How much should I oil my firearm? Is it better to run it “wet” or “dry”? These are questions I get a lot from shooters. While we like to run “wet”, the answer really depends on factors that pertain to your situation.
If you are a person that cleans their firearms scrupulously, you can probably get away with less lubrication. If you are like a lot of competition shooters, who don't clean their guns near as much as you would imagine, “wet” is better. A good film of lubrication will keep contaminating particles like carbon, unburnt powder, brass and copper shavings, etc. in suspension. This keeps your firearm from binding up and also makes it easier to clean.
We have always heard that in drier dusty and sandy environments, it is best to run your firearm “dry”, as we all know that oil attracts sand and dust.......... but does it really? The answer is logically NO. You may see the sand and dust floating on the lubrication, but the lubrication isn't a magnet for these contaminants. In these environments, your gear is going to get sandy and dusty regardless. The drier you run your firearm, the more likely a malfunction. Think of it like putting rosin on your gun. As the firearm cycles, these substances are going to grind in among the moving parts, eventually causing binding and malfunctions. Even in a well oiled gun these contaminants will get ground down, but in solution. Your firearms will keep running if using a quality gun lube. We have been in enough hot(100f - 120f +) and dusty environments to see this play out time and again. In this situation, there really is no downside to running “wet”.
Does your firearm have a polymer frame, or parts? They do have some self lubrication properties, but there is still a lot of metal in your firearm. These parts, both metal and polymer are rubbing together, creating friction. You may need less lube, but you still should be oiling your firearm more to the side of caution.
Think about it this way, your firearm is pretty much a combustion operated machine. There are some different stresses in play compared to a combustion engine, but it is still a machine that uses combustion to create movement of components. It is as simple as that. Can the engine in your car run on a quart of oil? Theoretically if might be able to if the lubricant had the right additives. Now, how long would you feel comfortable with your huge investment running like this? How long would it make it? Not something any of us are willing to find out. Now, most firearms of any quality are a relatively large investment for most of us. You have a controlled explosion creating tremendous amounts of force, to make the machine function. Do you really want to run it “dry”? My personal answer would be unequivocally NO!
What is the upside to running a firearm “dry” over “wet”? None really. We aren't telling you to dunk your gun in a bucket of lube till it is dripping wet and leaking all over all your other gear and clothes. We are saying that putting a few extra drops on your points of lubrication will give you far more benefits than detractors. We do recommend running a dry clean patch through your bore after you have cleaned it and run a lube patch down it, if that is part of your cleaning method.
Pick up your lube of choice, be it oil or grease(or a combination). Be it synthetic, petroleum or vegetable based. When looking for a lube, think about temperature ranges, additives to help with lubricity, pressure, etc. Does your gun oil have additives to prevent rust, or slow down oxidization? Does the base oil react poorly with other base types? These are all important factors and probably a VERY lengthy subject worthy of it's own blog post
Even if you are set enough in your ways that you still plan on running dry, just remember, a couple of extra drops of lube are not going to create a vacuum in the universe so great that our world collapses.
Go forth with a well lubed gun and enjoy your time shooting instead of doing malfunction drills.
Have fun and be safe,
Jim Ryan / Managing Partner