Category Archives: General Opinion

I Don’t Care If Navy SEALs Use Your Product

Note: While some might question the timing of this article given the recent combat death of a SEAL in Yemen, I think this is exactly the time to publish such a piece. While members of the military, including SEALs, are fighting and dying, people in no danger whatsoever are capitalizing on their efforts – and their deaths – for financial gain.

A while back I was having a discussion with the owner of Faxon about why I didn’t like his ARAK upper. It took four minutes and thirty-two seconds for him to tell me that a Navy SEAL had shot it and really liked it, in a tone that said “If a SEAL likes it, your opinion is irrelevant.” That hasn’t been my only such experience in this industry. SEALs killed Bin Laden! How dare you question them on anything ever.

It’s important to draw a distinction between a former Navy SEAL using a product once and saying something inoffensive and ambiguous about it to the manufacturer and the United States Navy buying a product for Navy SEALs to use across all the teams and guys and stuff. I want to talk about both sides of that coin here. Still, even if something is used by every Navy SEAL or will make my rifle identical to the one that killed Bin Laden, I don’t really care.

I should also mention that I’m not just picking on frogmen here. Special Forces, Delta/CAG/however they’ve chosen to identify this year, Force Recon, SOCOM, Rangers, Raiders, Air Force Security Forces – all of these names (well, almost all) have been invoked to silence dissent and prompt the swiping of credit cards. Let’s face it, though, the marketing types know that to reach the most buyers, namedropping SEALs is a Tier 1 marketing plan. So while I focus on them here, the general theme applies across all such uses of “Appeal to SOF Authority.”

Why, you ask, do I not care if these total badasses use your product?

It’s not a jaded hipster reaction – what a Navy SEAL uses just has little relevance to my life and my needs. In keeping with that whole “relevance” theme, there are indeed some things used by Navy SEALs which I end up using. But in the Venn diagram of what Navy SEALs are doing and what I am doing, there is not a whole lot of crossover. Thus, there aren’t many products they use which I also spend money on.

SEALs have precision rifles that are really awesome and durable and weigh more than my ego. If you had to build one, you’d spend many thousands of dollars duplicating it. I’d rather put together a rifle that was lighter and didn’t kick as much or cost as much to shoot as .300 WinMag or .338 Lapua – and maybe something with longer barrel life, too, because I actually have to pay for all this stuff. The only time I’ve ever really *needed* a precision rifle was years ago when my friend Paul and I were competing in the Competition Dynamics 24 Hour “Sniper” Adventure Challenge. In that case, having a rifle was more of a check in the box than anything else. The Army Marksmanship Unit was there in 2012 and on the stages they made it to, they outshot everyone – but their gear weighed so much that they couldn’t make it over all the hills to complete the course. My rifle and gear was much lighter than anything you’d find issued to a military unit at any level, with corresponding reductions in accuracy and durability, but we placed higher because we actually managed to finish the course.

Paul did all the work. I basically just limped along behind him to the finish line.

Is there stuff Navy SEALs use that I might have use for? Sure. Navy SEALs use the Arc’teryx Drypack 70. I have an Arc’teryx Drypack 70. They use it to haul gear while swimming a hundred feet underwater off the coast of Gabon or something. I use it to terrify Boy Scouts by putting their sleeping bags and notebooks in it before tossing the pack into a stream, lake, or ocean while we’re on a campout. Their gear comes back dry and their heart rate eventually returns to normal. The pack costs $1200 and if I’d actually had to pay for it, I would not have acquired it – it was given to me for free. It’s fantastic at what it does, but it is entirely impractical as a backpack for the majority of things I do. There are other, cheaper packs (most packs are cheaper than $1200, I’d wager) which would keep my stuff dry while I’m hiking up a stream. And there are other, significantly cheaper packs for day to day hiking and camping use.

It does do a great job of keeping my stuff dry while I’m riding my bike in the rain. Then again, it costs almost as much as I paid for the bike.

I also have two examples of the Kelty MAP 3500, a pack reported to have been designed in conjunction with the SEALs. Thanks, SEALs! It’s a great pack, even if the zippers on my newer version totally suck. They don’t make ’em like they used to, I guess.

Are there things Navy SEALs need in a product that I also need? Yes. When the SEALs buy a handgun, they need something reliable. I, too, need a reliable handgun. But maybe they need something of a specific size and with the ability to attach a silencer, while I just need something that won’t print in my gym shorts. Our needs rapidly diverge.

So while there are things the SEALs as a whole use which I might conceivably use, the fact that they use it is not a driving factor in the purchase – in fact it’s the opposite. If the SEALs are using something, I stop myself and ask, “Do I really need something that they would use?” Because we really do have vastly different needs.

On most of the occasions which I have heard this particular appeal to authority, though, it hasn’t been what we just discussed. It hasn’t been that I’m hearing from HK about the new wunderpistolen they’ve sold to the SEALs. It’s been that I heard “Navy SEALs use this!” from a guy whose company definitely doesn’t have a CAGE code.

In other words, they met a guy who may or may not have been a SEAL and they took him to the range or gave him some free stuff at a trade show. Voila, a SEAL has your product! And since the definition of “use” is somewhat broad, the frogman in question might simply have worn the shoes or shot the gun once and then stuffed them in a closet or given them to a friend. Sure, he might also be carrying or wearing it at all times. But one man’s preference, no matter how tough a man, doesn’t sway me, and it shouldn’t sway you. Entirely leaving aside the question of whether or not he was compensated for his opinion or whether he even voiced it as strongly as is being presented, the number one qualification for becoming a SEAL is not “gun nerd” and many former special forces guys are hardly firearm aficionados or experts. They may have specialized in another field such as communications or medicine, and while they were certainly very proficient with firearms and may still be very proficient, their firearm expertise may not rise to the level required to properly beat down an opposing and reasoned opinion.

