Ballistol: an Upcoming Favorite Amongst Gunsmiths

Delesoyby Dana Delesoy
Guns and Gunsmiths Contributor

I first heard about Ballistol while watching a back-issue of GCA’s GunTech DVD magazine (issue #108). Gene Kelly (president of the American Gunsmithing Institute) interviewed a Ballistol representative at SHOT SHOW. I was really impressed what was said about it. Something claiming to be as versatile as Ballistol and also non-toxic is a combination that gets my attention. When I finished watching the interview I immediately visited the company’s website and read absolutely everything posted about the product.


What really sold me is that Ballistol is non-toxic, skin friendly, displaces water and never gets gummy. Sounds like a perfect product for gunsmithing I thought.

For about three years prior to discovering Ballistol I exclusively used a non-toxic plant based CLP (Cleans, Lubricates, Protects) called GunZilla. Unfortunately the product became rancid and gummy eight to ten months after application. Not to belittle GunZilla but apparently it is not made for long term applications.

Think of it this way … after hunting season you take the time to properly care for your hunting gun. You disassemble it, clean it and apply GunZilla to lightly oil all metal parts and reassemble it. Ten months later you grab the gun, inspect it for function and find the oil has gummed everywhere it was applied. The gun may work for the hunt but in sub-zero temperatures you have potential for function problems within the gun. The same situation applies to customers you may have provided this service for and used an oil that gums before the gun sees use.

I’ve applied Ballistol to every single part that needs a light oil on several of my firearms and after almost two years the Ballistol is as fresh as the day it was applied. Nothing has become gummy or rusted whatsoever and the guns have functioned in cold weather.

Ballistol is a CLPPP (Cleans, Lubricates, Preserves, Protects, Penetrates) so I guess it’s safe to say it is two “P’s” more than a CLP. Ballistol is a product I’ve really grown to like–I’ve been using the product exclusively for almost two years now. Since then I’ve read, seen and heard about some Master gunsmiths in AGI giving Ballistol a try and highly rating it. Some have ranked it as their new favorite, or at least as a first place tie with their long term favorite(s).

I live in Canada so I began searching for product availability here. I found Canada Ammo (www.canadaammo.com) listed as one of only a few Ballistol suppliers. They listed a one gallon container on sale for $70 CA ($100 retail) which was by far the best value for the dollar, so I purchased it. For those in Canada that are interested you can view their Ballistol selection at www.canadaammo.com then type Ballistol in the search engine. For those in the USA that are interested visit www.ballistol.com.

When the Ballistol arrived I read the label for applications and mixing ratios. I was a bit uncertain if it should be used undiluted (100% – full strength) for the applications I wanted it for (as a CLP for gunsmithing) so I emailed the company with some questions. A reply was sent within a day stating:

“Hi Dana, For all of the purposes you listed, and most other purposes, use Ballistol 100%. The aerosol and non-aerosol cans contain the same formula. The only times it is necessary to emulsify Ballistol with water are the uses listed on the chart that show mixing. Best regards, … ”

My initial intended use of Ballistol was for gunsmithing but I quickly began using it for some of it’s other specified applications to items I would have otherwise used a previous product. I have provided a photo of the back label on the Ballistol container for you to see the list of applications and the mixing ratios.

Some items that I’ve applied Ballistol to are:

  • Wood: dry or unfinished (unsealed) gun stocks, tools (AGI screwdriver handles – the wood darkened beautifully), electric and accoustic guitars (fretboards, including the entire guitar body) faded doors, outdoor wood items (my home address sign) and any dry, exposed wood that needs protection from the elements
  • Leather: shoes, belts, holsters, magazine pouches, slings
  • Rubber: boots, shoes, gaskets/o-rings/seals (ammo can seals, hard gun case seals), dry/cracking rubber
  • Metal: rust removal, everything metal (including every single firearms part that benefits from a light oiling), squeeky door hinges, etc.
  • The list goes on and on.

I have included some photos of some leather items that received Ballistol treatment. I’ve soaked these items liberally since they all were so dry. Leather darkens instantly and the Ballistol never leaves an oily residue. One of the photos shows two pouches side by side (I think they are grenade pouches). The darker one was treated with Ballistol and the other was not. In the beginning they were both the same color as the untreated pouch.

