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
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.
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.
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.