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Thread: Is Lube Really Necessary?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Josh Smith's Avatar
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    Is Lube Really Necessary?

    Hello,

    I've run across a few places on the internet (I know... I know...) that say lubing isn't strictly necessary for lead bullets.

    The reasoning is that, if the bullet is undersized, there will be leading regardless, and if the bullet is sized correctly, leading will not occur.

    Cited on one page is "Norm Johnson," who "is shooting un-lubricated revolver bullets, with good accuracy and no leading."

    Given that lead is used as a lubricant in some non-shooting applications, this does sort of make sense.

    What do you all make of this?

    Thank you,

    Josh

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    Try it and post the results.
    The man who invented the plow was not bored. He was hungry.

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy
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    I think lube is necessary most of the time, but many times we're over-lubing. In my Springfield 1903 shooting a Saeco 315, I've cut back from lubing all grooves to just the one groove above the check. The occasional flyers have been reduced with no decrease in accuracy.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    When running boolits through a sizing die without adding lube , I experience lots of friction. With lube added, they go through butter smooth. So my assumption is, lubing must be good.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    Lube has several functions, it keeps fouling soft so it shoots out ahead of the next boolit and it lubes the barrel so lead does not rub off of a boolit.
    Take a hunk of steel and rub lead on it to see what you get and then grease the steel and try again.
    Would you put a wheel bearing in your car dry? Why not forget the oil in the crankcase?
    Now nobody with any sense is going to tell me that lube is a gas seal, it is just lube and the best quality is if it withstands heat and does not burn in the barrel. There must be lube left after every shot.
    I was fooling around one day when soldering some stuff and found all boolit lubes made great flux, some were really good for a good solder joint. They keep oxygen away from hot metal.
    But boolits don't melt and barrels do not melt lead, they rub off lead.
    Gas cutting is different so a lube might aid soldering lead in a bore. Then remember that steel that is not at the soldering temperature can not be soldered. This is something to think about, does instant heat at the surface of the steel allow soldering? I have no idea!
    Metal that is the same will wear and gall. Try to cut steel with a tool bit made from the same steel you are cutting would be a joke. Now take steel and try to cut it with a lead cutting tool! It will eat the lead away but if you grease it good, it will deform the lead from pressure but will not eat it away. The lube will keep the lead from sticking to the steel.
    Write on paper with a pencil made of carbon, a super lube in itself. Now write on wax paper!!!!
    Ask me if I want to shoot dry boolits!

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    I've haven't found a loading manual yet that says, " Don't lube your cast bullets." And I have have more faith in manuals then unknown persons on the web.
    Qajaq59

    One slow hit is better then 500 quick misses. "It ain't the noise that kills 'em!!!!"

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    Richard Lee claimed you could get away with it at very low velocities with soft lead bullets.
    Aim small, miss small!

  8. #8
    Moderator Emeritus


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    Q: Is lube really necessary?

    A: Yes.
    Give us this day our daily lead.

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    If you don't want 1984 you're going to need some 1776.
    WWGWD

  9. #9
    Boolit Bub
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    i think 44MAN did a fine job explaining the no-lube issue. i think all bullets require some sort of lube to reduce friction.
    jim

  10. #10
    Anti-Socialist Texan


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    Quote Originally Posted by Trey45 View Post
    Q: Is lube really necessary?

    A: Yes.
    Dadgummit, you beat me to the short answer

    Anyway, I, too, can back up your answer with experience.

    Gear
    You can't fix Stupid, but you can occasionally head it off before it hurts something. --Stephen Adams

    To universalize one's experience and state it as the norm is always thin ice on which to stand.--CharGar

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  11. #11
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    44man,

    Your analogy was pretty good. I do have to differ with cutting steel with the same steel tool bit. If you harden and temper that tool bit more then likely it will easily cut the other steel. I know you will reply that it's not the same steel then. Yes it is, same alloy just hardened.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    No less a legendary shooter / reloader than Dean Grennell once told of his first experience with shooting lead boolits out of his K38 S&W.

    This was just after WWII and he had never seen cast boolits before. Doing sheet metal estimates for heating and air conditioning he saw a reloading casting set up in a prospective customers home.

    When interest was expressed the prospect was kind enough give Dean the general ideas of loading and casting.

    Excited Dean went and found the only 38 mold still loose in Michigan bought it and cast some up.

    In to big a hurry to start shooting they were loaded as cast with no lube because he didn't want to wait for the other equipment to find it's way to him.

    Once on the road he found a little side road suitable to pull off in and not attract attention with the noise of fired rounds.

    He loaded up and fired 6 of his new wonders. Never hit the target!

    Upon inspection of the pistol no hole was to be found in the barrel!

    Compeletely leaded up he was several days removing the build up from the gun.

    He put this story in print in one of the ABC's of reloading he helped edit and write.

    If un lubed lead boolits could be fired with no leading Dean Grennell would have found a way to do it!

    As for this fellow Norm Johnson?

    He may be using a dry lube and not consider it a lube.

