Research Press

Historical Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Military History

Index to The Black Powder Cartridge Rifle Reloading Guide (rev. 9/18/03)

Dick Trenk
(Competition Events Coordinator, Davide Pedersoli & Co.)
Copyright 2003. R. T. Trenk, Sr.


CASE CARE & GUN CLEANING TIPS

Black powder, Pyrodex powder, Triple Seven powder (and ALL other substitute BP types) leaves hygroscopic (moisture absorbing) fouling in the case and gun. It is suggested that both be cleaned the day of firing or as soon as possible thereafter because in humid conditions damaging rust can occur quickly in the gun barrel and damaging corrosion start inside the brass case. If circumstances will prevent you cleaning cases the day of firing, place them in a container of water and add some liquid soap. The cases can soak harmlessly for many days until you find time to do the complete job mentioned next.

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CASE CLEANING

De-prime the fired cases. Make up a container of the hottest water available and add some dishwashing liquid soap and two ounces of common white vinegar per quart of hot water. Allow the cases to soak for 15 to 20 minutes (not longer).

Use a small bottle brush or perhaps a small 410 gauge shotgun brush (or other suitable size) to clean the inside of the case necks while they are wet.

This cleaning of the inside of the case neck is very important with 45-110 and 45-120 cases and reduces case stretching greatly. Rinse cases in hot water until all soap and dirt is removed.

If hot water was not available just allow 10 minutes more time for cold water to do the same job.

Spread cases out to dry or place in a warm oven set to 180 deg. F. or less. There are several brands of commercially made case cleaners. All seem to work quite well and can be used in place of the above suggested methods but the above mentioned method does indeed get the job done properly and cheaply because the white vinegar contains mild acetic acid which effectively neutralizes the powder fouling inside the fired case.

Many shooters have a case polishing machine to make the cases look clean and shiny. This may be done if you prefer but is not required. Store completely dry cases in a closed container to reduce oxidation affect.

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GUN BARREL CLEANING

There are several types of commercial BP fouling solvents which all do an excellent job of removing black powder fouling. There are also many "home brewed" solvents which produce a perfectly good job of removing BP fouling.

The Hodgdon Powder Co. , maker of Pyrodex and Triple Seven powders, also makes their own brand of powder solvent called "EZ Clean" and this is also effective for black powder fouling.

Fortunately the BP fouling is water soluble so the use of plain water is also quite suitable.

NOTE: always clean from the breech end if possible. Cleaning from the muzzle end may damage the barrel crown and rifling, leading to inaccuracy!

Patches MUST fit tightly to be effective.

Many shooters buy cotton cloth of proper thickness and make their own tight fitting patches. If you can push the cleaning patch through fairly easily, it is not going to do a proper job!

Some shooters have a special cleaning jag made up which will allow patches to have the proper firm fit inside a particular barrel.

If you prefer not to use a commercial powder solvent you can obtain very effective cleaning by using warm or hot water with some liquid soap added. Swab the barrel with patches wetted with the hot water mixture until clean patches come out almost perfectly clean. Examine the first few patches to see if lead flakes are seen, indicating your bullet lubricant may not be working effectively enough. Just a few small lead flakes is not an indication of a lubricant problem but pieces of lead which are long and slim does indicate a problem.

For a stubborn heavy amount of fouling it is suggested to use a tight fitting brass brush to loosen hard fouling. Then place a wetted patch over the brush and scrub some more. Follow this with a clean wetted patch and then test again with a clean dry patch to assure that the fouling has been removed. Finish your cleaning by drying the bore with dry patches and leave no wetness inside the bore.

NOTE that it is not necessary to have your barrel absolutely clean to the point that a patch will have zero traces of darkness on it. There is a certain amount of soot pushed into the pores of the steel barrel and it is needless to work too long trying to remove every trace of discoloration on a clean moist patch.

Once the bore has been fully dry wiped, the bore can now be protected by applying some gun oil or gun storage grease. Many shooters swab the barrel with the bullet lubricant they use, if they plan to shoot again soon. This method may not fully cover every bit of land and groove surface due to the stiffness of the grease and inability of the patch to contact deeply into rifling corners and edges.

Because barrels with tiny pits may trap some water molecules, it is suggested that you go over the barrel a few days after cleaning and oiling with a dry patch first, followed with your oiled patch, just in case this trapped moisture may be working out of the steel.

For this reason, water displacing products which drive moisture out of the metal and leave a protective film, are also an excellent choice. Among the many available, the Break Free and CRC 5-56, 6-56 and CRC Power-Lube products have been found to provide excellent long term protection for both the inside of the barrel as well as external metal portion of the gun. CRC products are found in auto parts supply stores.

I advise against the use of WD40 which leaves an undesirable film when it dries.

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GUN STORAGE

Dry the exterior of the gun and wipe with an oily cloth or the above mentioned Break Free or CRC products before placing the gun in storage.

Do not plug up the barrel but let it breath freely.

Leather holsters or cases tend to hold moisture and will eventually cause rust on the gun surface. We suggest avoiding leather or non vented containers for long term storage. Inspect your guns regularly and apply more surface protection as necessary.

A "gun safe" vault, with a heating rod placed inside, will provide the absolute best storage and safety conditions.

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