What is the Difference Between Gun Oil and Gun Cleaner?

What is the Difference Between Gun Oil and Gun Cleaner?

Gun maintenance is a detailed process that mainly involves cleaning and lubrication. Failing to clean your gun allows fouling from the powder, bullet/shot, and shotgun wads to accumulate inside it over time. Failing to lubricate your gun means it will have a harder time operating properly, and metal parts can stress and even fail. Even if the gun isn’t used, moisture from sweat and the storage environment can corrode the metal parts and form rust. These issues will impact your gun’s reliability, accuracy and longevity. 

With the wide variety of gun cleaning products from different brands on the market, beginners can find it difficult to distinguish between gun oil and gun cleaner. We’ll take a look here at the difference and proper uses of both. 

Always unload your firearm and keep the ammunition separately stored during cleaning and maintenance. Do it the first time and every time before you start any other cleaning process.

Gun Cleaner vs. Gun Oil: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between gun oils and gun cleaners: Gun cleaners remove debris, fouling and residues and clean your firearm, while gun oils lubricate the moving and metal parts of the gun for long-term protection. 

What's a Gun Cleaner?

Gun cleaners are chemical-based formulas that work to remove built-up contaminants such as copper and carbon fouling in your gun. 

Benefits of Gun Cleaners

Loosen Residue

Copper and carbon buildup stick tightly in the gun bore and other parts. It’s daunting and ineffective to scrub them off with a utility brush only. When you soak the gun parts with a gun cleaner, the formula will loosen up the residue, making cleaning easy. It’s like using soap on dirty dishes vs. plain water!

Maintains the Gun’s Appearance and Value

With the fouling, grime, and other residues gone, your gun will simply look better. Cleaning with gun solvent is a good way to maintain the appearance and value of your firearm.

When to Use Gun Cleaners

Gun cleaners are used when the gun gets dirty. You may see your groups start to open up. The slide may feel gritty or the bolt sticky. The gun will also feel a little rough when firing. You can use a borescope to inspect the bore. On rifles, if the bore appears plated with copper, it’s time to clean your gun with a copper-removing gun cleaner

How to Use Gun Cleaners

Follow the general steps below when using a gun cleaner:

Step 1: Disassemble the Gun

For detailed cleaning, you’ll need to fully strip the gun per the manufacturer’s instructions. For pistols, remove the slide. For rifles, remove the bolt. For shotguns, remove the barrel and/or bolt.

Step 2: Clean the Gun Bore

Soak a cleaning patch in an ultra-potent gun bore cleaner and run it through the barrel – from breech to muzzle – a couple of times using a cleaning rod to loosen and remove fouling and other residues. For heavier fouling, you can run a bronze brush with a cleaner-soaked patch over it through a few times. Run a dry patch through the barrel a few times following the cleaner-soaked ones until it comes out clean. Take care to promptly wipe excess cleaner off of wood and painted/finished or synthetic stocks to avoid damaging the finish.

Step 3: Clean the Moving Parts

Spread out the gun’s metal parts you disassembled in Step 1– the magazine, bolt, barrel, and slide – on a on a solvent-resistant surface or cleaning pad and scrub off any dirt or debris with a utility brush. Finally, wipe the parts with a clean patch for a shiny finish and to remove excess cleaner.

Hoppe’s Gun Cleaners

Hoppe’s has a variety of gun cleaners for different firearm types and calibers. These gun cleaners are safe and effective. Some of the popular Hoppe’s gun cleaners include:

  • Hoppe’s No. 9 Gun Bore Cleaner: This traditional gun cleaning solvent cleans fouling and loosens dirt and debris from firearm parts. Its solvent base aids in cleaning and preventing carbon and lead build up. It also contains a strong rust inhibitor to protect firearms from corrosion. Plus, it has the classic #9 smell!
  • Hoppe’s Black Gun Cleaner: This advanced cleaning formula is designed specifically for the detailed gun cleaning of high-round firearms. It comes in convenient 2.5oz and 6oz aluminum pump bottles.
  • Hoppe’s Elite Gun Cleaner: This odorless, non-toxic gun cleaner penetrates down the molecular pores of the gun’s metal parts while removing the fouling. It also conditions your gun to repel future copper fouling. 
  • Hoppe’s Bench Rest 9 Copper Gun Bore Cleaner: This powerful, non-abrasive copper removing gun cleaner can remove copper fouling from precision rifle barrels restoring accuracy and performance.

What’s a Gun Oil?

Gun oil is a highly refined petroleum-based lubricant. It differs from motor, 3-in-1 and other oils in it’s level of purity. Beyond lubrication, also contains additives designed to protect the metal parts of a gun from corrosion and rust.

When to Use Gun Oil

Lubricate firearms after cleaning them. Lubricating without cleaning will form built-up greasy residues and actually attract dirt and debris. This will eventually affect the gun’s performance. Additionally, never store your gun without at least a light wipe down of metal surfaces with a lubricant oil.

How to Use Gun Oil

For detailed gun maintenance, remember “less is more” when it comes to lubrication. Apply a small amount of gun oil on the action’s moving parts and wipe it thin – look for areas where the metal finish has worn on the bearing surfaces. These will need lubrication. You can use lubricating wipes to apply a thin layer of gun oil over all exterior metal surfaces to protect them while in the field or storage. For longer term storage purposes, attach a small cotton patch to the tip of the cleaning rod. Add a small amount of gun oil to the cotton patch and slowly run it through the gun bore to leave a thin coating of lubricant. Be sure to run dry patches through your bore prior to shooting next to remove storage oils.

For a quick wipe down, apply a few drops of lubricating oil to the lubrication zone of a bore snake. Drop the bore snake’s brass weight through the chamber and pass it through the barrel. Pull it through to clean and lubricate your gun bore with one pull.

Benefits of Gun Oils

Some of the reasons why you should use gun oil include:

Protects Against Rust

Guns used in wet or damp environments, stored it in humid conditions, even just fingerprints from handling can leave salt and moisture on your gun’s surface. Moisture and other residues can attack the finish and metal parts of your firearm and cause corrosion and form rust. Rust and corrosion can cause function and accuracy issues, as well as affecting the appearance, value and longevity.

Gun oils from trusted brands like Hoppe’s contain rust inhibitors that displace moisture in the bore and exterior parts of your gun and protect the base steel at the molecular level. These oils have a high viscosity index, meaning that they come with a wide temperature range. You don’t have to worry about the hardening of the oil in low temperatures.

Reduces Friction

When you fire a bullet, the sliding and load-carrying parts of the gun – such as the sears, slide rails, and bolt carriers – are exposed to great pressure and wear as they grind against each other. Gun lubricating oils can help reduce friction in these areas and increase your gun’s lifespan.

Hoppe’s Gun Oils

Some of the feature Hoppe’s gun oils include:

What to Use on Your Firearm: Gun Oil or Gun Cleaner?

You need to use both gun cleaner and oil to improve your gun’s performance and longevity. Remember, never lubricate your gun without cleaning it first.

If you’re looking for high-quality gun maintenance products and tools, look no further. Hoppe’s has been diligently serving hunters, shooters, and the general gun community for over a century.