    He may be treating the barrel with something like Molybdenum Disulfide rather than the lead boolits.

    He may be shooting factory wad cutter loads which are dry lubed, and he just doesn't know it.

    He could be "firing" a CO-2 pistol, not realizing that even pellets have a wax on them.

    He could also be posting bogus info as a joke to see how many people will actually try it!

    Without more information about this fellow or his "experiment" you'll pardon me if I continue to lube my boolits.

    We've all seen snake oil sold in one form or another and this has that smell to it!


    Looking forward to MR. Johnson becoming a site member and sharing his wisdom.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    I think lube is necessary most of the time, but many times we're over-lubing.
    I'll second that statement. I've been using a VERY light coating of LLA on all my cast loads and have had zero leading issues. I've never shot any with zero lube, but in my estimation, it doesn't take much at all. Velocity ranges I've experimented with have been between 1300 fps in the 45-70 up to 2200 fps in the .303 Brit.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master Maven's Avatar
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    "As for this fellow Norm Johnson....? He may be using a dry lube and not consider it a lube.
    He may be treating the barrel with something like Molybdenum Disulfide rather than the lead boolits."

    Norm Johnson is a long-time member of the Cast Bullet Assoc., with many published articles in "The Fouling Shot." I read his article, but I don't believe he used any type of dry lube on either the CB's or in the bbl. Then again, you can ask these questions on the CBA Forum to see whether Norm (or someone else) can shed some more light on the matter.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master on Heavens Range
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    "Write on paper with a pencil made of carbon, a super lube in itself. Now write on wax paper!!!!". This is the best example I've seen. ... felix
    felix

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    A good suggestion. I will check out the CBA site.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Norm Johnson's point was that if the bullet fit the revolver exactly, bullet lube could be omitted in certain highly specialized loads that were assembled by a guy who has a bit of a measuring and dimensional fetish.

    It was done to prove a point, and would not be true for most off the shelf revolvers and many loads.

    While it was found on the internet, Norm's work fits in the category of good information by a guy who knows what he's talking about, rather than the "internet rumor" category. Applying such a title to Norm's findings (on whatever he's posted) would be doing him a considerable disservice and would deprive the reader of good information.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master fredj338's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua M. Smith View Post
    Hello,

    I've run across a few places on the internet (I know... I know...) that say lubing isn't strictly necessary for lead bullets.The reasoning is that, if the bullet is undersized, there will be leading regardless, and if the bullet is sized correctly, leading will not occur.

    Cited on one page is "Norm Johnson," who "is shooting un-lubricated revolver bullets, with good accuracy and no leading."

    Given that lead is used as a lubricant in some non-shooting applications, this does sort of make sense.

    What do you all make of this?

    Thank you,

    Josh
    Well that pretty much removes those sites credability. Shoot a couple of properly siezed lead bullet w/o lube & let us knwo what you get. Yes, some sort of lube is required w/ lead bullets, regardless of sizing.
    He may be treating the barrel with something like Molybdenum Disulfide rather than the lead boolits.
    Or maybe the bullets were only going 300-400fps, about like airgun vel. Yeah, maybe, but that is a bit of a stretch when talking in general terms of lube or no lube.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Salmon-boy's Avatar
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    Ok, so pardon the brain dump here. Maybe someone should flush.

    1) Anyone ever heard of galling? Metal rubbing on metal galls, or shears off sections. I would think un-lubed boolits would gall eventually.

    2) Think about babbit bearings. Even with harder babbit, containing copper and higher tin content, lubrication is still necessary. I've personally seen what dry babbit bearings can do to a hardened steel shaft of a surface planer.

    3) Jacketed bullets don't necessarily NOT gall. Copper fouling in barrels? Why else would it be there?

    4) Rifling - Barrels have a set twist. Excessive acceleration will cause shear failure in almost all metals. I would think that if you're pushing a boolit or bullet too hard, too fast for a twist rate, you're gonna strip something off.

    5) Heat resistance.. Lube tends to absorb a whole bunch of heat. Try boiling water in a plastic container over an open flame sometime. Since most lubes are long chain hydrocarbons (wax based) they will vaporize and crack, allowing heat energy to be absorbed. This keeps that heat away from the boolit.

    I'm sure that I'm missing something, but I think within these rules, you could find circumstances where you're not pushing a boolit hard enough to cause galling and the natural lubricity of lead will prevent any galling and the barrel twist or bore-fit allow the boolit to start spinning without stripping. I would thin that the heat of burning powder, for such a minute amount of time will soften the first few molecule layers of a cast boolit, reducing shear strength would allow galling to occur all that more so..
    "Unnh, Negative. I am a meat popsicle."

    Chuck

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    Is lube expensive or so hard to apply that one would want to consider not doing so??? I don't understand why anyone would even consider not lubing. LOL! The above posts all support lubing for their many reasons, all of which I agree with.

    After all look at all the fun we would be missing out on by not lubing with our own secret home brew lubes!
    Mtgrs737
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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check