Why Is It Important to Oil a Gun
Proper Maintenance and Oiling A Firearm
Gun owners are particular about their firearm maintenance routines. A good gun owner will take care of their firearm on a regular basis, firing it, cleaning it, and lubing it. But what happens if a gun is run dry? Running a gun dry means failing to keep it properly lubricated (oiled). And a dry gun can create a number of complications, some much worse than others. Admittedly, it is not always easy to keep a gun lubricated, as it needs to be oiled each time it is cleaned. That is probably why many people find this article: as an attempt to stretch out the time in between cleaning their firearms as long as possible (nothing wrong with that, just keep it clean!). That said, the average duration for cleaning a firearm amongst ALL gun owners, seems to be about once every 3 months when it is regularly fired, or once every year when they are not regularly fired.
What Happens If You Don’t Oil Your Gun?
Keeping a gun lubricated can mean the difference between a working firearm and a rusted paperweight. Failing to oil a gun most greatly increases the risk of rust. As a gun develops rust, deposits (often called pitting or corrosion) can become so great they affect the actual integrity of the gun and its functionality. Some guns will simply not fire if they suffer too much corrosion, while others will simply become wildly inaccurate. In reality, firearms produce so much force during firing, that it becomes a safety concern if a gun is not properly lubricated.1
Besides mechanical failures, there are aesthetic reasons to avoid neglecting a firearm. While there are many materials which can be enhanced to prevent rust, rust and corrosion is one of the most common worries in keeping metals intact.2 Certain finishes can be completely destroyed with the arrival of corrosion. In fact, many gun finishes rust. It is important to remember that while rust is a byproduct of a neglected iron-containing material, there are many types of corrosion which pose risks to an unlubricated gun. It is also true that some finishes are more rust (corrosion) resistant than others. Understanding how vulnerable a particular material is at-risk for rusting or corroding can help motivate a gun owner to better care for and protect their firearm.
Here are some of the most common finishes and their rust or corrosion risks:
- Bluing a gun creates a black oxide finish (sometimes called black passivating) which is rust-resistant.
- Cerakote is a popular, modern finish that also nearly effectively repels rust.
- Stainless steel will rust when submerged in water for a long duration, however, it generally has a decent resistance to corrosion.
- Nickel-plated guns are better with layers of chrome laid underneath the nickel, however, they are still generally rust-resistant and will form a layer of nickel oxide on the surface of the plated material rather than decomposing.
- Aluminum is a rust-proof metal but will oxidize (creating Aluminum oxide).
- Parkerized finishes (also known as phosphating or phosphatizing a gun) is a special finish that is applied to steel to specifically protect the gun from corrosion.
- DLC finishes (Diamond-Like Carbon coating) is a nanocomposite finish which is extremely corrosion-resistant. One of the newest Glocks refers to the finish as the “nDLC finish.” While Glock does not directly define what the n stands for, most gun owners assume it stands for “nano.” Many Glock technicians have explained the guns are nitride treated before being coated with nDLC.
Fun Fact: Many Glock owners wonder if polymer guns will rust…the answer is yes – the other metal parts that accompany the polymer frame WILL rust. Just because the gun has a polymer frame, does not mean it is impervious to rust!
What Are The Most Important Gun Parts to Lubricate?
The phrase “running a gun dry” may mean different things to different gun communities. In terms of a semi-automatic handgun, it typically means allowing the frame and slide rails to dry out. It is extremely important to keep a semi-automatic handgun’s frame and slide rails well oiled, whether the gun is used regularly or not. It is also important to lubricate the entire barrel, especially the outside of the barrel. Some guns even have barrels that make contact with some parts of the slide. The inside of the barrel does not need to be lubricated, however, there may be benefits to lubricating it ever so lightly. It is important not to over-lubricate inside the bore.
Weather can also play a big part in how lubricants affect a firearm. Certain oils perform better in different temperatures. Therefore, it is understandable that many guns function better when oiled with the most weather-appropriate lubricant. As oils heat up, they begin to thin out. For hotter temperature environments, a higher viscosity lubricant will mean a thicker layer of oil and a better coat for the firearm. In the winter (and colder environments), a lower viscosity lubricant (thinner oil) will be sufficient.
Final Tips For Oiling A Firearm
Never forget you can always oil the gun in between cleanings. Even if you do not fire a particular gun often, it can lubed in between cleanings (and should be kept lubricated). There are many gun owners who will claim a firearm needs to be lubricated much less in a dry climate. While this is partly true, due to the lack of rust-risk in drier climates, the firearms still need to be oiled periodically. And all firearms benefit from being regularly cleaned.
Additionally, any expert would also suggest taking the time to find the most appropriate oil for the application and gun. All purpose oils are not as efficient as gun-specific oils. And there are so many differences between the gun oils on the market, it can be hard to determine the best lubricant for a particular gun. Check out our other article: Top Gun Oils and Grease (The Complete Gun Lubricant Guide).
1SAAMI. (January, 11, 2013). Velocity and Piezoelectric Tansducer Pressure: Centerfire Pistol & Revolver. Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute. Pressure Report Z299.3.
2Tamura, H.. (July 2008). The Role of Rust in Corrosion and Corrosion Protection of Iron and Steel. Corrossion Science. Vol. 50(7). Pp 1872-1883.
About the Author:
Mark Doberman, The Proprietary Gun Smith
The Proprietary Gun Smith is a marksman, expert gun handler, ammunition specialist, survival guru, and lifetime gun enthusiast. He owns (or has owned) nearly every legal firearm and ballistic available, has fired nearly every gun, and regularly consults professionally in the firearm world. He has studied firearms and similar tactical lifestyle for more than 40 years. In addition to writing for ArmoryBay.com, TheProprietaryGunSmith has guest written for more than a dozen other sites and/or magazines in the industry.
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