|Article by Eben Brown,
For Reference Only - Use at Your Own Risk
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. Its a thoughtful, reasoned approach...
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.
Second, 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... Creating a naturally protected, non-stick surface.
And finally, the common belief that you can shoot 3-5 accurate muzzleloader shots between cleanings is absurd. You can't hardly get a second and third bullet fully seated down a fouled barrel... Much less shoot with accuracy. A muzzleloader barrel simply MUST be swabbed (seasoned) between shots to remove hard caked fouling. But with seasoning... You can easily get 25 to 100+ accurate shots if you swab and dry patch the bore after every shot.
Modern Day Considerations - My TC 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 (above right) 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).
Why Patched Jags Stick - I've seen articles that talk about modern black powder substitutes like Pyrodex and