How To Clean A Flintlock Muzzleloader
How To Clean A Flintlock Muzzleloader – In contrast to the popularity (and complexity) of the AR-15, some want to expand their firearms collection to include simpler designs. Flintlock rifles are about as simple as you can get, but despite their simplicity, new users are wondering – how do you even clean a Flintlock rifle?
During a recent conversation about firearms care, a friend mentioned his experience with a caplock rifle. The kit-built .50-caliber saw some initial use, but then sat idle and was forgotten. More than a decade later, it appeared among other items from the back of the closet.
How To Clean A Flintlock Muzzleloader
Expecting the worst, he brushed off the layer of dust and crossed it perfectly. The result? Everything was still in pristine condition, including the forum. When asked about their cleaning method, the explanation was simply “hot water and oil”.
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Unfortunately, “pitted” barrels are quite common in muzzleloaders, whether antique or modern replicas. These guns are designed to burn conventional black powder. Once fired, without immediate attention, irreversible damage soon follows. The residues known as “fouling” are hydroscopic, meaning they quickly absorb water – which
One evening in the distant past I touched a frontal percussion rifle and parked it in a corner for the night. By 0800 the next morning, the bore had a nasty new coating of rust. I saved it with the same hot water treatment, followed by vigorous scrubbing with an oiled bore brush – while learning the value of immediate cleaning.
Am I the only one who thinks water and firearms doesn’t sound like an ideal mix? Apparently not, judging by the various other cleaning methods and wonder-mix black powder in commercial and home form. Some shooters remember using household products like Windex that can be diluted with water.
Others make a “moose milk” mixture from soap or Murphy’s ballistol (popular for firearms use). The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA) has an informative page dedicated to this process:
Weapon A Visual History Of Arms And Armor Pages 151 200
Commercial products are another option. Of course, most are advertised as somewhere between effective and “optimal” if their directions are followed to the letter. And, there’s still the old standby of hot water. Lately, I’ve been thinking that the “best” choice depends on the design of the particular front stuffer rifle and the type of propellant, which might actually be a modern black powder option.
First, a disclaimer. Although I love muzzleloaders, they are only one part of a larger shooting repertoire. Some people who regularly shoot muzzleloading guns have very refined cleaning methods, sometimes with a single spin. Being more of a hacker, I gravitate towards the KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid concept.
As for propellants, my experience is limited to true black powder (actually an explosive), with some modern substitutes, such as Pyrodex and Blackhorn 209. The latter are designed for modern in-line muzzleloaders (with some special modification such as small touches). Many of these products can be ordered online through stores like Natchez.
I can use it all over the floor because, unlike the others, it is not hygroscopic. So cleaning is less urgent and even easier. Pyrodex appeared as an early black powder substitute, marketed to produce less fouling. You’ll probably see the most use in Caplox, but the cleaning process is similar to traditional black powder.
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Speaking of “traditional,” the last muzzleloading post was a dedicated flintlock, which described how to load and fire one. He ended up with a .50 caliber Lyman trade rifle, shot through with GOEX black powder. I had a few crude cutting options, but in the end, I went with water, mainly because of the design of this gun.
One feature I bought was its “hooked breech”, which makes it easy to disassemble for cleaning. A hooked breech consists of a strong steel hook at the rear of the barrel breech plug that engages a socket in a separate steel tang in the stock. Further forward, a brass wedge runs horizontally across the forend, to which a slotted barrel tenon engages. After the wedge (and ramrod) is removed, the barrel can be tilted to loosen it for easy maintenance.
Hooked breech design: removal of the brass wedge allows the barrel to be detached for a cleaning bath in a bucket.
Purists say this system is less accurate than other designs, some made with full-length stocks that are attached to their barrels. Maybe, but being a part-time traditionalist at best, I’ll go for KISS. A closed barrel, it is easy to learn with hot water.
