May 03, 2022
By Joseph von Benedikt
You know that smell in an old gun shop? It’s the smell of magic. Decades worth of tiny spills of Hoppe’s No. 9 and Rem Oil and linseed oil permeate the workbenches, the concrete of the floor, and the gunsmith’s apron hanging in the corner. It’s a subtle, unmistakable, enchanting fragrance that envelopes visitors.
The firearm-specific solvents and oils used by shooters nearly all give off an odor. Many are fragrant. Some, such as Hoppe’s No. 9, to the point of legend. Others are caustic. A whiff across the top of the bottle will scorch the hair in your nose. Most, of course, fall somewhere between.
1. Hoppe’s No. 9
Gun guys will argue this is the original Love Potion No. 9. Hoppe’s (correctly pronounced “Hoppy’s”) exudes a scent reminiscent of spiced, fermented fruit laying warm in the sun, and has smooth overtones of heated race-car oil and deep-woods tradition. A combination solvent and preservative, Hoppe’s is undebatably the most famous gun-related liquid in America. www.hoppes.com
2. Rem Oil
This lovely lubricant comes in all forms; squeeze bottle, dropper, dripper, and most popular, the aerosol can. Smell is sorta greenhouse-ish; earthy, organic, and clean with a hint of growth-inspiring chemicals. You won’t smell it much in the shop, but if you use it in your wife’s kitchen, it’ll overpower the smell of chocolate-chip cookies cooling atop the oven. Rem Oil is a lube and preservative, pure and simple, in a proven formula that’s been serving gun owners since 1913. www.remington.com
3. Spartan Carbon Destroyer
This product is young, but features space-age composition. Held under the nose, it smells of the sort of windshield glass cleaner one might use on a Ferrari, yet has lingering undertones of dark caramel. It’s a water-based penetrating solvent that is aerospace certified, whatever that means, and is green. Not in color; in concept. Early reports indicate it’s powerfully good stuff. modernspartansystems.com
4. Spartan Accuracy Oil
Billed as “The best firearm lubricant on the planet,” Accuracy Oil smells like donuts cooked in fresh, clean synthetic lubricant. Yep, it’s weird. The product itself is shockingly good, both at lubricating moving parts and at seasoning barrels. Nano-shield particles penetrate the pores of metal surfaces, resulting in an ultra-smooth, protective layer. modernspartansystems.com
5. Sharp Shoot R Patch Out
You know that smell inside a drive-through car wash? Trap it inside an old oak whiskey cask and distill it. Give your rifle’s bore a sniff now and then to purge the copper and carbon fouling inside and make it happy. This product is my go-to, as it effectively removes all copper fouling without acidic chemicals such as ammonia. Hey, I’m protective of my custom barrels, and don’t want the hand-lapped inner surfaces getting etched. Use this in conjunction with Sharp Shoot R Wipe Out bore foam for top results. sharpshootr.com
6. Wilson Ultima-Lube II
Viscous yet penetrating, this purple lubricant is made by Wilson Combat. That should tell you something. Plus, it has the smell of classic car motor oil, at least conceptually. Finally, it’s purple—the color of royalty. Use cheap oil on cheap guns, if you must, but treat your fine firearms with the respect they deserve. This product is fit for duty from -40 up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, making it ideal for extreme use from the Arctic to the full-auto range. www.wilsoncombat.com
7. Break Free Collector
This smooth operator is just what it sounds like: Ideal for gun collectors obsessive about protecting and preserving their fine firearms. A scent of warm, clean, thin motor oil will envelop you as you lovingly rub Collector onto the deep bluing of your vintage guns, with a lingering hint of wild citrus. Will not break down or gel over time. Combat ready; grab and go. Sold through purveyors of fine solvent everywhere.
8. Butch’s Bore Shine
Sniff this one too deeply, and you’ll think Covid got your nose. It attacks your smeller with a wildly aggressive wave of caustic odor reminiscent of acid rain mixed with nuclear fallout. That’s thanks to the high percentage by volume of ammonia. On the plus side, Butch’s dissolves stubborn layers of copper fouling fast. Don’t leave it in your treasured barrel more than a few minutes, and be sure and clean it all out thoroughly when done. www.lymanproducts.com
9. Barnes CR-10
Slightly less eyebrow-raising when sniffed than its similar ammonia-based cousin (Butch’s Bore Shine), CR-10 is an effective copper solvent. It exudes a wafty semi-fragrance of peppermint essential oil without the mint… sharp, cleansing, and cauterizing. As with all ammonia solvents, don’t leave it sitting in your bore; it will etch the metal. www.barnesbullets.com
10. Linseed Oil
Leaving the caustic and coming to the classic, we now have linseed oil. This legendary natural protective finish for wood exudes the smell of history… warm, penetrating, and healing. Don’t use it on metal; God made it to penetrate the pores of fine walnut and fiddleback maple and oxidize into a hard, impenetrable, luminescent finish. Linseed oil is the foundation of the “hand-rubbed oil” finishes you see on the very finest rifles and shotguns. But don’t use it lightly; without expertise, it can gum and fog. Sold by purveyors of fine gunsmithing products and art supplies.
Turpentine is “a volatile, pungent oil distilled from gum or pine wood…” it was the original solvent, capable of dissolving oil and gunk but also ideally paired with linseed oil to increase linseed’s workability and decrease drying time. Turpentine smells of pines and September mornings in the high country; clean, crisp, and therapeutic. Mix half-and-half with high-quality linseed oil for a traditional gunstock finish. Sold in fine art stores everywhere.
To my nose, Kroil has the most exclusive fragrance of them all… mint and pine and wine and brandy and cinnamon and cloves blended to penetrating perfection in a base of Aviation fuel. Kroil is a true penetrating and “creeping” oil. It gets into the deepest cracks and smallest micro-pores and loosens fouling and prevents corrosion. An old accuracy addict taught me its virtues for breaking in and seasoning rifle bores, and in that capacity, it’s absolutely vital to my work as a precision hunter and competitive rifleman. And it just smells so bloody good! www.kroil.com