In closing, I don’t care if Navy SEALs use your product. I care about the details of your product and what makes it better than the other products on the market. I care why it’s relevant to my needs, not to the needs of other people. If you do manage to sell it to the SEALs, great. You deserve recognition for that – but you might not deserve my money.

Donald Trump’s Second Amendment Comments Are Bad

“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day, if Hillary gets to put her judges in, right now we’re tied.” – Donald Trump, August 9, 2016

This is bad.

Yes, it was a joke.

That’s why it’s bad. Not just because it was a bad joke (it was), but because Donald Trump sees nothing as sacred. This was a calculated comment made like so many others he has made since announcing his campaign – something to manufacture controversy and keep himself in the headlines.

At what cost, though? It’s not like gun owners really need more heat from the left or implications that we’re crazy people who will react with violence at the slightest provocation.

In making this comment, Donald Trump chose to advance his personal brand at the expense of “Second Amendment people.” Does he really care about the individual rights of gun owners? I’m not convinced he does. He doesn’t care about individual property rights and he doesn’t care about free speech. In the recent past he hasn’t cared about gun ownership, going so far as to oppose hunting safety classes in schools (Marines: He also thinks the tattoo ban was a good idea).

Now that he’s running for President as a Republican, he’s all about “saving the Second Amendment.” Call me a cynic, but I could easily see a President Trump “making a deal” that would involve restrictions on gun ownership.

And if he doesn’t win (I am certain he won’t, and we all know the only other person who has a chance of winning this year will be a terrible president)?

Look at his own words from this morning – 

“If at the end of 90 days I fall in short because I’m somewhat politically correct even though I’m supposed to be the smart one and even though I’m supposed to have a lot of good ideas, it’s okay.  I go back to a very good way of life. It’s not what I’m looking to do. I think we’re going to have a victory, but we’ll see.”

He gets to go back to his comfortable life, but we have to deal with the consequences of his disastrous campaign. And those consequences, which will also most likely involve the Democrats picking up Senate seats, will be impactful for America in many ways, not the least of which will be overturning recent Supreme Court decisions by amending the Constitution.

Trump supporters: Do you really think it’s going to be “okay” if Hillary Clinton becomes President?

Fireclean v. Tuohy Dismissed

This morning, United States District Court Judge James C. Cacheris issued an order dismissing Fireclean v. Tuohy on jurisdictional grounds. This means that Fireclean could appeal this ruling or attempt to refile the case in Arizona (and, presumably, a separate filing against Everett Baker in New Hampshire) before the statute of limitations expires.

However, this is the third loss in a row for Fireclean relating to this case – denial of their motion for jurisdictional discovery, denial of their appeal of that denial, and the dismissal of the case – with no victories to show on their side over the last four months.

Continuing to tilt at windmills would seem ill-advised in light of this statement on page 25 of Judge Cacheris’ ruling:

“Plaintiff’s theory is that Baker and Tuohy conspired to publish a test that would show FIREClean is the same as Crisco or canola oil, even though they knew the test was inadequate to reach that conclusion, so as to attract more viewers to their blogs. Although such a conspiracy is logically possible, it is not plausible based on the facts in this record. The foundation of Plaintiff’s theory is that a critical review of FIREClean would attract more readers to the blogs. Criticisms of FIREClean being Crisco, however, were already commonplace online due to earlier published statements in the Vuurwapen blog, the Firearm blog, and George Fennell’s publications, among others. The Court finds no reason to conclude that an article affirming the prior tests would attract more readers than results disputing the prior test results. 

Furthermore, the record is replete with facts providing non-conspiratorial explanations for why Baker chose the Infrared Spectroscopy and NMR Spectroscopy to analyze FIREClean, including the advice of his professors, his personal research on the best testing methods, his available equipment, and the methods that two individuals with doctorates in chemistry used to test FIREClean. In sum, it does not plausibly or fairly follow from the facts alleged that Baker and Tuohy had a preconceived plan to conduct a fraudulent test so as attract more readers to their blogs by declaring FIREclean to be Crisco.”

Without the support of those who donated to the legal fund – large and small – and the truly excellent work of the legal team at LSKS, this victory would not have been possible. Thank you.

Why I Own AR15s

In the last week, a lot of people have been asking “Why do you need an assault rifle?” or “Why does anyone need an AR15?” or more plainly saying “No one needs a semi auto rifle that is just designed to kill people.”

The firearm industry responds with “they’re not assault rifles, they’re modern sporting rifles!” I have previously stated that I don’t really care what they’re called but also that the whole “modern sporting rifle” thing is stupid.

Perhaps I’m biased on the whole sporting thing. I don’t hunt. I used to hunt when I was little. I would shoot birds and varmints with a .22, although I later killed bigger things. I prided myself on hitting what I shot at the first time and not causing unnecessary suffering.

On a hunting trip not too long after I left the military, though, I had an easy shot lined up at a distance (30 yards) that would have been a guaranteed hit with a rifle that would have guaranteed an instant and humane kill (.270 WSM).  But sometime in between bringing the rifle up to my shoulder and putting almost enough pressure on the trigger to fire, I realized I couldn’t pull the trigger. I didn’t need to kill that animal and thus I didn’t want to kill it and thus I couldn’t kill it. So ended my hunting days – nearly ten years ago now. Since then I’ve gone out of my way to save as many animals as I can.

