In the aftermath of what some have nicknamed “CanolaGate”, gun lube manufacturer FireClean is suing a pair of bloggers for publishing their analyses of FireClean lubricant. The information released by the pair shows the similarities between the lubricant and refined vegetable oils.
The defendants, Andrew Tuohy of the Vuurwapen Blog and Everett Baker for Granite State Guns, were testing claims that “FireClean is Crisco.” Many people have questioned and disputed the composition of FireClean since it was brought to market, from recreational shooters to industry experts. Tuohy was the first to test the lubricant and publish the findings.
Those findings caused a lot of commotion in the gun industry. According to FireClean’s complaint, “revenues have fallen by over $25,000 per month since Tuohy’s first tortious act.”
Working with a doctor of organic chemistry at the University of Arizona, Tuohy performed an infrared spectroscopy test of FireClean and Crisco Pure Vegetable oil and Crisco Pure Canola. Their findings? “FireClean is probably a modern unsaturated vegetable oil virtually the same as many oils used for cooking.”
Tuohy’s initial results had a polarizing effect on much of the shooting industry. Many avid FireClean supporters dismissed the findings and continue to buy and use their products. To many shooters, the makeup of the lubricant is irrelevant. As long as the product works and does what it promises to perform, people will continue to use it.
FireClean’s list of users is long and the product has been used by professional shooters, military and law enforcement all around the world. On the one hand, this means there are many serious shooters who use and endorse FireClean every day. But on the other hand, if FireClean is ordinary–if very expensive–vegetable oil, then they are exposing those very same shooters and their firearms to real risks.
Given the sharp decline in sales it’s clear that Tuohy’s analysis turned a lot of people off FireClean’s products. Things took a turn for worse when Baker published his findings that largely reflected the first round of testing.
“According to multiple tests and after analysis by several different chemists, FireClean is pure and unmodified canola oil,” wrote Baker. Baker is a student at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and used both infrared spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in his analysis.
FireClean was quick to respond in a social media statement. “We would like to address recent false or misleading allegations that range from simply misguided to false, defamatory, and libelous. These attacks have been made by competitors and others that paint our product in a false or misleading light. The allegations do not focus on actual performance or relevant tests, and draw a misleading picture.”
The company declined to discuss the composition of their products, saying “We believe that our performance speaks for itself. We offer what we and many others regard as the best, highest performing product on the market. We have not commented on the formulation, nor will we do so now.”
FireClean has disclosed some information about the composition of their lubricant already, in the form of their patent application published by the Firearm Blog. The patent describes FireClean as a “vegetable oil composition.”
In their lawsuit, FireClean seeks damages for what they claim is defamation as well as a violation of the Virginia Business Conspiracy Act. Tuohy and Baker in turn are looking for supporters to help raise money for their legal defense through GoFundMe.
For FireClean this lawsuit may represent the means to repair their shrinking reputation, but it’s also a risk for the company, as many people–customers or not–will only see this as a large company attacking a couple of gun guys speaking their minds.
“I did not–and still do not–believe that FireClean is Crisco,” said Tuohy in his original post.