Picatinny Arsenal Engineers Work With New Durable Solid Lubricant

In a story on the Army.mil website, Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs specialist Cassandra Mainiero discusses work on durable solid lubricant or DSL, which is a dry surface treatment applied during manufacturing.  The motivation here is to make weapon maintenance simpler for Soldiers.  Currently, they plan to transition the technology to PM Soldier Weapons by 2017.

(US Army photo by Erin Usawicz)

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — Although weapon maintenance may seem tedious to the unencumbered civilian, Picatinny Arsenal engineers know a clean weapon could save the warfighter’s life.

That’s why they are developing an advanced surface treatment for armament components that not only mitigates weapon maintenance but also provides increased reliability and durability.

Currently, when cleaning a weapon, warfighters use a conventional wet lubricant known as CLP (cleaner, lubricant, and preservative) that is continuously reapplied.


As early as 2003, the Army was experiencing problems with weapon stoppages in sand and dust environments if proper lubrication procedures and cleaning methods were not followed.

Army engineers recognized the importance of weapon maintenance in these extreme environments.

Thus, they set out to identify a materiel solution, which resulted in a Durable Solid Lubricant.

“The new technology eliminates CLP and uses a dry surface treatment known as durable solid lubricant, or DSL, that is applied during armament component manufacturing,” said Adam Foltz, an experimental engineer at the U.S. Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC.

“So far the DSL has been applied to small and medium caliber weapons, such as rifles, like the M4A1 Carbine, and machine guns like the M240 to demonstrate the technology capability,” Foltz continued.

As a result of using the durable solid lubricant, weapons function properly, require less maintenance, and the war-fighter has more peace of mind regarding possible weapon malfunctions.

Foltz is part of a team of ARDEC engineers who set out to perform a rigorous program of material screening experiments for an improved lubricant. The team was established with a cross-functional team of subject matter experts.

Aside from Foltz, who is with the Individual Weapons Branch, other team members are Christopher Mulligan, research engineer (specializing in surface technologies) from Benét Laboratories, and Doug Witkowski, a project officer at the Weapon Software and Engineering Center.

The team was challenged by its sponsor, the Joint Service Small Arms Program, to mature and transition the DSL technology to Project Manager Soldier Weapons by FY17.

“The Soldier knew that something had to be done,” said Witkowski.

“These extreme environments necessitated rigid adherence to weapon maintenance schedules and had a tendency to degrade weapon performance if scheduled maintenance lapsed.

“The Soldier knew that if this problem continued that operational availability would be compromised and that the warfighter’s mission readiness would be impacted.”

Witkowski added that the warfighter was experiencing similar problems with machine guns. “Army engineers understood the importance of maximizing weapon reliability and reducing the sensitivity of system performance in adverse environments,” Witkowski said.

The program, a science and technology funded project, began as a response to the U.S. military’s Global War on Terrorism campaign to counter terrorist attacks on the United States.

Yet, Picatinny was not the first group to experiment with developing new surface treatments. A number of commercial and congressional programs also attempted to improve surface treatments for armaments over the past 15 years but were unsuccessful in finding a materiel solution.

The challenge of a development effort like this is finding a solution that can do all the things that CLP does, and do them better, said Foltz.


The DSL solution achieves three ideal outputs: a lower friction coefficient, better wear resistance, and improved corrosion protection. “Friction coefficient” describes how a weapon slides; a low coefficient means the weapon slides easily, a high coefficient suggests sliding resistance.

“With typical wet lubricants, Soldiers need to reapply in order for the weapon system to function properly. Soldiers also have to regularly clean off carbon residue that builds up from firing and it can be tough to clean,” explained Foltz.

“Our DSL has a high wear resistance and a low friction coefficient, so it’s easy to clean off anything that builds up. You can use a steel brush to knock off any residue, and you don’t even have to worry about reapplying anything.”

Additionally, the current industry standards for preventing corrosion on armament components involves treating steel parts with phosphate and oil while aluminum parts are anodized (coated with an oxide layer.)

DSL uses a benign material that eliminates the need for a phosphate/oil coating process, making it an environmentally friendly solution.


To accomplish these goals, the team broke the project into three testing stages, progressing from lab scale experiments to live fire testing in order to rapidly and effectively evaluate solutions.

The first stage involved tribiological testing of 27 different coating combinations in a rapid “ball-on-three-disk” test. During this test, a ball–coated with the different candidate coatings– is brought into rotating, sliding contact at a specified load against three pads, which are also coated with the various candidate coatings.

