• CherryBalmz

Secrets of 1911 Reliability - How to Lube for Maximum Performance

This blog post is designed to give you a command of 1911 reliability at the operator level – to get you there, it needs to cover historic 1911 reliability, why lubricant selection matters, universal gun lubrication rules, and detailed specifics on where to lube a 1911 for maximum reliability. It is not specific to our lubricants, but does include some of the why behind ours, and the performance you'll get with them.


This post is not meant for those looking for quick pointers - if that's you, just lube the rub wear, heavily.


If you want an absolute command of user-level 1911 reliability – not just the how, but the deeper concepts – you’ll appreciate the deep dive of the post.



Are 1911s really unreliable?


1911 Pistol Trials, 1911 reliability

In the Army’s pistol trials in 1911, John Browning fired his 1911 6000 times without a single malfunction. The trials allowed the gun to be cleaned and lubricated at each 1000 round mark, with breaks for cooling in shorter strings, but no maintenance.


Few people experience their 1911 getting 1000 rounds of flawless firing, let alone 6000. Yet, the internet is still flooded with experiences, videos, and memes about 1911s malfunctioning - and just as many people arguing otherwise.


It’s doubtful that the change in historic 1911 reliability is because 1911s suddenly became less reliable, or poorly manufactured – it’s the exact opposite. Indeed, 1911s have never been made with better materials, workmanship, or precision.


Logically, the disparity between historical record and the reliability problems people experience today must come down to something else.


While it may sound self-serving, the change in 1911 reliability comes down to one word:


Lubrication.


That is, lubricant quality, lubricant quantity, and lubricant placement. Yes, it's that simple.


As a tribology firm, we believe shooters are much better off understanding some of the basics of our field, and how that impacts gun reliability, explaining the science behind it all. Very little of it is complicated in concept, it's just been siloed outside of the community for far too long.


The raw fact is that, if you know what you’re doing with lubrication, the 1911 is simply getting a spectacularly bad rap on reliability, that it didn’t have for roughly its first 70 years of existence - when it experienced better lubrication (quality, quantity, placement).


If you follow the guidelines below, no matter what lube you use, you will get a significant boost in reliability. Our lubricants specifically will provide at least 2500 rounds of flawless shooting on one application, as long as your mags and ammo are good – even if it takes you 3 years to get to that count with your 1911. The lube will stay put, stay wet, and stay reliable the entire time. Most will go over 4000 on one lube job.


To get that command of 1911 reliability, and understand how we got where we are today, let's start with lube quality.


Lube Quality


In looking back across the 20th century to today, the issue of 1911 reliability didn’t really arise until after Vietnam – after whaling was banned. This is a notable point of demarcation in the tribology world, as it was a watershed event in spurring the advancement of synthetic lubricants chemistry. This occurred, because machines started catastrophically failing without access to these older oils.

Sperm Whale Oil, gun smiths
Sperm Whale Oil was the elite lubricant of the 19th and 20th centuries - it played a key role in 1911 reliability

Sperm Whale oil specifically was an elite lubricant – so good that it was used in all automatic transmissions until the whaling ban in 1973. The failure rate of those transmissions skyrocketed by ten times, for roughly a decade, until synthetic lube science could catch up.


Sperm Whale oil was the standard oil used on virtually all light machines and mechanisms, from watches to sewing machines to locks to guns. Guns in particular suffered dramatic reliability problems without it, with the 1911 at the top of that list. One premium variant of it, for ultra-cold weather, was the specified oil on all aircraft machineguns.


A large part of what made Sperm Whale Oil so incredibly effective, is that it had three outstanding properties: it was exceedingly slick, it was tenacious at the same time and stayed put at the microscopic level, and it resisted drying out or oxidation extremely well. Molecule polarity, chain length, molecular structure, and other factors were part of this.


The reasons it was such a phenomenal oil are too extensive to go into in this post, but our lubricants are a complex blend of dozens of components, including modern synthetics that, in several cases, are nearly identical to Sperm Whale oil in performance and properties, made more effective with advanced engineering, and as part of complex formulations.


