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What was Rangoon gun oil? Is it still around today?

You'll read about it in old shooting books - but what was it?

Rangoon Oil

Rangoon oil from Westley Richards is available to purchase today

Is Rangoon oil still about?

Q: In a lot of old shooting books it says you should clean gun barrels with Rangoon oil. What was it and who made it? These days you never hear it mentioned. I’ve asked around about it and apparently it had a wonderful smell. Although I suppose like most old things it has been superseded by something much more modern. Would it still be good for cleaning barrels and if not, what should I use?

One for the troops

A: Rangoon oil was not so much a cleaning agent as a rust preventer. As far we know it was developed by the British Army, and was certainly in use by troops 150 years ago.

It was a tenacious oil with a very slow evaporation rate, and its purpose was to keep arms free of rust in hot, steamy jungle conditions. A combination of dampness, heat, and a little honest sweat, is an ideal recipe for rapidly corroding unprotected steel.

Today’s guns are less prone to rust than they used to be, with internally-chromed barrels and modern metal finishes on the outside.

Still available for purchase

However, we have hunted around and you can buy Rangoon oil today online from Westley Richards. The company has small bottles on sale for £9.50 and describes Rangoon oil thus: “A traditional formula, excellent for long-term storage of firearms, their working parts and metallic surfaces. Applying Rangoon oil to your gun will prevent rusting and protects these surfaces against damage from long term exposure to oxygen and moisture.”

Don’t confuse Rangoon oil with soluble oil compounds, which are best remembered with the trade name of Young’s 303. Young’s, mixed with water, was once a popular gun cleaning agent, and it is still available if you search around although it has never been a favourite with Shooting Times contributors.