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Preparing for Muzzleloader Season: It’s a Dirty Job

In Ohio, our muzzleloader season comes late in the year. Actually, it comes early in the new year—generally the first or second week of January. Since the season doesn’t technically come until next year, I tend to procrastinate about muzzleloader prep, and all it entails. Luckily, we always seem to have a few days in December with unseasonably warm weather. This year provided us with a generous supply of 50-plus-degree days.

Princess Gunslinger is sponsored by Trijicon

For the first time ever, I won’t be hunting with a hand-me-down gun. Instead, I have the new Strike muzzleloader from Thompson Center (T/C). Keeping with modern handgun technology, this striker-fired muzzleloader is super easy to use and easy to clean, and its trigger feels great. T/C packages the Strike in a small box, broken down and requiring assembly. This is a good thing; it trains the owner for disassembly from the start.

Trijicon-Muzzleloader-cerino

I outfitted my Strike with a 3–9×40 Trijicon AccuPower scope [MSRP: $699.00]. The Trijicon scope’s 3–9X power gives me all the range I need for Ohio deer hunting. The accuracy of modern muzzleloaders makes it hard for me to settle for standard iron sights. Heck, the T/C Strike doesn’t even come with the iron sights mounted; instead, they come in separate packaging within the box, for those who don’t have a scope yet.

Ammo-muzzleloader

The trouble with muzzleloaders is that they tend to be gear- and labor-intensive. Just heading out to zero my new gun takes tons of equipment. Forget about targets, stands and rifle rests—I’m talking about powder, bullets, primers, bullet starters…and I haven’t even included the cleaning supplies.

Cerino-Shooting-MuzzleLoader

What to Bring to the Range

  • Eye and ear protection
  • Muzzleloader
  • Bullets, sabots, powder/pellets and primers
  • Bore brush, cleaning patches and cleaning jag
  • Bore-cleaner solvent, bore butter and breech-plug anti-seize grease
  • Rifle rest

 

Even with modern pelletized powders, muzzleloaders are dirty guns. By dirty, I mean you have to clean them every 3 or 4 shots. The black powder and the plastic fouling in the barrel make each shot harder to load and seat. Imagine how that can affect your accuracy from shot to shot. Yes, you have to clean your muzzleloader—and it takes time.

Removing-retaining-collar

Luckily the T/C Strike is an inline-style muzzleloader, which are easier to clean. The company’s innovative Adapt breech system and Armornite barrel coating make the gun easy to brush, patch and mop out. It just takes a little time to go through the process. You have to soak patches to wet the bore, then brush out the fouling, and finally wipe the bore with a patch until it’s not only clean, but dry.

Cleaning-Muzzleloader-patch

Field-cleaning an Inline Muzzleloader

  1. Make sure the firearm is empty with no primer in place.
  2. Run a patch saturated with bore cleaner up and down the bore a few times to remove the fouling.
  3. After removing all the fouling, follow up with a few dry patches to thoroughly dry the bore.
  4. Run bore butter patches through the bore.
  5. Check that firearm is in working order.

I had great weather on the day I sighted in, and the help of my husband on the range made everything go smoothly and quickly. Chris was also zeroing his gun for the season, so we worked as a team. The T/C Strike shot like a laser beam. To start I wanted a high zero at 50 yards, and the gun shot a cloverleaf group: the product of great optics, a great trigger and a capable gun.

Target-Muzzleloader-cerino

Shots in Ohio on deer range from 30 feet to 200 yards, so I backed off to 100 yards to get a solid zero. The Strike shot so straight I couldn’t believe my eyes, giving me a fantastic 2-inch group. (Yes, with a muzzleloader!) If we had more distance at the range, I would have taken it back farther, although it’s highly unlikely that I’ll shoot past 50 yards where I hunt.

Cleaning-brush-muzzleloader

 

When cleaning your muzzleloader at home, it’s important to be more thorough than when you do it in the field. Here’s how.

Thorough Cleaning an Inline Muzzleloader 

  1. Make sure the muzzleloader is unloaded.
  2. Remove the retaining collar and the primer adapter.
  3. Inspect the O-ring for any damage or tears. Replace it if necessary.
  4. Using a stiff nylon brush and solvent, scrub the retaining collar and primer adapter until they’re free of all fouling.
  5. Thoroughly dry and wipe the retaining collar and primer adapter with anti-seize lubricant.
  6. Attach a jag of the proper caliber to the ramrod.
  7. Run a cleaning patch saturated with bore cleaner up and down in the barrel several times to remove the fouling.
  8. Run a wire brush attachment on a ramrod through the barrel, scraping off any extra residue.
  9. Saturate a few more cloths with bore cleaner and run them through the barrel until all fouling is removed.
  10. Follow this up with dry patches to remove any moisture from the barrel.
  11. Apply some type of bore butter to a patch, and run it through it through the barrel a few times with a jag.
  12. Reattach the primer adapter and collar.
  13. Check for proper functioning of the barrel by opening and closing it on the receiver and check the cocking slide/trigger mechanism prior to firing.
Muzzleloader-100-cerino

Michelle is wearing Danner’s Mountain 600 boots, with a special design for women.

We had a great day at the range, but shooting a muzzleloader requires a lot of work—especially cleaning the barrel between shots and thoroughly cleaning the gun when we finished. Yes, it takes a certain type of person to put in all this work to spend a few days in the woods hoping a deer passes through. I’m up for the challenge.

  • About Michelle Cerino

    Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, is the managing and social media editor at The WON. Michelle is the president of Cerino Consulting and Training Group, LLC, a firearms training company she built with her husband Chris in 2011. Her path in the firearms and outdoors industries is ever progressing. She is writing, hunting, competing and doing contract work for major manufacturers.