How to clean a muzzleloader

How to clean a muzzleloader

Muzzleloader rifles are often used for hunting big game or for muzzleloading. They are pretty unique, and they are highly accurate. However, if you use a dirty muzzleloader, the chances are that you are not going to hit your target.

Dirt and powder fouling can reduce a muzzleloader’s accuracy, so giving it a good clean after firing it a few times can help maintain its accuracy. Muzzleloaders use black powder, so to maintain your gun’s accuracy, you have to clean or swab it before reloading it.

In competitions, this is not allowed, but if you are shooting for the fun of it or hunting, you need to swab your muzzleloader after ten shots to ensure you get an accurate aim.

In light of that, cleaning a muzzleloader is not as easy as cleaning a pistol. It does require some time and effort. If you are a new owner of a muzzleloader rifle, learning how to clean and maintain the correct way is essential. This guide is for you, so read on and find out how to go about it properly.

Step 1:

How to clean a muzzleloader

Gather together your cleaning equipment that is dishwashing soap or other liquid soap, cleaning patches or a clean rug, ramrod, cleaning brush, and some clean, warm water. Then disassemble your rifle by detaching the barrel from the stock.

How to clean a muzzleloader

Take a patch jag and attach it to your ramrod. Take a cleaning patch, soak it in your soapy water, wrap it around the jag, and then push the rod through the barrel. What will happen is that it’s going to suck the water up and down, much like a plunger.

Do this a few times, and you’ll notice that the water in the bucket will start to change color to indicate that the soapy water is doing its job at removing all the powder fouling and dirt from the barrel. You might need to use more than two or three patches during this process.

How to clean a muzzleloader

Take your gun lube, pour a few drops on each piece, and then coat each piece well with a cleaning patch or rug. Don’t use too much oil. Excess oil may gunk up your moving parts, and that may cause the rifle to malfunction.

How to clean a muzzleloader

Muzzleloaders are more complex to operate than other firearms, so significant knowledge is needed to use them correctly. If you are new to muzzleloaders, learn everything you need to know about them, including how to load, fire, and clean them before actually using one.

  • Don’t use any other kind of gunpowder except black powder in a muzzleloader
  • When firing a muzzleloader, always wear ear protection and shooting glasses
  • Don’t cap a muzzleloader until you are ready to fire
  • Don’t smoke while loading or shooting a muzzleloader
  • Unload your muzzleloader once you are done using it
  • Never clean a loaded rifle

Final Thoughts

Cleaning a muzzleloader is not as easy as cleaning a Glock. It does take some time and effort; however, to keep your rifle in good working condition, it’s necessary to clean it.

We hope that this guide has been of some use to you. Muzzleloaders are great hunting rifles, and if you are a hunter, you understand that a clean rifle is an accurate rifle.

How to Clean an Inline Muzzleloader

I’ve received more correspondence regarding cleaning an inline muzzleloader than I expected. Apparently, some great mystery has been ascribed to this, although you would think that after all these years we would have figured it out by now. Though I’m hesitant to state there is only one "best" or even "better" way, it need not be a frightening or formidable task. You really don’t need any esoteric or unique concoctions, although those who sell them would rather you believe that is the case.

Shooting an in-line muzzleloader causes two basic types of fouling: ignition-based and propellant based. The ignition-based residue is the bulk of the primer compound that coats actions and the inside of breech plugs. The primer energetic primarily leaves behind carbon composites, which can be dealt with efficiently by various automotive carburetor and parts cleaners–Permatex "Pro-Strength Brake & Parts Cleaner" is one specific example. The more aggressive gunmetal cleaners as Brownells "TCE" or "Gun Scrubber" work just as well, if not better. Most metal cleaners that contain trichloroethylene, used in conjunction with a bronze brush, break up the carbon crud quickly. An often-overlooked area is the internal breech plug threads of your barrel, which should receive the benefit of a good brushing.

Any light machinery oil will protect the now bare metal, though I’ve long felt that a drop or two of Breakfree CLP is the best thing you can apply as a protectant. Contingent on gun, a wipe with Breakfree around the very lightly fouled areas (perhaps the trigger group) is all you need. The worst product ever applied to guns, in my experience, is WD-40. A good irrigant, squeak stopper and penetrant, it is a very poor lubricant or protectant, with a low film strength. You are far better off with motor oil than this aromatic gun-wrecker. Though WD-40 is not the pits for everything, it is a very good way to find them in your barrel.

