Spring has sprung in America; migratory birds begun their journey north to rapidly thawing lakes as the south experiences triple digit temperatures and lawsuits with triple digit page counts.
Yes, it’s that time of the year when Fireclean decides to pursue a 250 page lawsuit against me alleging dozens of counts of wrongdoing – ranging from false advertising to defamation to aiding and abetting tortious conduct.
This is, of course, relating to the series of articles I wrote reporting the results of tests conducted by third parties in the fall of 2015. Many of you may have forgotten these articles or the lawsuit last year in which Fireclean’s arguments were rejected by a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia. They’ve now filed a complaint in Arizona, apparently believing that reminding everyone of the articles before they lose again is the best course of action.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 NMR data superimposed upon one another:
Here is some additional IR data which also includes sample #16, generic corn oil:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
After some discussion, the Beretta is fired again with CLP applied. This can be found at about 7 minutes into the video.
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…
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.
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.
If you have been on the internet and have visited a sampling of firearm related blogs or social media sites in the last few weeks, you have most likely come across reports or claims that FireClean is nothing more than Crisco vegetable oil. I had heard it from two people in the industry whom I respect around the same time it started being mentioned all over the place (I had previously been aware that it was a food grade oil, but did not know anything more than that).
The first real attention-grabber was this video, which has since been removed. It showed FireClean and Crisco vegetable oil smoking and burning off at the same time on a stovetop (my friend Brett replicated this test and saw the same results). Still, this wasn’t the sort of conclusive proof that would sway me one way or the other. It’s possible that two oils could have the same smoke point and not share other properties.
I did not – and still do not – believe that FireClean is Crisco, but not for the reason you might think. Although such statements make for shocking arguments, it wouldn’t really make sense to buy a name brand product at a high price if the goal was to resell and make money.
Still, the claim that FireClean is nothing more than Crisco is not one to be taken lightly by anyone – not by consumers and certainly not by the company. I spoke at length with one of the makers of FireClean, Ed Sugg, and he assured me that not a single drop of Crisco has ever been part of their formulation, even during initial testing with various mixtures. Interestingly enough, he specifically mentioned that soybean oil had not been part of their testing.
Despite these assurances, which I was inclined to believe, I sought to undertake my own testing to determine whether or not these claims are true about FireClean. Trust, but verify.
I also contacted the man who seems to have originated the “FireClean is Crisco” claim. George Fennell of WeaponShield posted on his personal Facebook page that FireClean was Crisco several weeks back (I am told that this has been removed, but I cannot view his Facebook page any more).
It was claimed by various people, including the guy who first posted that now-removed stovetop video, that he had scientific proof of this claim. I asked Mr. Fennell if he would provide a copy of the analysis, which he refused to do. He told me all I needed to do was look at FireClean’s patent application to see that it was Crisco and/or other vegetable oils. When I asked again, rather politely in my opinion, he sent a very long and agitated message again refusing to supply the test before blocking me on Facebook.
Mr. Fennell was the developer of FP-10, a gun oil which, I should mention, I have recommended in the past and said I would purchase over FireClean for reasons of cost. He has since left the company which produces FP-10 and started at WeaponShield. Since then, he has criticized FP-10 as well as FireClean and other oils. I will reiterate that FP-10 provides excellent lubrication characteristics at a competitive price, if you’re looking to buy a gun oil.
But the question of the day is about FireClean and Crisco. There was clearly only one way to settle this, and that was to engage in some science.
I contacted a professor at the University of Arizona – a very nice man with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry – and he agreed to help with an infrared spectroscopy test of FireClean and two types of Crisco.
Two types, you ask? Not generally using anything other than olive oil in my cooking, I was somewhat surprised to find a wall of various types of cooking oils at my local grocery store. There were two types of Crisco oils prominently featured in the display – Pure Vegetable, and Pure Canola. I stood there in the aisle for quite some time, trying to figure out which one to buy. Sensing my puzzlement, a helpful lady asked me if I needed assistance deciding which oil was right for whatever it was I wanted to cook. Suddenly, I understood what it must be like for girls who visit gun stores.
