limited experience with high powered PCP air rifles (about 8,000 shots over the past couple years), the majority of which has been target shooting at 10-30 yards, makes me think that any difference in accuracy must be very small, indeed. I definitely DO agree with you, as I have written to you before, that sorting pellets by weight as you wrote DOES help (for me, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch at the distances that I usually shoot), especially in eliminating fliers. The sorting factor is very easy to notice right away, and I think that EVERYONE agrees that it helps do what we all write that it does. I also spoke with John Whiscombe last year about this, and he is so adamant about lubing that he would not sell me a rifle without my promise to lube pellets (which of course I will). I wonder, however, if anybody has actually measured the differences in any true comparison so that it can be quantified like the effects of sorting pellets can be quantified. – Dr. G.

  • Scott298 Says:

    thanks B.B.–Scott was listening-so to make things even sompler I should just fi up the battrl with stp!! B.B,–in all honesty if lubing the pellets like you recommend-do you still have to wash them first? And by the way yelling at me is no way to treat your son, give my regards to mom, love Scott298

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,Very interesting info.on pellet lubing.By the way I know that you are very keen on Leapers scopes.Why do you feel that they are superior to other brands? And when is their new line coming out. I have a Leapers 4×40 but am looking for a good 3×9 for a reasonable price, so I’m waiting to see whats new.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Dr. G.,

    Lubing has nothing to do with accuracy, except to keep the bore clean longer. Lubing prevents leading of the bore. That’s the only reason to do it. It isn’t necessary for spring guns, as I mentioned, but for PCPs under certain circumstances, it prevents leading.

    And Van Jacobi of Airhog certainly does know that pellets can lead a barrel. The reason he doesn’t lube is he shoots pure lead pellets (JSBs and Beeman Kodiaks) most of the time. Van and I used to talk about how to clean barrels that were leaded and rusted.

    So, you will not find any measurable accuracy differences in lubricating pellets, because, as I said in the report, there aren’t any and cannot be. But, if you want to keep a barrel of a PCP free from lead deposits longer, then lubricating your pellets is the way to do it.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Scott298,

    Oh my gosh! Washing pellets! I should have known.

    No, it isn’t necessary to wash pellets before lubing. In fact, I discourage it, because ]washing removes the anti-oxidant, allowing the pellets to oxidize.

    Don’t wash – just lube.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Leapers,

    My continual use and recommendation of Leapers scopes has nothing to do with their optical quality – though they have acceptable quality. I am interested in results. Leapers backs up their brand with service.

    When anyone has a problem with a Leapers scope, they are taken care of. I have not found the same thing with all other scope manufacturers, and I’ve tried nearly all of them.

    If I recommend Leapers I know the customer will be satisfied. I cannot say that about other brands.

    Leapers also offers more features and performance for the money. Who else focuses down to 3 yards?

    When I competed in field target I saw firsthand the troubles of dealing with other scope manufactures, including Leupold. Mention airgun and they all get squirrely. But not Leapers.

    I recommend Leapers because I don’t want to deal with the thousand questions the other scope manufactures send my way.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B., It seems almost opposite that a HARDER pellet would lead a barrel more than a SOFTER one. I would think that the harder lead would be less prone to be wore down as it travel down the barrel than a softer (more pure) lead pellet would be.
    Nathan

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Nathan,

    Harder bullets have been leading handgun and rifle barrels for years – why shouldn’t harder pellets? Antimony is the culprit, which is one good reason not to use it if you can avoid it.

    B.B.

  • Dr. G> Says:

    B.B.,
    So, if there is no difference in accuracy, what is the problem with leading the bore? Actually, I used to experience decreased accuracy (a few decades ago with my Crossman CO2 rifle) for awhile after cleaning the bore, although I have no idea how I used to clean it (I stopped after a couple times, and never had any problems with that old air rifle). – Dr. G.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Tim and LD who do the USFT rifles seem to be going with Krytech as the lube of choice. Looking at the results of winners on the FT boards in the listings of lubes used it also seems popular now days. Your Thoughts?

    I find it works as well to keep barrels clean longer. I like it especially on CP’s for my TX200 as it needs to be completely disassembled to clean properly from the breach per the same procedure your post of Friday (Great blog BTW). I use a straw held in place in the top to keep JP from getting in the shroud – FYI.

    Have a good nose? One last note (tip) take a bottle of Napier lube and a bottle of Krytech (one is red in color the other is blue) close your eyes and smell them both. Identical? What you smell is just the solvent but the same solvent is a wax solvent.

