Pellet Lubes

If you read airgun catalogs and web sites, you’ll notice that there are a number of lubricants sold that are designed to be used directly on pellets. Do they work, and are they worth it? Yes, and maybe.

I used to lubricate pellets for field target matches- after carefully cleaning, sorting and sizing them. After all, in competition, often it’s the attention to tiny details that seperate first place from the rest. For field use and plinking, I don’t really see a need- although it’ll help there as well.

Lubricating seems to have a number of benificial effects. One, it pretects pellets from further oxidation. Two, it prevents the buildup of lead in a barrel- something that, even in very small amounts, might cause a change in shooting behavior. Three, it seems to increase velocity a little in some guns, which will flatten trajectory. And fourth, it helps prevent rust in barrels. This is more of a problem in pneumatic guns than in spring guns; in a spring gun, the air entering the barrel is very hot, and tends to vaporize any moisture that may be there. In a CO2 or PCP gun, the gas cools down rapidly from room temperature as it enters the barrel, chilling it, and causing any moisture in the air to condense.

For CO2 and PCP guns, just about any lubricant can be used so long as it doesn’t attack the rubber seals on the gun. I’ve seen things like STP and even WD40 recommended by some shooters. A favorite with the PCP shooters at my club was a light furniture wax! Spring guns are pickier; you must use a non-combustible lubricant. Any fuel in the chamber will ignite when the hot air coming from the combustion chamber hits it, causing unpredictable behavior and depositing carbon in the barrel.

Most of the non-flammable pellet lubes are silicones in a light solvent that quickly evaporates. Some shooters use products like 3M Scotchguard, which is pretty much the same thing, and is about a tenth the price of a product bottled and sold for airgun use.

Whatever lube you use, use it sparingly- a few drops is enough for a tin of pellets. If you can see it or smell it, you’re probably using too much.

6 thoughts on “Pellet Lubes”

  1. Concerning the use of WD40 as a lubricant for pellets (or anything else for that matter). Over time it will gum up.

  2. WD40 is primarily Kerosene with a little DMSO. It makes a good penetrant, and a good solvent for some things, but a poor lubricant.

  3. When I load my Pro magnum pellets into my PCP airgun it seems to be a bit of a tighter fit than the other soft lead pellets. So I am going to spray them with wd-40 and see how it goes!

  4. Don’t do it! WD-40 is mainly Kerosene and DMSO and can destroy the O-rings and other seals in your gun. There are safer pellet lubes. But a better solution is to use a pellet sizer to match your pellets to your gun. This can have have the side benefit of improving accuracy.

    Update: Since writing this, further research suggests that sizing pellets doesn’t appear to convey any accuracy benefits. Best choice is still to try different pellets and select the most accurate ones.

  5. i would not bother cleanig any pcp air rifle barrel in a gun that fires (.177) under 900fps . pellets are lubed with grafite in the first place . if you wash pellets you remove this coating and oxidation then can happen . some barrels will not liked lubed pellets when they have shot the same pellets well without the lube . you are just adding a film around the pellet , making it a tad wider . if you have a lubed jsb 4.51 pellet that works well lubed , try the un lubed 4.52 and see if it is better still .
    good quality pellets for competition use just need consistancy in weight and to be un damaged in any way . lubes often result in a lose of consistency as the applied coatings are not consistant and as a result the pellets do not weigh the same a each other any more .

  6. I would not recommend the use of WD-40. Many years ago as a young engineer – I trained with Rolls Royce engineers commissioning gas turbines as the main propulsion engines in Royal Navy warships. It was the first time I’d ever seen WD-40, but it was discovered that WD-40 left a film that could become “sticky”. Those guys were provided with another liquid which was put through the engines after the WD-40, in order to counteract the “stickiness”. I have no idea what that liquid was – so WD-40 is OK as a penetrant, but (to me) should not be left on surfaces as critical as a gun barrel.

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