Colloidal Graphite as Anti-seize for Rifles

THE QUEST TO ALLEVIATE THE MESS

When it comes to dealing with a barrel, anti-seize is a must. The tight tolerances and heat levels lay the perfect foundation for galling. I have read a few horror stories where galling has resulted in countless hours and creative thought to save actions. While some of these events were likely related to age or unusual events, we can avoid the majority of them on modern firearms by applying anti-seize, regardless of that being old-school grease or a purpose specific compound.

Absent from any discussion I have been able to find, however, is the use of colloidal graphite as anti-seize for rifles.

For casual some casual shooters and those safe-queen rifles, especially the ones with unpainted components, common anti-seize or grease may never give any cause for concern. However, those that run their systems in conditions where heat or dirt are factors have no doubt been frustrated by what is on every builder or hobby bench I have every seen or read about. And for those with matte sheen coatings, there is nothing like a small dab of say Silver LOCTITE (Loctite) anti-seize to demonstrate just how little material is needed to cover a lot of surface area. Too bad it does not come of as easy as it spreads.

Should you decide that using colloidal graphite as anti-seize for rifles is for you, the days of dealing with any mess will simply be gone.

Frustration Dawns Necessity

As we know, when you replace a barrel, or even a muzzle device, you cannot simply screw things together and expect to get them back apart. At the same time the fitment at the face of each part, be that where the barrel contact the muzzle device or an action for example, it should be so precise that that even the smallest amount of AS is going to get pushed out of the surfaces on onto whatever it darn well pleases. Stop and think about that.

If you did think about it you may be thinking fine, so the mating surface is precise and compound stuff squirts out. Such is life. Well, it is that joint, not the threads that make things tight. The threads should not be sloppy but at the same time that is not what keeps things lined up. This tells us that compound that gets compressed in that joint. And while hopefully the use of compound is being properly factored into torque specs, the viscosity of the compound will change with time. Further, the reduction factor for toque of a lubricated part is debated (25% is common, some say as high as 40%) and you need to talk with your barrel and action manufacturer to get their input.

Threads themselves do carry compound into the action. Hopefully that is being mitigated using a method that does not get so much in the action that it is a big problem. However, saying that a method that results in no compound in the action fully coated the surfaces is a hard sell. Expect some swabbing of the chamber after assembly at a minimum.

Muzzle devices are different but not much different. They are certainly more forgiving in the torque arena, assuming you torque them at all. However, they must stay snug and cleaning baked-on goop from brake ports is not the best way to spend ones time.

For my part, I have been using silver Loctite for years and can say without a doubt that when it gets on matte finish, or your finger, or a rag, or pretty much anything, it worse than goat tails. I have seen and even tried more things that I care to admit attempting to get around this. The AS sticks that Loctite makes, applying thin amounts then screwing and unscrewing parts to get the thinnest spread possible (not the most sound method), tape and gloves, and so on.

With each of these I have managed to eliminate large messes but I have always wondered if I am risking not having enough AS in order to keep things clean.

Searching for a Solution

After reading about shooters that use graphite to treat barrel bores, namely like the kit that is available from Gre’-tan Rifles LLC, I started reading up on different types of graphite treatments. Graphite treatments comes in a different forms. Powder, paste, spray, and liquid. Paste is out since that is the form of anti-seize I am looking to replace. Powder, too, seemed like an obvious miss so there was no point in looking deeper into either of those.

The common sprays on the market ended up being a nothing burger for me. By looking over the safety data sheets you quickly get the sense that graphite is included for marketing purposes only. Examples are Blaster Graphite Dry Lubricant and CRC Dry Graphite Lube. Chemical listings in these products show high amounts of hydrocarbons such as toluene and n-butane which may be fine if they are getting cleaned off quickly, but I am not interested in letting them dry or in having to clean up the over-spray.

Just in case you are inclined to give sprays a try, there are potential self-defeating factors as well. Petroleum distillates in sprays are non-specific. Such is the case with Blaster’s “Trade Secret” petroleum distillate, making final lubrication a complete mystery. One must also assume that petroleum base products are lower grade than the well known high-temp rated grease you would likely use for anti-seize and, consequently, will likely thin rapidly when heated.

Even the best high-temp grease will have some separation inside its operating zone, what is left behind is the stuff intended to carry the load. With unknown agents there is the potential of allowing parts to loosen and the desirable chemical itself to seep from the joint. Further, given the concentration of these other chemicals compared to the graphite content, it appears the heat ratings are not given because of the graphite.