Then, the friction coefficient is recorded and wear on the pads is measured. The samples were tested in various environments including with and without sand, as well as at ambient and elevated temperatures (up to 480 ?F) to evaluate overall stability.

In stage two, the 27 combinations were down-selected to six material combinations and placed in the team’s slide-rail simulator.

The team created the slide-rail simulator to glean a more accurate representation of the unique geometry, motion, and contact stresses typical in the gun.

The simulator included two pieces of metal (denoted a slide and a rail) coated with the materials of interest that slide against each other in a manner meant to simulate specific weapon actions.

In stage three, the team down-selected to four different promising material combinations and did a small-scale live fire test at the Armament Technology Facility. Testing included ambient endurance firing, hot and cold, sand/dust, and salt/fog.

In the ambient environment, the project team shot 15,000 rounds per weapon. The baseline weapons with the CLP showed wear and complete loss of the phosphate on approximately 75 percent of the bolt carrier sliding surfaces and 90 percent of the bolt.

Meanwhile, the DSL material showed less than 5 percent wear on both the bolt carrier and bolt.

In every instance, the DSL material showed either an improved or an equivalent performance to the CLP baseline. Results demonstrated increased wear resistance, increased reliability, and improved maintainability.

Although this project is ongoing, the payoff for the warfighter continues to rise. According the team, the DSL material has potential application to numerous other armament systems, manufacturing machinery, and advanced oil-free turbomachinery.

For now, though, the next stage for the DSL project is a repeat of stage three, but on a larger scale.

If testing is successful, the project will be transitioned to Project Manager Soldier Weapons, which will eventually field it to its ultimate customer, the warfighter.

“I know that it [weapon maintenance] is not a glamorous topic and when you’re briefing, there are higher profile technologies being briefed,” said Witkowski. “But this is a high-tech innovation and they [the warfighters] will love it, when they get it.”


33 Responses to “Picatinny Arsenal Engineers Work With New Durable Solid Lubricant”

  1. bulldog76 says:

    soooo they are starting to use a nitride finish ?

  2. Nick says:

    So how durable will this finish be or will it last one cleaning then be scraped off with the anodizing and black phosphate finish that soldiers take off regularly.

    Then no one can re-apply the finish at the unit level so we end up using CLP still.

    • Yeah, I’m curious how this will stand up to brake cleaner and the myriad of other solvents joes will use to overclean their rifles.

      If it is anything like the PVD coatings used in other industries, however, it should be pretty interesting. The wear testing is especially relevant.

    • straps says:

      If this means an end to the “bang the bolt carrier on a white paper towel” test for small arms maintenance, I’m all for it.

      It’s good that Mr Witkowski sees the institutional resistance coming down the line…

  3. Ed says:

    “…and the war-fighter has more peace of mind regarding possible weapon malfunctions.”

    I love that term! “war-fighter”, the more PC term for Fobbit, or non-warrior.
    Maybe if “war-fighter” spent more time/had more time with their “weapon”, there wouldn’t be incidences of incompetence from the masses.

    • Airborne_fister says:

      Well as a guy who fought in a war. How does this apply to me? I love frog lube. Heat up the part. Apply it. Wipe off the crud when done. But since I’m a war fighter that thinks this stuff will make field cleaning amazing. Then I guess I’m nothing.

      • Ed says:

        Actually it sounds like your someone who has peace of mind and knows how to properly care for their equipment. In the parlance I’m familiar with that is a warrior.

  4. Kirk says:

    This is only like thirty years past due… The technology they’re referencing here has been available, in various formats, since the early 1970s.

    This is just more proof that the idiots running the small arms programs in the US military all need to be removed from their jobs, and sterilized for the good of the race.

    The TDP on the M16 and M4 haven’t really been updated since… What, the 1980s? Instead of integrating “new” technology, like cold hammer forged barrels (which the Colt Canada weapons have had since the beginning), they’re locked into using what was current when the TDP was first finalized, back in the 1960s. By this time, we should have been using corrosion-resistant metals, permanent lubrication, cold hammer-forged barrels with modern bore coatings, and God alone knows what else. But, we aren’t, because the people running this stuff are a bunch of lazy, low-grade morons. We knew, we fucking knew that the M60 was hitting the end of its useful service life at the end of the 1980s. What did they do? Not a fucking thing–Instead, the Rangers and the Marines had to do an end run around the morons, and we wound up with the M240B, which, surprise, turned out to be too fucking heavy in Afghanistan’s mountains. Something that every other army in the world already knew, who’d tried using that weapon in the ground mode. But, because our incompetents in the small arms procurement world were too fucking lazy to get something going in order to replace the excretion that was the M60, we wound up with the M240B. And, spent big money trying to lighten/replace for ground operations… If they’d done their damn jobs, we’d have run proper fielding tests, figured out that the M240B was too damn heavy for purpose, and then procured something more appropriate, like the SS-77 or Negev. Hell, we coulda reverse-engineered the gun that actually won the coax machinegun competition that resulted in the M240, which was embarrassingly the battlefield-pickup junker Soviet PKT we got from the Israelis…

