The season is just around the corner and many have not gotten their muzzleloader ready for season. For a muzzleloader to be reliable you most keep it clean. The muzzleloader demands cleaning no matter what. The cleaning part is not hard but can be messy. I have used many of the cleaners on the market they work well, but I have plenty of hot water and dawn dish soap at home. That works as well as any of the cleaners. The bath tub works the best but make sure you clean up good, the wives can get pretty testy about a black ring of old burnt powder in the tub.
I take the gun apart and get the water good and hot. I then get the water soapy and get a cleaning rod with a bore brush. Put the end of the barrel under the water and clean from the breech end. This works great for the in-lines but the side hammer type this wont work. I plug the primer hole with a piece of tape pour a small amount of soapy water down into the barrel, and begin to swab the bore. You will be surprised and the amount of crud that will come out. Rinse with hot water and oil the bore right after you are done. The hot water gets the barrel hot enough that most of the water evaporates. The oil will stop any rust on the inside do the same of the out side and the barrel is done. I inspect my breech plug closely and clean the same way. I put a new nipple on every year. Make sure to use a liberal amount of breech plug grease on the threads of the plug. This will make latter cleaning jobs much easier. I used only oil on mine and had to send the barrel back to Knight because it pulled the threads out of the barrel. I was pleased when they fixed the barrel free of charge and told me that it would now be able to shot 150 grains of powder.
Speaking of powder there are many types on the market today. I use a black powder substitute called pyrodex in pellet form. Pellets are easier to handle and they help me reload faster, and are not as messy as loose powder. However they do have their drawbacks like cost…. they are more expensive than loose powder. Put them in upside down and you have to take the gun apart to get them out, because they will not fire unless the black part is down. They have a special coating on the bottom to ignite the pellet. They come in two sizes 50 grains or 30 grains. So if your gun and bullet combination shoot well that’s great if not you have to try other bullets or different weights.
There is a new company that makes a powder called Clean Shot. I have tried it. I love it! They offer it in 50 grain pellets and 30’s now as well. But I have a box and a half of pyrodex left that I will shoot up first. The clean burn is much cleaner and you get more shots in with less fouling. This is not as important in a hunting situation but at the range it makes a difference.
I will lightly touch on the real black powder products. I don’t use them because they are harder to come by due to the license you must have to sell them. Stores like Wal-Mart and other sporting goods store don’t always carry them, but they do carry the pyrodex powders. However they do work very well and they add a touch of authenticity to shooting a hawken or a old Kentucky smoke pole. Goex is one I have tried it worked well, elephant is another type. They sell them in one lb cans normally.
What bullet or ball to shoot? Well the new in-lines will not shoot a ball very well due to the fast twist that the rifling has according to Knight Rifles. The same goes for using a sabot type in a slow twist in a hawken type rifle. According to Knight Rifle the fast twist is need to stabilize the sabot. Where a fast twist can cause some accuracy problems when shooting a round ball. A round ball loose its energy much quicker than a more aerodynamic bullet. Usually the older rifles that are not of the inline style do not have a twist suited for sabots, that is not to say that there are not rifles that have been reproduced to shot sabots with the classic look. Twist rate in the area of 1-28 are the normal for sabot.
There are many types of sight and scope that will increase the range of your black powder rifle. Note that I used the word rifle; they can shoot out to 200 yards very accurately. But I would like to say that unless you practice at this range that I would not recommend you try it. The new inline can shoot groups that rival rifles. I practice all summer with mine and it really helps when you go field to see how small a deer size target is at 150 yards +. A range finder is also very helpful if you are hunting fields. If is easy to misjudge distance with out a reference of trees or bushes.
I enjoy my black powder rifle so much that I use it instead of my shotgun, so get out,…..black powder shooting can be fun for the whole family. Take care of cleaning and you will have a very reliable gun. Good luck in your hunting season this fall.