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Thread: Ed's Red Firearms Solvent

  1. #1

    Ed's Red Firearms Solvent

    Found this on another forum but thought it might be useful here. Long but interesting.

    My Thirty + + + Years With ''Ed's Red''. Home-Mix Really Works
    By C.E. ''Ed'' Harris - Updated 2/20/2021.
    Thirty-seven odd years ago I mixed my first "Ed's Red" or "ER" bore cleaner. It has passed the test of time. Thousands of satisfied users think this home-mixed cleaner is every bit as effective as more expensive commercial products.

    I urge you to try some, either mixing your own or buy it pre-mixed from Brownell’s and give it a fair trial, compared to whatever you have been using.

    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 will give up little or nothing in safety or effectiveness.

    The design intent of “ER” was to provide cleaning action similar to Vietnam-era military rifle bore cleaner, Mil-C-372B. When the optional acetone is included ER is more effective than Hoppe's for removing plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or heavily-caked carbon fouling in semi-automatic rifles or pistols. User have reported it as effective as Kano Kroil as a penetrant for loosening rusted bolts, engine parts and in removing leading in revolvers. It is not as effective as Sweets 7.62, Hoppe's Bench Rest Nine or Shooter's Choice for fast removal of copper fouling in rifle bores, because ER does not chemically attack copper. Instead "ER" is more effective in removing caked carbon and abrasive primer residues than other cleaners, so that metal fouling is greatly reduced when "ER" is used on a continuing basis.

    When I originally came up with this mix I was an active high power rifle, bullseye pistol shooter and hand loading experimenter who used a lot of bore cleaner and was not satisfied with the spotty performance and high cost of the commonly available commercial products. I knew there was no technical reason why an effective firearm bore cleaner couldn't be mixed using common hardware store ingredients. Out well-proven result over decades of experience is that “ER” is less expensive, every bit as effective, providing excellent corrosion protection and fully adequate residual lubrication so that routine "oiling" after cleaning is unnecessary, except for long-term storage of over 1 year, or harsh service, such as humid tropical environments or salt water exposure.

    The “ER” formula was based upon proven principles, incorporating two polar and two nonpolar solvents. It was adapted from the recipe published in Hatcher's Notebook for "Frankford Arsenal Cleaner No.18," substituting readily available modern materials. An organic chemist assisted me in its development ensured that there would be no "surprises." Hatcher’s formula called for equal parts of acetone, turpentine, Pratts Astral Oil and sperm oil, and optionally 200 grams of anhydrous lanolin being added per liter. Brief discussion of the ingredients is helpful to understand the properties of the cleaner and how it works.

    Pratts Astral oil was nothing more than acid free, deodorized kerosene. Today I recommend "K1" kerosene of the type normally sold for use in indoor space heaters. Users have reported successful substitution of civilian aviation grade kerosene such as Turbo-A. While military users have reported successful substitution of current JP-8 turbine fuel, I hesitate to recommend it pending further research, because the effects upon firearm components of the various additives required of military aviation fuels are unknown. Some older Vietnam-era "jet- fuels" still common in some parts of the world were avgas/kerosene blends and must not be used, because of their increased flammability.

    An inexpensive, effective substitute for sperm oil is Dexron automatic transmission fluid. Prior to about 1950 that most ATF's were sperm oil based, but during WWII synthetics were developed for use in precision instruments. With the great demand for automatic transmission autos after WWII, sperm oil was no longer practical to produce ATF in the quantity demanded, so the synthetic materials became the basis for our Dexron fluids we know today.

    [The original Dexron (B) transmission fluid was introduced on April 1, 1967. Over the years, the original Dexron (B) was supplanted by Dexron-II(C), Dexron-II(D), Dexron-II(E), Dexron-III(F), Dexron-III(G), Dexron-III(H), Dexron-VI(J), Dexron HP, Dexron LV ATF HP, and Dexron ULV which is the latest fluid]

    The additives in ATFs which include organometallic antioxidants and surfactants, make it highly suitable for inclusion in an all-purpose cleaner-lubricant-preservative. Experience has proven that any major name-brand ATF whether Dexron, Mercon, Mopar, etc., are all fine in ER. If you have old Ford-Mercon in the garage back from the days you owned that Ford Galaxy Police Interceptor which would pass anything on the road except a gas station, mixing ER is the best way to repurpose it, instead of taking to household hazardous waste disposal.