 

 

One day I decided to rub down my entire SKS stock with Ballistol to help wash off superficial cosmoline residues, to help permeate the pores of the wood (to protect from moisture) and to hopefully give the dull looking stock a bit of life. Initially after rubbing the stock liberally with Ballistol there was no obvious darkening of the wood. A few days later there was a noticeable darkening. In three or four weeks the stock had substantially darkened.

I was amazed and pleasantly surprised at the color transformation of the stock because personally I thought the original stock looked bland and I was considering performing a refinishing job. I have included a photo showing two SKS’s that had their stocks treated with Ballistol. The SKS Type 56 stock was originally about the same lightness in color (or lighter) as the SKS-D’s stock. The SKS-D’s stock also darkened with Ballistol treatment.

 

I had a shotgun in for cleaning. The bore looked shiny and clean. I used a Ballistol soaked swab and ran it through the bore to give it a light layer of oil. A few days later I inspected the bore and it looked like a swampy mess. I couldn’t believe the crud that had surfaced from a bore that initially looked clean.

As I mentioned earlier (and as you can see on the container’s label) Ballistol is skin-friendly (non-toxic to the skin) but the label does warn to avoid inhalation of vapors. This is one reason I prefer liquids over aerosols. Aerosols certainly have their place but they tend to deliver a fair amount of airborne residuals that when sprayed some ends up wasted, inhaled and eventually settles onto surfaces I would prefer not to have it on (bench top covering, floor, de-greased parts ready for cold bluing, etc).

When ventilation is limited I am deliberate when applying the product in order to limit vapor exposure. I apply the product using an oiling pen or a small pump bottle sporting a nozzle or use a bottle with a dropper tip. A high comcentration of it’s vapor (ie: when refilling small bottles from the main container) is mildly irritating to the lungs (GunZilla never irritated my lungs) which sometimes causes me to initially cough once or twice. It never gives me headaches.

I’ve had undiluted Ballistol on my hands for hours at a time many, many times with no issues whatsoever other than slick, moisturized skin. I’ve heard of one gentleman who’s used Ballistol to treat mosquito bites but I have not tried that … yet.

One last point I’d like to mention is when 10% Ballistol is mixed with 90% water the solution looks like milk.

Ballistol is great stuff to try on things. To be economical one could get a few people together to pitch in for a gallon of the stuff then divy out the container. For those that have used Ballistol please feel free to post any comments here that you have regarding it. I highly recommend the product and know you will love it once you’ve tried it.


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44 Responses to Ballistol: an Upcoming Favorite Amongst Gunsmiths

  1. Hey Dana,

    Good job again. I have read other pieces you have written before. They are just getting better sir. I will try this soon.
    Tony Carrier
    Portland, Oregon

  2. Nice article Dana!
    My uncle has used that stuff for years. He even uses it on fishing tackle. My old habits die hard though I’m still shooting the break free to everything, but you may have convinced me to give some Ballistol a whirl. Hope all is well in the Great North.

    • Hi Dan. Thanks for reading and thanks also for the comments.

      “Break Free” is the product I was referring to in the article as the product that some ‘smiths say that Ballistol is “topping the charts” with.

      I wonder if Ballistol displaces water so well that it remains on the fishing tackle during it’s time in the water? If it does I wonder if it helps lure fish? Just a though eh.

      All is well in the Great North (in my area anyhow).
      Cheers neighbor.

    • Dan,
      I should mention Break Free is a product I’ve wanted to try when hearing about it through AGI a few years ago. This was before I even heard of Ballistol.

      What I found out then is we cannot acquire Break Free in Canada.

      I still would like to try Break Free despite I have heard from one that it may not be quite the same as it used to be, but I am grateful Ballistol is available in the Great North and that I have a good supply of it.

      • I have used Break Free CLP for decades and it is also used by the U.S. Military. It has Teflon in it and stays on for a long, long time. It prevents rust and is a superior lubricant. There are two kinds, one is natural and one is synthetic. The CLP is the one I use as it stands for Clean, Lubricates and protects. It is good for extremely low temperatures as well. Break Free replaced the former lubricant the military was using called, LSA fluid as it was way too expensive and went bad after a period of time even while it was in the can.