Answers

Liquid graphite options did look promising. The two main diluent options that I found are stoddard solvent and isopropanol, with the latter being something that needed to be ordered and considerable more expensive. It is worth noting that isopropanol diluent graphite variants, better known as colloidal graphite, have static values published for the coefficient of friction. This takes all the unknowns out of adjusting torque specs. Alcohol options, however, are relatively cheap and one of them is available in most towns. It was pretty hard to resist the temptation at around $5, so I picked up a bottle of AGS Lock-Ease (aka, Lock Ease) from the local Ace Hardware.

Lock-Ease goes on super thin and is easy to wipe off. I know that shooters are treating the inside of barrels with this stuff but truthfully I have a hard time believing that it is doing much good. This is not to say the product is not good, but I am saying it will be finding a home in the garage as I am sure I have plenty of padlocks that can use a treatment. The graphite particles seem too large and are sparse in the carrier fluid. No matter how much I shook the bottle I was always able to see graphite pieces in a fluid, rather than graphite that was flowing because of a carrier fluid (diluent).

Since there are plenty of reports of shooters having success with Gre’-Tan’s Break In Kit I decided buy it would be the next test. This is because the kit includes graphite in isopropanal, more commonly called dry film lubricant, or colloidal graphite. I figured if nothing else I would try the “break in kit” on a couple of new barrels in the next year making the “anti-seize test” a bonus. Gre’-Tan ships BONDERITE L-GP 156 (aka, DAG 156) in their kit. Henkel Adhesives, the company that owns LOCTITE, owns BONDERITE.

Once I latched on to the idea of colloidal graphite as anti-seize for rifles, the name that kept turning up was NEOLUBE. Developed by what appears to be a minimal staffed, family-owned business in Port Huron, MI, aptly named Huron Industries (Huron), NEOLUBE No.1 and NEOLUBE No.2 are both colloidal graphite sold under the Huron tent.

The exact differences between the NEOLUBE options are tough to pin down although my money is on the grade of graphite used purely based on the difference in the friction (see Data). Both variants state they are effective on moving parts although No.2 explicitly states not to use it “on ball or roller bearings.”

Consolidated Data and Links

Huron NEOLUBE No.1

Description: Dry film lubricant, used extensively at nuclear power generating plants and other nuclear facilities as an anti-seize compound, thread lubricant, and for lubricating moving parts and rubbing surfaces.
Lubricant: Processed micro-graphite
Diluent: Isopropanol
Shelf Life: N/A in unopened container
Service Temp/Intermittent Temp: 400°F / 850°F
Coefficient of Friction: 0.15 (Static)
MIL-L-24131C: Yes

Huron NEOLUBE No.2

Description: Dry film lubricant, used extensively at nuclear power generating plants and other nuclear facilities as an anti-seize compound, thread lubricant, and for lubricating moving parts and rubbing surfaces.
Lubricant: Processed micro-graphite
Diluent: Isopropanol
Shelf Life: N/A in unopened container
Service Temp Range/Intermittent Temp: -70°F to 400°F / 850°F
Coefficient of Friction: 0.19 (Static)
MIL-L-24131C: No

Henkel BONDERITE L-GP 156 (DAG 156)

shown with gre'-tan break in kit

Description: Dry film lubricant for lubricating the internal and auxiliary equipment mechanisms of commercial and naval nuclear reactor systems.
Lubricant: Processed micro-graphite
Diluent: Isopropanol
Shelf Life: Varies, but no more than 2 years
Service Temp Continuous/Intermittent Temp: 400°F / 850°F
Coefficient of Friction: 0.15 (Static)
MIL-L-24131C: Yes

Other links of interest

AGS Lock-Ease Safety Data Sheet
Blaster Graphite Dry Lubricant SDS
CRC Dry Graphite Lube PDS
Gre'-Tan's Break In Kit
Henkel Adhesives (US home page)
Huron Industries
NEOLUBE No.1 / No.2 Safety Data Sheet

Going Nuclear

There are likely some laws and a bunch of certifications and fees required if you want to have nuclear reactor to use colloidal graphite on. Even if there was not, that’s really not my thing so my testing was not conducted on a reactor. Instead, I went ahead and used colloidal graphite as an anti-seize for rifles by starting with an unpainted Bartlein .223 Wylde.

