Muzzleloader 101
Clean-up and Maintenance

Black powder residue is corrosive and hygroscopic. Clean as soon as practical after use.

First, dry brush with a brass bore brush. Scrub it several times and tap the barrel against a block of wood to knock out the debris. This is a big time saver. If possible, do this before leaving the range. I have heard that the brush can damage the seasoning. Possible. It is a characteristic of the muzzle loading hobby that there are almost as many opinions as shooters. The fun part is that they are all based on experience.  

The hook breech is designed to hook into the tang. When the wedge or pin is removed, the barrel can be removed from the stock by raising the muzzle, so that it unhooks from the tang and allows maintenance.

The "Patent" breech has a smaller chamber bored into the breech plug with the ignition channel entering the small chamber giving a central ignition. To determine whether or not you have a patent breech, use the procedure below.

If you do not have a removable barrel, care must be taken to not damage the stock. I keep a scrap of leather in my cleaning kit to put on the nipples using the hammer to hold it down, making a seal. This keeps the soapy water in the barrel instead of your activity pumping it out over the wood and onto the ground. Another good alternative is a nipple with a plastic tube attached.

Personally, I have used dishwashing detergent in a strong solution for years, but recently changed to Murphey's Oil Soap. It may be better but certainly is no worse. Moose milk is highly thought of in muzzleloading circles and there are almost as many recipes as authors, but most call for either Murphey*;s Oil Soap or Ballistol, both being water soluble oils. Some experts advise plain water.

If you have a removable barrel, remove it from the stock; put the breech in a small bucket of soapy water. Scrub vigorously with the brass brush, then with a cleaning patch. You will pump plenty of water. Careful or you will get a slosh of black water out of the muzzle all over your best shirt.

Scrub vigorously with the brass brush, then with a cleaning patch. Remove the leather and rinse by pouring clean warm water through the barrel until it runs clear. Most effective is with the nipple(s) removed. Dry and oil.

There are various commercial solvents available. Use a water base. Oil tends to stabilize the corrosives and water neutralizes them. Thompson Center No. 13 is one of more popular. I like it or similar for a quick clean when it is not practical to wash.

If you are cleaning a flintlock, be sure to remove the lock and clean inside. I use a toothbrush with soap and water; dry it with a hairdryer and then oil.

Finally, oil everything, twice. Petroleum oil solvents will remove vegetable oil lubes. It is best to avoid them. Popular choices are Bore Butter, Ballistol, lard, Criso and others. A classic was rendered bear oil mixed with bee's wax.

Some tubes containing various other useful products are available from several sources. I am using the most descriptive brand names.

NeverSeize is a thread lube to prevent locked up threads. Available from sporting goods stores for choke tubes or from any auto parts store. I use it for nipples and non-muzzleloading needs. It is recommended for inline breech plugs.

Locktite prevents threads from shaking loose. I have needed it in several places. Be sure to get the soft version, not the locked-in-there-forever version.

Now case it with the sights up toward the handle. Otherwise a minor drop makes the sights take the force of the entire gun weight even in a hard case. This applies to modern scoped guns too. Period style cases made of buckskin or cloth range from utilitarian socks to elaborate fitted cases decorated with fringe, beadwork and/or applique carefully fitted to that gun. They give weather and abrasion protection but no impact protection. I wrap a mover's quilt around mine for transport. Leather is not considered a good choice for long tem storage.

Probe Procedure
Place a .22 caliber cleaning brush on a small diameter rod to re-measure the length of the bore and the outside of the barrel. If the measurements inside and outside the bore are the same with the small diameter rod, the firearm is unloaded and has a breech plug that extends into the bore. If the small diameter rod fails to reach the touchhole, nipple or breech plug, the firearm should be considered loaded.


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