About 1998 I began posting a 19th century bullet lubricant recipe that, when assembled with very specific ingredients, works exceedingly well with black powder. It must be made, as no one offers it commercially.
Within a year of my posting it with ingredients I specified, someone else named the recipe after me: “Gatofeo No. 1 Lubricant.”
“Gatofeo” means “ugly cat” in Spanish – and I’ve been grinning like a drunken Cheshire at the honor.
The recipe I posted – when made with the specific ingredients I list below -- equals or exceedss SPG, Lyman Black Powder Gold or other commercially made black powder lubricants and is cheaper to make than buying the commercial stuff.
Many have attested to its excellence on other message boards, particularly when soaked into 100% wool felt wads for use in cap and ball revolvers. It’s also a good bullet, patch and shotgun wad lubricant with black powder.
The recipe is:
1 part mutton tallow. I buy mine from Dixie Gun Works, which offers it again after months of unavailability. This is the toughest ingredient to find, but worth the search.
There’s something almost magical about mutton tallow. It doesn’t go rancid and it really keeps black powder fouling to a minimum.
1 part canning paraffin -- the same paraffin used to seal preserves in jars, sold at the grocery store in 1 lb. packages containing four slabs. Gulf is a common brand. Hardware stores with canning sections have it too.
1/2 part real beeswax -- Beware of today's toilet seals, which are not real beeswax but petroleum-based. Get real beeswax, not the synthetic stuff. Though hobby shops may carry small cakes of beeswax, it’s expensive. Your best bet to find it will be at “Mountain Man” Rendezvous, Renaissance Fairs and from local beekeepers.
Check the net for reasonably priced beeswax. I’ve also seen it offered occasionally, at a good price, on Ebay. Can’t find a local beekeeper? Call your county extension office in the government pages; they’ll have a handle on who rides herd on bees in your area.
Toilet seals haven’t been made from real beeswax for at least 10 years, near as I can tell, and perhaps much longer. Check the label, if it doesn’t say “beeswax” it’s almost certainly synthetic and should be avoided.
All parts are by weight, not volume!
I measure out 200/200/100 grams on a kitchen scale, toss the ingredients into a wide mouth Mason jar, and set the jar in 3 or four inches of boiling water for a double-boiler effect to melt it. When thoroughly melted, mix well with a clean stick or disposable chopstick, then allow to cool at room temperature.
Do not try to hasten cooling by placing the jar in the refrigerator, or the ingredients may separate.
The result is a medium hard lubricant that keeps black powder fouling soft and eliminates or reduces leading. No refrigeration is needed to store this lubricant; just tighten the lid on the jar and place it in a cool, dry place.
I have lubricant I made in 2002 that is still like-new, stored in a tightly sealed jar. Mutton tallow does not go rancid like other natural fats, or at least not as quickly. The mutton tallow I have on hand was purchased in 1998; it’s still good.
The above recipe is not quite invented by me. I found the ratios in a very old factory recipe that listed only “tallow, paraffin and beeswax.”
The Gatofeo No. 1 lubricant calls for very specific ingredients: mutton tallow, canning paraffin and real beeswax. Any deviation from these three specific ingredients results in an inferior lubricant.
Let me restate: Do NOT substitute lard, Crisco, old candles, deer tallow, bacon grease, bear fat, vaseline, synthetic beeswax or anything else – it won’t be as good as these three in combination. I know, because I’ve made small batches of variants and others have tried other ingredients, reporting back that the lubricant worked okay, but not as well.
To lubricate pistol and rifle wads or patches, melt a little lubricant in a tuna or cat food can at a very low temperature on the stove. Add the wads. Two tablespoons of lubricant will easily lubricate 100 .44-caliber wads. Stir the wads until they soak up plenty of lubricant.
Turn off the stove and remove the can. Allow the lubricated wads to cool to room temperature. Snap a plastic pet food top (sold in the pet food aisle) over the can.
Write .44 Greased Wads (or whatever) on the side of the can with a wide marker. Store the can in a cool, dry place. You can easily bring the can to the range in your bag. When you get low on greased wads, simply place the can on the stove at very low heat, add more wads and lubricant, and recharge your stock.
The cans stack on top of each other on the shelf. The plastic lid keeps out dust and critters, and holds in the lubricant’s moisture. It’s a quick, easy, transportable system to make and use the greased felt wads. The same system can be used for unlubricated wads, small parts, balls, conical bullets or whatever you need to organize.
Plastic, pet food lids are inexpensive. Check a Dollar Store or its equivalent for a good price.
Smaller quantities of greased wads are easily carried in Altoid sour candy tins or shoe polish tins. Both types have indents or keys to open the lid easily with greasy fingers, and that’s important. Trying to pry open a greasy lid with greasy fingers, without some lever or side-indent, is maddening.
Hinged tins are not as good, because moisture escapes around the cutout for the hinges. The Altoids sour candy or shoe polish tins seal tightly.
Zip-Loc bags are also good for holding small amounts of wads (greased or dry) for the range but I most like the cans. They seal tighter and resist damage to their contents.
Gatofeo No. 1 Lubricant is good for a variety of black powder applications. I also use it for heeled bullets in my Marlin Model 1892 in .32 Long Colt caliber, over small charges of smokeless powder, and in my .44-40 rifle bullets over black powder or smokeless powder.
Give Gatofeo No. 1 Lubricant a try. I haven’t found anything better for lubricating the felt wads and Lee conical bullets in my cap and ball revolvers.