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Oiling gas piston system damage?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Cowboybebop, Jul 22, 2016.

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  1. Cowboybebop

    Cowboybebop Member

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    Let's say I have a gas piston-operated semi auto rifle - like an M1A, which says specifically in the manual to NOT add any lubricant to the gas system.


    Let's say I ignored those instructions and covered the entire gas system in CLP.


    What damage, if any, would occur to the rifle?
     
  2. Indawind

    Indawind Member

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    It will smoke for a couple of shots. Now if it is dripping, you might want to shake it off first :D

    I lightly lube the rod and spring in mine and it burns back some but most of the rod is lubed.
     
  3. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I have read material from John Rocha, a Springfield Armory designer, and I am of the opinion that recommendation not to oil the gas cylinders or pistons is the legacy of a Springfield Armory inter organizational hissy fit. Work within a "professional" organization and you will find that high level dominant individuals set the culture, the biases of the organization based on their preferences and expressed opinions. When organizations are lead by technical experts you will see technical dogma being pushed, the basis of which is ego driven from a high level individual.

    As an example, for what ever reason, pre WW1 Springfield Armory hated alloy steels. I have found in the 1916 instructions to bidders for the M1903 rifle a flat out ban on using "nickle steel". Anyone bidding and winning a contract to build M1903's was forbidden to use "nickle steel". I am convinced that the only alloy steel Springfield Armory knew of was nickle steel, but there were a few others around at that early period of metallurgy. Alloy steels are 100% better in all respects to the plain carbon steels that were used by Springfield Armory and Rock Island Armory in their M1903's, and in time, around 1927, Springfield Armory finally started using nickle steel for M1903 receivers and bolts and other major components. Max Plank is quoted as saying "Science advances one funeral at a time" and I suspect the reason Springfield Armory started using nickle steel in 1927 was because the Chief Metallurgist from before WW1 had finally died by then!

    So, I think the warning against using oil in the gas cylinder is based on the expressed opinion by Springfield Armory that under gas pressure, the gas piston floats within the gas cylinder. Of course oil in the gas cylinder would defeat this clever bit of engineering and so it had to be banned. I think these ideas are bogus but there is evidence that Springfield Armory believed this.

    I earned my Distinguished with a M1a and every so often I take the thunder stick out and shoot it. First shot standing, there is always this plume of oil that comes out the gas system, because, I oil the gas piston. After three shots the oil is all gone. After shooting out two barrels in competition, I am slowly working on wearing out a third, my gas piston and gas cylinder gage are still within specs for wear limits.
     
  4. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    My experience is that the hot gas causes the oil to harden and turn into a shellac that gums things up. At least in the M1A and M60....

    M16s like oil on the piston (aka tail of the bolt/ bolt carrier), they use cooler gas at the piston.
     
  5. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

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    The problem with gas systems and oils is that the super heated gas entering the system will burn any lube into a tar-like sticky substance that will cause the piston to get sluggish and cause failures to operate correctly.

    If you've put anything in your M1A system, just use some solvent like lacquer thinner or even bore solvent to clean the parts off.
    You can easily remove the piston and soak it.
    Use Q-tips or pipe cleaners and solvent to clean the gas cylinder.

    In other words, no harm done, just clean the parts off.
     
  6. Indawind

    Indawind Member

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    I just caught the M1A part of the OP. My bad for skimming on a Friday.

    The piston drives that I have and was talking about are not that nature.
     
  7. Cowboybebop

    Cowboybebop Member

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    So far nobody has stated outright damage will occur.

    The SCAR series of rifles says in the manual that if you oil the gas system damage to the rifle will result.

    What are they talking about and HOW does this damage occur?
     
  8. goon

    goon Member

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    They say not to oil the gas piston on a FAL, but I found when I owned them that if I didn't, they'd rust like hell. Since they were getting damaged just sitting in storage, I started lightly oiling the piston and tube.
     
  9. tark

    tark Member

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    I was always told NOT to oil the gas system on my M-14. I never did, and I never had a problem, even in the humidity of Vietnam.

    It was my understanding that oiling or lubing it would not actually damage anything, just gum it up as the heat turned the lubricants to sludge, leading to stoppages. But that was 1968.

    I wonder how will some of the modern lubricants would fare in an M-14s gas system? I use Mobile One on my AR. That stuff can withstand 800 degrees and still lubricate.
     
  10. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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  11. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    My personal rule is that, if it's exposed to gas and powder fouling and it's wet, it forms sludge.
    Damage? No. Oil + powder fouling = sludge? yes.
    If it's exposed to gas and powder fouling, I wipe it after cleaning and before assembly, leaving only a thin rust preventive shine for storage.

    My gas-operated firearms: M1 Carbine, Yugo M70AB2 rifle, Mossberg M1000 shotgun.

    I know oiling a gas piston and cylinder was disasterous on the Howa M1000 shotgun (imported by S&W and Mossberg); the gas system was intended to be disassembled, cleaned, reassembled and run DRY no cleaners or lubes. People would spray the gas system with cleaner or oil, maybe blow it out with compressed air or brake cleaner. It had a shock absorber washer between the piston and magazine spring retainer that melted under the influence of cleaners and oils and formed a sticky tar like goo. The replacement shock absorber from Gun Parts Corp is supposed to be impervious to oil or cleaners. Still the gun runs longer if you start with the gas system clean and dry; it fouls quicker if you start wet.
     