Maybe this is why I’m against the “modern sporting rifle” line, but even the NSSF’s own data shows that hunting is a very small part of why people buy ARs – in fact it’s the last reason they listed.

I'm using a photo of me with an MPi-74-whatever in an article called "Why I Own AR15s" just so someone will say "That's not an AR15!!"
I’m using a photo of me with a full auto MPi-74-whatever in an article called “Why I Own AR15s” just so someone will say “That’s not an AR15!!”

No, I own ARs because they’re the most effective weapon I can carry into a fight by myself. I don’t want to get into a fight, but I do want to get out of a fight. That means bringing a weapon that keeps bad guys away from me and lets me shoot back at as many bad guys as are choosing to shoot at me. As was constantly drilled into my head in Field Medical Service School, fire superiority is the best medicine on the battlefield.

The idea of “not needing anything more than” X, Y, or Z firearm is stupid. A gunfight is not a jousting match – there is no chivalry involved, no obligation to carry a lance of equal size and weight as my opponent. While I can certainly defend myself with a pistol or a shotgun, I cannot really project power with either of those. With a semi auto rifle, I have the ability to put bullets in very specific places at any distance – from the end of the muzzle to almost any yardage at which I could conceivably justify the use of lethal force.

Moreover, these bullets have less chance of doing damage to things I don’t want to shoot (such as innocent people) for a variety of reasons, most notably from the inherent precision afforded to the shooter by a rifle.

In a fight between a guy with a pistol and a guy with a rifle, the guy with the rifle has massive advantages. Just ask the off-duty police officer who engaged the Orlando terrorist with, I am told by a law enforcement officer in the Orlando area, over fifty rounds from his service pistol before retreating because he was out of ammo (The “only good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns” mantra only works for some of the garden variety mass shooters, mostly the ones who aren’t motivated by religious ideology, and is another cutesy saying we need to do away with quickly).

Put simply, the same things that make semi auto rifles desirable to terrorists make them desirable for use as defensive weapons. Take semi auto rifles away and bad guys will search for different and even more effective ways to kill. We can never assume that the doctrine of individual irrational actors will remain constant, nor should we believe that this all started after the (toothless) 1994 AWB went away in 2004. Take away the bad guys’ dynamite and they will use hunting rifles. When they meet in groups and we take away their rental trucks and fertilizer, they’ll use airliners.

I would rather people ask how the terrorist who murdered nine people in a church managed to pass a background check he clearly shouldn’t have than ask why we need semi auto rifles – a category of weapon that is involved in less than three percent of firearm homicides each year and isn’t the weapon of choice for even a plurality of mass shooters since 1982, despite the fact that the AR15 has been available to civilians for about fifty years.

I would rather people ask how we can prevent bad guys from isolating a group of innocent people from protection long enough to cause them great harm. That’s the real problem here – terrorists are like radiation in that the duration and proximity of your exposure to each determines your chances of survival.

Of course I don’t think that owning a scary semi auto rifle is the only reason why I wasn’t murdered today. I’m under no illusion of having to use an AR (or any other firearm) to defend myself at any point in the future. Were I to think that I was actually going to need an AR at any specific time or place, I would most likely make immediate lifestyle changes, such as moving to a remote island or maybe buying a Hind.

Then again, I don’t think I’ll need two first aid kits with everything from motrin to tweezers to a dozen tourniquets tomorrow, but they’re still going to be in the trunk of my car.

Let’s Stop Being Pedantic About Assault Weapons

A few days ago, 49 people were killed at a gay club. They were targeted for no other reason than they were gay or they chose to hang out with the gays. I regularly associate with gays, consider them among my closest friends, and do not believe homosexuality is a sin, much less one punishable by death. While hanging out with them in years past, I have seen homophobic individuals make specific threats against their lives for no other reason than they were, by appearance or inference, homosexual – and because I was hanging out with them, against my life too.

I think this is a real problem which can only be solved by a change in attitude towards gay people. I see a glimmer of hope for the future in that none of the boys in the Scout troop I work with seem to care one whit about sexual orientation and how it pertains to a person’s character, even if they come from very conservative families with parents who openly express different viewpoints.

I do not think this is a problem which can be solved by an assault weapons ban, magazine capacity restrictions, or other proposed legislation currently being discussed in the national media and by those on the left side of the political spectrum. Therefore I believe efforts must be put into not only stopping such legislation but into passing legislation that might have a real effect on reducing the frequency and impact of spree killings.

It is my firm belief that squabbling over the definition of an assault weapon not only does nothing to prevent the passage of an assault weapons ban, but is slowly becoming beneficial to the other side in this debate. If all we can do is point out that a long time ago someone in the gun world decided to define an assault weapon as a machine gun, acting as if that magically renders moot any calls for an assault weapons ban because the rifles in my safe are only semi automatic, not full automatic, those pushing for a ban can easily – and rightfully – say that we’re only arguing semantics.

One of these is an "assault weapon," and two are not. Or two are, and one is not. I can't remember and I don't care.
One of these is an “assault weapon,” and two are not. Or two are, and one is not. I can’t remember and I don’t care.

I have argued against similar word re-definitions in the past – most notably the “Modern Sporting Rifle” silliness and the magazine vs. clip debacle. Now I come to you, gun owner, with my hat in my hand, begging you to respond to calls for gun control with logic and facts instead of huffing and puffing about an incredibly silly and shortsighted pedantic argument.

Voters who support these types of legislation don’t care what they’re called, they just want them gone. We aren’t going to convince them they shouldn’t be gone by telling them they’re stupid and don’t know what they’re talking about. All they know is a dozen people here, four dozen people there, and “why do you need an assault rifle?”