    KTK

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B. Off topic: Is the GRT III trigger difficult to install? I’m still thinking of purchasing a Gamo Whisper with the gas spring and also getting the GRT III trigger to make it a real quality gun. I don’t see that Pyramyd installs the trigger although they do install the gas spring. Your comments on the gas technology over a conventional spring impressed me as well as your comments on the GRT III trigger.
    Thanks, ——Don

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB,

    I recently bought a an RWS Model 36 carbine. It shoots beautifully and I’m surprised that the short barrel seems to be just as accurate as my 34. There’s less leverage for cocking though and I’m wondering if you know of any aftermarket compensator that I can attach simply for leverage purposes? Do you know if this new Panther Pro compensator is something that might fit the bill? Thanks for your input,

    Jeremy

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Don,

    Installing a GRT III trigger is about as difficult as putting a battery in a car. It’s easy if you follow the instructions, but not as easy as batteries in a flashlight.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Jeremy,

    That is a question for RWS USA. Call them at :

    479-646-4210.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    BB
    How about adding a quick link to the fpe/velocity calculator to your blog? I have it in my airgun favorites, but that is now about 100 sites long! Thanks ahainfor your great blog.
    Ton

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B.

    Thanks for the info about lubricating pellets. I want to avoid leading at all costs with the great accuracy I’m getting with my rifles.

    I’m eagerly looking forward to visiting my new shooting range that has targets out to 50 and 100 yards, and I have been doing some calculations. It looks like a pellet moving at 900 fps will drop about 2 feet at 100 yards and 6 inches at 50 yards. Is that right?

    Matt61

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Matt61,

    The 6 inches sounds right and so does the two0 feet, but I don’t have enough experience shooting at 100 yards to know.

    B.B.

  • CyberSkin Says:

    B.B.,

    Even though JSB pellets are made from pure lead. I have noticed that when I open up a tin I get a scent of what smells to me like a kind of wax.

  • ajvenom Says:

    Any word from Beeman on your Beeman 1000H?

    BTW there are so many variables that may or may not effect an airgun and non are really a rule that can be standardized. Just like two guns off the same line like different pellets.

    My .22 cal springer has heavy tar and moly and lube internally and I use silicone chamber lube very sparingly every 1,000 to 3,000 shots. My barrels stays pretty clean with a little lube on the pellets. Lube on the pellets may not be needed since it only runs around 720fps. I just like the idea. It does seem that Baracudas aka kodiak are it’s favorite.

    Would it be safe to say to keep petroleum products away from a springer’s compression chamber? Well at least keep it away from getting inside a pcp air tank. 2,000 to 3,000 psi probably wouldn’t be good.

    AJ

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    CyberSkin,

    That’s the anti-oxidant coating on the pellets. Some use wax, others oil and others graphite.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    AJ,

    Beeman just contacted me with instructions to ship them the gun, so the 1000H will be fixed.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B. That was a great answer to my question about Leapers scopes. After all,in a sluggish economy all we really want as consumers is a fair shake and for the product to perform as advertised.So far I have no complaints with their products and Pyramid Air is the best. Thanks again,you;re da man.

  • Nate in Cincy Says:

    BB,

    Can you point me to a reference for properly lubing my Gamo Shadow? I’ve had it for almost three years. It’s shooting just fine, but how long can that last?

    Thanks!

    Nate in Cincy.

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B.

    I’m going to see if I can hit anything at these ranges with my B30. I did the calculations for the ideal case without air resistance, so I would assume the real numbers are a little larger, especially for the 100 yards. Would a .22 LR drop less at a 100 yards? I understand its velocity is subsonic but the rimfire bullet is more streamlined, right?

    Are there any other pellets besides Crosman Premiers that are at risk for leading the bore? What a shame that these great pellets have this Achilles Heel.

    Matt61

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Nate in Cincy,

    Your Shadow doesn’t need much lubrication. A drop of Chamber oil through the transfer port about every 3,000 rounds is all. The mainspring probably won’t need anything for at least five years.

    If the gun honks when you cock it, it needs a drop or two of silicone chamber oil through the transfer port.

    That’s it.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Matt61,

    I would think a .22 pellet would drop more than 2 feet at 100 yards. A .22 LR will drop about 6 inches at the same distance. The streamlined bullet is some help, but the 40-grain weight is what keeps it on track.

    Crosman pellets are still great pellets. You just have to lube them if you are going to shoot fast.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Dear Pelletier:

    I read on another forum that FP10 may damage o-rings… It was quoted by a well-known vendor that own their own forum. Over time the FP10 is suppose to degrade rubber. Any truth to this?

