Oils For Gas Guns

Dear Bruce,

What is your experience with “dry moly” spray lubes for guns like the 390 Beretta? Obviously the dry part is appealing, no oil or grease to catch stuff – but is the dry lube good enough to make the gun function reliably and not cause pre mature wear?


Dear Dick,

I really ought to do more of a piece on this. A lot of people have questions on gas gun lubrication. It’s really sort of like chili recipes- everyone has their favorite way of doing things. There is more than one way to do it that will satisfy.

The best advice that I can give you is that if your gas gun works to your satisfaction, keep doing what you are doing. If it doesn’t work the way you want it to, then I do have some suggestions. My way of keeping a gas gun running is definitely not the only way. There may be, and probably are, better ways, but what I do works for me and those who have tried it.

I use BreakFree CLP on the inside and outside of the piston, on the piston guide rod and inside the bolt (via the hold where the cocking lever goes). When my gun gets so dirty that it slows down and I am too lazy to clean it, I just add more BreakFree CLP. I usually put four or five drops on the inside of the piston, another four or five on the outside, a couple on the piston rod and two in the bolt. The bolt doesn’t need quite as much as that part doesn’t dry out as quickly. The oil put in the bolt sort of sloshes and sprays around and lubes the trigger, action rod, bolt and other moving parts.

I certainly haven’t tried every lube, grease, spritz, etc. out there, but I have tried BreakFree CLP, G-96 Gun Conditioner, G-96 Synthetic, WD-40, Ballistol, Shooter’s Choice, Hoppe’s, silicone, Lubriplate, bearing grease, Sportscare Ultra Lube, Kellube M12, Remington Dry Lube, graphite, Militec-1, White Lightning,Triflow, Fastex, TAL 5, FP 10, motor oil, Krieghoff GP Gun Pro, Sentry Smooth Kote and nothing at all.

Now that’s not everything on the market by a long shot and may not cover some miracle substance out there, but it does cover a pretty wide range. The Sentry Smooth Kote, White Lightning, Remington Dry Lube and graphite powders are dry lubes. The others are wet or wetish. At the moment I am testing the White Lightning and will test Pachmayr’s PRP rust preventative (only on the inside of the piston- it’s too gummy for other use).

I still haven’t found anything better than BreakFree CLP for keeping my gas operated Beretta 303 and 390s running. Here’s why: The problem with gas guns is an accumulation of burnt-on carbon. There really isn’t any lubrication problem to speak of. It’s carbon buildup. In spite of what is claimed for many of the oils, none that I have found, including the dry lubes, will keep carbon from building up on the Beretta’s gas piston. Nothing. Some oils claim that they “plate” the metal so that build up can’t adhere, but I have not seen any success with those products in my situation. Perhaps they work great in others, but not mine.

The ONLY thing that has worked for me, and that only half well, is BreakFree CLP because it contains a SOLVENT mixed in with the lubricant and preservatives. These lubricants and preservatives seem to keep the solvent from evaporating as quickly as it normally would when applied straight, as with Hoppes #9 and Shooters Choice- both excellent pure solvents. The other oils mixed in with BreakFree CLP’s solvent keep it wet for quite a while, well over 100 shots if you start pretty wet. When the solvent is kept moist, it breaks down the carbon into a liquid sludge and keeps it from adhering to th metal parts. Eventually, it dries out and the carbon hardens, but that takes some time. Squirting a bit more BreakFree CLP on the piston of a gummed up gun will always free it up enough to get you through the next bunch of shots. I certainly don’t think that BreakFree CLP is the end all and be all for gas guns, but until I find something that can dissolve carbon and stay liquid as long, I’ll use it.

As to premature wear on gas guns due to improper lubrication, I haven’t ever noticed it even during my most barbaric and insensitive testing. Remington always recommended that their 1100s be shot “dry”, but when I spoke to the reps the said that dry was recommended, not because it was necessarily best, but because most shooters would just sluice their 1100s down with WD-40. That WD-40 would stop the gas gun quicker that anything, so it was felt that dry with constant cleaning was the safest advice to give the general public. I always shot my 1100s slopping wet with BreakFree CLP and found that my guns could go longer without cleaning than when shot dry. If you clean your gun thoroughly ever 100 rounds, you can do pretty much anything that you want.

It is quite possible that the recommendation to shoot the guns dry was also due to the fact that the gas guns may be designed to have a certain amount of friction. Recoil operated guns are a different story entirely. I never found that lubrication and the increased bolt speeds that it produced caused any real problem in my guns if I kept a fresh mainspring installed (every 10,000 rounds). If I failed to keep a fresh spring, the 1100s beat themselves to death, usually separating at the magazine tube/ receiver juncture or cracking the receiver. The Beretta gas guns are very much stronger and longer lived than the 1100s were. I have a 303 with almost 60K on it now and it shows no sign of being near the end of its road. None of my six 1100s lasted over 40K, though I have heard of other people having better luck.

This is probably more than you EVER wanted to know about one guys opinions on lubing gas guns, but hey, I get paid by the word.

Boots off. Beer open.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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2 Responses to Oils For Gas Guns

  1. Henry says:

    My 2003 Beretta 391 Optima Gold Sporter has never been cleaned and only treated with Break Free CLP including the barrel for salt water shooting. I did a test last year of all the new “wonder lubes” frog’s spit etc… The only ones that made the milspec salt water test, black powder and smokeless powder test and again salt water test were: #1 SLP2000 EWL, Break Free CLP and SLP2000 Gun lubricant. They all passed the rust and the toothpick scratch after powder burns on the metal rods. Some of the “organic or plant” CLP rusted at first sight of water.


  2. Bill says:

    My current use of gas autos is limited to using one for duck hunting only. For that application, I have always used a technique where I first disassemble the gun and strip out all oils using mineral spirits. After a complete drying, I lubricate using only dry lubes such as powdered graphite or powdered molybdenum disulfide. Using this technique, I have never encountered any failures while hunting in cold conditions. In decades past when the Remington 1100 was very popular, I used this same technique on a few friends guns so they could use them in some very cold (zero and sub-zero temperatures). They also never experienced any issues even in those extreme temperatures.
    If I was ever to start using a gas auto for target shooting, I would use CLP as Sir Technoid recommends.


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