'Ed's Red' Bore Cleaner
''Ed's Red'' Bore
Cleaner... Home-Mix Really Works
By C.E. ''Ed'' Harris
Updated & Revised 9-29-95.
Four years ago I
mixed my first "Ed's Red" or "ER" bore cleaner
hundreds of users have told me that they think this home-mixed
is more effective than commercial products. I urge you to
mix some and
give it a fair trial, compared to whatever you have
Competitive shooters, gun clubs and police departments
who use a gallon
or more of rifle bore cleaner annually can save
by mixing their own, and
they will give up nothing in safety or
This cleaner has an action very similar to
standard military issue rifle
bore cleaner, such as Mil-C-372B.
Users report it is more effective than
Hoppe's for removing
plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or caked carbon
semi-automatic rifles or pistols, or in removing leading
revolvers. It is not as effective as Sweets 7.62, Hoppe's Bench
Nine or Shooter's Choice for fast removal of heavy copper
rifle bores. However, because "ER" is more
effective in removing caked
carbon and abrasive primer residues
than other cleaners, metal fouling
is greatly reduced when "ER"
is used on a continuing basis.
I originally came up with this
mix because I am an active high power
rifle competitive shooter
and hand loading experimenter who uses a lot
of rifle bore
cleaner. I was not satisfied with the performance and high
of commercial products. I knew there was no technical reason why
effective firearm bore cleaner couldn't be mixed using
hardware store ingredients. The result is inexpensive,
provides good corrosion protection and adequate
residual lubrication so
that routine "oiling" after
cleaning is rarely necessary, except for
long-term storage of over
1 year, or harsh service environments, such as
This formula is based on proven principles and
incorporates two polar
and two nonpolar solvents. It is adapted
from the one in Hatcher's
Notebook for "Frankford Arsenal
Cleaner No.18," but substituting
equivalent modern materials.
I had the help of an organic chemist in
doing this and we knew
there would be no "surprises." The original
formula called for equal parts of acetone, turpentine, Pratts
Oil and sperm oil, and optionally 200 grams of anhydrous
added per liter. Some discussion of the ingredients is
understand the properties of the cleaner and how it
Pratts Astral oil was nothing more than acid free,
I recommend "K1" kerosene of the
type normally sold for use in indoor
space heaters. Some users
have reported successful substitution of
civilian aviation grade
kerosene such as Turbo-A. I am reluctant to
substitution of aviation grade kerosene, because the effects
firearm components of the additives required in aviation fuels
unknown. Some "jet- fuels" are gasoline/kerosene
blends and absolutely
should not be used, because of their
An inexpensive, effective substitute
for sperm oil is Dexron (II, IIe or
III) automatic transmission
fluid. Prior to about 1950 that most ATF's
were sperm oil based,
but during WWII a synthetic was developed for use
instruments. With the great demand for automatic
autos after WWII, sperm oil was no longer practical to
in the quantity demanded, so the synthetic material became
basis for the Dexron fluids we know today. The additives in
which include organometallic antioxidants and surfactants,
highly suitable for inclusion in an
original Frankford Arsenal No. 18 formula used gum spirits
turpentine. Because turpentine is expensive today, and is also
"aromatic" solvent, which is highly flammable, I
chose not to use it.
Safer and cheaper is "aliphatic mineral
spirits," a petroleum based
"safety solvent" used
for thinning oil based paints and also widely used
automotive parts cleaner. It is commonly sold under the
"odorless mineral spirits," "Stoddard
Solvent" or "Varsol".
Acetone is included in
"ER" to provide an aggressive, fast-acting
caked powder residues. Because acetone is an aromatic,
solvent, it is recommended that users leave it out if the
will be used in enclosed spaces lacking forced air ventilation.
acetone in ER will evaporate, liberating volatile organic
(VOCs) into the atmosphere unless containers are kept
when not in use. The cleaner is still effective
without the acetone, but
it is not as "fast-acting."
isn't anything in Ed's Red which chemically dissolves copper
in rifle bores, but it does a better job removing on carbon
primer residue than anything else which is safe and commonly
Numerous users have told me, that exclusive use of "ER"
deposits, because it removes the old impacted
powder fouling which is
left by other cleaners, which reduces the
abrasion and adhesion of
jacket metal to the bore surface, leaving
a cleaner surface condition
which reduces subsequent fouling.