    Awesome blog! I will always be a fan!

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Well, I have heard this, too, but I have used FP-10 on PCPs for 12 years without a problem. So, from my experience, no, it doesn’t damage O-rings.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Last Wednesday I asked a question about an Air Force Hand pump. I asked if the handle staying up between pumping sessions was a problem. Know after filling the tank a few more times it doesn’t pump air over five hundred PSI. The bleed valve is closed and the tank is screwed on all the way.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Does the new Turkish Webley Tomahawk have any means of preventing scope creep? I understand the english models had nothing to stop a scope mount moving.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    AirForce Pump,

    You need to call AirForce about your pump. They are at 877-247-4867. Please let me know how they take care of you on this.

    B.B.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    The Turkish Tomahawk is identical to the British one, so it has no scope stop provisions.

    B.B.

  • Pick Says:

    BB – I’m a newbie airgunner, just got started a couple months ago though I’ve been a big bore firearms shooter/reloader since the late ’60′s. I’ve printed and cataloged many of these pages and find your blog a tremendous resource. I am having so much fun just plinking cans in the backyard I don’t know if I’ll bother going back to the shooting range for quite a while!

    More questions later, but one easy one here. The STP Engine Treatment you mentioned in the Lubing Pellets blog is STP Oil Treatment, correct? Seems obvious, but just wanted to check.

    Thanks – Pick

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Pick,

    As I understand it, STP changed the name of Engine Treatment to Oil Treatment. I don’t think Engine Treatment is made anymore.

    Yes, I think it is the same thing.

    B.B.

  • JGC Says:

    B.B.

    Handy Tip:

    Since some higher power PCPs have somehow crept into the collection…

    Take a 2 1/4 ounce bottle of Hoppe's and a 15 ounce bottle of STP. Measure out 2 ounces of Hoppe's and an ounce of STP. Mix thoroughly, set aside. Squirt the remaining Hoppe's onto your favorite gun wipe down cloth and put the STP into your car engine or keep around for the next batch. Transfer the Whiscombe Honey into the Hoppe's oil bottle and label. Happy oiling!

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    JGC,

    Thanks for the tip, however, you DON'T want to use Hoppes, which most people understand as Hoppes No. 9 solvent. You want to use Hoppes Gun Oil.

    B.B.

  • JGC Says:

    Absolutely!

    Sorry, I thought that my reference to the Hoppe's oil bottle at the end of the post covered that. Thanks for being watchful.

    On a similar note…

    STP Oil Treatment, NOT STP Gasoline Treatment!

  • Anonymous Says:

    I disagree with the original post. I use synthetic 2 stroke oil to lube my pellets & have found an improvement in both velocity & grouping from my AA TX 200. I never wash just lube em up via a foam insert so as not to overload the pellets with oil. Ignore all posts you read on sites like this & try for yourselves/experiment what's best for your gun/ammo it's the only way! SKINNY ????

  • Vince Says:

    If I'm supposed to "ignore all posts" on "sites like this", then that obviously includes YOUR post. Fine. I'll ignore the suggestion you make.

  • Shrub Says:

    Would any good pellet gun oil work with the STP in making the Whiscombe Honey?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Shrub,

    I don't see why not. There is nothing special about Hoppes. Maybe Remoil?

    B.B.

  • Bruce Says:

    Shrub,

    Any good gun oil like Hoppies should work. B.B. writes a daily blog that you can find at http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/

    If you have anymore questions that is place to ask them because there arn't many people checking the older blogs. Off topic questions are always welcome.

    Bruce

  • Jeremy Z Says:

    So, from what I gather, I only need to lube pellets for my .177 Marauder if I shoot Crosman or other alloy pellets, right? It is at the factory tune, shooting CPHs at about 880 fps and CPLs at about 980 fps.

    As an aside, it won't shoot any of the three types of JSB Exacts I tried worth a darn. It does great with CPL and CPH, and also with Kodiaks and Baracuda Match Power. (plated)

    In the powderburner world, it is recommended to use jacketed bullets in rifles shooting above about 1800 fps, for leading reasons. Would using a copper-plated pellet remove the need for lubing, or is that plating not durable enough to withstand the trip down the barrel?

    Great blog, I'm late to this party, I see. :)

    -Smaug

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Smaug,

    Correct on the Crosman Premiers. Antimony hardens lead, but also makes it smear off on the inside of the barrel. A soft lead pellet won't do that as much.

    I don't know if a copper-plated pellet would help, but since airguns never get going fast enough to matter, I suppose the point is moot.

    B.B.

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