December 15, 1995
Ed Harris is a well known, knowledgeable gun writer with years of experience
working for Ruger and the US government. The following
article is a re-post of his famous "Ed's Red" Bore Cleaner, which is an inexpensive, effective firearms cleaning agent.
It also makes a VERY effective penetrating oil to help loosen stubborn fasteners.
I've mixed Ed's Red, and one HAS to use it in a well ventilated area, preferably
outside. If you use it inside, you really should use an
appropriate respirator and exhaust fan to remove the volatile and potentially explosive fumes. YOU MUST FOLLOW DIRECTIONS AND WARNINGS ON USE.
Mix Your Own "Ed's Red" Bore Cleaner... It Really Works!
By Ed Harris Rev. 12-27-94
Three years ago I mixed my first "Ed's Red" and I still think the
"recipe" is a great idea. If you have never tried it, or maybe lost
recipe, I urge you save this and mix your own. My followers on the FIREARMS Echo think it's the best thing since smokeless powder!
Therefore, I'll summarize the story again for the passing parade that didn't get it the first time...
I originally did this because I used a lot of rifle bore cleaner and was deterred
by the high price of commercial products. I knew there was no
technical reason why you could not mix an effective bore cleaner using common hardware store ingredients which would be inexpensive, effective, and provide reasonable corrosion protection and adequate lubrication.
The "recipe" is based on proven principles and incorporates two polar
and two nonpolar ingredients. It is adapted from a formula in Hatcher's
Notebook, Frankford Arsenal Cleaner No.18, but substituting equivalent modern materials. I had the help of an organic chemist in doing this and we knew there would be no "surprises" The original Hatcher recipe called for equal parts of acetone, turpentine, Pratts Astral Oil and sperm oil, and optionally 200 grams of lanolin added per liter.
Pratts Astral oil was nothing more than acid free, deodorized kerosene. We use K-1 kerosene of the type normally sold for indoor space heaters. An inexpensive, effective substitute for sperm oil is Dexron (II, IIe or III) automatic transmission fluid. Prior to about 1950 that most ATF's were sperm oil based, but during WWII a synthetic was developed for use in precision instruments. With the great demand for automatic transmission autos after WWII, sperm oil was no longer practical to produce ATF in the quantity demanded, so the synthetic material became the basis for the Dexron fluids we know today. The additives in ATFs which include organometallic antioxidants and surfactants, make it highly suitable for our intended purpose.
Hatcher's original formula used gum spirits of turpentine, but turpentine is
expensive and highly flammable. Cheaper and safer is
aliphatic mineral spirits, which is a petroleum based "safety solvent" used for thinning oil based paints and as automotive parts cleaner. It
is commonly sold under the names "odorless mineral spirits," "Stoddard Solvent" or "Varsol".
There isn't anything in Ed's Red which will chemically remove copper fouling,
but it does a better job on carbon residue than anything out
there. Several users have told me, that with exclusive use of "ER" does reduce the buildup of copper fouling, because it removes old impacted
fouling which is left by other cleaners, reducing the adhesion of abraded metal to the surface, and leaving a cleaner surface which reduces subsequent fouling. It appears that "ER" will actually remove metal fouling it if you let it "soak" so the surfactants will do the job, though you may have to be patient.
The lanolin is optional. The cleaner works quite well without it. Incorporating
the lanolin makes the cleaner easier on the hands, and
provides better residual lubrication and corrosion protection if you use the cleaner as a protectant for long term storage. If you want to
minimize cost, you can leave the lanolin out and save about $8 per gallon. Mix some yourself. I know it will work as well for you as it
does for me.
CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner
1 part Dexron II, IIe or III ATF, GM Spec. D-20265 or later.
1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1 1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec.
TT-T-2981F, CAS #64741-49-9, or substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS
#8052-41-3, or equivalent, (aka "Varsol")
1 part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1.
(Optional up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon, OK to
substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)
Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal, chemical-resistant,
heavy gage PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA
approved plastic gasoline storage containers are also OK. Do NOT use HDPE, which is breathable because the acetone will evaporate. The
acetone in ER will attack HDPE in about 6 months, making a heck of a mess!
Add the ATF first. Use the empty container to measure the other components,
so that it is thoroughly rinsed. If you incorporate the
lanolin into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler, taking precautions against fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger
container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and stirring until it is all dissolved.
I recommend diverting a small quantity, up to 4 oz's. per quart of the 50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the mix.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING Ed's Red Bore Cleaner:
1. Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning is most effective
when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch
from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale on jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch
should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it back into the bore.
2. Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the breech,
this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes
and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its
3. For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled "rattle battle" guns, leaded
revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be
used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth, target-grade barrels in routine use.
4. Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out loosened
residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag
without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing, leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for up to 30 days. If the
lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the firearm from rust for up to two years. For longer term storage I recommend use
of Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmolene substitute. "ER" will readily remove hardened Alox or Cosmolene.
5. Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun. While
Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it
contains is harmful to most wood finishes).
6. Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag. First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if the bore is cleaned as described.
7. I have determined to my satisfaction that when Ed's Red is used exclusively
and thoroughly, that hot water cleaning is unnecessary after
use of Pyrodex or military chlorate primers. However, if bores are not wiped between shots and shots and are heavily caked from black powder fouling, hot water cleaning is recommended first to break up heavy fouling deposits. Water cleaning should be followed by a thorough flush with Ed's Red to prevent after-rusting which could result from residual moisture. It is ALWAYS good practice to clean TWICE, TWO DAYS APART whenever using chlorate primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all the residue out.
LABEL AND OBLIGATORY SAFETY WARNINGS:
RIFLE BORE CLEANER CAUTION: HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED.
KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
1. Flammable mixture. Keep away from heat, sparks or flame.
2. FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call physician immediately.
In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with
water and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.
3. Use with adequate ventilation. Avoid breathing vapors or spray mist. It
is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner
inconsistent with its labeling. Reports have associated repeated and prolonged occupational overexposure to solvents with permanent brain and nervous system damage. If using in closed armory vaults lacking forced air ventilation wear respiratory protection meeting NIOSH TC23C or equivalent. Keep container tightly closed when not in use.
This "Recipe" is placed in the public domain, and may be freely distributed
provided that it is done so in its entirely with all
instructions and safety warnings included herein, and that proper attribution is given to the author.
In Home Mix We Trust,
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