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Bore Cleaner Recipe (Ed's Red)
Hippie on 2001-02-19

Does anybody use Ed`s Red Bore Cleaner? You know:

  • 1 Part Dexron ATF
  • 1 Part Kerosene-K1
  • 1 Part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits
  • 1 Part Acetone

I have good luck removing lead from revolver barrels and cylinders with this stuff.


From reading the web,it seems that lots of guys use this with good results. I use a slightly modified version, which I feel is closer to the original Frankford Arsenal formula, and it, too, works well.

Be aware that deodorized kerosene, aliphatic mineral spirits, naphtha etc. are all pretty much the same thing. They are all petroleum distillate with a flash point (where the vapors will catch fire) in the 100-150 F range, and with in most cases the 'unsaturated' and 'aromatic' parts refined out (they are the parts that have more noticeable odor, also they are often better solvents - toluene and xylene are examples).

Anyway, I mix the stuff with 1 part each of Dexron and acetone and 2 parts of Goo Gone. Goo Gone is a blend of odorless mineral spirits and limonene, which is basically orange peel oil.

The original Frankford Arsenal formula had one part of gum turpentine in it, and Ed Harris decided to leave it out because of cost and availability. Both turpentine and limonene are chemically similar and have similar solvent properties. Notably, they are much more powerful solvents for gummy, tarry and sticky messes than aliphatic spirits alone.

This mix is expensive unless you can find Goo Gone in larger containers. The typical 8 oz. home sized ones cost about $3 to 4. If you can find it in half gallons or gallons, the unit price is much less. Goo Gone is normally sold at hardware and variety stores. The last time I bought some I found it in quarts at a True Value hardware store for $8. As I said, it is much cheaper in gallons.

Bill Dickerson

This amended recipe came from John Taffin's Campfire discussion board 13 April 2001 as submitted by Glen, a self proclaimed chemical guru on that board.

Let me pass along a simpler (and better) recipe for this cleaning solvent. The mineral spirits that Ed used actually contribute relatively little to the solvent properties of Ed's Red, and in fact just dilute the desireable properties of some of the other components, so I left them out. He talks about avoiding certain solvents because of their flammability, but then uses acetone as a primary ingredient (which has a high vapor pressure, evaporates very quickly and has a Class 1A flammability rating). This makes no sense to me, so (being an organic chemist by trade) I added a carbon, and replaced the acetone with methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). MEK has a much lower vapor pressure and doesn't evaporate as quickly and, while still flammable, it is nearly not as "bad" as acetone. The carbon deposits are handled nicely by the xylene component, and the key to Ed's Red is the Dexron III automatic transmission fluid (ATF), which is an excellent lubricant/preservative (and it was very clever of Ed to recognize this and build his cleaning solvent around this cheap, easy to find component).

So, without further ado, my simplified version of Ed's Red cleaning solvent is (mixed in a 1 gallon glass jug with a tight fitting cap):

  • 1 quart Dexron III ATF
  • 1 quart MEK
  • 1 quart xylene

Remember, this stuff is flammable. Store and handle properly.

The MEK and xylene are available through the larger hardware stores, and the ATF can be bought at pretty much any grocery or automotive store. This recipe ends up costing about $8-9 a gallon. I mix it in a gallon jug and dispense it as needed into a small bottle and apply it with an old toothbrush and/or flannel patch. A gallon goes a LONG ways applied in this manner.

I also use Ed's Red to clean/preserve my bullet moulds.

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