Like most people, I don’t like cleaning guns. It can be enjoyable, but when you get home from a hard day of shooting, your first thought isn’t, “Well, I better make a mess on the dining room table.” The problem is that when you own thousands of dollars in guns, not taking care of them can turn your precision shooter into a lump of pig iron faster than you want to admit to yourself.
Cleaning, Lubing, and Protecting your firearms doesn’t have to be a chore if you use the best CLPs, Sadly Hobbes Number 9 isn’t the best CLP on the market, though it can work great as a cologne, so don’t throw your jars away just yet,
What makes the best CLP?
A CLP is a Cleaning, Lubrication, and Protection oil; it shouldn’t surprise you that one product doesn’t do everything the best; a cleaner isn’t going to be as good as a dedicated lubricant. An excellent protection oil won’t provide the lubrication of a suitable grease, and a superb grease won’t keep dirt and corrosion off your rifle as easily as a solid Protection oil. All of this will struggle without the proper tools to disassemble, clean, and store your firearm.
What does CLP do?
Carbon is a residue from burning the powder; the carbon fouling gets baked on as you fire more and more rounds. If you don’t clean between firing sessions, it bakes on more and can even chemically adhere to the barrel to varying degrees. A solution that removes carbon buildup is needed but never leaves it in the barrel or action for more than the time stated on the bottle, or it can etch the metal.
Copper Fouling, like carbon, is residue from firing rounds left behind from the copper-jacketed bullets it builds up mainly in the rifling of a barrel. A solution for carbon fouling won’t remove the copper fouling easily. It will take a significant amount of elbow grease to remove if you have it welded to the barrel, and your accuracy will go to shit over time.
Ease of Cleaning
When we are looking at cleaning a rifle barrel and action, it is essential to use the right tools. After cleaning used army rifles and national guard surplus for weeks, the best method I’ve found is to saturate the barrel in your carbon cleaner with a barrel mop, wait 5 mins. While you are waiting, brush down the action with a moistened rag. Scrub the barrel with a brush 10-30 strokes, wait 5 mins, Oil action with a rag while you are waiting, then punch the barrel with a lightly damp jap a few times, repeat. Once the carbon is mostly gone, repeat with your copper cleaner. It will come out green. Send a couple more damp mops down to make sure it is as clean as possible and punch it with a dry jag. Then lube it with your preferred protection oil. Hit your grease spots with grease.
Now that sounds like a lot of work, but once you have it down and you have a nicely seasoned barrel, it takes way less time. My M14 just gets a ripcord for anything under 200 rounds and a thorough cleaning every six months. I can’t read the serial numbers anymore, but the barrel shines like new.
Like your truck, tractor, and neighbor’s wife, if you want a smooth ride, you need good lube. Grease goes anywhere metal rubs on metal; oil goes where grease can’t, read your firearm manual and don’t listen to your idiot friends that run their gun dry; they are the same type of people that try to finger strippers and think missionary is the best sex position. Lubrication is needed to keep parts from wearing each other down, yes it might take 4000 rounds before you can tell the difference, but if you wear down the wrong part you will be the one begging for lube at your local gun store if you are lucky.
Corrosion depends on the environmental factors, most guns won’t rust from resting in a safe, but dirt, grime, and rain will rust a gun into a pile of junk in a couple of years instead of more than a century.
The old method of packing the gun in cosmoline and a waterproof bag isn’t the worst idea if you aren’t going to be shooting it for years or you want to save a collector piece. Still, it doesn’t work for the average shooter that is just looking for some rust protection during the off-season.
Dry your firearm with a dry cloth and rub in a fine or very light film of oil; that is all you need. Work that oil into every part you can find. You’ll know where you missed next season because it is the rusty part. Pay close attention to where metal is touching other metal because it will rust in the minuscule gap. Without completely disassembling your firearm, you may miss it, which will cause problems when your firearm jams because those points are always a gas-tight mating surface or high wear part.
Okay, so BreakFree is the best CLP currently on the market; in our testing, in other group’s testings, the military, BreakFree CLP is either the best overall CLP or the best for the price. I both love and hate BreakFree CLP; it is what I carry with me to the range, on hunting trips, and one of the most used products I have for gun cleaning. It just works and does everything reasonably well. It suffers a little in lubricity, but it makes up for it with protection from elements and ease of cleaning. The oil doesn’t accumulate dust and rust as much as most of the other products I’ve tested. In subzero temperatures, it doesn’t freeze like many other lubricants. It has a downside, but I can barely fault it because I wouldn’t have known without extensive testing for this article.
So why don’t I like it? It is just a bit too easy. I switched to it from Tetragun and Hobbes because it was cheaper and easier to find, and it just blew my mind how much better it was. I’m waiting for the downside. The downside is that it doesn’t do as well against heat. When lubing a barrel, the oil will burn away quickly under the extreme temperatures of mag dumps and long shooting sessions. No other CLP we tested even comes close in low temperatures, protection against elements, and cleaning power. It is an excellent CLP that should be your standard for every firearm you own.
Hobbes #9 is the standard no-frills gun cleaner that everyone starts with before looking for any other CLP. Hobbes #9 is one of the best cleaners for removing carbon fouling and being gentle enough to use as a damp rinse for most other cleaners, provided they are ones you can mix. Still, Hobbes is not willing to rest have developed a CLP of their own with Hobbes Boresnake CLP.
