Not Just Greasy Kid Stuff
I’ll admit right up front: when I was asked to review a synthetic lubricant from Magnalube of Linden, NJ, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed. It’s not that I had any unfavorable information about Magnalube, but rather, that in the world of gun lubricants, there’s just a lot of snake oil (heh, heh, heh) out there. And when it comes to gun lubrication, I set the bar high. But I’m happy to admit that I’d underestimated Magnalube: this product is a versatile, viable alternative to gun oil.
Before we get into specifics about Magnalube, let’s talk a little about using grease instead of oil in a firearm. In many industries, the mere topic of oil vs. grease has been known to ignite debates so fervent that holy wars pale in comparison. In my estimation, though, most of the critical differences are really irrelevant in the context of firearms. When it comes to guns, our list of requirements for a lubricant is pretty short:
- it must lubricate. It may seem like I’m belaboring the obvious here, but some people will grab whatever petroleum-smelling product in a spray can they find in the hardware store. Just a week or so ago, I ran into a shooter at the local range who was cleaning and lubricating his $1600 AR-15 with…WD-40. We need to treat our guns a little better than this if we expect them to perform at a high level for a long time.
I found Magnalube’s lubrication ability to be outstanding. Not only did every gun I tested it in function flawlessly, but in a new AR-15, there were none of the normal signs of rubbing that I’m accustomed to seeing inside the upper receiver.
- it must not attract contaminants. Unlike a car engine, a gun doesn’t have an oil filter. Anything that gets into the lubricant, remains in the lubricant until the gun is detail stripped and cleaned. Gun lubricants, therefore, must remain as clean as possible for as long as possible, since contaminants can act as abrasives in the firearm and/or impair the gun’s operation outright.
This feature’s performance is hard to measure, but in layman’s terms, I found Magnalube grease to be really, well, ungreasy. Those familiar with conventional vehicle axle grease will be pleasantly surprised at the consistency of Magnalube: it has a consistency less like peanut butter, and more like a finely-pureed applesauce. Magnalube doesn’t seem to either stick to everything in sight, or collect up tiny bits of debris from across the room (two of the more aggravating properties of conventional grease). I trust Magnalube to remain clean at least as well as leading gun oils.
- it must stay where you put it. This is perhaps the most compelling argument for using Magnalube in a firearm. One of oil’s biggest benefits, and also one of its drawbacks in a firearm, is that it very readily flows from one place to another. Given enough time, it will flow away from the parts you wish it was. This is admittedly a minor issue, but it’s a definite advantage of grease that it remains where it’s applied.
Magnalube should prove to be an effective persistent lubricant, as it contains PTFE (or what we non-chemists call “Teflon”) which will remain behind to form a dry lubricant in the event that the liquid is displaced.
Putting Magnalube through its paces
My first personal application of Magnalube was on my two .45 ACP pistols: a Ruger P345 and a S&W PC1911. I began just using it on the slide rails (which is safe to do on the polymer Ruger, as Magnalube won’t attack synthetic). Both pistols cycled flawlessly with the Magnalube, which honestly didn’t surprise me that much, as this wasn’t too stiff a challenge. When I brought the guns home for cleaning, though, I was pleased to see how clean the grease had remained in the rails. This was in distinct contrast to my experiences with using gun oil, which seemed to have an affinity to absorbing carbon (from the blowback, I’m guessing). While a little carbon in the rails is no big deal, it was indicative of how Magnalube resists pulling in foreign debris from the environment. Since those first experiences, I’ve come to use Magnalube in detail strip procedures (such as coating the trigger channel in the 1911) and I also put it on the barrel lugs, and the lugs on the barrel bushing.
I then used Magnalube in a couple of double-action revolvers I was working on. While I continued to use oil on the trigger and hammer pivots, I instead used Magnalube on the sear faces, the rebound spring housing and several other areas. The guns operate perfectly, and I feel good about giving long-term protection to the bare metal parts inside.
The real acid test, however, was using Magnalube as the lubricant on a new AR-15 I recently completed. AR-15s, for all their qualities, are known for two negative attributes:
- being kind of action-finicky. AR-15s have their share of issues with feeding, chambering, extraction and ejection. I wanted to see how a relatively fussy gun would perform with Magnalube.
- being thirsty as hell. AR-15s are the exception to the rule that, when it comes to gun oil, a little goes a long way. Many AR shooters actually re-lubricate the bolt during a break in a shooting session, and they use more oil in a day than I might use in a year. I was interested to see how my new AR might perform on a grease diet.
I assembled this AR from the ground up, beginning with a stripped lower receiver, and a nearly stripped upper receiver. The entire lower was put together exclusively with Magnalube. In the upper, I used Magnalube on the bolt carrier group as well as on any threads I wished to protect against galling. No gun oil of any kind was used.
After about 100 rounds (during which the gun cycled flawlessly once I got the gas block properly set), I pulled the gun apart. There was absolutely ZERO wear on the bolt carrier, bolt, or any of its lugs. I performed the same procedure after another 100 rounds or so, and an inspection revealed no visible wear. A small shiny spot appeared on the end of the gas tube, but this is an unlubricated item.
This is the first blued AR bolt and bolt carrier that I’ve ever seen witness no signs of usage at this point in its life. I can honestly say I’m amazed at the protection that Magnalube gave the gun during its break-in period. Admittedly, I didn’t put the gun through ultra-rigorous rapid fire shooting, but I think I could take this gun up to “cook-off” temperatures without changing the wear pattern.
Magnalube is an effective, clean, convenient lubricant for many firearms purposes. I have also begun keeping a tube on the workbench, as the list of things I use it on continues to grow. If you want to give your guns’ internals some reliable, long-lasting TLC, consider buying a few tubes of Magnalube. I plan on using it for a long, long time.