      • If you mix ballistol with water and it looks milky, where does the water go after application? In my mind there must be H2O molecules around somewhere and would make for a politician … I mean rust on the weapon.

        • Thank you for the comments Bill regarding opposition to using the diluted product on metal. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. My apologies about any confusion regarding this. I over-looked this aspect in the article and I totally agree with both of you.

          According to the mixing ratios on the label (see photo) I have deduced that DILUTED Ballistol is used for cleaning applications and not for preserving, lubricating and protecting metal. I think clarification of this on the label would be appropriate.

          I have never used Ballistol diluted with water on any firearm (or on any metal). As I said in the article I did mix 10% Ballistol with 90% water but I did not mention I only did this just to see what it looked like because I thought it was odd someone would say to dilute a product (such as Ballistol) with water. I did not mean in any way that Ballistol diluted with any amount of water is to be used to lubricate, preserve and protect firearms (or any metal at that).

          It’s the same principal as using for example Simple Green. Simple Green has some amount of water in it and will induce rust on metal if it is not dried off quickly. So, after cleaning metal with Simple Green any metal (or anything that can rust from water) should be rinsed and dried quickly after the metal is cleaned (to prevent the onset of rust) then the metal must be lightly oiled with undiluted oil of choice (such as undiluted Ballistol). If you are using diluted Ballistol on metal treat it like Simple Green.

      • Dana,
        We may have to figure out how to smuggle you some. Break Free was spec’d by the military in the 1970’s and is used by NATO nations. I believe the NATO number is S-758 but don’t quote me if it’s helpful for you to find it that way. My dad said they hosed their M16 bolt carrier groups down with break free before going on the firing line. I have had several vets of the same era tell me the same. On the other end of the spectrum dad once told me he oiled his M60 with PAM he swiped from the mess hall because it was all that was available. He said the M60 ran just fine, but it smelled like he was frying bacon. To each his own and hey when you’re in a pinch you gotta do something I guess.

        Keep up the good work.

        • WOW! Most interesting Dan. Thanks for the info. Loved the PAM bit! Actually I was just talking to an ex-Marine as I received your comment and read your comment to him…as he chuckled and concurred with your comments he said they used 30 weight motor oil when they were in a pinch.

          Thanks for the encouragement and comments again. Cheers buddy.

          • Any oil is better than none. There is an indoor pistol range next to my shop. Lots of former military/LEO range masters. If any gun jams, first thing is flood it with oil. Gets some back into action. That’s fine “field expedient” protocol. HOWEVER, I get many guns that have been so flooded, but not cleaned, seemingly forever. Powder residues mixed with oil become sludge, then cake up to a clay-like consistency. Performance issues (including non-performance) follow. Gives me some business, to be sure!. Whenever a gun comes in with feeding issues, first order of business is a cleaning. (Can’t see anything else for all the grunge!) Often that’s all that was needed.

          • You gotter’ buddy, totally agree with what you said here. Good comment again Jim, thanks again. Cheers.

  3. I have used Ballistol for about five years on two of my AR’s. I am consistently amazed at how well it picks up and eases carbon removal. It really functions well as a cleaner and lubricant, but it stinks! I have to use it in a well ventilated area ( good idea anyway) because the odor doesn’t work for me, but the product sure does!

    • Hey Jeff.
      I have heard that some do not like the smell of Ballistol. I don’t mind the aroma at all, actually I like it which is why I have kept it on my hands for long periods without having any desire to wash it off until it’s time to eat or something to that nature. This does not give reason for me to dismiss ventilation but sometimes I forget because I don’t mind the aroma.

      Thanks for reading. I appreciate the comments. Cheers.

  4. You all should give Gibbs lubricant a try. Puts anything to shame I have used. I don”t believe in snake oil but this is the best, You can paint over it. Hot rodders use it over bare metal body parts to preserve the bare metal. Not many gun shops have even heard of it.
    Give it a try. ED

  5. Hey Ed,
    Never heard of Gibbs – it sounds worth looking into. It’s rare (or impossible) that one product can do everything. Ballistol has satisfied my needs more than anything thus far for the applications I need it for, and it is available in Canada. Not sure if Gibbs is available here but I will certainly research the product and go from there.

