It’s a dessert topping. It’s a floor wax! The story of CLP.
CLP – the wonder product that does it all. I’m really dating myself but the first time I heard of CLP, that old Saturday Night Live commercial parody popped into my mind. “New Shimmer is a floor wax and a dessert topping!” How can something that breaks down oils and cleans powder residues from your guns also be a lubricant and protectant? Well that’s the story of CLP (but it is definitely NOT a dessert topping so don’t put it on your ice cream, OK?)
OK, so what IS CLP?
CLP is an abbreviation for Cleaner, Lubricant and Preservative. That is a stated function of the various formulations (and there’s lots of them) but is not an indicator of what is in them. In fact, the formulation will certainly vary from one manufacturer to the next. What you buy off the shelf from any of these manufacturers is a commercial product that either is, or was modeled after the performance of products that conform to a military specification for CLP.
Products that combined these properties did exist before. In fact, the original Ballistol oil dating back to 1904 was sold not only to clean, lubricate and protect your firearms – it was also to be used by soldiers to treat wounds, wooden stocks and leather! Talk about multi-purpose. Yeah, but was it a dessert topping?
However, it was the D.O.D that was responsible for the genesis of modern CLP. You have the US government to thank (or blame) for it. Let’s just call it, “MIL-L-63460, “Military Specification, Lubricant, Cleaner and Preservative for Weapons and Weapons Systems”. OK? Kinda rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? This evolved from early versions of the specification but it’s basically the same thing.
Back in the early 70’s the government sought to find a new product to clean, lubricate and protect firearms in a combined fashion because it seemed too unwieldy and old fashioned to use separate products to do this as had been done for… well – a long, long time. Although they had a perfectly serviceable lubricant developed for the M-16 in “LSA” they sought to “improve” on that. We had put a man on the moon, certainly science could provide us with a space age formula that could keep all our new M-16s running smooth with a minimum of fuss and the convenience of a single container. It wasn’t just intended for rifles though, DOD ended up targeting this for all manner of guns including tanks. It was a brilliant idea… Until you start to think about it. I mean combine a solvent that breaks down residue and oils with a lubricant and protectant that coats metal… that gets stripped of by the solvent.. and replaced by the lubricant… and… and… Well, you know where I’m going here.
Well, it turns out you really can create such an animal and the enterprising chemists at several companies did exactly that. And further, the specification read that this stuff had to work from temperatures of -60 to +160 Degrees Fahrenheit. So it had to work pretty much anywhere on earth on a given day or night. OK, they did that too. And I guess if you just wanted to clean and lube your firearm at any time of day or night on a given day then put it away… life, and CLP, would be just perfect.
It’s darn convenient for sure. And the folks love convenience. Personally, I have some on my bench and I have some in my range bag. It serves a purpose and quite literally can get you out of a jam quick. Just a couple shots of CLP and a bore snake and I’m good to go. However, I am of the (not unique) opinion that there is no free lunch and when you attempt to make something good at everything you end up compromising something. So I have a few concerns about CLP.
Guns get hot. Well, duh right? The heat from the burning propellant and its resulting gases far exceeds 160 Degrees… by about 2000%. The powder may burn in excess of 3000 degrees and, depending on the gun, what fiery gasses are not pushing lead down the barrel are blowing back in various ways into your gun. This is not to say any lubricant can withstand that kind of challenge indefinitely but more, is well… more. A dedicated high temperature lubricant will resist this onslaught longer and more successfully than a lesser heat resistant formulation. If you’re looking for a CLP product, look for a formula that can take the heat. For the most demanding applications, like the bolt of your AR-15, consider a synthetic grease like TW25B.
Guns get dirty, both from the inside out as well from the outside in. Dirt, dust, debris… both visible and microscopic, interfere with the smooth interaction of your gun’s surfaces and contribute to premature wear as an abrasive element. CLP, as well as most any other gun “cleaner” does a good job of freeing that junk from surfaces and flushing them away. The concern is the lubricant/protectant left behind must be formulated in such a way that it rejects rather than attracts new dirt. Some formulations of CLP had a tendency to trap dirt which quickly defeated the purpose of cleaning with it in the first place. The manner in which it is applied is a major factor in this as well. No matter which product used, if you flood your firearm with it, it’s pretty quickly going to look like the rug under your couch. Don’t be that guy. This also applies to application on firearms that may be stored for long periods. Some CLPs, especially organic formulations, can get really sticky after a few months on the shelf. This stuff isn’t meant for museum storage so if it’s been on there a long time you might want to do a quick cleaning before shooting that one.
So CLP, at least the best ones, do seem to do exactly what they advertise although some are better at the cleaning part, some better at the lubricating part. Truth be told, once a user tries a particular brand they tend to stick with it. Your average shooter’s requirements just don’t exceed the capabilities of these products. So which to get? Here’s our two winners.
No surprise there right? Break Free CLP just plain works. This stuff has terrific solvent and cleaning performance on the front end, and a superior friction reducing lubricant on the back end. The lubricant forms a thin boundary layer between surfaces and doesn’t get gummy over time. It also exceeds the MilSpec operating temperature (up to +475°). Folks that shoot for a living swear by this stuff. The only down side is the formulation does contain somewhat toxic chemicals so be sure to use safely.
Many folks are (rightly) becoming more concerned about the safety of the products they use for any purpose. The shooting sports are no different because face it, you don’t want to be breathing and ingesting a bunch of toxic stuff if you can help it. Unless you’re in a cramped unventilated room all day cleaning guns this may not be at the top of your list, but using a non-toxic product means one less thing to worry about. Grizzly Grease manages to meet and/or exceed the MilSpec for CLP while using only non-toxic, USDA Certified Bio-Based ingredients.