Remembering the earlier comment about soybean oil, I determined with the help of the label that Crisco Pure Vegetable oil is made from soybean oil. Crisco Pure Canola is made from, you guessed it, canola. There were also probably half a dozen other brands of canola oil on the shelf. I decided to take both types of Crisco for testing.
The test took a week, and here are the results.
What did the tests show?
FireClean is probably a modern unsaturated vegetable oil virtually the same as many oils used for cooking.
The professor had something to say about the formulation and its relevance as a gun oil. “I don’t see any sign of other additives such as antioxidants or corrosion inhibitors. Since the unsaturation in these oils, especially linoleate residues, can lead to their oligomerization with exposure to oxygen and light, use on weapons could lead to formation of solid residues (gum) with time. The more UV and oxygen, the more the oil will degrade.”
In my 2013 article about gun oils, I mentioned that FireClean wasn’t advertised as protecting against corrosion. Given the results of this test, I suppose that makes sense.
Given that people in the military are often exposed to both UV and oxygen (such as when they go outdoors) and also need corrosion protection for their firearms, I would not recommend FireClean be used by members of the military.
I offered FireClean a chance to respond to the findings of this test, and, among other things, they asked to review the draft of this article for a few days before it was published. That is not how this blog works. I assume they will be publishing a response through other channels.
In the last week I have noticed allegations made by the maker of a gun oil that FireClean is a) nothing more than Crisco vegetable oil, and b) will cause the action of a weapon to “gum up” if left on the weapon for more than six to twelve months.
While I am investigating both claims, I happened to have a Spike’s Tactical AR15 in 5.45×39 which had last been fired and lubricated with FireClean in September of 2013 and, to be clear, not been cleaned, fired, or lubricated in any manner since. I took this rifle to the range this morning and fired a magazine of surplus 5.45 in order to determine if the action had been “gummed up.” This weapon has only seen surplus ammunition in its life, has been shot a lot, and has rarely if ever been cleaned. I can hardly think of a better candidate for such an experiment and I am, I guess, fortunate that my dad didn’t shoot it much (rather, at all) after I loaned it to him.
Several weeks ago I wrote an article discussing the outright fabrication of military service, the benefits such actions may have, and why the people behind them should not be given a pass. I would be remiss in turning a blind eye to those who have served in the military but felt the need to tell untruths in order to enhance their standing within the community.
Specifically, I want to write about Chris Kyle, and I want to write about the movie American Sniper.
I find the Superdome story disturbing because it is essentially his mental conveyance of the Iraq war to the United States. While it is unlikely that any ROE (rules of engagement) would allow a hypothetically placed military sniper – let’s not forget the Posse Comitatus Act – to shoot people just for the act of looting, the laws and conventions of war would most likely permit lethal force against armed individuals not identifying themselves as part of an allied police or military force. What Kyle described is, essentially, a description of what a sniper would do at the height of a struggle between forces for an urban area. In Iraq, American snipers were like a protective umbrella against the acid rain of insurgents.
But this story took place in New Orleans, which, if you didn’t know, is part of America. And it would not be justifiable, legally or morally, to shoot American citizens simply for the act of being armed in the wake of a natural disaster – especially given his vocal support of the Second Amendment. That Chris Kyle found it acceptable enough to make up stories about it is illuminating.
As for the other story, the ultimate tragic irony is that after bragging about having killed two men who failed to steal his truck, he and a friend were killed by one man who successfully stole his truck. The former story has been thoroughly investigated and found to be without basis, the latter is a matter of legal fact.
The movie American Sniper does not discuss these stories; it focuses on the emotional rollercoaster of deployment cycles and the combat experienced by Kyle in Iraq. Correction: it is a fictionalized depiction of that combat. The majority of plot points are not based in reality, and many of the figures or groups depicted therein are loose representations of reality.
For example, there was no sniper battle stretching over multiple deployments between Kyle and a Dragunov-wielding family man with beautiful eyelashes and excessive amounts of eyeshadow – or if there were, it didn’t make it into the book upon which the movie is based.