As for the barrel itself, water is touted as all you need for cleanup of Hodgdon’s "Triple Seven" from gun bores, though you really don’t need much more than that with black powder or Pyrodex. After all, spit patching between saboted projectile shots is all that is normally required, though some may be blessed with more cleansing spittle than others.

A plastic pail of hot water with a few drops of laundry detergent added does the trick, just shoving your muzzle in the bucket and working your bore brush up and down a half dozen strokes is all you need. Finish with a dry patch, and then a Breakfree CLP patch (which is also a mild cleaner) and you are good to store your weapon.

On the road, a bottle of any of the commercial black powder cleaners is handy. That, a handful of patches, your jag, and a small "to go" bottle of Breakfree is all you need. Windex (yes, with ammonia) is a very good bore cleaner.

Dan Lilja of Lilja Precision Rifle barrels has never seen any damage in one of his barrels caused by the use of ammonia. Dan writes: " The rumor is that copper-removing cleaners with ammonia will pit and damage the interior surface of a barrel. Ammonia is very effective as a copper remover. We use solvents, such as Butch’s Bore Shine, to remove copper during the break-in. We routinely leave Butch’s solution in the barrel over night too. Again, I repeat, we have never seen a problem with ammonia in the concentrations found in commercial cleaners, in either our chrome-moly or stainless steel barrels. This includes examination with our borescope ." Black powder enthusiasts have universally praised Dan’s personal favorite barrel cleaning solvent, “Butch’s Bore Shine.”

The snake oil "Bore Butter" concoctions of various animal fats and wax are better off left where they came from–the pot of rotting miscellaneous flesh and animal carcasses bubbling at your local rendering plant. The idea that your modern steel barrel can be seasoned like a cast iron skillet has no basis unless your barrel is also cast iron and you cook pizzas in it regularly. Some of the earlier lubricants were outstanding, like sperm whale oil. Bear grease and bacon drippings were never good, but when that’s all you have, that’s the best you can do.

There are times when I wonder if the removable breech plug was invented just to give in-line muzzleloader shooters something to complain about. The Thompson "Hawken" breechplug is also removable, but few do, and so few carp about it. Any viscous, high temperature grease works for the fractions of a second our breech plugs see direct heat in a range session, but I’ve found Bostik "Never-Seez" and other readily available automotive "Anti-Seize" products that meet Mil-Spec 907E to be as good as can be had. Breechplugs vary by manufacturer, but the key seems to be just to be sure to coat all the threads.

Triple Seven, a sugar-based propellant, has gained a reputation for causing problems in a few guns. To eliminate that problem, taking the time to crack and then retighten the breechplug after a few shots at the range will break the bond line it can form, and makes removal at the end of the day much, much easier. The "crack the plug then retighten" sequence helps in almost all inlines, regardless of propellant. The first time you try it you’ll be convinced as well.

The issue of plastic fouling from sabots has been a bit overstated. With the latest formulations of polyethylene, it is not the issue that it once was. Yet, depending on gun and load, I have seen plastic fouling build-up after a couple of hundred shots. Plastic solvents, such as shotgun choke tube cleaner, run through with a patch after every hundred shots or so, will usually prevent it from becoming an issue. A metal cleaner with the warning "will harm plastics" applied to the bore also takes care of it, as that is the idea.

A quick summary is that all you really need is hot water and elbow grease to clean, then Breakfree CLP to protect, with an anti-seize for your breech plug. Windex or Butch’s Bore Shine can speed along the barrel cleaning process a bit, as can Brownell’s TCE or Gunscrubber for the small, primer residue fouled parts. There really isn’t much more to it; it’s just important that you do it as soon as practical after making some smoke.

“Use this simple five step sequence every time you shoot and groups will shrink and velocities will stay constant, shot after shot. Using this method, I have shot my flintlock 100s of times without a full cleaning.”

“I have read many postings on various sites, in addition to your own, regarding the outstanding accuracy that shooters are getting from your bullets in their muzzzleloaders. What loading / shooting / loading process do you use that makes it possible to achieve this level of accuracy?”

“As our shooting background includes benchrest and extensive varmint hunting, absolute accuracy has always been at the top of our priority list. We do not have a single muzzleloader that will not shoot 3 shot groups at 100 yards of 1.5” and better. Considering our collection includes a CVA that boasts more rust than barrel, that’s saying a lot for the potential accuracy of a muzzleloading rifle when loaded properly with match quality bullets.