Boresnakes and Ripcords are quick field cleaning cords that can make cleaning a gun a breeze if used correctly. Just shove through the barrel and damp the beginning and end with your CLP and rip it through.
Hobbes Boresnake did a fantastic job getting the dirt and grime out of the rifle, just like Hobbes #9. The barrel shined bright, but the lubricity was a bit weak compared to Break Free and Clenzoil. This isn’t a problem if you have time to lube your firearm often, and having a backup bottle of Clenzoil or BreakFree isn’t the worst idea, even straight-up gun oil if you want to specialize your kit, but Hobbes Boresnake is just a bit off the mark for a gun lubricant. Cleaning and protecting are excellent, however.
Clenzoil is one of the original CLP tested by the military in the 1980s, looking for an all-in-one CLP for the M16 and M249. Clenzoil does a good job cleaning but where it shines is the lubricity. In both our testing and testing around the internet, you can see that clenzoil does better than average for wear on metal parts. I have loved using Clenzoil with my M14 for years before I switched to BreakFree because of the increased protection and lubrication it gives. Unlike the AR-15, the M14 doesn’t build up carbon in the action as much as it needs a bit more lubrication in its spring, gas piston, and action. If you are looking between BreakFree and Clenzoil, the winner will be whether you have a gas piston or a direct impingement AR-15; if you have a bolt action, stick with the BreakFree.
Clenzoil not only does better than the Breakfree at lubrication, but it also tolerates heat better when protecting the firearms from the elements and rust. It even beats some dedicated lube for lubricity. The Clenzoil doesn’t freeze, though; it flows slightly slower than the BreakFree at -4 degrees. It doesn’t become tacky like many of the rejected products. Where it shines is the protection under heat and lubrication of the systems. I don’t know if I can stress this enough. Under demanding conditions, a dirty rifle will still fire, but a dry rifle may seize up if it is not taken care of. The Clenzoil does an amazing job keeping the rifle running while seasoning the barrel at high temperatures. It is a bit more challenging to get your firearm spotless with the Clenzoil but take is what Hobbes #9 is for, which is why I always keep a bit of Clenzoil in my pack just in case I need some lube.
The problem comes from the relatively high price per ounce; there has been a ton of demand from the veteran-owned company. With supply chain issues, it is challenging to keep it on the shelves while providing for some military contracts.
Froglube gets a bad rap for being the Liberal approved gun solvent. Just because they managed to turn bioproducts into an effective solvent, CLP, and grease, per Army specifications, is no reason to look down on the product. The cost may be, but considering the Mil-Spec for the Army’s new CLP requires it to be made of non-toxic materials, and that the military wants it, so it commands a high price makes it no less impressive when it comes to a CLP.
FrogLube is an amazing product; whether it is the one for you is up for debate. Some shooters love it, some hate it, but few think it doesn’t do the job. Froglube has been made since the 1940s and has been used in many of the harshest environments on the planet. Unlike most CLPs, the heat from firing a gun works it into the metal of the barrel instead of burning it off or wearing it away.
Froglube works like seasoning on a cast-iron skillet; the lipids bond with the metal as it is heated to make the metal smoother; with the proper seasoning, it works like Teflon on a barrel. I low-key love this stuff because it has seemed to make my rifles more accurate over time, as well as making them very easy to clean. The problem is that it will strip off the coating during a deep clean, changing the zero of my rifle slightly until the seasoning is replaced by repeated shooting. So if you want to use Froglube, you have to adopt the whole system and methodology. It can have a measurable effect, and if I could afford the time and energy as well as large amounts of products, I would call this the best long-term CLP. But it is several times the cost of BreakFree at the moment as well as a bit difficult to find at times.
But it is non-flammable, food-safe, non-toxic, and it works like a charm on everything if you are willing to go all in. Not to mention they make some of the best grease available to protect firearms. If you are looking for long-term protection, this may be the right CLP for you.
I also wonder if many testing Froglube understand the difference between their CLP paste and oil because many “gun experts” use the paste when compared to oil CLP, yet Froglube understands one factor that many don’t if you are lubricating an open system from dirt, dust and wear you want to use grease, not oil, under the ideal circumstance. I highly recommend both.
The end of CLP may be just around the corner.
While CLPs are inferior to a complete deep clean and lubrication of a firearm, CLP is a good enough approach that has been in place since the 1960s; it is definitely better than running a dry firearm by a US Army documented 70%, but CLP isn’t grease, it just doesn’t have the same ability. But what the military is experimenting with is durable solid lubrication. DSL is a coating much like Teflon for firearms. Under testing, it has seen a marked improvement compared to dry and CLP, as much as a 90% improvement depending on the fire rate. The future of the CLP in the military may be a bit uncertain for now, but the CLP will be amazing for civilians either with the DSL or without using much cheaper non-DSL firearms. Until DSLs become widely tested and available, stick with the BreakFree or the Froglube. And remember, don’t go in dry.
Andrew Maurer is a Precision Rifle Series competition shooter and gunsmith. Building competition rifles for over 12 years. He works as a big game hunting guide in Iowa, South Dakota and Arizona. He is also a political scientist studying the effects of gun control on society. He teaches youth rifle shooting.