Your gun is a highly-specialized piece of equipment. It’s a tool you’ve invested in and no doubt a tool that brings you joy. Just like any other highly specialized tool, there are proper maintenance routines to follow. And almost all maintenance routines include cleaning – and once your tool is clean you want to keep it that way.
For an AR-15, this is where lubricant comes in. But everyone has a different theory on AR-15 lubricant – so we will take a look at everything from homebrew to the most popular products on the market.
Quick Take: Best Lubes for the AR-15
The Importance of Lube
When it comes to guns and rifles, generally a weapon prefers to run either “wet” or “dry,” i.e. lubed or unlubed. AR-15s function best when they’re well-lubricated. There are plenty of moving parts that need to be friction-free, and the semi-open construction means it’s somewhat prone to fouling particles getting into sensitive spots.
Generally lubrication happens after the process of cleaning the AR-15 is finished, which means it performs the triple duty of: actually lubricating the moving parts within the AR-15; performing a final “clean-out” of any leftover particles; and finally leaving a nice, clean seal that keeps out future nuisances.
So, to put it simply: lubing an AR-15 is really important if you want your gun to keep working! Of course everyone has their own methods, and all have their ups and downs. But largely, “wetter is better” is a good philosophy to stick by.
Some people worry that excessive lubricant will ultimately attract more fouling particles and gum up the gun. Others argue that even an AR-15 that’s practically dripping with lube will still fire perfectly. While I wouldn’t want to go to the latter extreme, I’m definitely inclined to lean ore in that general direction.
Can I Make My Own Lube?
As with any home hobby, sometimes the “DIY” principal is more like “do-or-die.” There are those out there who swear by home-brewed lubricants both because of the cost and the effectiveness of their respective methods. And, honestly, many of these work pretty well. Some of the most common secret ingredients are things like motor oil and automatic transmission fluid, mixed to make what is lovingly referred to as “red juice.” And, having tried my hand at it in the past… It works pretty well.
My biggest complaint with homebrew gun lubes is that they’re a real pain. It takes a ton of tinkering to get it just right. And the wrong proportions can risk doing damage to sensitive parts of the AR-15, even if it’s not extensive.
Ultimately I find the convenience of store-bought lubes to outweigh the supposed benefits of home made lubes. And often the store-bought lubes come with extra cleaning agents that will foster the longevity of your rifle much more than a few tablespoons of ATF.
Quick Comparison Chart of the Best Lubes for the AR-15
M-Pro7 070-1453 4oz 7 Lpx Gun Oil
Hoppe’s No. 9
FrogLube CLP Liquid 8 oz Spray Bottle
Ballistol Multi-Purpose Aerosol Can Lubricant Cleaner Protectant
Reviews of the Best Lubes for the AR-15
The M-Pro7 LPX Gun Oil is another lubricate, clean & protect oil like FrogLube. Unlike FrogLube, there’s no complicated application process.
The LPX is an improvement on M-Pro7’s basic gun oil, requiring a smaller amount for effective application. LPX gets deep into the metal’s pores for a long-lasting lubricant and is an excellent barrier against rust.
In my opinion this product is really hard to beat–it combines the affordability of more basic oils with the features of a much more expensive gun lubricant. Plus it smells much less toxic than other products I’ve used, so no headache when I’m trying to work on my gun!
- Long-lasting lubricant
- Easy application
- Prevents rust
- Slightly runnier than other lubricants
- Bottle is difficult to use for applications
Grizzly Grease is another great 3-in-one lubricant. It offers a thick layer of protection, easy application, and long-lasting lubrication. Where Grizzly Grease separates from the pack is that their mission is to create safe, non-toxic lubricants.
I’m not a chemist and can’t really speak to what makes this product less toxic than the other lubes on this list. But, it’s very apparent from using it that there’s less of an off-putting smell, and the feel is a bit different from FrogLube or M-Pro7.
Most importantly, though: Grizzly Grease does not compromise on effectiveness at all. It runs with the big guns and keeps up with ease: it works well in all temperatures, won’t gum up too soon, and creates a great protective layer.
- Very effective
- Easy to apply
- “Wintergreen” scent may not be suitable for hunting conditions
- Temperature changes the quality of the lubricant when applying - can be too thick or too runny.
Hoppe’s No. 9 is a classic gun lubricant that’s been around just about as long as modern guns have–and for a good reason! This lubricant is a classic, no-frills, reliable lubricant available for about ¼ of the price of most contemporary gun lubes. It may not have any detergents or special additives, but it gets the job done.
The lubricant itself is petroleum based – normally something to avoid, since petroleum tends to become gummy or tacky and foul up moving parts. But Hoppe’s has got their blend down to perfection and it will create a reliable, protective layer of lubricant that will last for a long time. The No. 9 Lubricant is available in a small squeeze-bottle or as an adhesive spray depending on your preference.
- No detergent
- Minimal protection
- Must be reapplied often
FrogLube is kind of the epitome of modern gun lubes. It has detergent elements and advertises both lubricant and protective qualities.
Unlike most “set and forget” lubes, applying FrogLube can be a bit of a task. The instructions say you need to use FrogLube solvent to completely clean and degrease any factory lubricant. Then apply thin coats of FrogLube to the heated metal, then allow it to cure. The result of this process is that, in theory, you should have a weapon so protected that carbon powder brushes right off.
FrogLube compares it to a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Actual results may vary – those who get it right swear by it. Those who aren’t a fan claims it’s prone to gumming up weapons and that claims about its protective qualities are overblown. It may come down to “user error,” and in my experience this is a worthwhile lubricant even in colder conditions.
- Maximum protection from moisture & dust
- Works well in cold weather
- Complicated process
- Can’t be mixed with other lubes & may require additional products
- Mixed effectiveness
Ballistol is another “historic” gun lube, originally developed for the military. It is slightly “fancier” than Hoppe’s No. 9 and has the same 3-in-1 features of the other lubes on this list. Ballistol is specifically an aerosol spray for easy application. It claims biodegradable, with natural components similar to Grizzly Grease.
The main draw of Ballistol is its cleaning properties: the detergents used in this product are a bit stronger than many of the others listed and it creates a great protective layer. This biggest issue I’ve found is that sometimes it doesn’t lubricate quite as well as I’d like. That’s easily solved with a little dab of Hoppe’s or LPX, but is a drawback for someone looking for a one-stop lube.
- Good cleaning properties
- Lubrication leaves something to be desire, maybe combine with another lubricant
- Highly-scented product
Keeping a clean, serviceable weapon is an important part of gun maintenance, and there are plenty of tools at your disposal. Whether you opt to look for a home-grown recipe or choose one of these excellent products, you’ll end up with a smooth-running weapon that will continue to run smoothly.
Remember that AR-15s prefer to be wet, and to work towards finding that good balance between “saturated” and “not too saturated.” Your AR-15 will be thanking you for years to come!