GARBE developed the SPG Bullet Lubricant
formula in 1983 for his own use. A short time later,
he became acquainted with Mike 'Duke' Venturino. Mike
was having trouble getting his blackpowder breech-loaders
to shoot accurately, so Steve shared some of his bullet
lubricant. The results were so positive that 'Duke'
encouraged Steve to put the lubricant on the market.
A partnership was formed and SPG All-Purpose Bullet
Lubricant was a reality. It quickly became the cast
bullet lubricant of choice among blackpowder cartridge
rifle shooters, especially in the extremely fast growing
sport of Blackpowder Cartridge Silhouette. It remains
to this day the most popular bullet lubricant in blackpowder
In 1992 Steve and Mike
decided that with the influx of new shooters to the
sport that a reloading manual specifically for blackpowder
cartridges was needed. Combining their experiences
and load data, Steve and Mike published the "SPG
Lubricants Black Powder Reloading Primer." The
Primer takes off on the premise that the reader knows
how to do basic cartridge reloading but does not know
the special tricks for successful black powder cartridge
reloading. The manual gives a general blackpowder
reloading overview, specific starter loads and component
recommendations for 22 of the most popular blackpowder
cartridges and down range ballistics for typical bullets
in each caliber. The 'Primer' has really become the
bible for beginning blackpowder shooters.
In 1993 Mike and Steve
also recognized the need for a magazine dealing exclusively
with the topic of accurate blackpowder shooting. Newsstand
magazines only touched briefly on the topic so the
'Black Powder Cartridge News' was started and was
an immediate success. Edited by Steve, the magazine
has a no-fluff, hands-on approach to present-day blackpowder
cartridge shooting. Contributing writers are all active
in their respective shooting disciplines such as Silhouette,
Long Range, Schuetzen and Cowboy Action. The 'News'
is a forum for discussion among active shooters and
also provides as a clearing house for upcoming matches
and match results. Published now in Cody, Wyoming
the Black Powder Cartridge News is one of the main
voices in the sport of black powder shooting.
From the beginning SPG
has stood for accurate blackpowder shooting and that
continues to this day.
to many requests from shooters in hot climates who
have complained that SPG Lube was melting too easily,
I embarked on a search for a hot weather lube. One
of the requirements that I imposed on this new lube
was that it deliver the superior accuracy of regular
SPG lube. I also wanted it to work well in moderately
warm conditions. A lube that only works in extreme
heat is not practical. There are many times that match
conditions change from day to day and having to change
a lube that only works in hot conditions would be
A little history first. When I first started developing
SPG lube the main goal was to find a bullet lubricant
that would work with 99% of rifles (using smokeless
or black powder) in 99% of weather conditions. When
I undertook this endeavor I was in the unique situation
of being able to shoot all day, every day, for months
on end. I was caretaking a remote ranch north of Yellowstone
Park and there wasn't much to do outside of counting
snowflakes and keeping the bears out of the buildings.
I set up my cabin to be able to shoot from the kitchen
window onto a 200 yard target butt. I then proceeded
to make up samples of nearly every lube formula, old
and new, that I could find. I fired 20 shots for each
formula to narrow down certain components and then
set about refining these components until I thought
I had THE all-purpose lube. Then came extensive testing
with firearms ranging from .38 Special to .50-90 Sharps.
The formula was modified several times along the way
to make it deliver superior accuracy in the majority
of rifles (and handguns) in the widest range of weather
conditions. Needless to say, I went through a LOT
of powder and lead. About the time I figured that
I really had a good all-purpose lubricant for cast
bullets, I met Mike Venturino. Mike was new to black
powder and was struggling with accuracy. He seemed
like a nice guy, and his wife was a great cook, so
I ended up spending time at the Venturino house. You
bachelors out there know what I mean. Anyhow, I decided
to reveal my ace in the hole to Mike and after using
the new lube he was enthusiastic to say the least.
We formed a partnership and were off and running.
Fortunately, this also coincided with the renewed
interest in blackpowder cartridge shooting and SPG
lube has stood the test of time with many different
shooters and rifles.However,
some shooters complained that SPG lube would melt
off the bullets in extreme heat. Very few complained
of any accuracy loss, but they did not like the fact
that SPG melted while chambered in a very hot barrel.
I set about trying to solve this problem and in the
process learned more about lubricants in general and
SPG in particular. I also tested the other popular
bullet lubricants available on the market and found
that they too melted at extreme conditions. The only
exceptions to this were some of the super hard lubricants
and, whereas they stood up under heat, they did not
deliver any kind of accuracy with blackpowder. Black
is the focus here as we all know that SMOKELESS POWDER
IS A PASSING FAD. Back to lube testing. The bad news
is that after testing various lube formulas nothing
works as well under the widest range of conditions
as standard SPG lube. I guess I knew this but had
to be reminded. Accuracy was always the criterion;
if a new formula worked well in extreme heat but failed
under normal conditions, I did not consider it an
option. The good news is that after this testing I
can offer some tips to shooters for using SPG lube
in hot weather conditions.
are three basic ways that shooters apply SPG lube
to their cast bullets and after some testing I began
to see that this might be where the problem lies.
