More snake oil in the firearms industry?

Another controversy is brewing in the firearms industry, this time over the alleged nature of a firearms cleaning and lubrication product.  Andrew Tuohy of Vuurwapen Blog (“Firearm Blog”) reports.

If you have been on the internet and have visited a sampling of firearm related blogs or social media sites in the last few weeks, you have most likely come across reports or claims that FireClean is nothing more than Crisco vegetable oil.

. . .

I did not – and still do not – believe that FireClean is Crisco, but not for the reason you might think. Although such statements make for shocking arguments, it wouldn’t really make sense to buy a name brand product at a high price if the goal was to resell and make money.

Still, the claim that FireClean is nothing more than Crisco is not one to be taken lightly by anyone … I sought to undertake my own testing to determine whether or not these claims are true about FireClean. Trust, but verify.

. . .

I contacted a professor at the University of Arizona – a very nice man with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry – and he agreed to help with an infrared spectroscopy test of FireClean and two types of Crisco.

. . .

What did the tests show?

FireClean is probably a modern unsaturated vegetable oil virtually the same as many oils used for cooking.

There’s more at the link, including an interesting and useful analysis of the product.  I think all of us who are firearms enthusiasts owe a debt of gratitude to Andrew Tuohy for arranging these tests and clarifying the situation.

In response to Mr. Tuohy’s article and other speculation, the makers of Fireclean have issued their own statement.  In part, it reads:

FIREClean™ Advanced Gun Oil is a specifically formulated, technically superior weapon reliability solution that resists the harshest firing with enormous heat and carbon overload that seize most weapons. It is a formulation- made specifically for exceptional reliability in firearms and weapons- not a re-labeled or re-packaged product.

FIREClean™ has been proven in combat in Afghanistan by US Special Operations Forces, and is in use by Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force Special Operations. It is also in use by elements of the FBI, DHS, DEA, CBP, Secret Service, Department of State, various intelligence agencies as well as numerous State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies.

. . .

We offer what we and many others regard as the best, highest performing product on the market. We have not commented on the formulation, nor will we do so now. We have focused on performance, and we will continue to do so.

Rest assured that we will defend our good name against false, defamatory and libelous allegations using the full measure of remedies available to us.

Again, more at the link.

I can’t help but notice what Fireclean does not say in their statement.  They don’t address the results of Mr. Tuohy’s tests at all.  They merely make (unsubstantiated) claims about who is using their product (which have nothing whatsoever to do with the nature or technical details of their product), and refuse to comment on its ‘formulation’.  They also state their intention to defend against ‘false, defamatory and libelous allegations’ – but they never identify Mr. Tuohy’s findings (or any other claims about their product) as actually being ‘false, defamatory and libelous’.  In other words, they’re saying nothing at all of any substance to actually address the controversy.  To say I find that very strange is an understatement.  Their inexplicable failure (so far) to address the specific issues involved gives rise (in my mind, at any rate) to serious concerns.

In an earlier article, I referred to manufacturers who make extravagant claims about their ammunition products.

A word of warning: do not, I repeat, do not be taken in by wildly extravagant claims about bullet performance made by certain manufacturers or their dealers! Two current examples of the breed are Extreme Shock USA and RBCD Performance Plus. These and similar vendors offer [extremely expensive] ammunition, advertising it in high-blown, pseudo-scientific language as if it were the best thing since sliced bread. However, independent testing and analysis of such ammunition has produced disappointing results, to put it mildly: so I can’t recommend it. Stick with conventional hollow point loads, as used by local, State and Federal law enforcement authorities. If anyone tries to sell you something that they claim is umpteen gazillion times better, ask them why, if it’s so great, the cops or the armed forces aren’t using it. If they claim that they are, insist that they identify the agency(ies) concerned, and verify their claims. Odds are they’ll refuse to name their law enforcement or military customers “because we have a confidentiality agreement with them”, or something along those lines. If you believe that, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I’d like to sell you. Cash only, please, and in small bills.

More at the link.

I respectfully suggest that similar claims may have been made about firearm cleaning products (not just Fireclean), and that therefore, similar caution should be exercised concerning them.  I’ve never used Fireclean, and based on the information currently available about it, I see no reason to start doing so.  I’m happy with the cleaning products I currently use.  There are many good choices out there that are publicly endorsed by their users (with no mysterious, or anonymous, or unsubstantiated claims about who those users may be).  American Mercenary points out that there’s an even cheaper solution available – one I’ve used myself from time to time.  He’s right.



  1. FIREClean™ has been proven in combat in Afghanistan by US Special Operations Forces, and is in use by Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force Special Operations. It is also in use by elements of the FBI, DHS, DEA, CBP, Secret Service, Department of State, various intelligence agencies as well as numerous State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies.

    But NOT tested and endorsed by any of those agencies. I saw all kinds of things being used by the troops in Iraq. Soldiers and Special forces are just as susceptible to marketing as everyone else. And they aren't too good at reading the instructions either. At the time, Militech was a pretty hot item. The troops were using it as oil for weapons even though it was a metal treatment according to it's own labeling. And most troops did not use their weapons in combat. but "swear by the product". Go figure. Snake oil is VERY popular. Don't even try to keep people from buying it. Especially don't try if the snake oil is bought by wemen for dietary supplements.

  2. Back when I was in my Black Powder phase(early 90s) we used a tub of Crisco for just about all our lubing needs. Used it on the patch around the ball. Used it to seal the chambers of cap and ball revolvers. We even used Crisco to protect the barrel from rusting.