    The great thing about blogs like Guns and Gunsmiths is being able to share info back and forth like we are doing here. With that said it is great to hear suggestions and testimonies (such as yours here) in which could provide a viable option in the event another product is needed to satisfy a need that a previous product cannot. I’m always open minded and I like having options.

    Appreciate the comments. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

  6. If I remember things correctly Ken Brooks is know using Ballistol and since seeing the video where he recommends it I have been wanting to try it. I think I’ll order some today. My concern is the use on wood. I’m concerned that accidently getting it on a customers stock and changing the color when they don’t want it changed.

    • Hank,

      Yes – Ken is one of the AGI ‘smiths I was referring to in the article who is using Ballistol.

      Good point regarding your concern with Ballistol and wood. As for the darkening of the gun stocks finished/sealed wood won’t allow the Ballistol into the pores of the wood. Sealed wood will not absorb the Ballistol and thus the stock will not darken.

      The drastic darkening of the Chinese Type 56 SKS is likely to have been amplified by residual cosmoline blending with the Ballistol and thus the cosmoline getting “washed” deeper into the wood’s pores when the Ballistol was liberally applied. I suppose I could have better removed the cosmoline and that most likely may have reduced the amount of darkening.

      If you suspect the wood of a customer’s gun is unsealed ask them if they would like it sealed and explain the benefits of it (sealing the wood protects against swelling from moisture and gives dry wood a little bit of “pliability”). Along with explaining the benefits be up front with them that this is a quick, easy, inexpensive and effective way to protect and preserve the wood and explain that the wood will darken somewhat. You could show the customer the pictures in this article for examples.

      My guitar fretboards are all darker wood. Despite the fact that all the dark fretboards have large pores in the wood and are also not sealed, Ballistol did not darken the already dark wood. I have had these guitars for over two decades and none were darkened but if they were brand new it may have darkened slightly and give it a “wet type of darkening” look to it.

      On my doors I said I used Ballistol (undiluted) on: Someone had put tape in several places on the doors. When they removed the tape it removed the finish and pattern in which exposed dry, unsealed wood. I decided to tooth brushed in 100% Ballistol to the exposed wood. The wood absorbed the Ballistol and lightly darkened the wood (as expected) to the color/shade of the original finish that got removed from the tape. It was a quick and easy fix to make the door look much better allthough not perfect.

      Thanks for reading, commenting and thanks for posting Hank.

  7. Still the best review ever in Amazon:
    (Ballistol) What it can’t / doesn’t do:

    * Unlike Hoppes #9, the odor will not trigger happy memories of cleaning guns with grand dad- unless grand dad was in the Wehrmacht.

  8. As I remember reading perhaps 35 years ago, Ballistol was initially developed for the German army during or before WWI as a universal fix for just about anything. It was specifically made to treat battlefield wounds!

    All my experiences using it have been positive, EXCEPT the cost of it. But I haven’t evaluated that in many years. The price of fame is high, I suppose. Re: Kroil pricing, too!

    I heard similar claims for the Frog Lube line of products, and my own experience with these has been OK. Yet another dealer friend of mine told of the sales rep coming to show/sell him, and got egg on his face when he took a 1911 from his briefcase that he said he had treated with FrogLube about two weeks before. The gun was covered in rust.

    I’m currently using Dexron ATF instead for most applications.

    • Jim,

      Yes – Ballistol was designed for the German Army according to the sales rep in the interview with Gene Kelly.

      As for the price: $70 Canadian for one gallon of Ballistol I think is a bargain. GunZilla (and other products) cost many times more than that per volume in comparison.

      Thanks for reading, commenting and thanks for posting.

  9. Dana,

    Being a avid shooter, hunter and gunsmith my major concern was dealing with the elements while hunting and shooting. I.e. water and moisture. I find it hard to be convinced a product that has to be mixed with water to be a superior product for the use on firearms or any piece of machinery or part you are trying to protect.

    For the last three years I have used and repped for Qmaxx Qmaxx is a family of industry specific products that displace moisture, prevenst rust and corrosion, cleans and lubricates. Over that time I have had no rust on any of my firearms, even after use in pouring rains, nor, has there been any buildup after three years of use. As a gunsmith, I have treated every firearm that has come into my shop with a Qmaxx product. Also, as far as I know, Qmaxx is the only patented lubes made in the USA.

