How To Clean A Muzzleloader – Practical Guide

clean muzzleloader
Alfred Mendoza

Proper maintenance is a linchpin to ensuring that your muzzleloader is on top of its game all the time. We want to help you do the cleaning routine as easy, fast, and safe as possible, so here are the simplified and practical steps on how to clean a muzzleloader.

1. Prepare Your Tools

Before we clean our muzzleloader, first things first. Set up the workspace and get all the supplies and tools you need. You may use a high table and lay down newspapers or scratch papers on top of it to protect it from scratches and stains. Make sure to have an adequately ventilated work site.

Your muzzleloaders should be unloaded, and all pellets and their residues are wiped out. Secure the following materials and tools:

  • Black powder solvent
  • Anti-seize grease/lubricant
  • Jags
  • Bore cleaner (Bore Butter)
  • Copper brush/old toothbrush
  • Patches
  • Ramrod or range-rod
  • Breech wrench (if available)
  • Hot water 
  • Dishwashing agent (optional)
cleaning tools

2. Disassemble Your Rifle

Again, make sure your weapon is unloaded. Never ever tinker or clean up a loaded muzzleloader. Disassemble the rifle carefully. 

You may need to consult a manual or look at a diagram to disassemble the muzzleloader. Here are the simple steps:

  • Remove the barrel first. 
  • Remove the breech plug and then the primer-nipple. Unscrew the breech with your finger. Using the breech wrench will also help in removing it. 
  • Remove the rifle action. Doing this will expose all the interior parts. You can also remove the stock and trigger assembly, especially if they are filthy.

3. Mix the Cleaning Solvent

Some gun owners prefer hot soapy water mixed with a tad of dishwashing soap. But for stubborn dirt, a black powder solvent would be a better help. 

Put a powder rifle solvent in a cup and let the breech sit for a while on it while you’re cleaning the other parts of the firearm. 

Using natural cleaning products or solvents is highly recommended to prevent any corrosion build-up and fast degradation of muzzleloaders. 

The mountain men in the old times cleaned their weapons by swabbing them with water and seasoning the bore and exterior with the fat from the animals they hunted. In modern times, we already have natural lubricants and cleaning solvents directly from tubes.[1]

cleaning solvent

4. Swab & Heat the Rifle Barrel

Apply a solvent to the barrel and leave it for a little time. Always read beforehand the specific instructions on the particular solvent you are using.

Attach a patch jag on the end of the barrel using a ramrod or a range-rod. 

Put the muzzle in the bucket of hot water. Place the breech end in the water. 

Wrap a wet cleaning patch around the jag and start swabbing the bore. Push the patch down to the barrel’s interior, and then pull the rod back-up to remove the hot water. Change patches and repeat this process as many times as needed. You will notice that the barrel is heating up.

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5. Season the Barrel

Wipe the bore with a dry patch. The bore will dry up with the help of the hot water as it evaporates quickly. You may need some heavy-duty gloves if the water is too hot. The hotter the water, the better. 

Seasoning the barrel is much like seasoning cast iron skillets. Soak a patch with Bore Butter and then swab the barrel several times while it’s still warm. Lubing the bore will soften any remaining fouling, which makes it easy to remove the corrosive residues. 

After the bore has been cleaned up, put some lubricant and then set it aside. After the barrel cools, run dry patches all the way through the barrel to absorb any grease residue. Use the same patch with the Bore Butter to wipe down the exterior metal.


6. Clean the Tiny Parts

Clean the breech plug and nipple, scrub them thoroughly using a copper brush or toothbrush. This way will remove any final fouling, carbon, rust, and corrosion. 

Check the breech hole for any clogging and remove the remaining particles. Dry them thoroughly, and then wipe them down with Bore Butter. 

Coat the thread with the grease or lubricant compound before threading the nipple into the breech plug. 

Coat a lubricant or grease on the threads of the breech plug before threading it back into the barrel. Tighten the breech plug and nipple but don’t overdo it. 

Clean and dry other parts of the cocking mechanism and firing mechanism. Wipe them down with Bore Butter.

7. Reassemble Rifle

After getting the weapon dry, put it back together. Start with the breech, then the rifle action. Wipe down the reassembled muzzleloader one last time. Check function, and if everything’s fine, then you’re all set for another round of hunting. Learn how to clean your bolt action rifle here


Gun experts suggest not using any petroleum product or petroleum-based solvents or powder rifles when cleaning muzzleloaders. Using petroleum as a lubricant can cause tar build-up or powder fouling which can lead to some problems in the muzzleloader’s bore.

It depends. Clean it every time the rifle is fired to maintain accuracy. If you’re on a hunting spree, make sure your firearm is up for the task. Consistent shooting requires consistent cleaning. However, if you’re only shooting for fun, you don’t have to clean it every after a shot.

Cleaning & Seasoning a Muzzleloader - Let’s Wrap It Up!

Care and maintenance are crucial to the accuracy and longevity of muzzleloaders. Black powder residues are extremely corrosive. Rust can easily build-up within a day or two. It is essential to clean them as often as they need to keep these rifles firing at their best when hunting.

While cleaning a weapon may seem a bit meticulous and daunting, especially if you had no prior experience of this task, the steps are incredibly straightforward. On average, you can finish in 20 minutes or even shorter, depending on your skills and pacing. 

Always remember to follow firearms safety protocols or visit any reliable online site for additional information. Just follow the seven steps in this article, and the entire process will just be a breeze.



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