Bartlein .223 Wylde prepped

Bartlein .223 Wylde with DAG 156

Prep was quick since the barrel and brake were recently cleaned and the barrel had a thread protector with just a light coat of oil waiting for the brake to be reinstalled. The threads and matting surface of the barrel and brake were flushed with brake cleaner, followed by 90% Isopropyl alcohol. Surfaces were then blown dry with low pressure, compressed air.

Application of the DAG 156 was straight forward. Shake well, and brush on using the brush that is attached to the bottle lid. I did apply a second coat about 10 seconds after the first, just as it began to flash. After that I let it dry for about 10 minutes before assembly.

It turns out the color of the coating is rather hard to bring out in my shop. Lacking the desire to setup lighting for a one-time need, I decided to coat another Bartlein barrel, this one in 6.5 Creedmoor, that also happens to be done in a matte Cerakote Black. Some of the graphite ended up on the Cerakote so I let it dry. There is also a pencil mark on top of the barrel that I use to center the brake. Without the bare stainless for the lights to bounce off of you can see the colloidal graphite is about the same color as the pencil line.

Since it would not be a proper write-up without at least one after-shot, I also pulled the 6mm, Gen II Little Bastard off of the .223 Wylde after sending several hundred rounds of 77 grain pills past it at around 2,740 fps. To make sure the there was enough contrast I did have to wipe the crown off. Just by the amazing glow on the copper you can see the sun was shining right down on the crown. The black muzzle blast just made the threads look gray with the light.

As expected there was a small amount of shine on the threads but the brake itself came of with no frustration at all. The thin spot in the coating at 9-o’clock is the same thin spot in the above photo that is at 8-o’clock. Cleaning the graphite off after (not shown) was as simple as wiping a patch of Butch’s Bore Shine over it, although all I used to get the excess off of the Cerakote on the 6.5 was a dab of alcohol.

Bartlein 6.5 CM with DAG 156

DAG 156 after Service

My Money

Something that caught my attention after buying the kit is DAG 156 has a shelf life of no more than 2 years. Worse, if you were to buy from Ladd Research, which also happens to be the only place I could find the TDS for DAG 156, you are only guaranteed a 90 day shelf life on lubricants and fwiw, paints. Since Boeing also distributes the same product and they list 720 days, they certainly want you to believe the shelf life is a real thing.

I suspect DAG 156 shelf life is more about needing to thin with isopropanol than anything, but if that was the case they should say that. Instead I can only choose between deciding, is it junk after not much time after I purchased it, possibly even before I purchased it, or are they just greedy and don’t want to say the product can be thinned with isopropanol? Truth be told, I have been experimenting with DAG 156 for several months now and have noticed no signs of needing to thin the product and no change in performance.

After all is said and done, the better option may be from Huron Industries. Their colloidal graphite comes in two different, albeit similar offerings. NEOLUBE No.1, and No.2. Both are designed to be an anti-seize and lubricant for use at nuclear facilities, as is DAG 156.

No.1 has the same mil-spec (MIL-L-24131C) in the TDS as DAG 156. However, Huron is fine with thinning the product if needed and lists an indefinite shelf life for unopened containers (both variants). It seems like Huron has more confidence in their product than Henkel.

As for NEOLUBE No.1 No.2, if you are going to use colloidal graphite as anti-seize for rifles, No.1 is obviously better for higher temps but questionable if in fact the higher grade is needed. I have yet to get a reading close to 400°F on any of my bolt rifles and would be very concerned if I did. As for a semi-auto, while I have never bothered to check the readings, all those mil-spec rifles that use permanent thread sealant are banking on them staying under 400°F. Or at least they should be since that is what you heat it to to break the thread sealant loose.

For myself, I did order up a bottle of NEOLUBE No.1 and am just waiting on the delivery. Since MIL-L-24131C requires testing for graphite content at 570°F for approximately 1.5 hours, it stands to reason that No.1 does a better job at handling operating temp cycles over time and I want to find out if there is a noticeable difference between it and DAG.

I am willing to say having the mil-spec version just adds to the comfort level and No.2 would be sufficient. After all, while I am sure the total of my barrels and actions don’t even come close the cost of a nuclear reactor (Yes, relax, I am aware nuclear facility does not equate to reactor). But it sure hurts like heck every time I buy one so I spent the extra $10 for the certified product.

If NEOLUBE will turn out to be any better than DAG, maybe time will tell because I unless there is a noticeable difference in the application itself, I have a feeling I won’t be able to say one way or the other.

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