Could Use Help Identifying This Flintlock Pistol
Here is a neat .32 caliber percussion rifle; Cherokee of Thompson Center (no longer produced). But, all the information below applies to this little game “Cap-Lock”.
The tools for cleaning a flintlock rifle are actually pretty basic. The shotgun ramrod usually acts as a cleaning rod once the patch jig is attached. As for the patches, you can make them from old t-shirts. Between shooting and final cleaning, you’ll go through a lot.
Not much is needed for equipment. A bent paper clip doubles as a vent probe – when not in use for disassembling a 1911 pistol with a full-length guide bar.
Rod – I replaced the factory wooden ramrod with an “unbreakable” synthetic version. There is a flared brass tip at one end for charging. The other end is threaded to accept accessories. After developing a good charge, I drew a line around the stick that coincides with the muzzle. The mark indicates the full seat of the load, as well as the loaded position of the rifle. I also drilled a hole in the front end of the rod to accept a small allen key (or other object) in case a handle is needed to help it out. Others use a different, more durable stick with a handle. Mine can flex, so I’m careful to avoid rifling it or scraping against the crown.
Original Brunswick P 1837 Percussion Two Groove Infantry Rifle
Jug – This item hits the patch during its journey through the forum. The diameter must allow some allowance for the thickness of the patch. A little resistance is fine. A tight fit is not because the stick and the patch are stuck in the barrel. The jig for my .50 caliber Lyman measures 0.465″. The threaded shank will fit the rod.
Patches – Use a few between shooting and cleaning. I popped for a large bag of round 2 ¼” diameter, .015 thick, cotton patches – perfect for my bore and jug (the patch doubles in thickness when around the round).
Bore Brush – You may or may not need one. I shoot Hornady’s PA taper balls, but their heavy lubrication reduces the need to constantly brush the bore.
Scraper – Some people use one to scrape the inside face of the barrel breech. So far, I have not used one.
K 13 Early Penn Germanic Jaeger
Small Punch – Since the barrel of my gun is secured by a wedge, it must be removed. We start with a small steel punch to slide a .22 LR case fired over. Wooden dowels can also work.
Screw Drivers – The Lyman lock is secured by a large slotted screw that runs through the stock. Once removed, the entire lock can be moved freely for proper cleaning. Another flat tip screwdriver is used to unscrew the vent-liner (the drum that has the touch).
Bucket – Anything capable of holding a column of hot water will do. I used a drywall bucket.
Toothbrush – It is handy for cleaning various nooks and crannies of the lock. I use a non-traditional M-16 brush, but it all works.
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Oil – Some purists are very specific about their preferences, the theory being that having the right types can help “season” the bore to make future reloading efforts easier. Others just go with the “oil” and remove it before charging. I’ve used rust preventer, ram oil, a few others, and even (gasp) WD-40 (see my article on WD-40 and firearms).
First of all: make sure the gun is unloaded! I checked with my ramrod’s writing line. If you are not sure, you can carefully insert the stick until it stops and make a mark near the muzzle. Once removed, it can be placed near the barrel to serve as a gauge.
The load line is roughly drawn with a pipe cutter and filled in with a yellow grease pencil. Here the rod stops, the normal load of the gun is properly placed. Compare the stick to the outside of the barrel to see how it looks unloaded.
Also, find the right place. The olfactory experience will be familiar to those who woke up in a deer camp, where the previous evening’s menu consisted of boiled eggs and beans. I go to the basement to keep the domestic peace. However, I am authorized to boil water on the kitchen stove.
How To Clean A Flintlock Rifle
The following steps are suitable for my rifle, but for the most part (with the exception of its hooked breech), it applies to many muzzleloaders, including caplocks.
Again, thanks to my Lyman design, I can separate the barrel from its stock. When cleaning conventional muzzleloaders, consider the permanent breech-plug (actually, some are welded). Everything goes through the mouth.
Close-up of a hook-guilt and a vent liner. The wires should withstand a pressure of a
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