Cleaning a Muzzleloader

First a bit about me.

To begin I am going to discuss sidelocks as this is the type of gun I use. I have never used a in-line, only read the directions for one. I am a Traditional shooter both in muzzleloaders and bows. It is just my preference in bows and muzzleloaders. Love the feel of the old style smokepoles.

Tools Needed

You will need a small pail. A cleaning rod with cleaning jag attached, black powder solvent, many cleaning patches, and a good gun oil, dish soap, and HOT water (tho not boiling), a small hose (if you have a caplock that you can not remove).

Clearing a wet barrel

One thing most guys I know never think about when using muzzleloaders, is what to do with a barrel full of wet powder. It is something I feel is connected to cleaning a barrel. With a sidelock, you will need to get the ball out. You will need a ball puller. You can purchase one with a brass collar which will protect your rifling and also works well on maxi-balls. Also a good steel rod with slide protecter for the rod.

With the ball puller attached to the rod, slide it down to the ball and screw it in (kind of like a screw extractor or easy-out). On caplocks sometimes you can pour powder into the drum and blow the ball out. However this won't work on Flintlocks. Once the ball is out ream the powder out with a long wire or a patch worm gear.

Next run a wire or common pin in the vent hole on a flintlock or thru the drum on a caplock. Get it clear enough so that fire will get thru to barrel. Now pour about 10 grains of powder down the barrel and reprime the lock. In a safe direction fire the gun. This will blow out the remaining wet powder. Now procede to the cleaning instructions.


Black powder is very corrosive. So it is imperative that you get the fouling out of your barrel. If you have a Hawken style gun disassemble it at this point (remove the barrel from the gun).

Use a good black powder solvent (I prefer Moose Milk). Soak a cleaning patch with it and run a little in the barrel. It will get messy and smelly, so you may not want to do this in the kitchen or you maybe wearing a frying pan for a hat. Put the cleaning patch over the end of the barrel and run it down into the barrel several times. Take a small pail (like an icecream pail or coffee can) and put about three inches of HOT water in it with dish soap in it.

If you have a Hawken style barrel put the breech end of the barrel right in the water, if it is a long gun with a caplock put the small hose on the nipple and stick the other end in the water, if it is a flintlock soak the cleaning patch in the water and repeat like with the solvent. Pump the cleaning rod in and out of the barrel many times, the wet patch will act like a suction cup and pull the water up into the barrel. With a flintlock you will need to use several patches.

Pull the barrel or the hose out of the water and let the water drain back into the pail. The hotter the water is for this the better as it will also help to dry the inside of the barrel. Run several cleaning patches down the barrel (one at a time) until they come out white.

Use a good gun oil (I prefer Hoppes) and lubricate a cleaning patch along with a few drops right into the barrel. Run the patch down the barrel several times. Now run one patch down the barrel to soak up any access.

Rub down the outside of the barrel to clean it of any water residue and black powder residue and set aside to dry.

Cleaning a Muzzleloader

By Pro-Staff Member