This has to be the original snake oil. At the turn of the last century the Kaiser's Wehrmacht put out bids for a military multi-purpose oil. It was to clean and lubricate firearms and other machinery, prevent rust, dissolve residue from corrosive primers, nitro powder and black powder, remove copper, zinc and lead fouling from rifle bores, preserve both wood and leather, prevent mold and mildew, and be suitable for treating minor wounds and abrasions on the soldiers themselves. By all accounts Ballistol met the requirements, and then some. It was adopted by the German military in 1905 and served until 1945. It’s still in use by the German Special Forces, as well as the US Coast Guard and some of the Navy Seal teams. Of course a multitude of European hunters and other sportsmen have used it for generations..
Ballistol is slightly alkaline, so it neutralizes the amino acids in human sweat. It emulsifies with water, so it will protect wet surfaces as well as dry surfaces. The mixture prevents rust, and when it dries it leaves a protective film. As a lubricant it never thickens or gums up. Mixed half and half with water it makes a black powder cleaner. Mixed 1:20 with water it’s a cutting fluid. On unfinished wood surfaces it helps seal and protect the wood, as well as bringing out the beauty of the grain. It restores old oil finished surfaces. It softens old dried leather and protects from mold and mildew. (Warning; it darkens light leather, and is not for use on suede.)
Ballistol is approved for use on equipment used in food preparation. However it hasn’t been submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration, so labeling in the US indicates it’s not for use on animals or humans. In Germany it's often included in first aid kits, and even used internally in some folk medicines.
Balistol is environmentally friendly. It’s non-toxic and biodegradable. There are no carcinogens. It comes packed in either a pump spray can, or aerosol cans which contains no CFCs. The aerosol propellent is flamable, so you shouldn’t use it around a flame. Shelf life is unlimited in the original can.
The downside; (you knew there had to be one). The stuff stinks, literally, at least on first application. The initial smell is between old sweat socks, and something much more vulgar. After a bit however, it just leaves a faint odor resembling black licorice. I’m told that the smell is common to most German gun shops and hunting lodges. I suppose, like the smell of Hoppe’s No. 9, it’s an acquired taste. I’ve gotten quite accustomed to it, although I found it offensive initially.
Note: it's not recommended for long term storage of nickel or chrome plated firearms. These metals are plated over a base of copper. If there is a break in the plating the Ballistol can attack the under-plating.