How to Clean Your In-Line Muzzleloader for Storage at the End of the Season
This is important. Every year thousands of hunters head to the mountains, the woods, the plains, the tundra and the swamps in pursuit of whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, bears, elk, moose, caribou and other big game critters with their muzzleloaders. These hunts can be long and exhilarating, and successful or not they leave us excited about doing it all over again next year.
What many hunters do not realize however, is that after the hunting season closes it is necessary to clean your muzzleloader properly before you store it in a gun cabinet over the winter months. Bad things can happen to your favorite blackpowder rifle if you neglect this operation. Here are a few examples of what can go wrong.
First by not taking care of your muzzleloader it will lose its value. Secondly, corrosion and rust in your barrel can result in inaccuracy. Thirdly, your breach plug could get stuck making your gun inoperable. Fourth, you could have a firing pin stick causing your gun not to fire, or worse, become a safety hazard.
The below information will help you properly clean your muzzleloader for end-of- season storage. However, always consult your owner’s manual first for proper cleaning instructions.
Equipment You Will Need
You can purchase cleaning components individually, or if you want to simplify things you can purchase a good cleaning kit that has everything you need. Several sporting good stores like Cabela’s carry these kits.
A Range Rod
Though your muzzleloader comes with a ramrod, they are typically just the length of your barrel and make the job of cleaning difficult. Even if you unscrew the tip of the ramrod to lengthen it or add a cleaning jag to it is still not as convenient as a range rod. A good range rod will be around 36-38 inches in length (including the handle) allowing you to swab your barrel from the muzzle to the breech. Most modern muzzleloaders have barrels 26-30 inches so the range rod is just the right size to effectively swab and brush the inside of the barrel.
BEFORE YOU START CLEANING, ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOUR MUZZLELOADER IS UNLOADED
Do I Have to Clean My Stainless Steel Muzzleloader?
Many hunters who purchase a modern in-line muzzleloader that is stainless steel need to realize that they still have to clean them like a blued muzzleloader. Keep in mind a stainless steel muzzleloader barrel is not typically made out of surgical grade stainless steel, and they can corrode if not cleaned properly.
Removing Your Breech Plug
Depending on the muzzleloader you own will depend on how you remove your breech plug. Most muzzleloaders come with a breech plug removal tool unless you have one of the new CVA muzzleloaders with the new Quick Removable Breech Plug. Those guns require no tools to remove the breech plug. Consult the manufacturer’s customer service department if you have questions regarding this.
Let Your Breech Plug Soak in the Parts Soaker
After removing the breech plug place it in a parts soaker. The parts soaker is used to soak breech plugs to save you time scrubbing them. The longer you let it sit the easier it will be to clean. If you do not have time to let it sit you can always clean it with hot soapy water however I prefer using a product like Barrel Blaster Wonder Gel solvent. The solvent is an ammonia-based cleaning gel that keeps the cleaner right where you need it for the removal of lead, copper and plastic fouling.
Option 2 for Cleaning Your Breach Plugs
If you are fortunate to have children like I do, I make cleaning the muzzleloader a family activity. Since my boys were very young they have always wanted to help me when I clean my muzzleloader. I furnish them with a bowl of warm soapy water and a small nylon bristled brush. They have a contest to see who can get the cleanest breech plug. Yes, there hands will get a little dirty, but the time spent together is worth the extra effort it takes to clean their hands. (They are 8 and 9 now and I would put them up against any adult when cleaning a breech plug.)
Cleaning the Inside of Your Breech Plug
To get the inside of your breach plug you will need two things for a thorough cleaning. A nipple pick and flexible breech plug cleaners. A nipple pick is a small tool with an extractable wire tip that allows you to clean the breech plug flash hole. It is critical to make sure that there is no fouling creating any blockage at all. Primers produce heavy fouling and it is imperative to clean the inside of the breech plug. After soaking and cleaning the outside of your breech plug you need to clean the inside of your breech plug where your primer sits. One particular cleaning accessory that works really well is a flexible breech plug cleaner. These pipe cleaners have stiff bristles imbedded in the material for extra heavy duty cleaning in hard to get to places in the inside of the breech plug. Use them in combination with your nipple pick.
Cleaning the Barrel
Years ago soap and water was the norm when it came to cleaning muzzleloaders. Today we are fortunate to have so many more options. If you are not pressed for time the easiest way to clean your muzzleloader barrel is by using a foaming bore cleaner. There are several on the market including Cabela’s Barrel Blaster Foaming Bore Cleaner and CVA’s Barrel Blaster Foam. Just spray the foam into the barrel and allow it to sit for about an hour; then swab foam out of the barrel and you are done. It usually only takes 4 to 5 patches and your barrel is clean. If you shoot sabots instead of PowerBelt bullets you will experience more plastic fouling in your barrel. Plastic fouling is the residue left in your barrel from sabots melting with each shot.
If you are pressed for time or need to do a field cleaning start by using a cleaning brush on the tip of your range rod. Use the CVA Barrel Blaster Wonder Gel solvent and liberally apply it to your cleaning brush. Make sure it is the right caliber size for the gun you are cleaning. Run the ramrod up and down the barrel several times breaking the fouling loose in the barrel. Then cover the brush with a cleaning patch and start removing the fouling from the barrel with patches containing cleaning solvent. You may also use pre-saturated patches containing Barrel Blaster Solvent that you can purchase for quick easy cleaning. You will need to repeat this process and it may take several times to get the barrel shiny clean for storage.
Removing the Firing Pin and Oiling
When talking with a leading muzzleloading manufacturer’s customer service representative I learned about a problem people have when not cleaning there muzzleloaders prior to storage. If a shooter doesn’t properly clean the firing pin it can result in major problems, especially in a break action muzzleloader. Number one the firing pin may not work properly. If it is rusted or corroded it may not fire. Or worse, it may fire one time and stick in the firing position. If a shooter does not realize this, when they reload and prime their muzzleloader it can become very dangerous if they try and close the primed muzzleloader. Your muzzleloader could fire upon closure which is very dangerous. Many modern muzzleloaders have a firing pin that is accessible for removal.
Care for Your Breech Plug
One of the final steps is putting your breech plug back into your muzzleloader. Make sure to use lubrication on the threads. Some people use breech plug grease. I have found that Anti-Seize works very well and have personally never had a breech plug get stuck with this product.
Additional Help on Keeping Your Barrel Rust Proof
There is one tool that will help your muzzleloader last and keep rust from forming in the barrel. This tool really helps in humid parts of the country. CVA sells a Barrel Blaster Rust Blaster Plug for under $15.00. Just slip it in the end of each of your muzzleloader barrels while in storage and it will keep your barrel from rusting.
Preparing Your Muzzleloader for Storage
After you have completely cleaned your muzzleloader you will want to wipe it down with a light coating of oil or you can use a product that also prevents rust called Barrel Blaster Rust Prevent patches. This product is less messy and is very helpful to use on the inside of the barrel. You can also use them on the outside of the muzzleloader. These patches are covered with a substance that protects the inside of your barrel from rust.
Prior to Your Next Hunt after Storing Your Muzzleloader
First make sure that the muzzleloader is not loaded. After making sure it is unloaded, fire a few primers. This will help remove excess oil from the barrel and also work as a safety check that your firing pin is working properly.
Properly cleaning your muzzleloader at the end of the season will preserve your investment and keep you shooting accurately for years to come.
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