Junk “gun oil” is indeed the larger of the two reasons 1911 owners get the reliability problems they do these days. And, frankly, with a large number of other types of guns. It's usually too thin, oxidizes too easily (dries out or gets tacky), polymerizes (forms deposits), has poor inherent lubricity, and fails to stay put well at the microscopic level.


If you want maximum reliability for your guns, our lubricants are lightyears beyond anything else. However - if you don’t have access to them, the absolute best “gun oil” you can get in Walmart is what you’d get at Autozone: use automatic transmission fluid, or seasonally weighted motor oil (0w20 in the winter, 20w50 motorcycle oil the rest of the year). It’s that simple - there's no "gun oil" that can compare in the reliability performance these lubes provide guns. We’ll cover why – the science of automotive lubricants in guns – in a future post. That said, they are not engineered for guns, and only give a fraction of the reliability ours provide.


The second major factor in 1911s being “less reliable”, is that people just don’t grow up learning how to lubricate machines and mechanisms anymore – culturally, this is lost. This "how to lubricate" covers quantity and placement.



Lube Placement and Quantity

Machine Gun Oiler, how to lubricate a 1911
MG08 oiler - machineguns from the first half of the 20th century had high-quality oiling tools, that most soldiers knew how to use culturally, long before their wars

"How to lubricate" used to be common, basic knowledge – roughly 25% of all the GIs serving in WWI or WWII grew up on a farm, and had extensive experience in how to lubricate and maintain small machines and mechanisms since early boyhood.


Even the average urban kid had to oil their bike or maintain stuff around the house, and modern tech eliminates much of the maintenance on household items that kids learned on 75 years ago. The machineguns from those eras are particularly notable for their especially high-quality oiler tools, that these guys largely just knew how to use, and when, and where.


Both of these reliability issues – lube quality and the cultural death of machine maintenance – converge in the mid-1970s.


These two issues combined are, by far, the biggest reasons why 1911s are suffering on the reliability question in real terms. These realities are made more stark by the increase in reliability found in more modern designs, that are simply more forgiving of poor lubrication.


As a nation of shooters, we have not yet recovered from either junk "gun oils”, or the cultural loss of lubrication basics.


This post gives you everything you need to reverse this.

Lube Universals


In order for you to genuinely have a command of 1911 reliability, we need to cover a couple of quick things on the realities of weapons tribology and the science of gun lubrication.


There are two primary, universal rules, in maximizing your gun’s reliability via lubrication, dealing with where, and how much.


The First Universal Rule: Friction Surfaces


The first universal lubrication rule, with all guns, is this simple: lube your friction surfaces.


Now, this may sound obvious, and most shooters do know this to some degree - but rarely is it thought all the way through. And many overthink it, or treat gun lube as voodoo.


The trick to understanding where to lubricate any gun, resides in learning how to carefully examine and perceive the entirety of your gun in terms of friction surfaces.


It’s a mindset shift.


Open your guns up, slowly move the parts, carefully observe how they move together - when you begin seeing your guns in terms of friction surfaces, they reveal almost all of their operational and reliability secrets.


It’s easiest in used guns – just look for the rub wear, for the most part. But if you think in terms of “friction surface”, even on a brand-new gun it doesn’t matter – you’ll learn to look for and see hidden friction surfaces in ways that give you an absolute command of how and where to lube your gun.


And, the 1911 happens to have a particularly large amount of friction surface.


A critical factor in all of this to know, is that friction is cumulative in a gun – even the tiniest bits of friction surface are sucking energy out of the moving parts, which they need to fully complete the extract, eject, and chamber cycle.


If those tiny friction spots add up to that tipping point, the gun will malfunction. Every gun has a different friction tipping point, and lube selection matters immensely in pushing that farther out. But it’s always critical to lube even the tiniest speck of rub wear or friction. The only major exceptions to this are where ammo goes, and the firing pin channel, which are explained at the bottom in the "Where not to lube" section.



The Second Universal Rule: Lube Heavy


The second universal rule, is lube heavy: just the friction surfaces - the wetter the better.

This point trips up a lot of shooters – whatever you think you know that may go against the Lube Heavy rule, it is dead wrong, friends. Sometimes, quite literally.