I recently had a lengthy debate with a prominent sabot manufacturer regarding accuracy. His criteria for accuracy was to be able to shoot three shots in succession without doing anything except dumping in powder and loading a bullet. His feeling was that this would be a realistic representation of the needs of the hunter. Accuracy for him is to hit an orange at 100 yards off a benchrest three times.

I disagreed with his logic. I could not think of a single hunting experience when I did not have time to follow my simple, accuracy enhancing, reloading process. Accuracy for me is to hit a golf ball at 100 yards off a benchrest ALL DAY LONG .

Here are the steps I follow in loading every shot, every season, every circumstance with all my muzzleloaders. Period.

1. After the shot, lick a clean, cotton patch . (yes, lick a patch; with your tongue) Place it wet side down on top of your barrel. Using your ramrod with a cleaning jag attached, work the patch in ever-lengthening strokes to the bottom of the barrel.

2. Remove the ramrod, flip the patch over and run the other side of the patch to the bottom of the barrel.

3. Remove the ramrod. Discard the patch.

4. Dump in the pre measured powder charge.

5. Seat the bullet until the powder stops compressing.

Done. Use this simple five step sequence every time you shoot and groups will shrink and velocities will stay constant, shot after shot. Using this method, I have shot my flintlock 100s of times without a full cleaning.

Here are some simple DON’Ts.

1. DON’T use any type of cleaner on the patch. Blackpowder and Pyrodex shoot much, much better on a fouled barrel than they shoot on a clean barrel. Using cleaner will remove the “first shot fouling”. The “spit patch” will remove the excess fouling while leaving the “first shot fouling” on the barrel. Chronograph three – five shot strings with the same load. For the first string, do nothing between shots. For the second string, swab with a patch dampened with cleaner. For the third string, swab with a spit patch. You will be amazed at the results.

2. DON’T go hunting with a clean barrel. My best example of this is using Pyrodex RS on a clean barrel with a Knight Wolverine. The first shot out of a clean barrel can be as much as 6″ out of the group at 100 yards. With that first fouling shot on the barrel, 1″ groups are very common but on a clean barrel, that first shot can be anywhere in that 12″ circle.

3. Always seat your bullet using a bullet starter that will not deform the end of the bullet. Deformed bullets may shoot fine at 50 yards but cannot fly the same over extended ranges due to variance in ballistic coefficiency.

4. DON’T ever weigh powder charges. All blackpowder and blackpowder substitutes are designed to be measured not weighed. One of my customers thought that he would improve his accuracy by weighing his charges on his RCBS powder scale. The 150 weighed charges that he was shooting were actually equivalent to about 203 grains of powder by volume. The good news was his gun was unaffected by the 200+ charge of powder. The bad news was that his scope packed it in after about half a dozen shots.

Thanks to our many, many customers for that question and I hope that I have answered it to your satisfaction.”
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Post by Kyle on Oct 4, 2015 21:35:52 GMT -5

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Post by Deleted on Oct 4, 2015 23:18:54 GMT -5

Imo opinion Richard keeps the cleanest bore barrel here . since most including me ‘s gun like it dirty not only saboted and definitely sabotless. Jeff don’t clean and still shoots great ,so there has to be some method to whats too dirty and not. Great question and can make a buckshot group gun into a tight grouper ,Once fouled. I believe too much cleaning can be a detriment to a gun’s potential until proper fouling has been achieved. Which is not a definite science. But since Richard is a religious clean bore enthusiast,imo his results speak for themselves. He documents thoroughly his ranges sessions and the data is there. He does a great job on his record keeping as he has for some quite a long time now ,but just not here. Thanks Again Richard.
Sorry to derail,Kyle, but most here like it Dirty. Your the man with the majic gun,what has been your cleaning routine in the last year. You and your HG has been the one to beat,and congrats on that. ?

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Post by Deleted on Oct 4, 2015 23:42:54 GMT -5

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Post by gar on Oct 5, 2015 8:05:42 GMT -5

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Post by Kyle on Oct 5, 2015 9:14:47 GMT -5

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Post by Deleted on Oct 5, 2015 9:16:44 GMT -5

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Post by markb317 on Oct 5, 2015 9:20:44 GMT -5

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Post by keith on Oct 5, 2015 11:24:13 GMT -5

I do the vast majority of my cleaning with Bore Tech products. If you want to try KG let me know. I have a lot of the KG stuff that sent me on deployment.