We can answer that question effectively and we can prevent an assault weapons ban. However, you will only have someone’s attention for a brief period of time, and if you squander that time reciting the technical definition of an assault rifle you will have accomplished nothing.

Froglube, Tracklube, and Seal1 Laboratory Analysis

Froglube, the minty green gun lube/toothpaste some people love and others love to hate, has been rumored to be the same as Tracklube Plus, a blue roller coaster track lubricant paste.

Seal1, an orange gun paste, has also been rumored to be the same as Froglube. If all the rumors are true, that means Froglube, Tracklube+ and Seal1 are all the same product.

But when are all the rumors true? Rumors are never true. All the rumors? Come on.

Well, they are in this case.

Initial Laboratory Analysis, October 2015

Froglube, Tracklube+, and Seal1
Froglube, Tracklube+, and Seal1

The results of infrared specroscopy testing done at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts show astonishing similarities between the three products. For more information from Everett Baker, who conducted this testing, please read this very informative post on his blog, and the subsequent ones as well.

When I sent the results to different people for their input, here is what they had to say:

“For the IR, you are looking at how functional groups of atoms in a molcule absorb light.  The X-axis gives us the stretch of the molecular bond and the Y axis gives us the number of photons that were absorbed.  These IR spectra are clearly hydrocarbon spectra.  Samples 11, 12 and 13 are functionally identical.  There are minor differences in sample 16 from 6 and 8 that reflect the presence of carbon oxygen bonds which may suggest the absence of an additional functional groups, perhaps oxygens, so perhaps that is a different kind of vegetable oil like peanut oil, but these are all effectively light vegetable or vegetable like oils. In fact, I am a bit shocked at how similar samples 11, 12 and 13 are…”

(note: samples 6, 8, and 16 will be discussed in a separate post)

“All three samples in that spectrum look nearly identical, with the caveat that IR is not a very conclusive way to determine the overall structure of a molecule. IR allows us to determine the presence of various functional groups (esters, alkenes, alkanes, alcohols, etc), but doesn’t really provide a way to link them together (NMR is a much better technique for this). The only thing I can really get from those is the presence of a carbonyl compound at 1750 cm-1, and various C-H stretches near 2800-2900 cm-1. So for example, a wax might look very similar to a vegetable oil in IR, but there’s obviously a huge difference in the physical properties as a gun lube. In this case though, they are so similar, it’s likely that all three are composed primarily of the same compounds. “

A Separate Laboratory Analysis And Opinion, January 2016

Infrared spectroscopy is one important part of this analysis, but a more complete picture can be found with additional testing. To that end, NMR and GCMS tests were done at a separate laboratory (NMR stands for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and GCMS stands for Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy). What follows was written by the person conducting these tests, who has a PhD in chemistry.

TrackLube vs. Seal1 vs. FrogLube

TrackLube, Seal1, and FrogLube all appear to be very similar, color differences notwithstanding. The 1H (Figures 1 and 2) and 13C (Figure 3) NMR data shows nearly identical spectra for all three products. They are a blend of a few different compounds: primarily methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil) and mostly-saturated triglycerides, with some preservatives and other molecules rounding out the mixture. The degree of saturation (as compared to the more highly unsaturated triolein, for example) makes these triglycerides semisolid at room temperature, which would explain the paste-like consistency of these products. A very rough estimate of the methylsalicylate:triglyceride ratio (as the 1H NMR peak areas) suggests these consist of a few percent wintergreen oil by mass.

Figure 1. 300 MHz 1H NMR of TrackLube, Seal1, and FrogLube showing monounsaturated fatty acid spectrum.
Figure 1. 300 MHz 1H NMR of TrackLube, Seal1, and FrogLube showing monounsaturated fatty acid spectrum.
Figure 2. Downfield portion of 1H NMR spectra showing methyl salicylate peaks (10.8, 7.8-6.8, 4.0 ppm), plus vinyl and glycerol protons of unsaturated triglycerides (5.4 ppm and 4.3-4.1 ppm, respectively).
Figure 2. Downfield portion of 1H NMR spectra showing methyl salicylate peaks (10.8, 7.8-6.8, 4.0 ppm), plus vinyl and glycerol protons of unsaturated triglycerides (5.4 ppm and 4.3-4.1 ppm, respectively).
Figure 3. 13C NMR spectra showing similar composition between lubes. All peaks are accounted for by methyl salicylate and triglycerides.
Figure 3. 13C NMR spectra showing similar composition between lubes. All peaks are accounted for by methyl salicylate and triglycerides.

Upon opening the tubs of product, one notices that Track Lube and Frog Lube smell very similar, with a strong wintergreen scent. Seal 1 also has this minty scent, but one might also notice hints of bubblegum, and this likely means there are small volatile compounds not present in the other two paste lubes. The best way to quickly determine the identity of all of these compounds is GCMS (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy). As we see below (Figure 4), all three lubes are very similar, in that they share nearly all the same representative peaks. It’s not too illuminating to measure the height of each peak, nor is it particularly helpful to measure the relative peak areas (much more thorough and expensive work is needed to do with any decent accuracy). As predicted by smell, we see that Seal 1 (red) has two small peaks that correspond to isoamyl acetate (4.0 min) and limonene (5.7 min), which smell of banana and lemon, respectively. Otherwise we see a number of compounds present in all 3 samples: BHT, terephthalates, and the fragments of mostly-saturated triglycerides. The size of these fragments suggests that triglycerides with carbon chain lengths of ~10-18 were most common, but it is difficult to tell based on the nature of GCMS. These numbers do roughly match up to NMR integrations, so it’s likely a good estimate of the range. As in the NMR spectra, it is difficult to tell exact proportions here. It may be that the ratio of methyl salicylate to triglyceride varies somewhat, and that the average chain length changes slightly between products, but in general we can say that they are very similar mixtures.

