Before the invention of the modern firearm, muzzleloaders were commonly used as the weapon of choice. People still practice shooting muzzleloaders today as a way to have fun and experience history.
Despite the extra steps required to keep muzzleloaders clean, muzzleloading enthusiasts still very much prefer loading their own powder charge just like they did in the old days.
Be careful though, cleaning a muzzleloader is a lot different than other firearm maintenance. Fortunately, it still ensures your firearm remains reliable, its lifespan is increased, and above all, the safety of your gun remains intact. While muzzleloaders require a manual process for loading, how often you clean it will depend on a couple of factors.
A muzzleloader should be cleaned between each shot for optimal accuracy. If time is a factor, a muzzleloader can be shot a maximum of 7 -10 times before cleaning. However, residue inside the muzzleloader will start to build up making it increasingly difficult to maintain accuracy and reload with each attempt.
To learn more about how many times you can shoot a muzzleloader before cleaning then continue reading below.
How to Clean a Muzzleloader
Cleaning your muzzleloader is critical as it impacts your performance and that of the guns. With each shot fired, a combination of corrosive residue and oil begins to build up. The longer this residue builds up, barrel fouling sets in, making it that much more difficult for the bullet to sit properly.
It is highly advised that your muzzleloader be cleaned in between shots to avoid any changes in your accuracy. A thorough cleaning can take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes. If accuracy is not a major concern, you can take a moist patch and quickly swab the barrel after seven or ten loads.
Keep in mind that using a moist patch to clean in between shots is not a long-term solution for maintaining your muzzleloader. Every time you swab your muzzleloader you are pushing down all the crud to the bottom of the barrel. Mixing the powder charge and the built-up residue is inevitable when using this cleaning approach.
At the end of a shooting session, you can prepare your muzzleloader for a deep cleaning by ensuring it is completely unloaded. The first sign of visible impact will be on the breech plug. The breech plug will have acidic build-up that will need to be removed with a wire brush, followed by a quick dry, and then reapplying lubricant. These steps will preserve the longevity of your muzzleloader as well as maintain your accuracy on the range.
Quick Cleaning Guide
- Remove breech plug and use a nipple pick to remove any fouling from inside the orifice.
- Attach bore brush to range rod with cleaning solvent applied to brush.
- Run bore brush through barrel as many times as necessary to break down the carbon inside of the barrel.
- Use range rod to run 2-3 cleaning patches through the barrel until patch comes out clean and dry.
- Reattach the breech plug and put your muzzleloader back together.
Your muzzleloader should now be clean now and ready to fire! Remember, this is only the cleaning process recommended while out on the range. When cleaning your muzzleloader at home, I recommend running a seasoning patch through your barrel once you’re done drying it out with a cleaning patch. This will help to prevent future rust and corrosion.
Here’s a video I recommend to watch if you want to know the full process of cleaning modern muzzleloaders.
If you have a traditional black-powder muzzleloader then you may want to check out this video here instead.
Muzzleloader Cleaning Supplies
Here are the most popular supplies needed for cleaning a muzzleloader. There are more cleaning supplies available on the market but these are the most essential muzzleloader cleaning tools.
All you need is the cleaning supplies listed above and you should be able to perform a basic cleaning on a muzzleloader.
Muzzeloader Cleaning Checklist
Taking the initiative to learn how to meticulously clean your muzzleloader will save you the headache of costly repairs or permanent damage. A clean gun makes for a safe gun, however, a poorly maintained one paired with uncooperative weather, can lead to dangerous and unsafe conditions.
Cold weather and wet conditions can make hunting with a muzzleloader a bit of a challenge. Here are the top five checklist reminders to ensure your muzzleloading experience is a successful one:
- Consistent Temperature: Maintaining a set temperature will prevent condensation from forming. To keep your powder dry, refrain from taking your muzzleloader outside in extreme cold weather as the condensation may freeze creating permanent damage or hazardous conditions for you. To avoid fluctuating temperatures, leave your muzzleloader in a cold area instead of bringing it inside your home.
- Securing the Muzzle: Carrying your muzzleloader pointing upwards will help avoid any debris like water, snow, and dirt front entering the barrel. As a precaution, you can take durable tape to cover the muzzle and remove when you are ready to shoot.
- Bullet Seating: Ensure your bullet is properly situated against the charge powder. Ensure there are no air gaps between these two as it can create an obstruction.
- Muzzleloader Posture: Because you are using a ramrod to ensure the bullet is properly seated, holding the muzzle downward will cause gravity to slide it down. Keep your muzzleloader barrel always pointed up to avoid separation of the powder and projectile.
- Safeguard Breeches: While the muzzle is susceptible to debris and other factors, the breech is another vulnerable area that is at risk of moisture. Moisture can dampen your charge powder and create more issues. Using a cover for the lock, also known as a cow’s knee, will provide added protection from rain and snow.
Muzzleloaders are extremely effective tools when maintained correctly. In the right hands, they have impressive accuracy and top-of-the-line performance. Although the muzzleloaders do require an eye for attention to detail, the benefits associated with your energy put forth make it all worthwhile.
Consistency is key if you are a muzzleloader owner or if you are considering purchasing one. Be consistent in your cleaning routine, in your loading approach, and in your shooting execution. Remember to always conduct a thorough cleaning after each season or before you opt to store your muzzleloader for an extended period of time.