I’ve been using Lee’s Alox tumble lube on my bullets for years. It works, but has some drawbacks I don’t care for.
In the spring of 2013, I started experimenting with adding various components to it looking for something better. I was reading about the lubricity qualities of powdered graphite and the light came on.
I went looking for a source for powdered graphite and found a site called The Graphite Store. They have a variety of container sizes, grades and particulate sizes to choose from. The one that seemed best suited to what I wanted to do is called Mycrofine, a 325 nano particulate powder that’s about as fine as talcum powder.
Knowing that Alox dries to a tacky finish, I figured I could use it as a bonding agent to attach the graphite to my bullets. The first batch I made up was a dismal failure. Adding graphite to Alox created a thick mud that was completely unusable.
After thinking about this for some time, I realized I needed some kind of liquid that would thin the solution and evaporate off after the application. I needed a volatile carrier.
I started with acetone. It thinned the solution nicely, but evaporates far too quickly. And the fumes from acetone are so bad, using this solution requires it to be done outside.
After some experimentation with various carriers, I stumbled on mineral spirits. Before I go any farther, let me tell you there are two types available. There’s a ‘green’ type called Klean Strip that is environmentally safe. DO NOT use this! It will not blend with Alox. The type that is needed is the old fashioned petroleum distillate mineral spirits.
The formula that I eventually ended with is one part mineral spirits, one part Xlox and two parts graphite, BY VOLUME, not weight. If you find the solution a bit thin to suit your application, you can add more graphite to thicken it.
I use a 24 ounce liquid dish soap bottle for a container. These bottles normally come with a snap closure top that enables you to pop it open, dispense some solution and snap it closed.
While we’re talking about the top, let me stress how important it is to snap the top closed IMMEDIATELY after dispensing the solution. This stuff is black as coal. If you spill it, you’ll have a glorious mess all over hell and half of Georgia.
I used a 16 ounce graduated plastic measuring cup to measure the components. I started with 4 ounces of Xlox, 4 ounces of mineral spirits and 8 ounces of graphite. This yielded a total of 16 ounces, about 2/3rds of the volume of the 24 ounce bottle. This gives you room to shake the solution well to mix it. Shaking it is also needed to get the graphite back into the solution after it has settled.
I found the best method to mix the two liquids with the graphite is to put the mineral spirits in the container first, then add the graphite by using an appropriately sized funnel. You may have to tap on the funnel to get the graphite to settle into the container. Closing the lid and shaking it hard makes the graphite blend quickly with the mineral spirits. When that’s done, add the Xlox and shake vigorously again.
Black Magic is a surface lube, meaning it works by lubricating the surfaces of the driving bands as opposed to groove type lubes that are compressed by obturation on firing. That also puts it in the tumble lube category. And that makes for batch applications but it must be left to dry before loading the bullets.
I use a 4 quart stamped metal dutch oven pot that has Teflon ‘no stick’ coating.
The Teflon coating is not critical as I have used an aluminum pot that did not have it and found no difference.
When you’re ready to lube your bullets, shake the bottle vigorously for a few seconds. It’s critical that the graphite be put back in suspension in the solution. Place an amount of bullets in the pot that will cover the bottom, but not so much that they’re more than a layer deep. The bullets will dry faster and you’ll have less problem with bullets sticking to each other using this method.
If you’re old enough to remember the Brylcream advertisements, keep in mind “A little dab’ll do ya'” when using Black Magic. Start with less than you think you need. You can always add a bit if the first application is not enough. Putting in too much on the first try, however, can make a mess and create a lot of work in getting it to evenly coat and dry.
Add a small amount of Black Magic about the size of a quarter in the pot, snap the lid closed on the bottle, pick up the pot in both hands and start a gently swirling motion to get the bullets moving around in the pot. As the bullets move around in the pot, they’ll pick up the lube. Continue the swirling until you can see that all the lube has transferred onto the bullets.
If you see the silver of the bullets in the lube grooves and want that covered, add a bit more lube and repeat the process. Be careful adding more lube, it doesn’t take much to increase the coating.
When you’re satisfied with the coating, set the pot down and go find something to do for a half hour. LEAVE IT ALONE! This gives the mineral spirits time to evaporate and lets the remaining Xlox and graphite solution partially dry.
When you come back to the pot, you should see the lube appears to be partially dry, yet still tacky. Give the bullets another swirl. This will even out the initial coat and help to prevent the bullets from sticking to the bottom of the pot during the final drying stage.
At this stage, it’s time to kiss the bullets good night and forget about them until the next day. It takes longer than you might think for all the mineral spirits to evaporate as it’s in solution with the Xlox, a much thicker liquid. 24 hours later, the bullets should be completely dry and ready to remove and handle.
Most people hear ‘graphite’ and run screaming for Moma. They envision black all over everything in a 20 mile radius. The graphite is bonded to the surface of the bullets by way of the Xlox acting as an adhesive. Yes, you will get some minor black on your fingers from handling the bullets. It won’t be nearly as much as you might think, though.
If you find that the bullets are stuck to the bottom of the pot, they can be easily broken loose with an old fork or some such. If this is done gently, the coating will not be disturbed.
They’re now dry and ready to be loaded. If you don’t load the entire batch, they can be stored in virtually any container that you might use for bullets lubed with any other method.
I’ve been working on developing and testing Black Magic for about a year now. I’ve tested it in rifle calibers from .223 up to .375 Winchester. I’ve tried it in handgun calibers from .38 Special up to 45ACP. It has performed flawlessly in every caliber, bullet weight and velocity I’ve run it through. I have found it to tighten groups and slightly increase velocities when compared to other lubes.
I ran an extreme endurance test on black Magic with a 223 bolt rifle. I used a Lyman 225415 bullet with a gas check and black Magic. The bullets were loaded over 21.5 grains of IMR 3031 and ignited with small magnum rifle primers. The test was not conducted to determine accuracy, but durability of the lube.
I was not able to force the lube to failure. Under these extreme conditions, the bore had no leading and a tight fitting patch pulled through the barrel showed no more residual lube than under any other load conditions. By the way, the patch comes out with minimal black on it.
I am convinced that graphite can be successfully used as a bullet lube. I believe the solution and method of application I have developed works and I will continue to use it.