Whether you have a traditional or modern black powder rifle or handgun, get ready to get dirty. Black powder is a great way to experience the shooting sport and hobby from a new angle. When I hunted with black powder, it helped me get better shooting seasons in my home state. Honestly, with that first Hawken I built from a kit, the real question when I pulled the trigger was would it really work. If you are buying one just for the experience of shooting from a historical perspective, then I need not explain the lure that pulled me towards the chance to shoot what, they did whoever they may have been.
All those, and many more, hooked me years ago. However, the one thing they did not talk too much about was cleaning. I remember the manuals said, “Always clean thoroughly when you are finished shooting.” What I learned is that you may sometimes be finished shooting because you have to clean your gun as it has become almost unusable with residue powder. Black powder guns get dirty fast.
Additionally, cleaning a black powder gun is somewhat dirty. This is comparable to saying that shooting a 12-gauge shotgun with three-inch magnum buckshot will have somewhat of a kick. You will get your monies worth on both endeavors.
Now, don’t get alarmed. While it may be filthy, it is not that hard. Some processes are like cleaning a modern gun. If done with a little preplanning you can contain the mess.
First, find a good cleaning location. The living room carpet or kitchen sink may not be good. I have found that a sturdy medium-to large-sized plastic food container works well as a base. As you clean the gun, blackened powder-soaked fluids will come out. Place paper towels or rags on the bottom of your work space to absorb these fluids. Replace them as needed.
Second, disassemble the gun for cleaning. This usually involves removing the nipple on a traditional rifle and sometimes a traditional pistol. Use a nipple wrench. On a modern rifle, the same may apply but you will need to remove the breech plug as well. Consult your owner’s manual for cleaning disassembly.
Next, apply a powder solvent recommended for black powder gun down the barrel. On pistols, you will have to apply it to the cylinder and chambers as well. Let them soak for the recommended solvent manufactures time.
Now comes the time we get our hands dirty. Make sure the gun is in your chosen base to soak up the liquids. Run patches through the barrel repeatedly. This may take some time and many patches. You should continue this process until the patches come out clean. Have a place to dispose of dirty patches handy.
The next step you can do prior to applying solvent. Be sure to consult your owners manual and the solvent directions. With a brass or copper brush, run your ramrod through the bore to remove any further carbon, fowling, or rust several times. This applies to the chamber and cylinders of a traditional pistol. Run a few more patches through to make sure additional fowling, rust, or powder is gone.
Now lightly coat a patch with protectorate lubrication and lightly coat the inside of the barrel. Note that lightly is stated twice. Excessive lubricant can cause issues on your next shoot.
Clean your breech plug and nipple according to the owners manual and replace on the gun. Clean up the exterior of the gun so no residue is on the outside. You are done. Now go clean up. However, you do that, is in your hands.