    Looking back over the last 40 or so years of US small arms programs, about all I can comment is “Jesus wept…”. One fucking travesty after another–I can’t wait to see what these morons come up with, next. Crew-served pistols, maybe?

    • Ed says:

      Same in NSW with the SCAR Heavy and it’s “precision” variant the MK20. The MK20 replaced the MK11 (M110) and MK12. Even though those older platforms are still in service in the Army and USMC, NSW went 100% FN and operators hate it! Follow the $$, every time!

      • Kirk says:

        Don’t even get me started… They should have been working on improving the basic 40mm HEDP as far back as the 1980s, but because they didn’t want to have competition for the vaunted XM-25 with its itty-bitty little projectile, they haven’t done a damn thing with the 40mm. Every single request sent forward from combatant commands mentioned the issues with the existing 40mm HEDP rounds, but have they done anything to improve the damn things? Nooooo… But, we’ve wasted millions on a weapon that, frankly, I can’t see the use of. A 25mm grenade, fired from the shoulder, offhand? Oh, yeah… That’s gonna be hella accurate, and just what I need to engage the enemy at max range with direct fire…

        The XM-25 might make sense if it were fired off a tripod on fully automatic. As a semi-auto shoulder weapon? It is to laugh. Laugh, I tell you, laugh–Because, your tax dollars are paying for that, and every serving serviceman carrying or relying on the 40mm for supporting fire is paying the opportunity cost because some dipshit civilians and high-ranking brass want to line up post-government employment opportunities, which is about all I see as justification for the travesty that is the XM-25 program.

        • Ed says:

          I hear ya Brother, that corruption in the “defense industry” is pure evil, lives over $$. Too bad it will never improve. We can only hope!

          • Kirk says:

            Is it corruption, or incompetence?

            Either way, the whole system needs to be nuked from orbit, and done away with.

            Hell, look at the new titanium tripod for the M240. That thing is basically a slightly updated WWI tripod for the Browning .30 MG, which wouldn’t be terrible, except that this is 2016, and the highly sophisticated German Lafette tripods have been out since… What, the late 1930s?

            We’re still issuing scope sights for the MG that clip on to the feed tray cover. How about adopting another German innovation from the 1930s, like a periscopic sight that would enable us to get the gunner’s heads down below the level of the barrel? Oh, that’s too complicated… Or, something.

            By this point, we ought to have an affordable set of electronic sights/traverse and elevation mechanism that’s fully remote-operable, so the gunner could sit down on the bottom of his position, watch a screen, and direct fire from his gun without ever having to touch the damn thing or expose himself. Do we have that? Nope… Anything like that in development? Nope, again. How many gunners are we going to lose before someone says “Hey, it might be a good idea if we just quit exposing these kids to enemy fire… And, y’know what? We can do that, pretty simply…”.

            • straps says:

              CROWS Super Light.

              It exists and it’s actually becoming scalably affordable. We just need to cull some of those chicken hawks we like to send to Congress too frequently.

              I don’t know that we’re ever going to get away from a situation where our entire military can achieve complete standoff from $10 taliban or kids whacked on ECA, ‘roids and religion but far more are facing those threats than need to.

              • Kirk says:

                I just want to see things like our MG technology enter the mid-Twentieth Century.

