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.
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.