Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Muzzleloader Blues, Part 1

My cousin drew a muzzleloader elk tag and this weekend he, my uncle, and I were discussing our setups, our preferred loads, and other associated things. I ended up pulling mine out of the locker for the first time in a while, and was greeted by a disgusting sight: the entire area around the drum and lock had an unhealthy red coating. I'm sure it needs a thorough cleaning, and we'll get to that soon, but right now let's address the nasty elephant on my gun.

Rust like this occurs because black powder is hygroscopic, which means that it attracts and holds water. If it isn't completely removed from a gun, it will form a corrosive substance and rust will appear in a matter of days. The last time I fired this rifle, I obviously didn't get it all.

I started my cleaning by removing the barrel from the stock. This is the first step for cleaning the arm anyway, and it makes it far easier to get into all the crevices where rust hides.

The nipple (where you put the percussion cap) was seized into the drum and required vice grips to remove, which caused a bit of damage. While it could probably be salvaged, I have spares and nipples are fairly cheap. More importantly, it's very likely that rust has worked its way up the inside of the nipple, and that isn't easy to remove. Cleaning the threads will help prevent this in the future, and since I had the appropriate 6mm tap handy, I ran it down the hole to get everything clean and shiny.

For removing the surface rust, I use normal gun solvent and a bristle brush. Steel or nylon will work, but I'm fond of brass for this particular task. It may take a couple rounds of solvent and brush, but the rust should come off fairly readily.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of surface damage, so I'll have to apply some cold bluing compound when I've finished the rest of the cleaning process.

The damage has been arrested, but I still have a lot of cleaning ahead of me. We'll go through that coming up in the near future. I am also building a part that will prevent much of this problem in the future, but that too is a story for another day.


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