There are other SEALs depicted in the movie, but they exist only to be ancillary figures to Kyle or to die in ways that leave Kyle unable to save them. Unlike many of the other things that are discussed in this article, those SEALs did in fact die near Kyle and in ways he could not have prevented. I would like to have had some knowledge of the impact these injuries and deaths had on the SEAL corpsman assigned to that platoon, but we are never given a chance to find out.
The movie relentlessly revolves around Kyle, most likely as he would have preferred, given how many stories he told which were apparently intended to boost the legend of, well, The Legend – Kyle’s nickname for a good portion of the movie. This focus on Kyle is so intense that no mention of Chad Littlefield, the friend who was murdered alongside the SEAL, is made in the movie, although Kyle’s death is addressed.
There is a stateside scene in which a Marine addresses Kyle and his young son and describes how Kyle carried him out of a house while injured, thus saving his life. Of course, no mention is made of any of the other people who were involved in saving his life, such as the other person who most likely was involved in carrying the Marine out of the house. Everything is about Chris Kyle. There can be no other heroes. The scene ends with the Marine, in civilian attire and indoors, saluting Kyle. Yeah, right.
The film is so fictionalized that it becomes less of a representation of Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL sniper, than of the trials and tribulations of many post-9/11 servicemembers. Bradley Cooper worked very hard to become Chris Kyle, or the Chris Kyle that Chris (and Taya) Kyle wanted the world to see, but this New Kyle was in fact an amalgamation of all the positive attributes – and a few of the negative ones – a patriotic American public wants to see in its’ servicemen. And, although I may be slightly biased, I think this depiction was accurate. American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are indeed tough, brave, and kind to the weak, but not infallible and not without a few flaws that make them human like everyone else.
The movie capitalizes on the adoration of a significant amount of Americans for those in the military. Bradley Cooper becomes the definitive American war hero in a way that few other movies have managed to depict. Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of World War 2, wrote an autobiography which became a movie. The movie was all about a scrawny little guy who wanted to join the Army and ends up saving the lives of everyone in his unit over and over again. He played himself in the movie, and he was a true hero, but the family aspect of American Sniper makes Chris Kyle a hero to which most Americans can relate in some aspect.
This may lead the reader who has not seen the movie to think that it is a jingoistic propaganda piece. It is not, at least not to me. All of the servicemen in the movie end up seriously injured, dead, or at the very least having lost close friends. The strain of military service is obviously difficult on Taya Kyle, to the point that she hints to Chris that she will leave him if he doesn’t leave the military. Chris himself is severely affected by his experiences although he denies that he is one of the guys who has problems adjusting. Audie Murphy wrote a followup book about his difficulties in adjusting to civilian life, but no one wanted to make that into a movie.
All told, I found that the movie did not depict military service in a very positive light. Those who feel it is a two hour recruiting film are misinformed. There have been a number of people comparing American Sniper to Nation’s Pride, the faux movie-within-a-movie in Inglorious Basterds about a Nazi sniper who kills hundreds of Allied soldiers.
It would appear that the people making these comparisons have not seen American Sniper; in the faux propaganda piece, the German sniper is shown shooting dozens or even hundreds, including noncombatants and wounded and unarmed soldiers – and revels in doing so. In American Sniper, we see only a few sniper “kills,” none of which would be considered illegal under the laws of war or applicable rules of engagement, and Bradley Cooper’s Chris Kyle is shown to be hesitant to kill those who are not clearly enemy combatants and is relieved at not having had to take certain shots.
That said, while there are many aspects of the film which are Hollywood-movie-playbook-emotion-inducing and clearly inaccurate, such as the final scene of the movie, there are a number of things which are accurate.
The film – rather, Bradley Cooper – accurately shows the psychological anguish of knowing that other men are off fighting a battle that you signed up for, participated in, and then left. Post-traumatic stress can take many forms, but guilt is one of the most insidious and damaging on a long term basis.
