What Is The Difference Between Gun Oil And Gun Cleaner?

January 12, 2023
by Jack Lyons

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Whether you’re thinking about purchasing a firearm or already have one but aren’t sure how to maintain it, you need to know the difference between gun oil and gun cleaner. 

A lot of people get these two products confused, but they’re actually very different and serve different purposes.

If you use gun oil as gun cleaner or vice versa, you might end up with a mess on your hands, and you could even damage the functionality of your gun, leading to unsafe situations. 

So what is the difference between gun oil and gun cleaner? Keep reading to learn the difference so you can perform your firearm maintenance to the best possible standard. 

What Is Gun Oil?

Gun oil is one of the most important maintenance tools you can have as a firearm owner.

That’s because gun oil is formulated to lubricate the internal components of your gun and stop rust from building up. 

If you don’t lubricate your gun properly and don’t protect it from corrosion, you’ll end up with jammed parts, and your gun might even fail, which could be disastrous in a self-defense situation. 

What Is Gun Cleaner?

Gun cleaner is very different from gun oil. Gun cleaner is not an oil, but a formula made up of various chemicals designed to remove build-ups of contaminants that collect inside your gun. 

When you use your gun, it will accumulate carbon fouling and copper, and this can lead to open groups, gritty slides and sticky bolts.

None of these are ideal for gun functionality, and you need your gun to be as functional as possible for the purposes of accuracy and overall safety. 

When you start to notice residue and grime begin to build up in and on your gun, it’s time to get out the gun cleaner. 

parts of a gun being cleaned with tools

Using Gun Oil Correctly 

Knowing what gun oil and gun cleaner are is one thing, but you need to know how to use both products correctly for the best results. 

When you use gun oil, one of the most important things is to follow it up with gun cleaner. That’s because gun oil is - well - oil.

This means that if you don’t use gun cleaner afterward, your gun will feel oily and will collect dust and dirt. 

When using gun oil, make sure not to go overboard. You can always add more oil if you need to, but you’ll be creating a messy situation for yourself and forcing yourself to use more cleaner afterward.

It’s best to start using less oil most of the time. 

To apply the oil, start by finding areas where it looks like the bearing surfaces are worn down. You can tell if this is the case because the metal finish will be damaged.

This is a key area to lubricate.

Apply a small amount of oil to a lubricating wipe and target the most important areas first, but also make sure you coat the entire gun (the metal exterior) with a light layer of oil. 

If you know you’re going to be putting your gun away in storage for a while, you should take special precautions to make sure it stays in good condition during this time.

The best way to do this is to take a cotton pad and apply a small amount of oil to it.

Then, pass the pad through the bore of your gun so that it’s fully lubricated. You can also use a bore snake to pull the lubricant through the bore quickly. 

Note: always wipe up any excess lubricant with a dry pad when you next take your gun out of storage. 

Using Gun Cleaner Correctly 

Cleaning your gun using gun cleaner is usually a more extensive and time-consuming process than lubricating your gun, so be prepared to spend a little while applying your gun cleaner thoroughly. 

The first step is disassembling your firearm. This is important because it allows you to access all the components that need cleaning. 

Different firearms will have different processes for disassembly, so follow the user manual.

As a general rule, though, you’ll need to remove the bolt for a rifle, take out the slide, and if you’re cleaning a shotgun, you’ll have to remove the bolt and the barrel. 

The next stage of using gun cleaner is applying it to the gun bore.

You’ll need a cleaning patch to which you can apply the cleaner, and then you’ll need to run the patch all the way through the barrel.

Do this at least twice to make sure you’re picking up as much residue as possible. 

Sometimes, you might be dealing with fouling that is more difficult to clean.

In this case, you might want to start by going over the barrel with a dry patch first and then switching to patches with cleaner. 

If you get any cleaner on wooden or painted surfaces, wipe it away immediately since these chemicals are pretty harsh and shouldn’t be used on anything other than unfinished metal.

Now you need to clean the parts of your gun that move. You will already have disassembled your gun, so these should be ready to clean.

Use a cleaning brush to scrub away stubborn debris and then use a clean patch to wipe down all the parts and remove any excess.

This should make all the components look shiny and new. 

Always clean your gun parts on a surface that is solvent-resistant. If you don’t have a surface that is naturally solvent-resistant, get yourself a cleaning pad.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Should I Use Gun Oil Or Gun Grease? 

A lot of people recommend using gun grease as opposed to gun oil because it sticks around for longer.

While that’s true, it doesn’t necessarily mean that gun grease is the better choice. 

If you’re putting your gun in storage for a while, you might prefer to use grease because of its longevity, but if you’re going to be using your firearm again soon, gun oil will be easier to clean before you next use it. 

What Happens If You Don’t Oil Your Gun? 

If you don’t lubricate your gun, it will be exposed to corrosion, which can stop your gun from functioning properly because it will start to experience stress and may ultimately fail.

This is why it’s so important to oil your gun regularly.

What Can I Use Instead Of Gun Cleaner?

If you have run out of cleaning solution but need to clean your gun, you can use a combination of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Mix these at a 1:1 ratio.

However, don’t leave this solution on your gun for too long since it does leave a sticky residue. 

Final Thoughts 

Gun oil and gun cleaner are both essential products for gun maintenance.

However, they are different products and cannot be used interchangeably or incorrectly if you want your gun to function properly. 

Gun oil is intended to lubricate your firearm to prevent wear and tear, whereas gun cleaner is meant to remove dirt and debris that has accumulated over time.

You should always use gun cleaner after you use lubricant unless you’re lubricating your firearm for a long storage period because you don’t want the excess oil to collect dust and dirt.

It is always important to use gun safety whenever you plan to shoot a firearm.

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