If you want to understand gun reliability, and 1911 reliability especially, we can’t make this point severely enough – there is not enough ridicule, scorn, or absolutely venomous derision available under the sun to which the following lethal myths should be treated:


1. “Run it dry”

2. “You want just a light coating of oil so it doesn’t attract dust”

3. “I’ve seen more problems with too much lube than too little”


This stuff gets people killed.

Don't be this guy. Don't let people repeat lethally stupid myths.

Every bit of it is utterly garbage BS, generally passed on as “inherited wisdom”, made worse by identity, egos, the arrogance of ignorance, and happy memories of dad or “my cousin’s buddy who was a DeltaSealRangerSniperNinja who told me blahblahblah”.


And frankly, it's a male problem.


Female shooters don't get rigidly locked into ego and identity, or close their minds to new information the way men do with guns. You virtually never hear a female shooter reply to advice with "well, I use blahblahblah, and I've never had a problem with it."


Most of us have been guilty of repeating some of these myths at some point, but the difference between blameless ignorance and stupidity is found in what we do with new knowledge – especially when it may go against what we think we know.


Bottom line: if anyone’s lube advice goes against “lube heavy”, it’s dead wrong and puts your life at risk - especially if you're carrying a 1911.


Here’s why:


It's a combination of three things:

  1. Unsealed machines

  2. Friction contaminant

  3. What lubes do with friction contaminant


Guns don’t have gaskets or seals - they are unsealed. "Fouling" is best understood as “friction contaminant”, and it gets into unsealed friction surfaces. As does sand. Every speck of friction contaminant sucks energy out of the moving parts. The only thing that mitigates this is lubrication – without exception.


Guns do not occupy any magical exemptions to the laws of physics or mechanical engineering – they are simple, lightweight, unsealed, sliding, short-stroke reciprocating machines, with an absolutely filthy energy source, operating in absolutely filthy environments. They need to be lubed, heavily, to mitigate energy loss in their cycling parts from the friction contaminants in fouling and sand that get into their unsealed friction surfaces. Guns can overcome some level of oily sand, but not dry sand.


To put it another way, a gun’s moving parts need sufficient speed to properly eject and chamber – every speck of friction contaminant is sucking this energy away from the moving parts, and slows them down. And every shot adds friction contaminant.


And this really is all that most malfunctions are: the moving parts don’t have sufficient energy, and are going too slow to complete their cycle. The parts either aren’t going backward fast enough to fully eject a casing, or they’re not going forward fast enough to strip a fresh cartridge off a magazine (a major source of cycling friction and part-speed loss) and fully chamber it.


Again, the only thing that mitigates friction from this friction contaminant, is lubrication - but oil and grease are very different animals, and have dramatically different abilities here.



Grease Vs Oil


Everything above is why we engineer lightweight greases, and not “gun oil”.


The short version of the differences, is that oils are designed to flow, and to pick up, suspend, and transport friction contaminant away from friction surfaces...in machines with lubricant support systems, like gaskets, filters, pumps, and reservoirs. Or being operated by a guy acting like the oiler and filter himself.


Grease, however, is designed to stay put, and act like a sealant, in addition to being a lubricant.


This chart below is similar to what you'd find in any course for factory/plant/machine maintenance, or in the opening chapters of a tribology 101 textbook - judge for yourself which column better describes the realities of guns:

Grease vs oil in guns, gun grease, which is better grease or oil in guns
This is a basic, day-1 chart you'd find in almost any introduction to plant maintenance or tribology course - which column better describes the realities of guns?

Oils are designed to flow, and to pick up, suspend, and transport friction contaminant – they work phenomenally well in machines with lubricant support systems, like gaskets, pumps, filters, and reservoirs. But guns have none of these – oil will thin out, flow out, and dry out in an unsealed machine, and take friction contaminant to places it shouldn’t be.


This forces shooters to essentially serve the role of "lubricant support systems", being the oil pump, filter, and reservoir - and it's the very reason you have to clean and/or relube your machine every few hundred cycles, instead of going 10 times longer, in using a proper grease.