    Black powder would react with petroleum based products. The plant based Crisco would keep the fouling soft and easy to clean. Pour some boiling water down the barrel, let it drain out the nipple, swab it down and lube it up.

  3. I confess to a fondness for Hoppes, but I generally will clean a dirty gun with WD-40 then lube with a bit of 3 in 1 oil. When my current can runs out I may just replace the 3 in 1 with a squeeze bottle of canola and see how it works.

  4. I thought I'd heard something (probably in the since-deleted video) about Fireclean having an expiration date – something that no proper machine oil should have. This is consistent with it (a) being basic kitchen-type vegetable oil, and (b) going gummy, not to mention rancid, with time.
    Given the tiny amounts of oil appropriate for lubricating small machinery (such as firearms), and the presence of heavy metal residues when a gun is cleaned, the whole "green / renewable" business makes no sense anyway.

  5. Obsessing over lubricants seems to be the sort of thing done by new shooters. I remember worrying about what the BEST lube was when I got my first gun. I spent hours reading over online "wisdom" to find the flavor of the day.

    Turns out it's not so much that one uses the best stuff out there, but that you use something. There's not too many guns that are happy being run dry, and as it turns out, a quart of Mobil 1 5W-20 keeps an AR-15 ticking along quite happily at a very reasonable price. Now, I wouldn't want to use that (and don't) on concealed carry guns, but anybody going on and on about what the best lube is and why everybody should buy/use it is either selling the stuff or is just plain new.

  6. I went to breakfree a while ago, because it was a lot simpler than hobbs followed by oil. And people who I knew said it cleaned better than hobbs did.

    Now, I'm thinking canola oil, because it's hella cheap, and these people at Fireclean have proven that it works well. (and this other nice guy has proven that fireclean = canola oil).

    Yes, the people at Fireclean got caught, oh well. Their response and their specific avoiding the denying of it being canola oil speaks volumes. Yeah, too bad for them getting caught, but maybe they should have sold their stuff a lot cheaper than they did. Then maybe people wouldn't be mad at them for the rip off.

  7. I might have issues with the proven in I do credit reports of used by. Used by doesn't imply much more – time was DriSlide was used widely – doesn't mean it has lasted in the market place for firearms. Time was Anderol was the hot tip because used on aircraft cannon with their wide temperature range from negative 40 cold soak to hot and heavy use. I used Anderol on carry guns at ambient temperatures a lot myself because I could scrounge Anderol rather than pay for anything.

    Gale McMillan used to say he'd talk guns all day with anybody. He'd argue only with those who had demonstrated experience to match his own – including things like the .007 group framed on the wall behind his desk chair. I can't argue with Larry Vickers.

    My current thinking is that Fireclean and Froglube are indeed used as described with satisfactory results. My own belief is that given the nature of vegetable fat heavy applications will indeed thicken, in effect go rancid, given enough time and temperature. I have done no independent testing for this myself.

    I have no question that Hoppes #9 lost a good deal of copper cleaning power when they took the benzene out and that today's cleaners are better than anything from the past – I do have a couple Hawkeye Gradient Lens scopes in shorter and longer lengths. I'm not sure that anything newer is vastly better than Ballistol where appropriate. I mostly go with FP10/Metalshield for daily use before going out and a variety of greases and oils with no confidence that anything is particularly superior for other purposes. For high round count exercises and games I might use SlideGlyde from Brian Enos in the appropriate weight for the time and place. For a long time I was fond of Isky cam lube (moly in light grease) for triggers.

    Mostly used motor oil dripped from a dip stick works better than nothing.

  8. Sheesh, gun oils are tricky if you want to get "optimal" or "best possible" … "but "good enough" is a lot easier.

    A couple of points though…

    1. There's no reason why a /Brassica sp./ seed oil wouldn't work, especially if properly filtered (I would advise against the cold-pressed extra-healthy stuff, it tends to come with lots of solids and goes rancid even easier.) Canola / rapeseed oils go in this category, as does mustard oil… hm, in the latter case I might worry about the organosulfurs…

    2) Natural organic oils often have less than optimal thermal characteristics. Don't use something that'll solidify due to the cold where you'll want to use your gun.
    (In my case, this can be a real problem.) Likewise if it evaporates or heat-degrades too easily for your local usage.

    3) Isn't Ballistol mostly natural oils too, actually? ISTR it having a significant proportion of pine oil… still, the main argument against that specific product is its distinctive smell, combined with the the Nazi Germans having used it, and smell being the sense most closely associated with memory… my mother-in-law remembers the occupation still, and that smell.

    4) Anyone tried sesame oil in guns? Over here it's not going to be all that great in winter due to insufficiently high cloud point, but seems to work great for cleaning cast-iron cookware.

  9. Just like my automobile, I use automotive products and replace them the same way. Most automotive lubes are tested to a industry standard? Firearms share a lot of lubricant needs as cars/trucks so I just find something that works for me and go with it. Right now it's synthetic 50wt motor oil and a moly chassis grease. That may change with the next trip to buy oil change supplies. I just can't get behind vegetable based products for firearms, I've personally witnessed some of them cause problems in cold weather.

  10. In early aviation, castor oil from castor beans, was used in aircraft engines, and also automobile engines. It had very favorable heat resistance characteristics. I still use it in my 1973 Norton 850, it is the recommended oil.

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