Ballistol Review

By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting & Shooting Editor

I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never tried Ballistol before a can of it was delivered to my door in late 2023. Being a longtime Rem Oil and an AstroGlide kind of guy, I hardly had any more room in my heart or the cabinet for yet another Johnny-come-lately “do-all” lubricant. But after taking a chance on Ballistol, I discovered that the German-made mineral oil compound has been around since 1904. Not only that, come to find out nearly every hard-core gun guy has been using it from the moment they were liberated from the birth canal. 

Turns out a chemist by the name of Dr. Helmut Klever was, eh, strongly encouraged by the Deutsches Heer (German Imperial Army) to develop an end-all, be-all elixir for everything from gun cleaning (both moving metal parts and also wood stocks) to leather care and also…as a field treatment for battle wounds. “Easy-verflucht-peasy,” said the good doctor with both a weapon and armor in his name.

But before I tell you the predictable outcome of this story—that he pulled off the feat and that the Germans stupidly opened two fronts in WWII and underestimated Russia’s willingness to sacrifice its men—let me iterate just how difficult of a task this was: First off, most chemicals that clean (degrease) naturally do not lubricate (grease). They typically work against each other. Second, those that do both often must contain surfactants that eat away at soft materials like leather, wood, rubber and human flesh. Nonetheless, Helmut pulled it off and named his magic potion Ballistol—as in rifle ballistics and oleum, as in oil. 

And although I was skeptical 120 years later when I first tried it, I should have trusted the Krauts on the creation of what may be the world’s first true CLP (clean, lubricate, protect) oil, as they tend to be experts on such matters. Other than its smell, which is certainly not as nostalgic as Hoppes No. 9 or WD-40 (neither of which should ever be waved anywhere near wooden gun stocks), this stuff is legit. Now I float around my property, dousing garage door tracks, guns, rubber gaskets, my hunting boots and everything else—all the while yelling to my sweetheart, “I’m gettin shit done out here, Honey!” 

So what’s it made of? Mineral oil. But mineral oil is a broad term. Specifically, Ballistol is mostly highly refined liquid paraffin. I was surprised to learn it’s a key ingredient in cosmetics and is still in use as a medical product to treat constipation. That’s right, it lubes the innards. Although liquid paraffin is derived from petroleum, it is refined to the extent that it will emulsify with water. It’s non-carcinogenic, used to hydrate, clean, lubricate and protect. It’s slightly alkaline, so it does eat away at lead and copper just as it neutralizes the sweat from your grubby hands. Frankly, Ballistol performs so many functions without any downsides (it doesn’t gum up or blow up if you smoke a cigar near it) that it sounds too good to be true. 

I consider myself a bit of a gun oil snob, as I have been tricked a few times when guys I trusted sent me a free bottle of “competition-grade gun oil” that turned out to be straight canola. I took my time testing Ballistol before writing this review. So far my $300 Meindl boot leather hasn’t sloughed off—indeed it looks replenished—and all my guns are humming and sporting a fresh sheen. Now I figure if I can buy one product to do it all—including patching up my bloody dog in a pinch—what’s not to like? Hell, even the company’s throwback advertising is fantastic. 

I know George Patton talked of greasing the treads of his tanks with the guts of dead Germans—and I love this man’s bravado—but the fact is, guts contain blood, blood contains water and salt, and water and salt will rust the hell out of any metal it touches. If Ballistol is good enough for the Wehrmacht as it faced every condition imaginable amid multiple theaters of mechanized war, it’s probably good enough for me and my .308 during deer season. 6 oz. aerosol can $13. 

Pros: works on everything, non-carcinogenic, cleans, lubes and protects, inexpensive

Cons: It does not turn to Schnapps if the lid is left off for 24 hours 

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