Oil will keep a gun running a lot longer than running it dry, and a thicker oil will do so better than a thin oilbut oils are not the appropriate lube for unsealed, sliding machines.

The thin bead of pinkish grease here, between frame and slide, serves as a sealant - it keeps friction contaminant out, along with oxidizing agents, keeping the inner layers wet and protected. Particulate will stick externally, but not be allowed inside, keeping it safely trapped away.

Unsealed, sliding machines, that need instant reliability on the first cycle, with zero warmup time, sitting for long periods without maintenance, with high start-stop rates of the moving parts, and exposed to the elements?


These always get a grease, in every industry under the sun - the gun world is simply informationally isolated to this. But again, guns hold no magical exemptions to the laws of physics or mechanical engineering.


What trips many shooters up on "grease", however, is they've only seen NLGI #2 industrial or automotive greases, which are about the consistency of a sticky peanut butter, and are indeed far too heavy for maximum reliability in guns. They're engineered for machines operating under orders of magnitude more energy than guns. In guns, these heavy industrial or automotive greases actually absorb much of the energy needed to reliably cycle - this is why they shut guns down so quickly in the cold, or finicky guns.


This is a very large reason why our heaviest grease is roughly around an NLGI #0 grade, about the consistency of a creamy mayonnaise. There are multiple reasons for our greases having the weights, consistencies, and thicknesses they do, including achieving hydrodynamic lubrication in their specific applications, that are the subject of future blog posts. Bottom line, is they're optimized for guns in a myriad of ways, and their thickness is tuned for the realities of guns - generally allowing for 10x the shooting on one application over any gun oil.


Grease needs to be weighted to the machine at hand – light machine, light grease. Heavy machine like a dozer piston or car hub, heavy auto grease. It’s pretty simple.


Two final points before the point-by-point specifics on where to lube a 1911:


1) The more friction surface a gun has, the more critical lubrication is

2) Few handgun designs have more total friction-surface area than a 1911.


How to Lube your 1911


What makes the 1911 so interesting from a lubrication and reliability angle, is that not only does is have so much friction-surface area, but many of the places are either a bit hidden, or hidden in plain sight. It has more of these “secret” friction surfaces than almost any other handgun, that cause a surprising amount of energy loss.


Here are all the places you should – and shouldn’t – lube a 1911.


Note: You'll notice that both sides of mating surfaces are to be lubricated – this is important, as you don’t want the slightest bit of friction surface to be unlubed. The gun will push out all it doesn’t need when you reassemble and dry-cycle.



Frame Rails:

This is the big, obvious set of friction surfaces that most people usually lube well. Be sure to lube both the tops and sides of your frame rails - any place that looks like it slides against something, or has rub wear, needs to be hit.



Disconnector:

Right in the middle of the frame, between the hammer and the upper opening of the magazine well, the angular disconnector sticks up from inside the frame. This disconnector is one of the key hidden sources of friction in a 1911. It's purpose is to keep the gun from firing when the slide is out of battery (not 100% forward and locked up with barrel), which can cause violent gases to escape into the action, often with catastrophic consequences for the gun, and sometimes for the shooter.


This disconnector rubs hard against a rail on the bottom of the slide, the entire length of travel – it might look small, but it has an outsized impact on energy loss. Many custom pistol smiths, especially 1911 specialists, have added some degree of reliability with a type of channel they cut into part of the rail the disconnector presses against, eliminating this friction for part of the travel. Again, friction is cumulative in a gun. For you the shooter, the rougher the surface of that rail, the worse the energy loss. Lubricate both the disconnector and the entire length of travel where that disconnector rides the rail.



Slide Rails:


As with frame rails, hit all sides thoroughly, the entire length of each rail. For maximum reliability, especially in harsh environments, you do want to lube this heavily, as seen in the photo - the gun will push out all it doesn't need when you reassemble, just wipe it off and put it back in the bottle, it's still good. Dry-cycle a dozen more times, wipe off any further excess, and you're good to go. The grease may may look thick in the photo, but this primary grease of ours, for all centerfires (Black Rifle Balm), is about the consistency of a creamy mayonnaise - lightweight machine, lightweight grease.


