Cleaning Muzzleloaders

A few years ago I was looking for a quicker, easier way to clean my muzzle loaders.  I was tired of using hot soapy water because the risk of rusting.  I had tried various solvents but wasn’t satisfied with the cleaning I was getting.  I didn’t feel like they were getting all of the fouling out of the nooks and crannies.  It seemed that one of the solvents I had tried would stick a patch during every cleaning.  I didn’t want to be like the people who say “I’d like to shoot my muzzle loader more, but they are such a pain to clean”.  Here is what I found:

This is a quick, easy way to clean a muzzle loader.  The key is, allow your cleaning solution to work.

The solution I like best is a homemade formula.   Mix together:
4 ounces of hydrogen peroxide
4 ounces of 91% rubbing alcohol
4 ounces of Murphy’s Oil Soap

Note Because of the peroxide you will need to keep the solution in dark bottles.

If you are cleaning a caplock put a piece of leather or rubber over the nipple and ease the hammer forward to hold the leather or rubber in place over the nipple. Do not drop the hammer because it will put a small piece of leather into your nipple just the same as a leather punch cuts a small piece out to make a hole.  Flintlock shooters should remove the lock from their gun and then use a toothpick or whittled matchstick to seal the touchhole. I then put about 2 ounces of cleaning solution down the barrel. (This amount will fill the average pistol barrel.)  Prop the gun up in a secure place where it won’t get knocked over, and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. (I use this time to clean the lock of my flinter.  A wood handled tooth-brush and a small amount of solvent removes the built up fouling in no time.)

Then pour the solution out, and run two solution soaked patches down the barrel. Follow that with a couple clean dry patches. If the dry patches comes out dirty, run another soaked patch followed by a dry patch. You should be about there on the second one. If you need to, repeat the soaked patch followed by a dry patch a third time. If the gun is not clean after the third try, plug the nipple or touchhole again and re-soak the barrel. (I have been cleaning my muzzleloaders this way for over 3 years now, and only a couple of times have I had to re-soak a barrel.)  On my caplocks, I will now remove the lock, nipple and clean-out screw and take a solution soaked patch to the lock, mortise and exterior barrel, while the nipple and screw soak in a little solution.  After drying the barrel, I like to stand my weapon muzzle down for a few minutes to let any trapped solution run out of the breach and down the barrel.  A few minutes later, still holding the gun muzzle down, I’ll wipe the bore with another dry patch to soak up anything that has drained out of the breech.  Before installing the nipple and screw, I take a dry cotton swab and clean out the threads and channels.  Sometimes I have to remove most of the cotton to get into the passage ways.  Then I put a small drop of oil on the threads of the nipple and screw before I install them.

I follow the dry patches in the bore with a lightly oiled patch and after cleaning I give the entire gun a light coat of oil.   I use an oil called Ballistol.  It is biodegradable and slightly acidic to counter the causticness of corrosive primers and black powder.

When using this solution to clean your gun, it is very important to get a good coat of light oil on the piece as soon as possible after cleaning. The hydrogen peroxide and the alcohol have some water in the solutions, but the alcohol in the solution allows it to dry rapidly.

About Gabe the Shootist

I am retired from public service, a trained gunsmith, pump mechanic, an old pipeliner, passable electrician, carpenter, truck driver, amateur blacksmith, proof reader, experienced hunter, shooter, reloader, avid canoeist, Renaissance man, jack of all trades, all around good guy (with the caveat: I won't be insulted, lied to or laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them.).
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2 Responses to Cleaning Muzzleloaders

  1. Jim Crubaugh says:

    Great advice. I use that same concoction to lube my patches with the ball too. You can shoot many rounds and have no problem shoving the next patch and ball down the tube. It apparently does some cleaning each time you load the rifle. I also use the ballistol as you describe, great stuff. I used it to clean my flinter this last time, I thought it worked great.

  2. Ron says:

    2nd year at this muzzleloading learning a lot from you guys that have been doing this for years. I did the cleaning that was on here with alcohol, Murphy’s oil soap and peroxide, it works great. It cut my cleaning time in half. I am always looking into articles on this sport. Great fun with muzzleloaders.

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