Today’s discussion is going to center on the proper lubrication of the bolt action rifle. I’ll save you some of the surprise and mystery, it’s a lot less complicated than some people think. Really there are only a few key points of the bolt action rifle that need to be lubed to ensure proper function of the weapon. Keep in mind that lubrication, whether you use grease or oil or something in between, tends to attract dirt and grit. So you want to have a firm grasp of which areas really need lubrication and which do not. Over lubricating the gun is only going to give dirt and other crap a place to adhere to which will probably gum up your action faster than if you had done nothing at all!
Lubing the Bolt Action Rifle
Generally you only need a little bit of lube on parts of the rifle that rub, slide, and move against each other with a degree of force. The best example of this is the lugs on the bolt of the rifle. As you rotate the bolt knob and close the bolt those lugs rub against and lock behind the lugs of the receiver. That’s an interaction that you want to be lubed and slippery so as to keep the friction between these areas low. That will ensure smoother operation of the bolt and a more reliable function of the rifle in general.
Another spot people are going to want to keep a little lube is the underside rear of the bolt where the shroud and firing pin assembly screw into the bolt body. If you were not aware this area is in motion quite a bit. As you open the bolt after firing you are rotating the body of the bolt where the shroud is held in place by the trigger group. This cocks the bolt and readies it for firing another round. There is also movement between the shroud and bolt body when you close the bolt. So a dab of lube on the top of the bolt body where the shroud interacts with it is not a bad thing.
Places to avoid when Lubing the Bolt Action Rifle
Guys, don’t lube the rails of the receiver. Most bolt action rifles have the tolerances loose enough that it’s not really going to do much to actually smooth out the action or operation of the rifle. The downside is when you open the bolt and dust and grit are blowing around, having a full length receiver rail glistening with lube will give it something to stick to. This can lead to your action getting gritty and gummed up that much faster. You really don’t need to do it. So please don’t, the rifle will cycle just fine riding dry on the rails and any dirt that does find its way into the action doesn’t have anything to stick to.
How to go about Lubing the Bolt Action Rifle
Put a little dab of lube on your finger and rub it on the bolt lugs. If you are cleaning the gun, remove the shroud and firing pin from the bolt body and lube the threads of the shroud where they thread into the bolt body. Then lube the top edge of the bolt body and the internal threads and cam surface so that all the contact areas that are moving are slicked up a bit. Reassemble the bolt. It can be difficult to get some lube on the receiver lugs, it tends to wipe off the bolt lug when you close the bolt. So put a little dab on your finger or on a q-tip with a bend in it and slip it into the receiver and smear a little on the forward side of the receiver lugs that face the chamber. You don’t want or need a lot in there, just a touch to help keep everything moving freely. Here is a great video Greg Tannel of Gre-Tan Rifles put together on this very subject!
What kind of lube to use?
This could probably be a post of it’s own. There are dozens of choices for lube out there. While I think oils and liquid form lubes are easiest to use and spread, they also dry up and need re-application more often in my experience. I find that grease tends to stay where you put it a bit longer and it also does a better job of collecting debris. So if things do start to feel gritty, you can wipe the surface down and have a really good shot of scooping the grit out along with the grease. That can buy you some extra time with smooth and reliable function before the rifle needs a full field strip and cleaning job.
Don’t overdo this. There is a point of diminishing return with the application of lube on a precision rifle. You need less than you think and some of that thought process comes from guys that shoot semi automatic rifles. You absolutely want to run a semi auto wet. Bolt action rifles have a lower number of moving parts and are a lot more reliable than their semi automatic brethren. They don’t need as much lube and over lubing a bolt gun may actually do more harm than good. Questions? Let us know in the comments below!