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.
When I fired this AR which had been sitting for years with FireClean on the internals, it hadn’t been exposed to UV, although it certainly saw some oxygen. Since that test, several friends told me privately that their 1911s did not function properly after sitting for six months with FireClean on the internals. It would seem that these results are highly dependent on the weapon.
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.