Figure 4. GCMS chromatogram of FrogLube (blue), Seal 1 (red), and TrackLube (green) with compounds labeled via NIST library matches.
Figure 4. GCMS chromatogram of FrogLube (blue), Seal 1 (red), and TrackLube (green) with compounds labeled via NIST library matches.

Since the mixtures’ exact ratios were difficult to discern, rheology was performed on the samples to get a feel for their mechanical properties at various temperatures and shear rates. First, samples of each were subjected to moderate, constant shear and the temperature was swept from 25-60°C (77-140°F) to simulate a firearm warming up under use. The viscosity of the mixture decreases drastically from 25-45°C (77-113°F) as the pastes melted, and then held steady. The plots do show some differences in viscosity during melting, and there may be several possible causes: (i) potentially varying ratios of wintergreen oil to triglyceride slightly affect the melting temperature, (ii) air bubbles/voids in the paste escape during melting, causing faulty readings by the instrument, or (iii) variation in the triglyceride chain length/degree of saturation alters the melting characteristics. Either way, at slightly warm temperatures, they have nearly identical viscosities, which serves as a rough proxy for other mechanical properties one might find useful in a firearms lubricant.

Figure 5. Temperature vs. viscosity plots for the paste lubes shows similar responses as the lube melts. The small differences during melting (25-40°C) may arise from a number of factors.
Figure 5. Temperature vs. viscosity plots for the paste lubes shows similar responses as the lube melts. The small differences during melting (25-40°C) may arise from a number of factors.

The second rheological test was a sweep of shear rate while held at 25°C. This test showed that there is significant shear thinning at higher rates, typical of these types of mixtures. Again, there are differences between the three products, but the same general response was noted for each with respect to decrease in viscosity at higher shear rates. At high shear rates (such as found on rapidly moving firearms parts), these differences are very small, and the various products have very similar properties.

Figure 6. Viscosity versus shear rate for three paste lube products showing shear-thinning properties.
Figure 6. Viscosity versus shear rate for three paste lube products showing shear-thinning properties.

From the above data, we can see that Froglube, Seal 1, and Track Lube are very similar in composition and mechanical properties. Perhaps a thorough and robust firearms live fire test is necessary to determine any practical differences, but all expectations are that they would perform similarly. At the time of writing, the costs of Seal 1 ($18.95/8 oz, Amazon.com), Frog Lube ($18.40/8 oz, Amazon.com), and Track Lube ($16.99/8 oz, tracklubeplus.com) are also nearly identical, so it ultimately comes down to these two questions: Do you prefer your firearms to smell like just mint or minty bubblegum? Is your favorite color green, blue, or yellow-orange?

Company Responses & My Opinion

I contacted each company and asked if their product was identical to the others.

Froglube has no contact info other than a customer contact form on their site, and their response was to thank me for my inquiry and direct me to the instructions on how to use their product. No, I’m not kidding. I called them after the second round of testing. When asked if FrogLube was the same as TrackLube, they replied, “no, it is not.” When asked if it was similar, the response was “It’s an all-natural lubricant.” When asked if FrogLube was the same as Seal1, the response was “no, it’s not like Seal1 at all.”

Tracklube+ told me that they have been selling their product since 2003 to amusement parks around the country and just started selling direct to the public. They said that their company does not sell Tracklube+ under other names. In the interests of fairness, here is their entire response.

“OUR LUBRICATE IS A MULIT-USE LUBBRICATON THAT WE HAVE RECENTLY RELEASED FOR SALE BY OUR WEB SITE . BEFORE THIS WE ONLY SOLD TO AMUSEMENT PARKS. WE HAVE BEEN IN BUSINESS SINCE 2003 .OUR TRACK LUBE PLUS IS EXCELLENT FOR AREAS THAT SQEAK, SQEAL OR CREATE FRICTION. IT WAS ORGINALLY CREATED IN 2003 TO BE USED AS AN ECO-FRIENDLY AND WATER RESISTANT LUBRICANT FOR ROLLER COASTERS ALL AROUND THE WORLD. PLEASE VISIT OUR WEB SITE @ TRACKLUBEPLUS™.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION. WE DO NOT SELL OUR PRODUCT UNDER ANY OTHER NAME. OUR MISSION IS TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A GREAT ECO- FRIENDLY LUBRICANT THAT YOU CAN USE IN MULTIPLE WAYS, MAKING YOUR LIFE EASIER.

 
THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN TRACK LUBE PLUS™.”

I contacted Seal1 by email and their response was:

“Our product is not similar to Froglube or Tracklube. We develop and manufacture all of our own products. Please give me a call if you have any further questions.”

On the phone, Seal1 told me that their product was unique, entirely unlike Froglube and Tracklube, and when I described the results of the test, they said it must be “false readings.” They also said it has been in development since the early 1990s. Okay.

Let’s operate under the assumption that Froglube, Tracklube+ and Seal1 are all the same thing with, say, different food coloring added to give the appearance of uniqueness.

I’m not even mad. They’re all priced roughly the same. It’s not like Froglube is just Tracklube+ with a huge markup and a snazzy marketing campaign.

If you like Froglube and see no other reason to stop using it, I wouldn’t be mad about this and wouldn’t stop using it. However, I think there are much better products on the market.