    • Thank you for the comments Richard regarding opposition to using the diluted product on metal. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. My apologies about any confusion regarding this. I over-looked this aspect in the article and I totally agree with both of you.

      According to the mixing ratios on the label (see photo) I have deduced that DILUTED Ballistol is used for cleaning applications and not for preserving, lubricating and protecting metal. I think clarification of this on the label would be appropriate.

      I have never used Ballistol diluted with water on any firearm (or on any metal). As I said in the article I did mix 10% Ballistol with 90% water but I did not mention I only did this just to see what it looked like because I thought it was odd someone would say to dilute a product (such as Ballistol) with water. I did not mean in any way that Ballistol diluted with any amount of water is to be used to lubricate, preserve and protect firearms (or any metal at that).

      It’s the same principal as using for example Simple Green. Simple Green has some amount of water in it and will induce rust on metal if it is not dried off quickly. So, after cleaning metal with Simple Green any metal (or anything that can rust from water) should be rinsed and dried quickly after the metal is cleaned (to prevent the onset of rust) then the metal must be lightly oiled with undiluted oil of choice (such as undiluted Ballistol). If you are using diluted Ballistol on metal treat it like Simple Green.

  10. Gibbs Penetrating Oil seems to have some mild to moderate hazards for skin, eyes, and inhalation. This is from the Gibbs Safety Datasheet:

    Route of Entry: Eyes – Yes Skin – Yes Inhalation – Yes Ingestion – Unlikely
    Target Organs: Skin; Respiratory system; Eyes; Gastrointestinal system;
    Inhalation: Low to moderate degree of toxicity by inhalation.
    Skin Contact: Skin irritant. Contact may cause redness, itching, a burning sensation and skin damage. Prolonged or repeated
    contact can defat the skin, causing drying and cracking of the skin and possibly dermatitis
    Eye Contact: Contact may cause mild irritation including stinging, watering and redness
    Ingestion: Low to moderate degree of toxicity by ingestion; ASPIRATION HAZARD: This material can enter lungs during
    swallowing or vomiting and cause lung inflammation and damage.

    Keeping the above in mind, I’m still planning to try it.

    For Ballistol, the hazards were hardly worth mentioning.

  11. BALLISTOL IS THE REAL DEAL! I have been using this product for more than 10 years. The Kaiser’s army wanted one product that would clean lubricate and protect firearms, treat leather goods and disinfect wounds.
    BALLISTOL won the competition and is still doing its jobs a century later.

    PROS: I have personally experienced the “after cleaning” effect on what I thought was a bore that looked pristine after being cleaned with another product the name of which sounds like the behavior of a nervous frog or rabbit. I have treated wood stocks and leather slings and ammo pouches. I have put BALLISTOL on cuts and abrasions with complete success. In one particular long gun storage in my house I had experienced a light rust bloom on the muzzle ends of long guns standing upright. BALLISTOL stopped that problem immediately and over the long term.

    CONS: BALLISTOL smells like old sweat socks from your high school locker. This is noticeable fresh from the can but not on the treated item. It makes my eyes water a little while using it and it can make me cough once or twice. At my retirement job in a gun store the boss wouldn’t carry it because he disliked the smell. He had no actual experience with it other than taking a big whiff from an opened can. We had customers asking for it all the time. The product can darken gun stocks, slings and leather goods. I had one WW1 US leather sling that was stored folded and was so dry I was afraid to try to open it up. Judicious Ballistolling made it flexible and usable.

    FACT OR FICTION? I have heard German people have found antique Mausers wrapped in newspaper in the attic of a home with a BALLISTOL can standing next to them dating from the WW One era. Preserved.

    I have read BALLISTOL is primarily high grade medical mineral oil.

    In his latest book in a series about WW1- veteran German detective Bernie Gunther, PRUSSIAN BLUE, author Philip Kerr places Bernie at Hitler’s lair in Berchtesgaden investigating the sniping of a Hitler underling standing on the famous mountain – view terrace. While searching the home of a suspect the detective finds a can of– wait for it– BALLISTOL. He remarks the product was illegal throughout the entire region because Hitler was given BALLISTOL to drink to help with one of his chronic stomach ailments. It made him sick but didn’t kill hm. He says this can was labeled Neo-BALLISTOL. There is quite a bit of firearms-related info in the novel, all spot on correct. (Bernie is an anti-Nazi). Check out Philip Kerr, the guy is a genius writer in historical fiction, mystery, sci-fi and children’s books.