                Seriously, guys… The American military situation with tripods is just the biggest damn joke. You want to fire through the window, GI? Better build yourself a firing table or find something sturdy enough to serve as a platform. Meanwhile, Fritz Landwehr is setting up his sweet-ass Lafette tripod (Well, really, quad-pod), and simply extending the legs–Which he can do differently on either side, ‘cos you need to account for the random vagaries of terrain. Have fun with the E-tool, boys–You can’t do that shit with an M122. Or, the new one, either…

                You look at it, and then work out how much more effective the German guns are because they’re not putting some half-ass improvised base under it, and are actually able to set up in about a tenth the time we are for some scenarios, and you really start to wonder what kind of low-rent morons we have doing the work on this stuff. It took me about ten minutes of observing a German gun crew doing their thing, back when I was a wet-behind-the-ears Private, and I figured out exactly how much better they had their shit set up. Can anyone explain to me why it is that we’re still issuing that primitive-ass POS we laughingly call a tripod? And, then, to add insult to injury, making it all high-tech and shit, by building the new and improved POS out of titanium? Talk about gold-plating a fucking turd…

                Gaahhh… I need to quit coming back here. I can feel my hypertension coming back on me…

                • Troy says:

                  The new tripod is smaller, lighter, and does exactly what it was designed to do? The Lafette tripod weighs 45 lbs . The M192 tripod is 11 lbs. We’re not fighting WW2 anymore bud.You sound a tad out of touch from your laz-e-boy.

                  • Kirk says:

                    Well, you exemplify exactly what the problem is, with regards to this whole issue. What good is an 11-lb tripod you can’t actually do anything with? With the M192, you’ve got a fixed command height of what, around 18″?

                    Now, compare that to a Lafette-style mount, which most of the Europeans are putting under their guns. Yeah, the thing’s heavier, but you can put that sonuvabitch into operation without spending 45 minutes to an hour building a damn firing table for it, or being forced to select a poor position for the gun due to the inflexibility of the mount.

                    This is the point that American gunners, crews, and leadership constantly miss–A flexible, quickly positionable mount like the Lafette works wonders to enhance the effect of the guns. If you’ve never observed one of those mounts in operation, you need to–If only to educate yourself as to the possibilities. It also opens up the mind as to why the hell the Germans managed to do as much damage to us as they did, when we were mostly fighting what we’d term light infantry today, with only their organic weapons.

                    Yes, the Lafette type of weapon support system is heavier, in its WWII incarnation. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have lightened the damn thing by now, or made use of the flexibility it offers. You just don’t “get it” until you’re the guy who has to go out and site the weapon, or emplace it yourself–Which is why, I speculate, that we’ve never adopted anything more effective or efficient than the M122/M192 for our medium machineguns.

                    This reminds me of every conversation I ever had while on active duty with the higher leadership over this issue. No, we’re not going to try to get better equipment, because we don’t see the utility of it, and we’ve only known these primitive pieces of crap we were issued when we were privates. Half the time, the senior leadership knows nothing of the issues, and only evaluates things based on cost and weight, when the reality is that there’s so much more capability available with better equipment.

                    Like as not, had we had and carried Lafette-style mounts in Afghanistan, for example, we’d have found the same thing the German Gebirgsjager found in fighting in the mountains–The mounts are invaluable, because they enable far more effective fires to be delivered accurately and quickly during light infantry combat in those mountains and valleys. There’s a reason the Germans carried those damn things everywhere they went, and didn’t abandon them at first opportunity when retreating. The fact is, the mount opens up so many more possibilities for the guns that it’s not even funny.

                    And, the fact that the first thing you’re using to evaluate the value of a mount is its weight is telling. I don’t think you really understand or grasp the whole issue, at all, and are looking at what is, in reality, only a minor issue when it comes to effective employment of the MG system at the squad and platoon level.

                    And, as to your reference to my “laz-e-boy”, pissant? I’ve got a 25-year career of carrying, training, and maintaining small arms in the Army behind me. What have you got?

                    • Troy says:

                      The idea that the issued tripod “doesn’t do anything” is absurd, the idea that weight is a minor issue for a dismounted weapons squad is absurd. This argument is absurd. You have some kind of hardon for an old German tripod. Disciplined armies will carry dumb shit as ordered, doesn’t mean they were God’s gift to the WSL. Gear changes, conflicts change, tactics change. Keep living in the past Sarge.

                    • Kirk says:

                      Troy, you demonstrate the level of your ignorance with everything you say. You don’t know shit about the system I’m talking about, which is obvious from what you’re writing, and you’re offering an opinion on it.

                      Get back to me when you’ve run an MG team or two, and actually had to try to employ these things. Once you get past the kindergarten level of training and proficiency we here in the US have institutionalized, the disadvantages of the primitive crap we’ve had on issue for the last hundred years becomes painfully apparent.

                      Yeah, the Lafette is a lot heavier. But, with what you can do with it, like rapidly engage enemy targets at max range for a tripod, while the yuckleheads with the M122/192 are still casting about for some kind of site they can actually use to get the gun to the proper elevation…?