When I last wrote about a variety of gun oils and gave my thoughts on them, I said that I had never used Froglube. That has since changed. During the 2014 test of a Battle Rifle Company AR, all 10,000 rounds were fired with Froglube as the lubricant. This was done because BRC prefers Froglube, and I probably fired about 6,000 of the 10,000 rounds. The performance of the weapon during the test was somewhere between Gigli and Taurus, but I don’t think Froglube had anything to do with it. The gas port was way too big which caused major problems – all of the problems, as far as I’m concerned.

I have never used Seal1 or Tracklube+ on a rifle – but then again, if Seal1 and Tracklube+ and Froglube are identical, and I’ve used Froglube, then I guess I’ve used the other two as well.

I do have some specific concerns about a claim made by Froglube which I think cannot possibly be true. Those will be addressed in a future blog post.

If you order Tracklube+ it comes in a brown paper wrapped box from a company called “Amusement Lubrications Specialties” and your longtime mail lady will never look at you the same way again.

Also, in my opinion, Seal1 smells better than Froglube. It smells the way Banana Runts taste.

This post brought to you by Banana Runts.

Back to the 600 Yard Line

Several years ago – okay, seven or eight – my friend Greg Fallon invited me to the informal 600 yard matches he sets up at a local range. They’re monthly, early in the morning, and the range is an hour away from me, so I’ve been an infrequent competitor -especially the last few years, with regular trips up to Utah for the Sniper Country range, which offers shooting to a mile and beyond.

Most of the time, I just went to mess around and have fun – I’d take my 5.45 AK, or an Ishapore Enfield, or some other random non-precision rifle just to see how I could do all the way out at 600 yards.

But when I saw this month’s reminder email, I decided that if I was going to make the trip, I would make it worthwhile.

I had just put together an AR with a V7 stainless barrel – provided by AIM Surplus, I should note – and wanted to see how accurate it could be. Unfortunately the rifle has a stock trigger, but with about fifteen thousand rounds on the odometer, it’s pretty smooth.

Heading to the local gun store, I perused match .223 at a dollar a round before deciding I could make my own for free – or at least, for a sunk cost.

So I put together some shiny bullets, made sure the ACOG was zeroed, and woke up at the crack of dawn to head to the range.

I wasn’t sure how my ammo would do – I hadn’t loaded rifle ammunition in probably two years. Surprisingly, though, I found that everything worked very well. Over two strings of fire, twenty rounds each, my scores were 190-4X and 186-3X out of a possible 200-20X.

20151101_085034

For those who are unfamiliar with the scoring system, the X is worth 10 points and also counts as, you guessed it, an X. The X ring at 600 is 6 inches, the 10 ring about a foot, and so on. I dropped a few outside the center because I wasn’t paying enough attention to the wind, but overall the loads were consistent and the barrel did as good a job as I could have ever expected.

One other note – I removed and replaced the ACOG, swapping it with a Vortex Viper HS scope, many times throughout the match. All recorded scores were with the ACOG, and both optics were in GDI mounts. The ACOG was provided by Trijicon through Deliberate Dynamics and the optic mounts were provided by GDI. I did not notice any shift in point of impact over the course of the match.

Overall, it was a fun match and a good chance to see if I still knew how to shoot long range.

For those who are interested, here are the rifle and ammunition details:

Rifle

  • V7 16″ stainless midlength gas barrel
  • Silencerco Trifecta muzzle device
  • Spike’s Tactical hard chrome BCG
  • Spike’s Tactical upper receiver
  • Seekins 12.0 MCSR handguard
  • Rainier Arms Raptor charging handle
  • Bushmaster lower receiver with stock LPK
  • Magpul fixed length stock
  • Trijicon TA02 ACOG
  • GDI R-COM E-Model mount

Ammunition

  • Prvi Partizan once fired brass
  • Berger 73gr HPBT seated to AR mag length
  • Varget, 24.1 grains
  • Federal GM205M primers

 

A Closer Look at FireClean and Canola Oil

If you read the first article on this blog regarding whether or not FireClean is the same as Crisco, you are aware that people became really, really upset over the results.

Lines were drawn, accusations were made, the science was championed by some and attacked by others.

A second round of testing, conducted at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, sheds more light on the controversy. I submitted eighteen samples for various tests, including gun oils, gun pastes, cooking oils, and gear oils. If you would like to read about the methodology, you may do so here – straight from the horse’s mouth. These tests included IR spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance testing. Click that link to learn more about both.

In addition, separate testing of FireClean and a different brand of canola oil was conducted by a different individual (who has a PhD in chemistry) at a different lab. This testing included HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) and two variants of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance). I did not supply the samples for this test, but the results were remarkably similar.

Some of the people involved wished to remain anonymous after they saw the vitriol directed at various parties after the first test, but others did not. Everett, who conducted the bulk of this testing, wanted me to thank the following people:

-Professor Drew Brodeur of Worcester Polytechnic institute for advising the project
-Daryl Johnson, Andy Butler, and Professor John MacDonald of WPI for help with the methods and testing
-Curtis of The VSO Gun Channel for help with the methods

Several of these tests of the eighteen various lubricants will be of interest to those in the firearm sphere, but perhaps none will be as interesting as this one. Summarized in one sentence, here’s why:

According to every PhD who looked at the NMR results, FireClean and Canola oil appear to be “effectively” or “nearly” identical.

This was also the opinion of the chemistry student conducting the testing (Everett) and two other people with similar undergraduate degrees.