    BALLISTOL. Get some.

    • WOW, what a great comment! Takes a lot of time to write something like that.

      I always wondered what Ballistol was composed of.

      Thanks for reading and thank you so much for the info and comments fellow Ballistol’er.
      Cheers.

  12. I have been using Balistol for about 10 years. Great stuff and it does exactly what you said. Thank you for posting this article.

  13. Hi Dana,

    Great article! I’m glad you found so many uses for Ballistol.

    To clear up a little confusion, Ballistol does NOT displace water, but rather emulsifies with water. Since Ballistol emulsifies with water it forms a true mixture and the water essentially takes on the properties of Ballistol (as well as slightly raising the pH). As little as 5% Ballistol/water will prevent rust on carbon steel. Since Ballistol does not displace water, the Ballistol and water mixture will remain on the surface of metal until the water evaporates and only the Ballistol is left behind. Displacing oils trap moisture in the pores of metal which causes rust to form.

    For modern ammunition and firearms 100% Ballistol should be used and works best. The only time it is necessary to mix Ballistol and water is if you are cleaning black powder or corrosive ammo residue. 10% Ballistol / 90% water is also excellent in an ultra-sonic cleaner! The parts can be allowed to air dry after cleaning and they will be left with a very thin film of Ballistol on the surface.

    Thanks again for the great write up!

    Patrick Palumbo
    BALLISTOL USA
    patrick@ballistol.com

    • Good day Patrick!

      AWESOME to hear from you. You are actually the gentleman who kindly emailed me the reply (on June 2, 2015) that I quoted in the Ballistol article here.

      I am TOTALLY AMAZED and MOST IMPRESSED what you have posted here about Ballistol! Sorry for the misrepresentation on my part about Ballistol when I wrote “displaces water”, … and thanks a million for the awesome clarification/correction regarding this!

      You are most welcome for the article – I like to help out by spreading good word about great products and great things such as Ballistol.

      Frankly VERY flattering that you have posted to my article.
      I thank you very much for your post here.
      Again, great to hear from you!
      Hope all is well.

      Cheers!

  14. I find minor scrapes and scratches on my hands are relieved by the coincidental application of Ballistol when I’m working on my guns.

    The Heer wanted one product to give their peasant conscripts to make it easy to train them to maintain the Mauser rifles issued to them. One product for metal, leather, wood, and the odd bumps and scrapes that plague all infantrymen. Ballistol does it all.

    • I have not experienced using Ballistol for minor wounds thus far but based on what you and others have mentioned and experienced about it’s wound healing properties I will make a conscious effort to apply some Ballistol to the next wound I get.

      I will put some Ballistol in a small spare bottle with a leak proof cap and put it in the first aid travel kit (I have a spare one already filled and ready to go in my ‘smithing room).

      Today I will try some Ballistol on any mosquito bites I may get from now on and see how that works.

      No doubt a great product that is proving to do more than I knew about. This has been a really fun, interesting, educational and rewarding article for me because of you all here.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments Lee.

      Thanks again everyone.
      Cheers

  15. This may be great for wood and leather but it will not protect metal. It’s a water soluble oil! I used it on some HK 91 mags and put them away on a shelf in a room that had 35% humidity 4 mouths later RUST all over the mags. Never again just my experience

    • Ballistol does emulsify with water (aka Moosemilk) but it does not dissolve in water, rather it disperses but retains its properties. I have read of a test where after some two months exposure to open air 100 feet from the Atlantic Ocean a piece of degreased steel wool sprayed with Ballistol did rust. So, yes, it’s not perfect. Your own anecdote is unfortunate, none of us want to see rust on our gunmetal. But my own countering anecdote is four solid years of exclusive Ballistol use (with a touch of Shooters Choice on the heavy wear points) in a 40% +/- 5% unregulated environment on my entire gun collection and no new rust. Most of mine are older C&R which already lost a lot of bluing and even sometimes came with patches of rust and corrosion. Ballistol appears to have arrested that corrosion and protected everyone for four years.

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