Any "excess" grease remaining in the empty spaces after you reassemble and dry-cycle will stay put, and will actually serve to enhance the grease's sealant effect, keeping fouling and oxidative elements sealed out, away from the friction surfaces entirely. Remember, grease and oil are very different animals - use the sealant effect of grease to your advantage.



Disconnector Rail:


This rail on the bottom of the slide, where the disconnector rides, along with the hammer, is a major friction surface in 1911s. They are also often rough - you can see the machining marks clearly here, making this surface extremely rough when unlubed, soaking up a lot of the energy the slide needs to cycle. Lube the entire rail, along with the notch the disconnector sits in, at the very back.



Cocking Radius on Firing Pin Stop:


In this photo you can see the firing-pin stop slightly removed from its recess, to show the curve of the radius which the hammer is cocked against. This is a key hidden source of both friction and mechanical disadvantage, and it can absorb an immense amount of the energy being transferred into the slide by the shot. The sharper that radius is towards a square, 90 degrees, the less leverage the slide has in cocking the hammer back, as the contact point on that radius moves closer to the hammer’s pivot point the sharper it gets. It’s the same as with any lever: the further back you get, the more leverage you have and less energy you use – the closer to the fulcrum, the more difficulty you have. Custom pistol smiths often use an extremely sharp firing pin stop when building .40cal and 10mm 1911s, as these high-pressure rounds are notorious for battering slides right out of spec from excessive slide velocity, in as little as 1000 rounds – that’s how much energy can be dissipated out of the moving parts just by this little radius. This isn’t an issue in .45 or 9mm builds, as the bigger issue for them is generally the moving parts going too slowly, especially with the addition of a little friction contaminant. Consequently, if you want maximum reliability, keep that radius well-lubed, to keep the slide velocity as high as it was engineered to go. If your 1911 is in 10mm, 40, or another high-pressure cartridge, don't lube it, unless it is finicky.



Slide locking lugs:


A 1911’s locking lugs are one of the least appreciated factors of reliability, and one of the biggest hidden causes of malfunctions. Before going into details of this, it’s worth noting, especially for newer shooters, what “locking lugs” are.


The way 1911s and most modern handguns cycle, is by acting a little bit like a rocket – the bullet exits the muzzle under tremendous gas pressure, and the forces of those escaping gasses essentially add propulsion to the slide assembly, hurling it backwards as one assembled, locked-up unit. Locking lugs matter, because they keep the barrel and slide locked together until the barrel depressurizes from the shot, allowing the casing to then be extracted safely. Until then, the gasses are trying to treat both the bullet and the casing as projectiles, and an early extraction or out-of-battery firing can cause the catastrophic detonation inside the gun mentioned earlier. The interlocking surfaces between the barrel and the slide are the gun's locking lugs.


What makes 1911 locking lugs such an underappreciated cause of malfunction, is the immense amount of friction surface they comprise, compared to other designs.

1911 reliability, how to lubricate a 1911, 1911 locking lugs
The front of the barrel hood on this Sig Sauer P-229 barrel is the locking lug - only a fraction of the surface area seen in 1911s.

As you can see in the photo above, a 1911 has 2 big channels milled into the slide, where the matched lugs of the barrel are seated when the gun is locked up.


Compare this to the single locking lug in the photo of the Sig Sauer’s barrel at right - it's simply the ridge at the front of the barrel hood. Just one small vertical surface, that mates up against the front of the opening of the ejection port, rather than deep inside the slide, like a 1911's.


Not only is there a difference of just one vertical surface compared to the 1911’s five separate vertical surfaces in its locking lugs, the total surface area of the vertical friction surfaces alone in a 1911 is roughly 8x that of the Sigs, or virtually any modern handgun design, such as seen in Glocks or HKs.


When properly lubricated (quality, quantity, and placement) this is a minimal issue – but dry, or with junk gun oil, the 1911 has 8x the opportunity for the vertical friction surface here to suck energy out of the moving parts.