Here is the data:

NMR Sample #6 (2015 production Crisco brand canola oil)

NMR Sample #8 (2015 production FireClean)

Here is the NMR data superimposed upon one another:

 

NMR Sample #6#8 merge
Here is some additional IR data which also includes sample #16, generic corn oil:

6 v 8 v 16

Here is what people with chemistry experience and/or degrees had to say:

“For NMR, you have environment, shift, area and splitting.  Presuming these samples were processed identically, I find the NMR spectra to be effectively identical.  Each peak in a carbon NMR spectrum identifies a carbon atom at a distinct place along a molecule.  Each place reflects its local environment.  You can look up the peaks in the spectrum to referenced guides to then identify where along the spectrum the peaks correspond with molecular species in the molecule.  For instance, is it next to another carbon atom, or an oxygen or hydrogen, etc…  The important part is that the peaks overlap precisely.  I made an image attached below that shows sample 8 superimposed in the green channel of sample 6 (see above).  The height of the peaks is slightly different reflecting effectively nothing as it is the area under the peak that matters which here is negligible.  Sample 6 and 8 are effectively identical.” – PhD (Neurophysiology, BS Chemistry/Biology)

“Height from one spectrum to another is irrelevant and can vary with a slight difference in amount of sample put in the NMR tube. As one of my professors put it “NMR is the gold standard for structural chemistry.” Structural chemists that know the molecular formula of their compound can combine NMR with IR data to figure out what the structure of their molecule is. The chances of two different molecules having the same NMR spectra is almost zero.” – Everett (conducted testing)

“In terms of your data, the two 13C NMR spectra look nearly identical and are expected for a vegetable oil blend. Some differences are apparent in the ‘alkene’ region (~129 ppm), and this is likely due to varying ratios of different unsaturated triglycerides being present in different products. Wikipedia has ratios of the various fatty acid compositions for different oils (here). The minor differences between oleic, linoleic, paltimic, stearic, etc acids will result in slightly different peak patterns in that region of the spectrum.” – Anonymous, PhD (Chemistry)

Here is the second NMR test – two types of NMR, actually, proton (1H) and carbon (13C) done at a different lab, by a different individual, using different samples of FireClean and Costco brand Canola oil:

Canola v FIREClean 13C NMR jpgFIREClean v Canola 1H NMR jpg

Here is what he had to say about the results:

“The structure I pasted over the spectrum is not the exact identity of the canola or fireclean, it’s just a representative. These products contain a mix of various compounds, so the carbon chain length, number and placement of double bonds, etc will all vary between various chemical species and vegetable oil blends. The paper sums that up, for your more demanding readers. I haven’t kept up with the press on fireclean all that much, but if they are claiming any addition of anticorrosives or stabilizers, they would likely show up in either the IR or NMR spectra unless in very small quantities. I would feel confident claiming that FIREclean is just a vegetable oil or vegetable oil blend of some sort.

Some differences in the NMR spectra are apparent, but they are relatively inconsequential and easily explained by the complexity of lipids derived from natural sources. In the 13C NMR, we see some variation in alkene peaks around 128 ppm (peak b) that are likely due to di- and tri-unsaturated fatty acids, and similarly in the 1H we see changes in the relative amounts of allyl protons due to additional unsaturation (2.7 ppm, peak c) between fireclean and Costco canola oil. There’s still nothing about the NMR that would indicate that fireclean is anything but vegetable oil. 

This means that some of their claims are true. Vegetable oil is certainly nontoxic/biodegradable, and somewhat odor free. However, it would be difficult to argue that vegetable oil possesses “extreme heat resistance” when it is known to degrade in the presence of heat and oxygen. As far as conditioning the metal substrate to resist further carbon buildup, a good comparison might be that of seasoning a cast iron skillet, where oil or fat is heated to the point of degradation, leaving behind a complex layer of polymerized triglycerides. If you are comfortable with this on your firearms’ internal components, then this would be a good product to use, otherwise a more thermally stable product might be in order. The attached paper (Review of Food Lipids 2014) details the degradation of food lipids under conditions relevant to firearms use, so readers may make their own determination.” – Anonymous, PhD (Chemistry)


As I have continued to state since forming an opinion on the product, FireClean works very well as a lubricant for the AR-15. I chose it for the LuckyGunner 40,000 round ammo test because I had used it with good results – I was provided with samples early in 2012 – and wanted to give a fledgling company a chance in a crowded field. I don’t regret that decision – the lubricant worked well for the test. The FireClean folks must have felt the same way, because my work on that test is in almost every sales pitch they’ve made about their product.

That said, even the best lube can’t make a bad rifle or a bad magazine or bad ammunition function 100%. All of those items working together – a good rifle built by Bushmaster, Magpul PMags, Federal brass cased .223, and a good lubricant (FireClean) came together for 10,000 rounds with no malfunctions in that particular carbine. The steel cased carbines didn’t perform at quite the same level, but still performed remarkably well, all things considered.

FireClean is, as stated previously on this blog, a common vegetable oil, with no evidence of additives for corrosion resistance or other features. The science is solid in this regard. Questions or concerns about the limited value of IR testing should be, I would think, put to rest with two discrete tests – tests regarded as “the gold standard in analytical chemistry” – and analysis by multiple sources.

Viewed in this light, FireClean’s recent claims that using cooking oils such as canola oil on your firearm could lead to serious injury or death are simply laughable. They also claimed that it should not be used for cooking due to health concerns – but they also claim that it’s non-toxic. Well, which is it?

I have absolutely no issue with the concept of making money (I applaud those who make money hand over fist), or taking a product from one sphere and introducing it to another. I think a certain amount of “finder’s fee” is absolutely reasonable. If they discovered that the product would work as a gun oil, introduced it to the gun world, etc., then they did people a favor by telling them about something they never would have discovered on their own. There are also marketing costs, packaging, etc. We couldn’t expect them to sell a 2oz bottle of Fireclean for the same per ounce price as a gallon of Walmart brand Canola oil.

