I’ve worked for years with some of the best people in the world, and a group within that group are Harley riders. They talk about them all the time and over the years I’ve heard them say (among other things) something like this to folks thinking about buying one, “if you don’t know how to use a crescent wrench and a screw driver, you need to learn." I know they mean it from a stand point of things just getting a little loose with a lot of road time.
Along those same lines, I quite often say something like this to people wanting to get started with a new muzzleloader, “if you don’t like cleaning a rifle, you need to get over it”.
Anyone not agree?
Good news is, it’s not that big of a deal and it really doesn't take that long if you know how and you have the right stuff. Once you have the right stuff, it’s then just a matter of getting yourself a good system in place.
If I have a system for anything, it’s cleaning a muzzleloader, and I also happen to know a little something about what products work and which ones to tell you not to bother with.
Here’s what I use and how I do it:
Begin by gathering & preparing your cleaning supplies:
Lewis Lead Remover
JB Bore Cleaner (Paste)
TCS Cleaning jag
A ram rod with a rotating handle or jag*
*Keep in mind, to properly clean or load a muzzleloader, either the jag or the handle of the rod must rotate when a bullet or patch is run down the barrel. This so that one or the other is tracking the barrels' rifling.
I’ve got to where I put a stack of patches in a small re-sealable plastic container and pour enough good cleaner over them to get them good and wet (of course, I recommend MAX Dead On Clean!). Butch's Bore Shine for Black powder would be my second choice. (My container here is one I saved just for this purpose that came from KFC...it came with my baked beans!)
Now you’re ready to start a detailed cleaning.
STEP 1: Take three (3) patches from the bowl and blot them until they are only damp. Using a TCS Cleaning Jag (those rubber O-rings are excellent at forcing the patch deep into the rifling) and the first damp patch, SCRUB the lower 6 to 8 inches (from the breech plug forward) of the barrel 10 to 12 times. This would be to remove the crust ring left behind from shooting Triple-7. Follow with the other 2 damp patches at 7 passes back and forth each.
STEP 2: Now run two (2) dry patches 4 passes back and forth each. This will remove any cleaner from the barrel.
STEP 3: Disassemble the rifle.
STEP 4: Remove & clean the breech plug. See the detailed directions at my previous blog article titled “Breech Plug Cleaning: How I Do It”.
STEP 5: Now take the brass wire brush and wrap a wet patch around it. Twist it into the breech far enough to get past the breech plug threads and rotate it 4 to 5 turns. Repeat with a second wet patch.
Repeat with multiple dry patches until you see they are coming out mostly clean. (Remember that they will never come back out perfectly clean or white since the brush will always have some dirty cleaner in it.)
STEP 6: Now it’s time to use the best muzzleloading barrel cleaning tool in the world, the Lewis Lead Remover. To do this, run your rod up the barrel from the muzzle and out the breech. Attach the Lewis Lead Remover.
Squirt some good bore cleaner (again, we have an excellent one: Dead On Clean) on the L.L.R. and pull it through the barrel and out the muzzle end. Repeat.
Nothing in your barrel can survive what this Lewis Lead Remover has to dish out!
STEP 7: Dry out the threads of the breech end of the rifle with a patch (you can use your finger for this). Now reinsert the thoroughly clean breech plug (don’t forget to lube it first, per my instructions in my breech plug cleaning article).
STEP 8: Using a patch, again with a good conditioner or oil on it, lubricate the entire outside of the barrel that would be under the forearm.
STEP 9: Clean the face of the breech and down inside the frame. Use conditioner and cleaner for this. This is where the pipe cleaners and long handled Q-tips earn their keep. Lubricate this area real well.
STEP 10. Now reassemble the rifle.
STEP 11: Using one patch with cleaner on it that has been blotted until it is nearly dry, down the barrel 2 to 3 times to remove anything loosened by the Lewis Lead Remover. Repeat with a dry patch or two.
**One other tip that will help clean and keep your bore smooth and bright, would be to run a patch with some JB Bore Cleaner (Paste) down the barrel every other time you clean rifle. Use one patch with JB, 8 to 10 passes. No more than this, JB is a very light abrasive and a little goes a long way.
STEP 12: Using one patch with some conditioning oil on it, pass it one time down and back through the barrel to protect the metal from rust.
STEP 13: Wipe down all exterior metal parts of your rifle with a good conditioner to protect from rust.
NOW your rifle is CLEAN and ready for storage, or to be reloaded for your next shot!!