Posted by EB on 11/6/2019 to Tech Reports
Having a few years experience in muzzleloader hunting, I've arrived at some common sense cleaning methods that have made my muzzleloader rifle far more accurate and enjoyable to shoot. This method is easy to replicate, thoughtful and it works.
First of all, this idea that you have to soak your rifle in a tub full of hot soapy water after every shooting session is ridiculous. The original muzzleloader frontiersmen didn't have hot tubs, much less soap with them on their forages through the wilderness! Yet, their rifles had to function reliably and shoot accurately, their lives depended on it.
Secondly, the idea of "seasoning" a muzzleloader barrel makes a lot of sense and perhaps explains why the original frontiersmen didn't need hot soapy tubs. The idea is that natural muzzleloader lubricants like Thompson Center Arms "Borebutter" will actually season the bore, very much the same way bacon fat cooks into a cast iron frying pan -- it creates a natural protection and non-stick surface.
Finally, the common belief that you can shoot 3-5 accurate muzzleloader shots between cleanings is absurd. You can hardly get a second and third bullet fully seated down a fouled barrel, much less shoot with accuracy. A muzzleloader barrel MUST be swabbed (seasoned) between shots to remove hard caked fouling. But, with seasoning, you can easily get 25-100+ accurate shots if you swab and dry patch the bore after every shot.
Modern Day Considerations -
My T/C Encore tends to confine fouling within the barrel and breech plug. There is no reason to submerge the entire firing mechanism in a tub of water to clean it. I swab the bore as described between shots and once more after a shooting session. I also scrub inside the rear of the breech plug with a pipe cleaner and carbon solvent to keep the flash hole clear.
Once every 25-50 shots, I'll remove and clean the breech plug, then clean the bore from the breech end with #13 Bore Cleaner, regular jag and patch. Patch it dry, and finish by lubing the bore with a seasoning patch. Use #13 on a patch to wipe any black powder residue off your gun.
The flash pinhole in the breech plug has a wide flash chamber between it and the 209 primer that CAN get encrusted very thick and hard with carbon fouling. Neither hot water nor black powder solvent like #13 will dissolve this stuff. Soaking just the breech plug in a modern carbon solvent overnight should clear it, but don't use modern petroleum solvents in your barrel -- they will remove your seasoning. (Note: New breech plugs are cheap.)
Our wrapped, sub caliber brush eliminates the problem of the cleaning jag getting stuck in the barrel when swabbing the bore between shots.
Our Method -
1. Swab bore with a "seasoning" patch to clean.
2. Swab with a dry patch to remove excess lube.
3. Load muzzleloader powder, bullet and prime.
4. Repeat after EACH shot for superb accuracy.
Why Patched Jags Stick -
I've seen articles that talk about modern black powder substitutes like Pyrodex and Triple Seven having different fouling characteristic with a harder crust. Our wrapped, sub-caliber brush eliminates the problem of a patched cleaning jag getting stuck in this hard crusted fouling.
For 50 Caliber Bore -
Instead of a jag, I use a 45 caliber bronze cleaning brush. Wrap a TC "seasoning" patch around the brush and scrub it down the bore all the way to the breech plug. Seasoning patches are impregnated with borebutter that loosens the crud while seasoning the bore surface:
- Scrub the ignition area at the bottom especially well, until you can feel that you are scrubbing smooth, bare metal. Usually, it's about 20 strokes.
- Next, wrap a DRY cleaning patch around the brush and scrub the barrel like before, about 20 strokes.
This method results in a clean, consistent barrel that also loads easily and consistently. Plus, the brush/patch combination never sticks in the barrel.
For convenience, when practicing shooting many shots at a shooting range, we recommend using a separate cleaning rod and brush for swabbing with a seasoning patch between shots.