Chris Kyle was a SEAL. A significant number of SEALs (compared to other special operations troops) have been eager to write books or give interviews on their experiences and exploits. This was true before Chris Kyle left active duty, remains true today, and will almost certainly continue to be true for years to come. While many SEALs work in the shadows, literally and figuratively, without ever seeking fame, some do not.
To become a SEAL you must (presumably, I am not a SEAL nor have I ever considered going to BUD/S) have a very aggressive personality. Were it not for that, you would likely quit before successfully becoming a SEAL. Given the history of some SEALs seeking fame, it makes sense that the most aggressive of these men would embellish their own histories in an attempt to set themselves apart from their most impressive peers. Furthermore, when every American serviceman is a hero, one must be truly exceptional to be recognized as a hero of the first tier.
Most recently, we saw a public and rather embarrassing squabble between former SEALs over who really shot Osama bin Laden. Enough people are interested in such things that the media will breathlessly recount almost anything a SEAL says. Delta Force? Well, if one of them were to talk about a current operation, it is likely that the media would not treat it as being one tenth as interesting as if it had been said or done by a frogman.
Chris Kyle’s tall tales overshadow some of his most lasting accomplishments – helping returning veterans and working to show that men and women who have seen war should not be viewed with suspicion and distrust. In this he was quite genuine. It is a shame that the lies he told have received far more attention than the good work he did – but there is only one person responsible for this, and that person is Chris Kyle.
Why couldn’t the things he actually did have been enough?
Having completed my spirit walk/vision quest, I now return to blogging.
Every six months, give or take, we learn of some minor (or major) gun world personality who has exaggerated, inflated, or outright invented a history of military service in an attempt to make money, gain influence, or further their career. Inevitably, three groups of people form in response:
– Those who never cared for anything the person in question had to say;
– Those who are outraged at the thought of stolen valor;
– Those who think it wasn’t a big deal and that the person has positive traits which mean their tall tales can, or should, be overlooked.
With the increasing lionization of military members in the post-9/11 era, it was probably to be expected that military service would eventually become even more of a selling point in certain circles. There are a lot of people who didn’t join the military but wish they had, especially in the gun world. They look at military members and veterans with varying degrees of envy, adoration, and respect, but also resentment and distaste.
It is this latter group, I think, which forms the bulk of the military fakers. They were unable to join, to complete their basic training, they didn’t have time, etc. – but they see praise being lavished on those who did go through with it and their resentment grows to the point that they think they will only succeed if they pretend to be a member of the elite. They don’t see that there was honor in their attempt to join the military, and that no one would have questioned their integrity if they just said something like “I didn’t make it through boot camp because of a medical condition, but I still love my country and I like to shoot guns. Watch my videos!”
It is the former group of non-veterans which becomes their fans. The more adoration one has for the military and its members, the more likely one is to swallow a load of crap. Adoration intensifies to the point that even when the story is revealed to be false, a significant number have stopped caring about the specifics of military service and have transferred their hero worship directly to the individual in question. These are the diehard fans – the ones who will encourage the faker to continue their work despite “the haters.” They will try to explain away the stories as “not a big deal.”
There are several recent examples to discuss. The most notable is Cory of Range Time, or Cory07ink as he is known on YouTube. He appears with “Erika,” and the duo are often referred to as “Cory and Erika.” For those who don’t know, Cory recently had some issues with…bad publicity. Long story short, he claimed to have been honorably discharged from the Army when in fact he went AWOL before completing his training.
A more recent case is that of “Amy Jane,” a woman who sought to work in the gun industry (and saw moderate success in her brief efforts) based on having been a Marine, but then it came out that she had never graduated basic training and received a medical discharge. This apparently left some people with egg on their faces.
How do these things happen? It comes down to two basic steps.
Step One – Build a Background, But Slowly
This is where the nuances of storytelling are important. Rather than lump all of his eggs into one easily verifiable basket, the Cory and Erika Show planted the seeds of a complicated and decent background in various places until a respectable legend had emerged. Just as with creating a fake identity, these things are best done over time – if someone appears out of nowhere with a fancy video claiming to be a SEAL, they can be exposed as a fraud in a matter of hours. But when the claims are limited to being an Army infantryman who served overseas, and these claims are made over time and in a less obvious manner, the average person’s motivation to research them is lessened.