  12. tark

    tark Member

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    That is some fascinating research, briansmithwins, documented with pics. Thank you. It tells me that what I have always heard might just be wrong. I have an M-1 and I have never oiled the piston or cylinder. And they are a you know what to clean. The piston especially.

    Think I'll start with a little oil and see what happens! Thanks again.
     
  13. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

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    No one knew more about the M14 then the military and the USGI Field Manual specifically says NOT to apply any lubricant to the inside of the gas system.

    Field Manual FM 23-8 pages 32 and 33.

    32: Dry the cylinder bore with clean patches. Do not use abrasives in cleaning the cylinder and do not oil the interior surfaces.

    33. Wipe the piston dry, but do not oil.
    The gas system incorporates a self-cleaning section and functions within very close tolerances.
     
  14. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    I think it might be more correct to say Army Ordnance knew more about the M14 than anyone else. OTOH, that was the same organization that promoted the M14 as being able to be built on Garand tooling (it wasn't) and capable of replacing the M1 Garand, M1 carbine, M3 SMG, and the BAR (it wasn't and didn't).

    I never really understood Army Ordnance's fascination with the White expansion and cutoff system. It has always struck me as an engineering exercise that's a pain to implement for no real gain over a simpler alternative. But we all know how the M14 and M60 turned out, and what happened to Army Ordnance.

    BSW
     
  15. Cowboybebop

    Cowboybebop Member

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    My question isn't so much what is right, it's what damage will occur if the advice is not followed.


    When I look around the internet I see lots and lots of people saying things like:


    - "The lubricant will diesel and blow up your gas block"

    - "The excess oil will cause a pressure spike and crack your piston because oil is not compressible"


    Is this nonsense? What damage is FN Herstal talking about when they warn us "lubricating the piston will damage your rifle" ?
     
  16. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    I've got a couple of modern FN rifles and I've shot both with oily gas pistons. Neither has exploded nor have my fingers or eyes been blown off.

    BSW
     
  17. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    A few more things:

    Are the parts chrome plated, or plain stainless steel?

    Chrome plating tends to be slicker than steel, stuff doesn't stick.

    What type of oil?

    Depending on the additives, oil can become tar-like and get sticky or it can become shellac-like and flake off.

    CLP on a steel piston will lock up in about 50 rounds.

    So, I guess the answer is: "It depends."

    But, in no case would I worry about safety, just reliability.
     
  18. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    What exactly are you basing that on? Any specific examples you have in mind?

    As a counter argument I'd use a standard AR15: steel piston (the bolt) in a hardchromed cylinder (the bolt carrier), frequently lubricated with CLP and certainly not locking up from varnish or sludge after 50 rounds.

    BSW
     
  19. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    ARs 1) have chrome plating in the gas system, and 2) using much cooler gas, about 100° C to 150° C cooler.

    As to what I am basing it on see above as well as AR180s especially the un-plated Bs. And, "steel", as opposed to chrome plated or stainless.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
  20. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    I actually don't have anything that doesn't have some hardchrome or stainless in the gas system. So much for testing the CLP thing.

    BSW
     
  21. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    That is not analogous to (the OP #1) gas piston and cylinder exposed to hot gases tapped off a hole in the barrel.
     
  22. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    While we all use and follow authority, primarily because we cannot test every assertion, when it comes to the M14 gas system, i follow my experience in the real world over the "sacred cows" of a long gone organization.

    Springfield Armory is so proud of their gas system and that pride makes it into the Field Manual.

    Now has anyone actually shot their M1a/M14 with an oiled gas piston? I have and as I wrote earlier, nothing bad happened over decades of shooting with an oiled piston. If you open the action and leave the bolt to the rear, if you shake the rifle you should hear the gas piston move. If it was stuck, it was common practice to add a drop of lubricant, usually GI bore cleaner, in the gas cylinder port.

    I am a Highpower competitor and after every 58 or 88 round match I took the gas cylinder lock off and cleaned the piston and the inside of the gas cylinder. I never found sludge. I never found gummed oil, what I found was that all oil had been blown off the gas piston as after 58/88 rounds/ To repeat, all vestiges of oil were gone. Gas pistons will rust. One bud, while a Camp Perry, came to my hut and told me he was having function issues with his State M14. He had been told by the “experts” never to clean the gas system. Maybe he miss understood the advice but the fact of the matter was he had never taken the gas cylinder lock off, removed the piston, cleaned it or the inside of the gas cylinder. The gas piston was completely filled with a hard carbon like deposit. I had my gas piston tool, the one with the drill bits, and I reamed that crusty stuff out. The outside surfaces of his gas pistol were heavily pitted, because gunpowder residue attracts moisture. I could nothing about that, he needed a new gas piston. But the image of a gas piston that looked like a roll of Swiss cheese has stayed with me and I, lubricate my gas piston because I don’t want rust, and I have never found any issues by oiling.
     
  23. Cowboybebop

    Cowboybebop Member

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    Something very strange I took notice of:


    FN Herstal recommends that the user lube the gas piston rod in the FS2000. Even has arrows in the manual showing where to drop oil.

    For the SCAR rifle, which to my knowledge uses the EXACT SAME GAS SYSTEM, the manual warns you that lubricating the piston will damage the rifle.


    Explain that one.
     
  24. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    The gas systems are very slightly different. The head of the piston differs in length and the way the gas regulator handles excess gas is slightly different. But yeah, for the most part you could accidentally swap parts between the two and not notice.

    BSW
     
  25. Average Joe

    Average Joe Member

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    I always wipe down the gas piston in my M1A with CLP after every outing. Never in the last 10 years has anything bad happened.
     
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