That said, I don’t think I could look someone in the eye and tell them that a bottle of vegetable oil was the most advanced gun lube on the planet, but those who can? Well, they’re good salesmen, I guess.

What I do take issue with are attempts to mislead consumers and distort the facts. There is a line between being an aggressive and effective salesman and not being entirely truthful about your product, the way it works, or what it contains. It is my belief that FireClean crossed that line long ago – and that many of their recent statements are simply egregious.

Severe Problems With Vickers Tactical FireClean Video

Over the weekend, I posted an article which showed the results of some infrared spectroscopy tests comparing FireClean and two types of Crisco cooking oils. I was not expecting the firestorm of controversy that has erupted.

However, none of that controversy matters.

It doesn’t matter if FireClean is pure canola oil or a mixture of astroglide and peanut butter.

I made a discovery which calls into question any claim or statement made by FireClean as a company and Ed and Dave Sugg as individuals. As for Larry Vickers… did he have knowledge of this? Which is worse, him knowing, or him not knowing?

Some people – a lot of people – are probably rolling their eyes right now. Well, check this out.

On December 26, 2014, Vickers Tactical uploaded a video to YouTube called “FireClean Lube Test.” I watched this video in its entirety for the first time today. In the video, the Sugg brothers are interviewed by Larry Vickers about their product. Larry then proceeds to shoot a Beretta M9 and a BCM carbine with three different configurations:

– Dry (no lube)
– CLP
– FireClean

The weapons were reportedly cleaned between each firing.

The video purports to show minimal amounts of smoke coming from the firearms when dry and lubricated with CLP, but excessive amounts of smoke when lubricated with FireClean. The smoke, we are told, is carbon being pushed away from the weapon by the super effective FireClean formulation, which is composed of (redacted).

Now, Vickers Tactical has some awesome cameras and production equipment of which I am quite jealous. Don’t get me wrong, I have nice stuff. But I don’t have something that shoots high speed frame rates in 1080p, like Vickers Tactical. That’s the sort of equipment I enjoy seeing in use, especially when firearms are the subject, and I am likely to rewind and watch several times in order to see things I missed.

Things like this.

Beretta M9, dry, PPU headstamp
Beretta M9, dry, brass colored primer, PPU headstamp

This is a screenshot of the Beretta M9 being fired, dry, at approximately 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the video. It shows minimal smoke and a 9mm case with a PPU headstamp and a brass colored primer being ejected from the firearm.

PPU 9MM LUGER
PPU 9MM LUGER

After some discussion, the Beretta is fired again with CLP applied. This can be found at about 7 minutes into the video.

Beretta M9, CLP, PPU headstamp, brass colored primer, shiny projectile likely FMJ
Beretta M9, CLP, PPU headstamp, brass colored primer, what appears to be a shiny projectile, likely FMJ

Again we see a PPU case with a brass primer ejecting. There is a little more smoke and we are told it is because of the CLP. We can see the projectile of the subsequent round and it appears to be shiny, as we would expect a factory FMJ projectile to be.

Finally, at approximately 8 minutes and 30 seconds, Larry fires the M9 again, this time having been cleaned and lubricated with FireClean. Immediately upon ejection, the spent case emits quite a lot of smoke – much more than the previous two rounds. And then the case spins around and the headstamp comes into view…

Beretta M9, FireClean, Cor-Bon case, nickel colored primer
Beretta M9, FireClean, Cor-Bon case, nickel colored primer

That is a different colored primer. More than that, it’s a Cor-Bon 9mm Luger +P headstamp.

COR-BON 9MM LUGER +P
COR-BON 9MM LUGER +P

And when the projectile of the subsequent round comes into view, we can see that it has a more matte finish, as we would expect, say, a copper plated bullet to have (if you’re not a handloader, the projectile differences may not be as apparent to you). Alternately it could be a DPX bullet which is used by Cor-Bon in its +P line.

Cor-Bon case. Nickel primer, with a little more space between the primer and the case than the PPU. Super smoky powder. Possibly a plated bullet.

I’ll bet you four bottles of FireClean that was a factory +P Cor-Bon load; +P loads being hotter and having more powder than standard, bargain ammunition like Prvi Partizan. Barring that, it was a handload, with a smoky powder selected for maximum effect.

I have major concerns with the rifle ammunition used in the BCM carbine as well, but due to the design of the AR, the depth of field of the camera, and the length of the 5.56 case, my suppositions would be much harder to prove. Still, the pistol evidence is so overwhelming as to make the rifle almost irrelevant.

Whether it was a handload or a factory Cor-Bon round, it is indisputable that the cartridge fired for the FireClean demonstration was significantly different than the cartridges fired for the dry gun and CLP demonstrations.

Indisputable differences.
Indisputable differences.


No factory Prvi Partizan (made in Serbia) ammunition would ship with a random Cor-Bon (not made in Serbia) case and a different primer.

No honest person with a basic understanding of the scientific method would use handloaded or +P ammunition in a comparison with standard pressure bargain priced ammunition if the comparison was meant to show differences between lubricants and their effect on how much smoke comes out of the chamber during firing.

Smoke after firing is put forth as evidence of a cleaner gun. The cleaner gun concept is central to the ethos of FireClean; it’s even their URL. Different ammunition was selected for the FireClean portion of the demonstration to give the appearance of more smoke and thus a cleaner gun.

As I said at the beginning, the “FireClean Is or Is Not a Common Vegetable Oil Used for Cooking” controversy matters not. All the information required to judge the integrity of statements made by FireClean is contained in that Vickers Tactical video.