                      Yeah, there’s a reason we don’t teach the tripod that much, anymore, and why we find ourselves outranged by an enemy that’s using PKMs as light artillery. It’s because our tripods are crap, and our skills with the guns are correspondingly limited.

                      Face it: You don’t even know what you don’t know, and it shows. Educate yourself, and you might see the point of what I’m getting at. Or, you can do what every other fucking idiot in the US military has been doing since WWII, and shout “ME GOOD! ME KNOW ALL! NO NEED TO THINK! NO NEED TO LEARN! DO PUSHUP!”.

                      There’s a reason a second-rate industrial power managed to kick our asses at the man-for-man level during WWII, and why we consistently get outmaneuvered by all these second-class opponents that put more money and effort into their troop training and tactics than we do. It is mostly because we don’t bother to look at what others are doing, learn from it, or stop to fucking think for five minutes while we’re wrapped up in our little ego-boos. What’s sad is that we have the potential to field the best troops and equipment in the history of the world, but crap like this keeps us from doing it.

    • Airborne_fister says:

      Didn’t we issue a weapon that is like the SAW. But it shoots the 7.62 round? I only say this because while I was deployed a kid shows up to relieve us and he has a bigger version of the SAW. And in all fairness I’m not a fan of the SCAR. I know I’m going to get flak here for that comment. But I’m going to back it up. You have a reciprocating charging Handle. You have to drop the trigger group then do ever the butt stock. Just to get to the cleaning of the bolt. Then you have to remove the piston system to clean that. My opinion, granted is just that an opinion. Is that the scar is over engineered. But in my eyes the whole piston system is over engineered. I’m down with making a better rifle. But let’s look at COTS. Please respond back. I want to know how you feel and I’m not trying to piss you off or anything. I want to hear what you have to say.

      • Troy says:

        It’s called the MK48.

      • Ed says:

        You are exactly spot on about the SCAR Heavy. I used it in training, it’s basically a “machine-gun” bolt in a rifle. That’s why the MK20 does not hold zero that NSW snipers are issued. I also carried the MK48 in another training block and it kicks ass! 18lbs w/ out optics and another 7lbs w/ a 100rd belt, very light!

    • Whit says:

      Spot on Kirk. You have described the US weapons procurement system going back to the days of the flintlock!

  5. A rifle that needs no lubrication!

    We’ve heard his before, and it did not turn out too well.

    • KP says:

      Not that I’m not skeptical of this but it’s not “no lubricant” but a permanent lubricant applied during manufacturing.

    • straps says:

      No lubricant applied BY THE USER to surfaces EXPOSED TO THE ENVIRONMENT.

      The M16 debacle, as you state, was partly “no lube, no cleaning/we’re not issuing cleaning kits,” but a far larger factor was changing from the Dupont stick propellant used in testing to the Olin ball propellant used in the field.

      I don’t know that a cleaner-burning propellant than what we have now is even possible. When I hear young troops complain about modern residue I just kinda shake my head and laugh…

  6. Cwg says:

    If they expect this to work they better fire every single CSM and 1SG or honestly anyone with over ten years in service unless they want every millimeter of that new fangled bs scraped off the weapons via bore brush within three months.

  7. Stickman says:

    Another Picatinny creation? I would be more interested in know who was taking credit for this, and what the size of the bonus is they are receiving. After that, we can look at the existing technology which was already used, and who was already using it in the firearm field in the same application.

  8. Maskirovka says:

    Hmmm yeah. Somebody will call that coating “carbon” and order it get a good scraping. “Better get it all.”

  9. SGT Rock says:

    Why not just use Nickel Boron? Maybe some gun smithing experts can chime in and argue either for or against.

  10. Bobby Davro says:

    This technology and coating has one common enemy, institutionalised dyed in the wool old school soldiers who believe a weapon should be polished to a shine to be clean, attitudes need to change before this tech will truly be effective, soldiers need proper training by instructors who truly understand this new coating and how to extend its service life and not scrub and scrape it to death “because it still looks dirty”

    • Airborne_fister says:

      Isn’t carbon also a natural “lubricant”, or something like that? And I love how you turn in a weapon in pristine condition only to receive it back or a different one in worse shap then the previous rifle was before you cleaned it.

      • TheCrustyCameron says:

        Who else is going to clean the weapons in the vault? Sure isn’t going to be the one standing behind the counter.