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How to clean a muzzleloader

Rust is the archenemy of a firearm, and this is especially true for muzzleloading weapons. The black powder or powder substitute used to fire the ball from a muzzleloader is of high potassium salt content, which in turn sucks moisture from the air and absorbs water. This will cause rust and pitting inside the barrel if powder fouling is left unattended. The rust can eat away at the steel and cause poor accuracy. Cleaning your rusty barrel can be done, though this may involve a bit of sweat to scrub the rust away.

Items you will need

Gun cleaning solution/rust remover

Stainless steel sponge — bore tip

Bore cleaning patches

Bore polisher tip

Step 1

Visually inspect your muzzleloader to ensure its completely unloaded.

Step 2

Remove your barrel from the stock if possible. Pour gun cleaning/rust remover solution into a tub. Soak it in the solution for one week. If you can’t remove the barrel, ensure the breach is closed and pour the solution into the barrel and fill it up. Leave the weapon standing upright for one week.

Step 3

Inspect the barrel after removing it from the solution. Look for any large rust pits and target areas to scrub.

Step 4

Attach a stainless steel sponge bore tip to your bore plunger. Wet the sponge with gun cleaning solution.

Step 5

Remove or open the breech. Insert the plunger into the bore and scrub vigorously. Inspect the bore every 20 stokes to check for rust removal. Attach a new sponge tip if needed or if the tip begins to wear while cleaning. Continue scrubbing vigorously until the rust is no longer visible.

Step 6

Attach a cleaning patch tip to your bore plunger. Insert the plunger into the barrel and remove any metal shavings that might have came off of the steel sponge. Reapply cleaning patches as they become worn or dirty. Wipe all oily cleaning residue free from the bore once the rust is removed.

Step 7

Attach a bore polishing tip to the plunger. Buff the inside of the bore until no residue is present and a shine is seen.

How to clean a muzzleloader


How to clean a muzzleloader

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  • 1. Cleaning a Muzzleloader2. Step 1: Prep the Area and Supplies3. Step 2: Breech and Rifle Action4. Step 3: Barrel5. Reassembly6. Conclusion

About the Author

Avid outdoorsman who loves to spend his time fishing, hunting, and golfing or just about anything outdoors! If he can’t make it to the woods or water, chances are you can find him walking his dogs. Follow Alex P. as he tackles questions, and read his reviews of todays new products!

  • Gun Cleaning
  • Gun Cleaning Kits
  • Muzzleloaders

1. Cleaning a Muzzleloader

Modern muzzleloaders have come a long way from the old days of loose powder and the required raccoon hat! Today’s muzzleloaders are much more user friendly and also far more accurate. Through the use of new powders and breech designs these “smokepoles” are now easier to operate and clean than ever before.

If you haven’t ever tried to go on a muzzy hunt I highly recommend it. Most states have extended seasons or annual seasons just for muzzleloader use. For anyone looking to get a little more time in the woods give it a shot. For fairly cheap you can purchase a very high quality rifle that’s accuracy will blow you away. The new sabot slugs and rifled bores combined with pre-packed powder pellets really take out a lot of the work and guessing that was involved over the years past.

It’s essential to keep these guns clean to maintain reliability and accuracy. Cleaning a muzzleloader is not much more difficult than cleaning any other gun in fact the simplicity behind these guns makes it rather easy. Most of the top brands in the game all have pretty similar designs and parts making cleaning them almost universal as far as cleaning and re-assembly.

There seem to be two common approaches to the process of cleaning a muzzleloader. The all natural process, and the solvents approach. I think that I more frequently follow the natural process, but there is always a time to implement some of the black powder solvents available. Everyone has their own little ways of cleaning their muzzleloader and opinions about what is the best process and this how to guide will present you with a blend of the two styles.

In part two of Welcome to Knight Series we will be discussing some proper care and cleaning techniques to ensure that your Knight Rifle stays pristine and in working order. Keeping up with your muzzleloader will guarantee that you have a rifle that will last and can be handed down for generations to come. Now on to Welcome to Knight – Care and Cleaning!