    Hatcher's original Frankford Arsenal No. 18 formula used gum spirits of turpentine. Real gum turpentine is expensive today, and is an "aromatic" solvent, which is highly flammable, so 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 widely used as charcoal lighter, and as automotive parts cleaner. It is commonly sold under the names "odorless mineral spirits," "Stoddard Solvent" or "Varsol".

    Acetone was included in "ER" to provide an aggressive, fast-acting solvent for caked powder residues. Because acetone is an aromatic, organic solvent, it is recommended that users leave it out if the cleaner will be used in enclosed spaces lacking forced air ventilation. This is because the acetone in ER will readily evaporate, liberating volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere unless containers are kept tightly closed when not in use.
    ER is still effective without the acetone, but it is not as "fast-acting," so you will have to be patient.

    It is true that there isn't anything in Ed's Red which chemically dissolves copper fouling in rifle bores. However, because it does a better job removing caked on carbon and abrasive primer residue than anything else, which is safe and commonly available, decades of use have substantiated that exclusive use of "ER" reduces copper deposits, because it removes the old impacted powder fouling which is left by other cleaners. This reduces the abrasion and adhesion of jacket metal to the bore surface, leaving a cleaner surface condition which reduces subsequent fouling. Experience indicates that "ER" will reduce the adhesion of remove metal fouling it if you let it "soak," once the surfactants will their the job, deposits are more easily brushed out.

    Addition of the lanolin to ER bore cleaner mix is entirely optional. Today it is increasing difficult to find anhydrous lanolin. A clever boy can substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, USP from the drug store, heating it over a double boiler and gradually driving off the excess moisture. Farm boys tell me that Bag Balm can be minimally processed and used in the same way. ER still gives adequate corrosion protection and lubrication for most users without the lanolin. However, incorporating the lanolin makes it easier on the hands, displaces water better, increases its lubricity and film strength, and improves corrosion protection for long term storage or when firearms will be routinely exposed to salt air, water spray, industrial or polluted urban corrosive atmospheres.

    If you use other protective films for adverse exposures or long term storage you can leave the lanolin out and save about $10 per gallon. At current retail prices [unless you live in California, I am told…] you can buy all the ingredients to mix ER, without the lanolin for about $25 per gallon. I urge you to mix some yourself. I am confident it will work as well for you as it does for hundreds of users who got the "recipe" thirty years ago on the old Fidonet Firearms Echo.

    I feel obligated to say that in the years since Ed’s Red was introduced, others have advocated substituting other materials such as MEK or other hazardous, cancer-causing solvents, or Marvel Mystery Oil, which does have a pleasant smell, but is more expensive than Dexron and offers has no real technical advantage.
    So I am going on record here that Ed does not recommend ANY substitutions. Please stick to the proven recipe.

    CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner

    1 part Dexron ATF, GM Spec. D-20265 or later. Older Ford Mercon and Mopar also OK.

    1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1, also OK to substitute Jet-A

    1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec. TT-T-2981F, CAS
    #64741-49-9, or may substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS #8052-41-3, or
    equivalent, (aka "Varsol")

    1 part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1. (Optional)

    (Also optional) 200 g per Liter or up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon, OK to
    substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)


    Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal, chemical-resistant, heavy gage PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA approved plastic gasoline storage containers are also OK. Do NOT use
    HDPE, which is permeable, because the acetone will eventually evaporate. The acetone in ER will also attack HDPE, causing the container to collapse, making a heck of a mess!

    Add the ATF first. Use the empty container to measure the other components, so that it is thoroughly rinsed. If you incorporate the lanolin into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler, taking
    precautions against fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and stirring until it is all dissolved.

    I highly recommend diverting a small quantity, up to 4 ozs. per quart of the 50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for optional use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the remaining mix.



    1. Flammable mixture. Keep away from heat, sparks or flame.

    2. FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call physician
    immediately. In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with
    water and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.

    3. Use with adequate ventilation. Avoid breathing vapors or spray mist.
    It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner
    inconsistent with its labelling. Reports have associated repeated and
    prolonged occupational overexposure to solvents with permanent brain and
    nervous system damage. If using in closed armory vaults lacking forced
    air ventilation wear respiratory protection meeting NIOSH TC23C or
    equivalent. Keep container tightly closed when not in use.

    INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING "Ed's Red (ER)" Bore Cleaner:

    1. Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning is most effective when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale
    on jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it back into the bore.

    2. Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the breech, this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its action.

    3. For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled "milsurps" guns, leaded revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth, target-grade barrels in routine use.

    4. Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out loosened residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing,
    leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for 1 year under average conditions.

    5. If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the firearm from rust for up to two years. For longer term storage I recommend use of Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmolene substitute. "ER" will
    readily remove hardened Alox or Cosmolene.

    6. Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun. While Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it contains is harmful to most wood finishes).

    7. Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag. First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if the bore is cleaned as described.

    8. After firing black powder, Pyrodex or military chlorate primers wet patching with hot water is recommended initially to dissolve potassium chlorate salts and to break up black powder fouling deposits. The water cleaning should be immediately followed by a thorough flush with Ed's Red to prevent after-rusting which could result from residual moisture.

    Recommended practice is to clean TWICE, TWO DAYS APART whenever using black powder or chlorate primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all the corrosive residue out.

    This "Recipe" is placed in the public domain, and may be freely distributed provided that it is done so in its entirely with all current revisions, instructions and safety warnings included herein, and that proper attribution is given to the author.

    In Home Mix We Trust.

    Regards, Ed

    Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk

  2. #2
    Member diananike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Northern Manitoba
    I mixed up a gallon of Ed’s red 18 years ago and have used it almost exclusively on all my firearms since.
    I have used about half of it.
    That’s pretty darn economical in my books.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by diananike View Post
    I mixed up a gallon of Ed’s red 18 years ago and have used it almost exclusively on all my firearms since.
    I have used about half of it.
    That’s pretty darn economical in my books.
    What type of container do you keep it in?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Mixed some many years ago.

  5. #5
    10.3" Master Race TGS's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    "The Grim"
    I didn't think anyone used Ed's Red except retirees shooting benchrest and the old somewhat-disabled range golems that harass you for your spent brass.
    "Are you ready? Okay. Let's roll."- Last words of Todd Beamer

  6. #6
    Site Supporter Paul D's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Neat story in that he was inventive in a time where those types of cleaners were not in ready existence. These days, there are so many easier choices that are less risky health wise.

  7. #7
    Member gato naranja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Flyover country... and never too far from the food bowl.
    Ed's Red actually did a good job of cleaning for me in the past, and I'd be tempted to make up another batch if I weren't so bone idle these days. It worked better than some "name brand" commercial stuff I have tried over the years, and I'm not so sure it doesn't still hold its own. I have about a pint left in a bottle,* but I suspect it might not be what it ought to be. I used Ed's Red for more than bores, as a patch or piece of rag that had been wetted with it was particularly handy to clean the crud out of blowback .22 semiautos and guns that seemed to get gummed up more than others. As mentioned, it is a formula that does a reasonable job of protecting steel until you can apply something else, and that was a plus for this then-younger boomer.

    I am not sure if Brownell's still offers their version of Ed's Red in small bottles, but if they do, it might be worth a try for those unfamiliar with it.

    *A brown quart beer bottle with a screw top, FWIW. Didn't want it to go "skunky" on me.

    (un VIEJO gato naranja... and still skeptical about humans)

  8. #8
    HAS ELECTROLYTES LittleLebowski's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul D View Post
    Neat story in that he was inventive in a time where those types of cleaners were not in ready existence. These days, there are so many easier choices that are less risky health wise.

  9. #9
    Yep they still sell it.

    Quote Originally Posted by gato naranja View Post

    I am not sure if Brownell's still offers their version of Ed's Red in small bottles, but if they do, it might be worth a try for those unfamiliar with it.

    Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Member diananike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Northern Manitoba
    Quote Originally Posted by BobM View Post
    What type of container do you keep it in?
    Not in plastic as it contains acetone that will corrode or melt plastics.
    I store it in those magnum sized wine bottles. The 1/2 gallon/2L ones.
    Make sure you flag them with a bunch of poison writing and symbols on it as it does have a similar colour to red wine.

    I agree with the health concerns from the chemicals. You’d be well advised to be careful to keep it off your skin. I have boxes of nitrile gloves I keep handy for when I plan on getting dirty.
    Last edited by diananike; 03-01-2021 at 08:02 AM.

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