This is completely separate from the other issues in the 1911's locking lugs, including the total area of horizontal friction surfaces, or the capacity for friction contaminant to cause far more energy loss than possible with a single-lug system comprising far less surface area. For maximum reliability, the lugs on both the slide and barrel need to be very well lubed. And again, a lightweight grease acts like a sealant to keep contaminant out.



Barrel Exterior, and Barrel Locking Lugs:


The entire front half of a standard 1911’s barrel is friction surface, all the way around, owing to the bushing’s contact surface. This is in contrast to many modern designs, which may see only 1/3 of the contact area on the barrel’s exterior.


With the locking lugs, these need lubrication just as their mating surfaces in the slide do. Be sure to lube heavy like the photo. You can get away with just a light coat for a low-key range day, but the more finicky your gun is, or the more you are relying on it for your life, the more important it is to lube heavy.



Barrel Link, and Barrel Link Lug:


The slide-stop’s pin goes through this link, which serves as the pivot point for the entire barrel to drop down when the slide’s moving backwards. The inside of the link is a friction surface, rotating on the pin of the slide stop – be sure to lube it.


Depending on the given 1911, the lug the barrel link is attached to may or may not be a friction surface – the more “match grade” and tight fitting the 1911, the more likely it is, having been built this way to provide extra stability and support for the barrel, to improve accuracy.


This particular 1911 in the photos is a Combat Commander made by Colt in 1980 - while a fun and interesting classic, it is more loose and rough than most of the 1911s you'll see today, and its barrel-lug radius shows little to no rub wear. However, with high-end 1911s especially, when the barrel cams down, this radius is usually seen to ride along a part of the slide-stop pin, leaving the pin with 3 sets of rub marks: 1 from the link rotating on it, and two from the lug's radii. If you see rub wear anywhere on either this lug or the pin of the slide-stop, lube it as shown.



Barrel Hood Breechface Lug:

At the very back of the barrel, where it locks up to the slide at the back of the ejection port above the front of the firing pin, is this little lug with 3 friction surfaces, where it mates into the slide when fully locked up. These are small and minor, but are still notable friction surfaces. When you begin examining your guns in terms of friction surface, all these little spots begin to stand out - giving you the ability to push that cumulative friction tipping point further out.


How much these three friction surfaces matter for reliability depends on your particular 1911. It is much more important in match-grade or tight 1911s, or really rough ones. Unlike other areas, where Lube Heavy is the rule, here you just want a slight sheen of lube. The reason for this is you never want lube contacting the chamber or cartridge – the details are discussed below, in the What Not to Lube section.


This part of the barrel hood mates up tight with the slide on both of its sides - this little lug is a key part of what a good gunsmith is tuning when fitting a barrel in a 1911, as that fit plays a role in accuracy. The larger friction surface - the very back of the barrel hood - slides for a short distance along the front of the breechface, above the firing pin's hole, before everything locks up tight. This surface is also an important part of the fitting process - too tight and the gun will bind before locking up, too loose and you lose out on some accuracy. The tighter the fit, the more important it is to lube. Again, just a light sheen here, to prevent lube from entering the chamber.



Barrel Bushing:


This is usually a friction surface contacting 360 degrees around the barrel exterior, and needs lubrication inside this friction surface. On the grooves in the slides where the bushing's tabs rotate into to lock in place, these may be tight on some 1911s - some even requiring a disassembly tool or wrench to remove, instead of just your fingers. A little lubrication there can make disassembly a bit easier, but is not required for reliability.



Guide Rods – If your 1911 has a guide rod, any friction surface between its own bushing or the recoil spring should be lubricated. Again, friction is cumulative in a gun, and every gun has its friction tipping point – the better you find and lube every speck of friction, the further out you push that tipping point.