So it was that Cory built a business and a large YouTube following due in no small part to his false background stories. The other reason he came to prominence – rather, they came to prominence – is that they were not shy about marketing their videos with the use of Erika’s “assets.”
As I stated previously, military service has become a selling point to some – and Cory used his military background the same way he used Erika’s body, to attract men who should have known better. In all likelihood, he didn’t see a difference between lying about his military background and Erika’s body – they were just things he could use to advance his career.
Step Two – Apologize (Sort Of), Redirect
In almost every one of these cases, there is an apology of sorts – Cory’s was rather pathetic and came only after a series of denials and attempts to shift blame – followed by an attempt to redirect attention to the “good” things about the person or what they have done, such as, in Cory’s case, essentially “try really hard to learn from different people about being a good instructor.”
The most rabid fans, the ones who have gone past the military adoration to the personal adoration stage, eagerly accept the suggestion and proceed to attack those who take issue with the liars.
This is when we see the “it’s not a big deal” arguments, or in the case of Amy Jane, the leghumpers and Captain Saveahos come out of the woodwork with encouragement for the damsel in distress. It helps when other personalities such as James Yeager go to bat for people like Cory – and since Yeager has a large following of people willing to overlook a lack of background, Cory’s salvation was virtually assured. In Amy Jane’s case, her looks guaranteed a certain number of desperate, unattractive men willing to reassure her that they were behind her.
Why You Shouldn’t Support Military Fakers
Here is the crux of my argument – why you should no longer give these people your time, money, or attention.
Military service is not incredibly difficult to achieve in all its forms, but for some it is an impossibility. Some are physically/medically unable to join and some don’t feel they have the time or are unwilling to set aside other goals, such as education or family, to join. And most, if not almost all, of these people are honorable and in no way inferior to those who joined the military.
But when someone joins the military, they are in essence saying that they are willing to put aside their personal life for the greater good – that they are willing to serve the public at the risk of their life. Yes, volunteering to join the military has many benefits, and some join solely for those benefits, but it has many drawbacks as well. Constant deployment and training cycles cause stress and family hardship on a level with few equivalents in the civilian world (at the same time, certain aspects of military life are infinitely easier than those of civilian life, but I’m getting off topic).
When someone fakes or exaggerates military service, they not only want you to see them as a hero – for many Americans see all servicemembers as heroes – but they want you to see them as a fundamentally different person at their core than they really are. Rather than being a human with flaws, as we all are, who set aside other aspects of their life to serve their country, they are essentially lazy and untrustworthy people.
They had a choice between honesty and hard work and dishonesty and the easy path of just telling a lie, and they chose the latter. Having a military background is not a requirement for success in the gun industry. Many competition shooters have no military background, and yet they are as in demand, if not more than, military shooters when it comes to firearms instruction or sponsorship deals. But being a good competition shooter requires a lot of hard work and dedication. And that’s simply not something people like Cory or Amy Jane are willing to do.
Nor were they willing to spend months, years, or decades in the service of their country instead of the service of themselves, wrongly feeding their reputation with every story of military heroism that Americans associate with every member of the military. The men and women Cory and Amy Jane were taking advantage of couldn’t compete with the years-long process of building a successful business or brand in this industry, because they were overseas or in training or spending some of their precious little free time with their family.
The fakers and their acolytes will contend that they have worked hard to get where they are, but repeating a lie long enough that they believe it to be true while networking at SHOT and the gun range isn’t hard work – it’s fundamentally dishonest and lacking in the sort of fortitude and moral fiber one traditionally expects in a role model, especially an armed role model.
From taking gun safety seriously at all times to protecting their home and family before expecting others to do so, people in the gun world, and gun owners in general, put a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility.
I wish these people no ill will and hope they find work as something other than a firearms instructor or gun TV show host, but I don’t feel that they have a place in a field where a sense of honor is, or should be, at the core of everyone’s soul.