Introduction: How to Clean a Muzzleloader (Black Powder Rifle).

Picture of How to Clean a Muzzleloader (Black Powder Rifle).

Black powder and muzzleloading firearms are fun. They give you a sense of the frontier days and the old west. In many states, there's also an extra hunting season for those willing to use these "out of date" weapons.

By the way, muzzleloading weapons are still evolving. Many use a "209"(shotgun shell-type) primer for ignition, and a few are even designed to fire modern smokeless powder (NEVER mix or substitute modern smokeless powder for black powder/pyrodex!). Because of my work schedule (and hunting seasons), I hunt more with these weapons than anything else. I use the modern, more reliable muzzleloaders because I can't afford to come home empty-handed!

Black powder firearms are particularly susceptible to rust and corrosion. It takes a bit more time and effort to clean a Muzzleloader/black powder gun, but for me the extra effort is well worth the reward.

NOTE: I'm pressed for time, but I'll try to add a few more pics to this ible soon.

Step 1: Disassembly

Picture of Disassembly

First and most importantly!!!! MAKE SURE your gun is UNLOADED!! Do not ever work on a loaded weapon! I had one friend that shot himself in the toe, and another who SHOT HIS EAR OFF, while working on loaded muzzleloaders.

Begin disassembly. Tear it down as far as you can. You may need a manual or diagram. Don't do anything that you can't undo!

1)Remove the barrel.

2)Remove the breechplug (if possible), and primer-nipple.

3)If it's really dirty/rusted, remove stock and trigger assembly.

Step 2: Clean Nipple And/or Breechplug

Picture of Clean Nipple And/or Breechplug

With the breechplug and/or nipple removed, clean it. Use a "nipple pick" or a needle to make sure there is no fouling in the tiny orifice. If it is fouled/plugged, you will have poor ignition or a total misfire. I soak a piece of thread in oil, and run it back and forth through the orifice to prevent future fouling.

Step 3: Cleaning and Protecting Your Barrel

Picture of Cleaning and Protecting Your Barrel

This is the important part! It can be done with the weapon assembles or disassembled. Just make sure it's not loaded! It is most easily accomplished with the breechplug removed, if that's possible.

1) Apply a powder solvent to the barrel and allow to sit. Read (and follow!)instructions to your particular type of solvent.

2) Run patches through your barrel repeatedly. When they come out clean, move to next step.

3) Use a brass or copper brush to remove any final fouling, rust, or carbon. (This can be done before the solvent step, but follow instructions for the products you use!)

4) Coat a patch with a lubricant/protectant, and LIGHTLY coat the inside of your barrel.

Step 4: Reassembly and Final Touches

Picture of Reassembly and Final Touches

Reassemble your weapon (In reverse order of disassembly). Lightly coat all exposed metal with gun or sewing machine oil. Now you are ready to hunt or target practice. Be careful. Follow all steps to safe gun handling. Firearm safety is of utmost importance. Have fun!


weaponscollector94 (author)2010-12-01

i like this instructable a lot! i recently started building a black powder rifle for plinking or taking small game (i could not afford to buy one) in 177 caliber. i did permanently attach the nipple/breech plug but i am not quite sure how to thoroughly clean it as well as the barrel. i did make a derringer in that caliber with a 3 inch barrel but i can just use some of those long Q tips to clean the bore after firing. however the rifle should be a bit more tricky. i tried initially cleaning it with some pipe cleaners, it worked but it was a pain in the arse because of the small bore and being so long. do you have any suggestions? i would greatly appreciate to hear back soon! happy shooting!

Yeah, I woulda definitely gone with the pipe cleaner. You might try a broken guitar string. Mainly just let me say BE CAREFUL!!!! I think it's awesome that you're building em, but I've nearly lost some hearing in one ear and feeling in one hand from messin with the stuff. Good luck!!

thank you for your concern, the reason i made it .177 is because of the minimal chamber pressures, therefore making it less likely to blow up, also since pellets are dirt cheap i would not have to cast or buy lead ammo!

You're certainly starting right, and sounds like you're considering the most important things. My accident was because (even though I knew better), I was playing with "smokeless" and it was spectacular. (MIne was a .22 muzzleloading experiment gone horribly wrong!)..

i also have decided to stick with a small charge of black powder and keep it small, because the chamber pressures are less for black powder than most other powders. i also forgot to mention that i built my own black powder derringer, it can be fired with powder or just a cap, but i like to fire it in my room so i just stick with a cap. here is a link if you wanna check it out:

AnarchistAsian (author)2008-10-18

wow, i never knew they made modern muzzle-loaders... of course, i know next to nothing about guns... none the less, 5 stars!

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-18

They've been really developing good ones over the last few years. They are more effective than a shotgun with a slug. My youngest son killed 2 deer with one shot last year!

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-19

HOOOOLLLYYYYY @#$%! that... that is amazing

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-19

It really was. I was in bed asleep (after working all night) and my oldest boy came up to get me. When he said two deer, I thought they had each shot one. Then he explained that the youngest boy had shot two. I was like, "How did he reload so quickly?". Then he explained it was with one shot. I could never do that even if I tried!

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-20

you must be so proud... how old was he?

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-21

He was 11.

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-21


skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-21

He was almost 8 when he shot his first deer. He went out by himself at 4:30 AM, and had one on the ground by about 6 AM.

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-21

i'm sorry, but i just have to say again... WOW...