What Not to Lube


This section is universal, not just for 1911s. To simplify, it all comes down to not putting any lube where it may contact ammo, and keep lube out of the firing pin and trigger area, as they have different energy realities than the main action of the gun. Here's the breakdown:


Firing Pin - Never lube, on any gun, without exceptional and clear need to do so (ie, rust), for three reasons:


  1. There simply is not enough friction between firing pin and channel, compared to energies applied by the hammer, to require lube at all

  2. The energies applied by the hammer will displace or crush sand or dirt that may get into the firing pin channel if dry, but a wet pin may retain enough sand to be too much to displace or crush

  3. Firing pins are usually the first place a gun will shut down in cold weather. One drop of oil is often enough to create contact between pin and channel almost the entire length of the pin - and when cold enough, any lube will go from reducing friction, to acting like an adhesive. This channel is also extremely challenging to clean lubricant out of fully, down to bare metal, making it subject to freezing even if the shooter thought they'd cleaned it out well.

Combined, always run firing pins dry, unless presented with a very serious and clear need to lube it, such as rust.

Magazines – Never, ever oil or grease, for 4 reasons:

  1. In complete opposite of the action, mags run best dry, and worst wet, and have a very narrow window of reliability between energy and friction - the energies of the springs compared to the resistance of the ammo and follower are narrow, because if too powerful the action would have a hard time stripping each round during cycling, and too light the springs wouldn't move the ammo fast enough. Being of looser tolerances, if dry, sand will tend to want to drop below the follower during cycling. But if wet, it may stay in place and accumulate, adding enough friction to overcome the narrow window of reliability.

  2. Different geometries and energies mean different friction experiences - the fast speed of an action, combined with tight, long geometries, can allow a single piece of sand in an action to cause binding, while slower mag followers with shorter and looser friction-surface geometries may not experience such binding, and can handle a little dry sand. But by adding just a little lube, that sand can add up enough friction to keep the ammo from moving fast enough up the mag.

  3. Lube on ammo will virtually guarantee sand sticks to it, and cause a malfunction in the chamber during chambering if sufficient enough.

  4. Lube on ammo can dramatically increase the pressure on locking lugs. When ignited, the gasses treat the bullet and casing equally, trying to turn each into a projectile out either end of the barrel. Casing brass, however, being soft, first expands against the chamber walls during firing, serving to seal off the chamber from expanding gasses, and also creates a significant amount of friction against the chamber wall that would otherwise be directed into the locking lugs of the bolt. Lubing a casing plummets that friction, and can increase pressures on the bolt lugs by up to 40%, depending on cartridge design.


Trigger Group - Similar to the firing pin, don't lube unless there is clear and compelling reliability need to do so. Dry sand will get crushed by the power of hammer/spring parts, or it will fall out entirely. Wet sand, however, can accumulate enough to cause a physical blockage preventing sear engagement.


Bore, Chamber, and Ramps - Never lubricate, except for storage or rust prevention, and even then only use oil. For identical reasons mentioned in the last point on why not to lube mags, any lube in the chamber can dramatically increase pressure on locking lugs, with lube on ramps possibly also allowing sand to be stuck and carried into the chamber. Fluids in a bore will be pushed out by a supersonic, high-pressure squeegee - if there's enough liquid, it will accumulate in front of the bullet and possibly result in a splitting or detonation of the barrel. Oils have been very forgiving to shooters on this, in no small part because oils, especially thin coats, tend to dry out quickly. But our grease does not - it is also much thicker than oils, and is technically both a solid and a liquid. It also has components that, while microscopic, are solids (the boundary lubricants). While our grease is a phenomenal rust preventative, it's unlikely it would be easy to get every bit of it out with one or two dry patches, and could be dangerous if present in a bore when fired. The narrower the bore and the higher the bullet velocity, the more the danger.


Summary

1911s are genuinely capable of outstanding reliability, both historically and in the present day. As you can see, there's no voodoo - reliability has very clear mechanical patterns, and to keep your 1911 at peak performance for 1000s of rounds, all it takes is simply quality lubricant, knowing where to place it, and how much to apply.


Follow the steps above with any lube, and you'll get much better reliability. Do so with our lube, and you'll get anywhere from 2500-4000 rounds on one lube job, as long as your mags and ammo are good.


Bottom line: lube heavy, lube the rub wear, think in terms of friction surface, and use a lightweight grease if at all possible - it's all we engineer, for very important reasons.

Go enjoy your 1911s this weekend, and be sure to hit us up in the comments section with any questions or feedback, including your own results in applying what we've shared!



10,673 views7 comments