Experience seems to indicate that "ER"
remove metal fouling it if you let it "soak," so
surfactants will do the job, though you have to be
Addition of the lanolin to ER bore cleaner mix is
entirely optional. The
cleaner works quite well and gives adequate
corrosion protection and
lubrication for most users without it.
Incorporating the lanolin makes
the cleaner easier on the hands,
and increases lubricity and film
strength, and improves corrosion
protection if weapons will be routinely
exposed to salt air, water
spray, industrial or urban corrosive
atmospheres, or if you intend
to use the cleaner as a protectant for
long term storage of over 1
If you use other protective films for adverse use or
long term storage
you can leave the lanolin out and save about $8
per gallon. At current
retail prices you can buy all the
ingredients to mix ER, without the
lanolin for about $10 per
gallon. I urge you to mix some yourself. I am
confident it will
work as well for you as it does for me and hundreds of
got the "recipe" on the Fidonet Firearms
CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner
part Dexron II, IIe or III ATF, GM Spec. D-20265 or later.
part Kerosene - deodorized, K1
part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec. TT-T-2981F,
or may substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS #8052-41-3,
part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1.
up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon, OK to
Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug
MIXING INSTRUCTIONS FOR "ER" BORE CLEANER:
outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon
heavy gage PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA
plastic gasoline storage containers are also OK. Do NOT use
which is permeable, because the acetone will eventually
The acetone in
ER will also attack HDPE, causing the container to
making a heck of a mess!
the ATF first. Use the empty container to measure the
components, so that
it is thoroughly rinsed. If you incorporate the
into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler,
fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger
rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and
until it is all dissolved.
recommend diverting a small quantity, up to 4 ozs. per quart of
50-50 ATF/kerosene mix
for optional use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil.
can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the
AND NECESSARY SAFETY WARNINGS:
BORE CLEANER CAUTION: FLAMMABLE MIXTURE
IF SWALLOWED. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
Flammable mixture. Keep away from heat, sparks or flame.
FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call
In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with
and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.
Use with adequate ventilation. Avoid breathing vapors or spray
is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a
with its labelling. Reports have associated repeated and
occupational overexposure to solvents with permanent brain
system damage. If using in closed armory vaults lacking forced
ventilation wear respiratory protection meeting NIOSH TC23C
Keep container tightly closed when not in use.
FOR USING "Ed's Red (ER)" Bore Cleaner:
Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning
most effective when
done while the barrel is still warm to the touch
firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale
jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The
should be a snug
fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it
into the bore.
a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the
this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5"
advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle.
minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its
For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled "rattle battle" guns,
neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be
to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for
barrels in routine use.
Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush
dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag
pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing,
the bore wet will protect it from rust for 1 year under
If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect
firearm from rust for
up to two years. For longer term storage I
use of Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmolene substitute. "ER"
hardened Alox or Cosmolene.
Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the
While Ed's Red is
harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it
is harmful to most wood finishes).
Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and
the chamber, using a
patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag.
shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if
bore is cleaned as described.
I have determined to my satisfaction that when Ed's Red is
thoroughly, that hot water cleaning is unnecessary after
of Pyrodex or military chlorate primers. However, if bores are
wiped between shots
and shots and are heavily caked from black powder
hot water cleaning is recommended first to break up heavy
deposits. Water cleaning should be followed by a thorough flush
Ed's Red to prevent after-rusting which could result from
moisture. It is
ALWAYS good practice to clean TWICE, TWO DAYS APART
using chlorate primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all
corrosive residue out.
This "Recipe" is
placed in the public domain, and may be freely
provided that it is done so in its entirely with all
revisions, instructions and safety warnings included
herein, and that
proper attribution is given to the author.
Home Mix We Trust, Regards, Ed