Ballistol the 100 Year Old German Wonder Gun Lube

Posted | By:  

Back in 1904, that funny little guy with the waxed curled mustache, Kaiser Wilhelm, wanted a new ballistic oil for his thoroughly modern Imperial German Army. This strange little miracle product needed to be able to clean guns, condition leather, and even treat wounds. Yes, it is real, and it is still around. Its name is Ballistol.


Ballistol the 100 Year Old German Wonder Gun Lube - christophereger - wwi-german-soldier-151-1422.jpg

In the 1900s, the Imperial German Army was by and large the most formidable fighting force in the world. The force was made up of 669 infantry battalions, 633 artillery batteries, and 550 cavalry squadrons. When mobilized with reservist and fully fleshed out this army amounted to 1,750,000 men in the front lines when war was declared. Only the Russian army was larger, but it was nowhere near as professional and lavishly equipped as the forces of the Kaiser.

With such a huge force of fighting men, the Kaiser needed a cleaner/lubricant that could perform many tasks. It had to be capable of cleaning away carbon and corrosion from firearms, bayonets, knives and sabers (remember all those cavalry squadrons mentioned above) and then lubricating them against rust. Moreover, also it had to be usable to clean and maintain leather (no nylon web gear in the 1900s), saddlery, and artillery pieces. Further, if the troops had cuts and abrasions in the field: it had to be able to disinfect them as well.

This seemingly impossible combination of all-around cleaner/lubricant/protectorate was called Ballistol (for ballistic-oil) by its inventors, the father/son combo of Friedrich W and Dr. Helmut Klever and proved so adept at its job that the German Army used it from 1904-1945. Only edged out due to NATO specs after the war, it's still the top selling gun lube in Germany and in steady use over there by police and customs agencies.

Ballistol the 100 Year Old German Wonder Gun Lube - christophereger - klever-1420.jpg

What does it do?

The formula is a closely guarded, century-old secret that the Klever family still holds. In a 2005 MSDS, its ingredients are listed as mineral oil, oleic acid (a yellowish fatty acid commonly used to emulsify soap), C-5 alcohols, and perfume. Did we say perfume? Well, yes, unlike just about any other cleaner we have ever used, Ballistol smells good. In fact, it smells like liquorish candy. It has no carcinogens or harmful petro-chemicals that can strip away salt bluing on guns or ruin the seasoning on blackpowder firearms.

Remember that comment about oleic acid being an emulsifier? Well, many normal cleaners and products like WD-40 are water displacers. That's actually what the 'WD' in WD-40 stands for. Ballistol instead will emulsify with water and turn the liquid itself into a low-grade lubricant.

Ballistol the 100 Year Old German Wonder Gun Lube - christophereger - photo-from-expidetiuon-exchange-1421.jpg

(Here you see two glasses of water left overnight with some steel wool submerged. The one on the left has already turned brownish red due to the wool beginning to rust. The one on the right has no rust due to the application to the water of some Ballistol, which has turned the water a milky soapy color. It's this type of performance in water that has led to this 'old-school' cleaner being adopted by NATO combat swimmer units, Navy Seal teams, and other groups who often tend to get a little damp from time to time. Photo from Expediton Exchange.

Here on Firearms Talk, we have used it on a number of different projects including our Katrina gun and others and always found it exceptional.

Ballistol the 100 Year Old German Wonder Gun Lube - christophereger - ballistol-2-1423.jpg

How do you get yours?

It used to be that you could only find this product overseas. In 1913, it was on a short list to be adopted by the US Army, but that whole World War 1 thing rather prevented that from happening. Today it's finally being imported to the states and you can find it at local distributors as well as the website.

No funny mustaches needed.

Ballistol the 100 Year Old German Wonder Gun Lube - christophereger - ballistol-1-1424.jpg

Posted in
  Email   Print
September 25, 2013  •  01:44 AM
Really Liked this!
September 25, 2013  •  03:00 PM
Nice article. I'm going to look for some and give it a try.
October 5, 2013  •  12:37 AM
While I am a firm adherent of FrogLube now, I really believe that Ballistol (or something similar) would have saved some American lives in Vietnam during those nasty years when the crap-attracting ability of MIL-Spec issue lubes was working in concert with the wrong type of propellant powder, non-chromed bores and chambers, and the officially sanctioned stupidity that M-16's didn't need to be cleaned to cause GI deaths in combat. That foolishness ranks with the trap-door Springfield as an instance where official intransigence led to battlefield casualties. It is somehow sad to learn that the German Empire had more concern for it's soldiers than the United States demonstrated in the area of weapon maintenance.