The Blackpowder Journal

The Blackpowder Journal Icon

...for the blackpowder enthusiast

Proper Care & Cleaning of your
Muzzleloading Firearm

Rick Kindig

Prompt, detailed cleaning of all muzzleloading firearms is absolutely necessary for the protection of the gun and the shooter. The cleaning process does not require a great deal of time or effort but it must be accomplished quickly after each use of the firearm. Many shooters will perform a brief "field cleaning" in the woods or on the shooting range, leaving the detailed work until they return home where it may be more convenient to complete the cleaning process. This is acceptable as long as the job is finished that day. Should the shooter be distracted by other obligations upon his or her return home, and remember the uncleaned rifle days later, they he will likely find a barrel damaged by rust. Important Note: Stainless steel barrels MUST be cleaned with the same urgency and thoroughness as a standard barrel. They will rust!

The cleaning method you choose will probably be determined by the type of rifle you have. A conventional percussion or flint rifle with a hooked breech may be cleaned as follows:

Remove the barrel from the stock and remove the nipple (remove flint touchhole if possible). Place the breech end of the barrel in a bucket of hot water to which you have added dish washing detergent. Wet a cleaning patch in the soapy water and using a proper cleaning jag on a ramrod, run the patch up and down the bore repeatedly. This process will pump water into the barrel, dissolving the fouling and flushing it out. Repeat this process several times with clean patches. Remove the barrel from the water and dry completely inside and out. You may find it helpful to run some very hot water through the bore, warming the steel and making the drying process easier. Take note of the condition of the patches used to dry the bore. It is normal and acceptable if they come out somewhat gray or discolored; however, any black stains indicate powder residue still in the barrel and would call for further cleaning.

When the barrel is clean and dry, it must be treated with some type of rust preventative. This could range from a light oil such as WD 40, to a heavy treatment such as Bore Butter/Wonder Lube. Long term storage calls for some long term rust protection. A light oil such as WD 40 can evaporate and leave no protection.

If you have an inline rifle or a conventional rifle not equipped with a hooked breech, it is easier to use a flush tube in your cleaning process. The flush tube consists of a threaded adaptor that replaces the nipple. The adaptor holds a small tube that runs from the gun to a container of solvent. Swabbing the bore with a wet patch will pump solvent into the bore. After a minute or two of swabbing, using several clean patches, the flush tube is removed and the bore dried and oiled.

The locks of conventional style rifles and the bolt assembly of inline rifles need to be cleaned and oiled. A tooth brush and solvent are handy here. Dry the parts and oil lightly (Note: Heavy oil or grease may slow or stop the movement of critical lock parts, particularly during cold weather).

While some rust preventative treatment before storage is vital in protecting your firearm from rust, it must be removed before loading the next time at the range. To insure ignition, run a dry patch up and down the bore to pick up excess grease or oil. Listen for air moving in and out of the nipple while wiping the bore; this indicates a clear flash channel. In addition, be sure to snap a cap before loading the first shot to be certain the flash channel is clear.