Always clean and lubricate your muzzleloader after each day’s shooting. A muzzleloader must be free of rust, dirt, grease, and powder residue to function safely and reliably. Careful maintenance, which includes inspection of all components to determine if they are in proper working order, is absolutely essential. Muzzleloaders use Black Powder FFg and industry approved black powder substitutes that are highly corrosive, and when fired will deposit corrosive particles and residue in the bore, breech plug, hammer, receiver, trigger and other parts of the rifle.

How to clean a muzzleloader

Rifle grade stainless steel is more rust and corrosion resistant than blued steel, but it is not rust proof. To insure your stainless steel rifle remains in superior condition, clean, oil, and store it in the same manner as a blued steel rifle.

Basic Cleaning Equipment Needed:

  • Ramrod with Bore Brush (Fiber or Brass)
  • Cleaning Jag
  • Cleaning Patches
  • Powder Solvent
  • Breech Plug Grease
  • Water Displacing Oil
  • Small Lint-Free Cloths
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Toothbrush

WARNING: Before cleaning, be certain that the rifle is unloaded and that no primer is in the receiver. Cleaning a loaded or primed rifle may result in accidental discharge.

How to clean a muzzleloader

Instructions for Cleaning

1.) Disassemble your rifle as described in your specific model’s section of this manual. Take care to put all small parts and similar components in a tray.

2.) Clean rifle with soap and water or an approved solvent. Do not use soaps with chlorides, lye, or bleach in them; the chemicals may remove blueing on your barrel.

3.) Clean your rifle from the breech end. Place your breech plug and hammer in hot soapy water of Knight® Solvent™. Do not use water to clean triggers for DISC Extreme™, Long Range Hunter™, Mountaineer™, Bighorn™, Littlehorn™, and TK2000™. Only a solvent should be used to clean these Knight Rifles. Clean with appropriate material and lubricate sear. Don’t allow barreled action and other rifle parts to soak in soapy water or solvents for extended periods.

4.) Use a Knight® Ultimate Range Rod™ or a ramrod with a Knight® Bullet Starter™ handle and an attached cleaning jag. With the muzzle still in the hot soapy water, place a patch over the rear of the receiver and push into the barrel. Scrub the bore vigorously to completely remove all foreign matter, powder residue, and fouling. Repeat this as many times as necessary to get a clean bore.

5.) Thoroughly scrub and clean the breech plug threads in the receiver. A toothbrush, bottle brush, or bullet starter with adapter and 20 gauge shotgun brush work well for this task.

6.) Using a toothbrush or pipe cleaner, thoroughly clean the receiver, hammer, breech plug, trigger and other components of all residues, fouling, etc.

7.) Thoroughly dry all metal surfaces and generously lubricate your rifle inside and out using Knight® Oil™ with rust inhibitor.

8.) Reassemble your muzzleloader according to the instructions in your model’s section of this manual.

Next week in part three of the Welcome to Knight Series we will discuss loading and proper firing techniques.

It is getting to be a pain coming home and cleaning my muzzleloader. It seems to take a while. How doese foaming bore cleaner work? I am using Goex FFG. Now I remove the barrel and use a bucket of hot soapy water. Anyone know of a faster way to clean? I really want to get the breech are clean. Would it work to plug the nipple and fill it with something to let it soak for a little bit and then rinse it out and run a few patches? What would I use?

ORIGINAL: Sharp Shooter

It is getting to be a pain coming home and cleaning my muzzleloader. It seems to take a while. How doese foaming bore cleaner work? I am using Goex FFG. Now I remove the barrel and use a bucket of hot soapy water. Anyone know of a faster way to clean? Thanks

I can’t think of even one sport that doesn’t require some effort & clean up.
Laying on a couch watching a sport isn’t a sport. Part of the fun is still remembering the fun day while cleaning the gear.

When I use 777 at the range & just fired my last round, I loosen the breechplug of my Omega several turns- then run a 3"oily patch down the bore that’s inside a small spray bottle I carry around.

I now have two weeks to clean that ML. so really, there’s no hurry!

If I’m using a sidelock, instead of unscrewing the breechplug, I loosen the nipple one complete turn & spray oil on a 3" patch. I will wipe all around the nipple area – then run a patch of oil down the bore — again, that now allows me two weeks to clean that ML.

Thompson Center Arms — Triple Se7en Powder — Buffalo Bullet Co.

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