Most folks use a RCBS-style lubri-sizer to apply lubricant.
These lubri-sizers can be filled cold with the hollow
SPG sticks or the lubricant can be melted using a
double boiler to prevent scorching and poured into
the lubri-sizer. The third method of lubing bullets
is to pan lube: standing bullets up in a shallow pan
and pouring melted lubricant until the grease grooves
are filled. Many shooters, myself included, think
that this is the best way to lube bullets as it eliminates
any distortion to the bullet that may be be caused
by the use of a lubri-sizer. What I determined in
my testing was that these methods all affected the
"temper" of the lubricant. Forcing the lubricant
through the lubri-sizer is an extrusion process that
softens the lube. Filling the lubri-sizer cold applied
the lube to the bullet in a very soft state. This
is great for cold weather shooting, okay for moderate
temperatures, and not desirable for extremely hot
conditions. Using the sticks cold also occasionally
trapped air in the lubri-sizer. Filling the lubri-sizer
with melted lubricant, letting it cool, and then applying
to the bullet delivered the lube at a slightly harder
temper that is probably best all around for the majority
of temperatures. Pouring melted lube into the lubri-sizer
also solved the problem of trapped air. Pan lubing
provided the hardest temper of all, effectively raising
the melting point of the lube 30¡ from cold,
extruded lube. This appears to solve the riddle of
why some shooters had no problem with SPG melting
in the hotter temperatures. If you are going to shoot
in 100¡ heat you had better be pan lubing. Conversely,
winter shooting conditions will demand that you extrude
the lube to its softest state. I look upon this property
of SPG lube as a real bonus to the shooter. We all
know of lubes for hot and cold conditions, but with
SPG one only needs to vary the application process
to tailor to different temperature conditions. This
eliminates the need for different batches of lube
and lubri-sizers. Another fact that turned up in this
testing is that one is far better off shooting a soft
lube on a hot day than a hard lube on even a moderately
warm day. All the hard lubes that I tried were poor
performers, accuracy-wise, in moderate weather conditions.
It only makes sense to tailor your lube to the prevailing
temperature conditions and it is better to err on
the soft lube side if one has to make a decision.
Keeping your loaded ammunition in the shade on hot
days or even in an insulated cooler will probably
insure that you won't have any problems with melt
off. If you think the lube is your major worry on
those scorcher days, just shoot some rounds over the
chronograph after they have been in a hot barrel for
40 seconds or so. The brass case acts as a heat sink
and transfers the heat from the barrel to the powder.
This can raise hob with velocity and the rule is hot
powder develops more velocity (and harder fouling).
No wonder the old-timers liked cool, overcast days
for group shooting. Managing a blackpowder rifle in
hot conditions definitely demands some forethought.
My rule of thumb is any condition over 75¡ F.
requires at least blowing three times down the barrel.
This helps cool the barrel and soften fouling so that
your lube doesn't get behind the eight ball. I also
make it a practice of chambering a new round if I
have to wait more than 40 seconds to break a shot.
A hot barrel will dry out the fouling in this time
and your powder has had its temperature raised substantially.
In the vast majority of rifles this means a shot out
at 12 o'clock.
me also add that managing your bullet lube is very
important. In a conversation with a fellow shooter
I was surprised to hear him say that he had been melting
his SPG lube in a pan, NOT a double boiler. This is
a very poor way to melt ANY bullet lubricant. I seriously
doubt that one could do this in any manner that would
not result in scorched lube. Scorched or over-heated
bullet lube does not shoot, period. ALWAYS melt SPG
lube using a double boiler. For those of you unsure
of what exactly a double boiler is I will explain.
Place the clean can or jar that contains the lube
in another slightly larger pan that has a few inches
of water in it. Put the two cans on the stove and
heat to just under a rolling boil. When the lube is
completely melted pour into your bullet pan or lubri-sizer
and allow it to completely cool before using. SPG
lube can be re-heated indefinitely as long as you
use a double-boiler. Melt it without the double-boiler
and you will ruin it (and any other lube) in a couple
of heatings. The double-boiler thing is not anything
new; it has been recommended by shooters since lube
has been used on bullets. I have just finished up
using some SPG lube that I made over 10 years ago.
I have no idea how many times it has been re-heated;
let's just say A LOT. I could tell no difference accuracy-wise
between it and freshly made lube. I do store my melted
lube in air-tight jam jars. I'm sure it keeps the
lube from deteriorating and free from dust and dirt
besides. If you are going to store pre-lubed bullets
for any length of time I would recommend that you
keep them in air-tight containers such as Tupperware.
The nature of any lube is to attract dirt, so unless
you're into fire lapping your favorite barrel, keep
lubed bullets clean.
much for SPG Tropical. It always pays to experiment,
but one has to be careful not to re-invent the wheel.
I have used SPG on some really scorching days here
in Montana and in New Mexico. Maybe it was a little
softer than I liked, but it has never let me down
for accuracy and that's what counts in my book. I'm
sure there is someone out there that has a different
wrinkle on this than me and I'd like to share ideas
with them. Just write to the Crank at the Crank's
Corner, c/o SPG, LLC., and we can compare notes. Until
then, just hold center. ©