By Josh Boyd
Even in the modern era of breech-loading firearms and smokeless powders, there is something uniquely nostalgic about the plume of sulfur fragrant smoke that a muzzleloader emits upon report. Those who go afield with their muzzleloaders in search of game can feel a sense of connection to the early pioneers that roamed the American wilderness.
This appreciation toward the firearms of yesteryear and the presence of season-extending primitive weapon seasons have made muzzleloaders nearly as common among the gun safes of hunters as their typical stand-by .30-06 or .30-.30. The development of inline models that utilize 209 primers for ignition has only served as a source of further appeal to those yearning to jump behind a smoke pole of their own.
However, ownership of a muzzleloader comes with a certain level of responsibility beyond that of standard gun ownership. Muzzleloaders must be meticulously cleaned after every use to ensure that they function as desired and resist the longevity robbing effects of corrosion.
The following steps will help you properly maintain your muzzleloader in a manner that will ensure years of trouble-free service life.
- Ensure Discharge Or Unload– Although it would seem that this step would fall into the category of common sense, safety is never an issue that should go without reiteration. Before beginning the cleaning process, ensure that your muzzleloader has been discharged safely and that there is no primer present in the breech area.
Even though you will be removing the breech plug momentarily, rendering your muzzleloader inoperable, a quick check of the status of your firearm is always advised before ever entertaining the idea of conducting cleaning duties.
- Prepare Supplies And Work Area- You will now prepare all the supplies that you will be utilizing to complete the task at hand. The list of supplies that are chosen for use can often be based upon personal preference in products. However, the following list will help in procuring the essentials.
- Cleaning Patches
- Bore Solvent
- Breech Plug Removal Wrench
- Anti-Seize Thread Grease
- Tooth Brush
- Cleaning Jag
- Bore Brush
- Breech Plug Nipple Pick
- Small Solvent Container
- Rust Inhibitor
- Remove Breech Plug– You will begin your cleaning by gaining access to the breech of your muzzleloader. This is done by removing the breech plug. Not all breech plugs are identical in design, making ownership of a model-specific breech plug wrench essential. This wrench will be used to unthread the breech plug from your muzzleloader. The difficulty of this task, or lack thereof, often comes down to whether or not the plug’s threads were lubricated upon the last cleaning.
- Clean Breech Plug– With your breech plug removed, you can now begin cleaning this vital component. The breech plug facilitates the transmission of ignition between the primer and powder charge.
A lack of attention during this step will often lead to a misfire condition during your next hunt. You can submerge the breech plug in a cup of bore solvent for thorough cleaning. It is best to allow your plug to remain submerged for the duration of the time spent completing the rest of the cleaning process.
Upon removal from the solvent, the breech plug’s firing hole should be cleared of obstructions with the use of a nipple pick, and all threads should be thoroughly cleaned with a toothbrush.
- Brush Out Bore– You will now begin cleaning your barrel. This process is initiated by spraying, or pouring, a light amount of bore solvent into the barrel. Once this has been done, fouling can be loosened by running a copper bush of the appropriate diameter down the length of your barrel, with the use of your cleaning rod. This process is to be repeated 3-5 times.
- Clean With Jag And Patch- A cleaning patch saturated in bore cleaner can now be swabbed through the barrel from the breech forward. This should be repeated 3 times consecutively with saturated patches, before continuing by alternating dry and saturated patches until they begin to come out cleanly. Once 2-3 patches have exited the barrel free of any discoloration, the bore will be adequately cleaned.
- Check Additional Components- You will now check the status of additional components within areas of your muzzleloader that can come into contact with corrosive black powder residue. Hot gasses can escape from the breech region of a muzzleloader, contaminating trigger group components.
The serviceability of such items varies based upon the model of firearm. However, it is always advisable to clean any assembly that can be accessed.
- Apply Choice Of Rust Inhibitor- Before fully reassembling your muzzleloader; it is of value to apply a muzzleloader specific rust inhibitor that will not contaminate future powder charges. Nearly every muzzleloader supply company offers its own product of this nature and selection is based upon personal preference. These products can be applied by swabbing a patch from one end of the barrel to the other.
- Reinstall Breech Plug- Before reinstalling your breech plug; coat all threads with a light layer of anti-seize thread grease. This assists in easing future breech plug removal by preventing seizure within the breech of the firearm. Your breech plug can now be threaded into its recess within the barrel.
Cleaning Made Simple
Although muzzleloader cleaning can seem tedious and time-consuming, the extensive service life that is yielded from such upkeep is well worth the effort. In truth, a muzzleloader can typically be cleaned in no more than thirty minutes once one has become proficient in the process. With these key steps to inline muzzleloader cleaning proficiency, you will be well on your way to making a lifetime worth of memories with your smoke pole by your side.