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-22

Actually, he shot a 5 point buck this morning. It was about 2 hours ago. It was a pretty good shot (about 105 yards) with a muzzleloader. It makes me feel a little like a chump, because I issed one at about 8O yards yesterday! I've got a lot of good excuses, but when all is said and done, he's just better than me!

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-22


i wish i could get into shooting like that, but my dad doesn't like guns... =(
i guess with the media and everything, he just thinks they're reallllllyyyyy bad...

oh yeah, and my friend told me there was alot of 12 point bucks on his property somewhere in texas...

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-22

Well, hang in there. It kinda depends how you grow up. Using a gun can be as serious as driving a car. Maybe when you get a bit older, you can find an organization that teaches gun safety or something. 4-H, Boy Scouts, Ducks Unlimited and a few other groups used to offer some pretty good opportunities. I've seen a few 12 pointers (a friend got one last week), but The biggest one I've ever taken was an 8.

rownhunt (author)skunkbait2009-07-29

Air Cadets and army cadets usually have range practice and biatholon!

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-22

hmm... once apon a time, i was in boyscouts, and i know that troop had some outings where they had target shooting with shotguns...

the most i ever did while i was there was learn how to clean just the barrel...

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-22

Yeah, I was in Scouts for about a year. My troop never did anything cool, so I bailed.

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-23

we just camped once a month, and met on tuesdays, and it got kind of boring...... eh, maybe some day i can get into shooting...

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-23

My troop was pretty boring. I already had some older friends from church that were real survivalist types (eating bugs and lizards, etc.) and my grandfather was a serious outdoorsman. I just let them show me the way.

AnarchistAsian (author)skunkbait2008-10-24

oh, nice. when i lived in utah, i did more camping, and people were less weak as people in houston... people in houston are weak... they can't even handle the "cold" from air conditioning... XD

skunkbait (author)AnarchistAsian2008-10-24

Part of my family lived in Utah for several years. That's where my grandfather FINALLY got his first deer. I've always wanted to visit, but haven't yet. But now I have family in Montana, so if I ever get away, I'll probably go there. I have a cousin that's a cop in Houston, but none of my family is really FROM there.

bumpus (author)skunkbait2008-10-19

A friend of mine shot two squirrels with one cross-bow arrow, it was pretty epic. Shot them both right outta the tree!

skunkbait (author)bumpus2008-10-19

Wow, that's cool.

recyclebin (author)2008-12-20

I got my first deer last year on the last day of muzzeloader season with my 50cal. flintlock.

skunkbait (author)recyclebin2008-12-20

That's awesome. I like the flintlocks, but I always seem to hunt in the mist and rain. I have a feeling mine would fail at the wrong time!

Bran (author)2008-10-18

I love it! I have the same muzzleloader, what a great gun it is. I added a Tasco 3x9-40 scope to it, though. I use a liquid that I pour on patches which I run through my barrel with a wire brush. I also find that applying grease to the threads of the breech plug makes taking it out again easier without seizing. I have to clean my gun, as our primitive weapons season is over here. Is there pictures you would like me to take?

skunkbait (author)Bran2008-10-22

Hey, my 12 year old dropped a pretty nice 5 point this morning on our property. I was still in the house, moving slow. My 14 year old saw a couple of others. I need to get out more often!

Bran (author)skunkbait2008-10-22

Shoot, I've seen one deer so far this year, but it was sprinting away so I didn't have a chance. My dad's gotten a nice doe and my uncle has gotten two. What are the limits for your state? Down here in Georgia we can bag 10 does and 2 bucks, with one of the bucks having 4 points or better on either side.

skunkbait (author)Bran2008-10-22

For us, the state limit is 4. Up to 3 can be bucks, but we have the 3 point or better rule on one side. Certain zones require a permit to take a doe, but we have 2 permits (between the 4 of us). WOW! 10 does in GA! You must have an infestation! I hate to take a young doe, but I like to take an old one (no longer a valid producer) almost every year. Sometimes they are less "stinky" than the bucks.

Bran (author)skunkbait2008-10-24

Our limit might also be greater because our season is quite long I suppose: All gun season started October 18 and it ends January 1, but is extended to January 15 in South Georgia. That is all either-sex days. It seems everyone from the surrounding states come down here because our limits and hunting season are greater. Thus, many bucks are killed, causing an out-of-whack ratio for does to bucks. I don't mind taking does - in fact, it seems their meat is more tender than bucks. I shot a little one last year, so I've made a decision to not take little ones, but only the ones big enough to spend the money for the processing. We do have an infestation of feral hogs and coyotes - apparently someone thought that bringing coyotes back here was a good idea. He was wrong, so now it's killing all our fawns, keeping that doe:buck ratio skewed. By stinky, you mean the meat isn't as gamey?

skunkbait (author)Bran2008-10-24

Well, at times, less gamey too. But the one my boy shot the other day, smelled like he was rutting. The meat was fine, but cleaning it was a little gross. A doe in estrus does smell, but to me it's still not as bad as a rutting buck.

skunkbait (author)Bran2008-10-18

That's cool. My kids both had this type long before I did. I bought this one for my wife, but she's too sick to hunt this season, so I kinda confiscated it. My oldest boy has a heavy BSA scope on his. I'll probably put a red dot scope on mine in a week or so. Thanks for mentioning the grease for the breechplug, I forgot to put that in!

Der Bradly (author)2008-10-17


skunkbait (author)Der Bradly2008-10-17

Thanks! Glad you liked it.

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