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cleaning BP revolvers

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by rondog, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. rondog

    rondog Well-Known Member

    OK, this may be a dumb question, but what is the best way to clean black powder revolvers? I know how to take them apart, but do I need hot water? Hot soapy water? Something else?

    I have three pistols and would like to shoot them more, but cleaning them properly has always been a mystery to me, I just kinda stumble along and hope I'm doing it right.

    I also have a Pietta 1851 Navy that I bought use, and it's filthy. I've never fired it yet because it needs a real thorough workover.

    Thanks! I'd really like to get to know these pistols better and make friends with them, and care for them properly.
  2. BHP FAN

    BHP FAN Well-Known Member

    Hot water with dish soap to wash, just plain hot water to rinse, air dry, or wipe down with paper towels, spritz the innards with WD 40, spray a paper towel with WD 40, wipe down again, done. Don't get too happy with the WD 40, because it will kill caps and contaminate powder if allowed to accumulate in the nipples or chambers. The hot water is really what does the cleaning, the light wipe down with WD 40 is just for a rust preventative, for storage wipe everything down again with a clean dry cloth when you are ready to go back out to the range and pop caps before you fully load.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
  3. rondog

    rondog Well-Known Member

    Is there any kind of a brass brush available with a round ball on the end for scrubbing out chambers in cylinders? The nasty 1851 I mentioned has some crud and rust issues in the chambers and needs a good scrubbing.

    I'd rather do that than blast the chambers in my bead blaster, but that's a last-ditch option if I really have to. I'm sure I could do it without damaging the rest of the finish, with judicious applications of masking tape.
  4. Prairie Dawg

    Prairie Dawg Well-Known Member

    I use Tipton wire handle shooter's swabs.
    Put a bit of steel wool around the cotton if there's stubborn crud in there.

    Wrap a bronze barrel brush with some steel wool and use that.

    Or .....
    Wrap a small diameter dowel with paper towel and a bit of steel wool.

    All methods I have used.
    I like using the swabs the best.
  5. 345 DeSoto

    345 DeSoto Well-Known Member

    Got a Drill Press, or even an electric drill? Wrap steel wool around a bore swab and use it to get at the crap in the cylinders...
  6. the Black Spot

    the Black Spot Well-Known Member

    I use windex with vinegar, bore brush, then a jag with cotton patches.
  7. loose noose

    loose noose Well-Known Member

    I won't go into my cleaning solution of equal parts of rubbing alcohol, Murphy's Soap oil, and hydrogen peroxide, for the easiest way of cleaning a BP firearm. Then use a sparing amount of Thompson's Bore Butter in the bore and cylinder, naturally wiping down the Bore Butter before firing the weapon again.:cool:
  8. J-Bar

    J-Bar Well-Known Member

    Go to your Dollar Store and get 5 shoe-box size plastic tubs for a buck each.

    Disassemble each revolver into its own tub. This keeps parts from getting mixed and wandering away. For routine cleaning, I just break them down into barrel, cylinder, and frame. A couple of times a year, I will completely disassemble them to clean the internals. When dealing with the screws and little parts you will be glad you have the tubs.

    Get 2 pistol rods, one with a brass brush, the other with a cotton mop that fits the bore snugly. An old toothbrush, Q-Tips, a roll of paper towels, a bore-snake, and some small surgical forceps like fishermen use to remove hooks or hold flies rounds out your tools.

    Fill another tub with warm soapy water, and another tub with plain warm rinse water. You can probably take it from this point on, except to say that I use wads of paper towel held in the surgical forceps to wipe out the chambers after washing and rinsing, then the Q-tips to get the last bit of water and crud off the nipple flashhole inside each chamber. The barrel and cylinder get baptised in both tubs, and you can get a strong pumping effect with the mop in the chambers and barrel. But the frame and arbor do not get immersed. I just wipe them clean, using toothbrush and Q-tips to clean the nooks and crannies.

    It really goes fast when you get things all lined up.
  9. AirForceShooter

    AirForceShooter Well-Known Member

    If you're single use the dishwasher.

    If you're married don't even think about it :eek:

  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    I just use a large tea kettle of boiling water and hold the parts to be cleaed with rubber padded tongs. Dry and finish cleaning with flour sack rags, run cotton patches through the barrel and, while the steel is still hot, coat liberally in bore butter or similar mixture. Works fantastic.
  11. BCRider

    BCRider Well-Known Member

    For me the major bug-a-boo has always been cleaning out the closed end chambers. There simply is no brush with end bristles that I've found to use. I did have a test tube brush which had a little mop of cotton strings on the end. It worked well but wore out from about 5 cylinders worth of cleaning. And I can't find anymore of them.

    A while back I bought a liftetime's supply of bristle pipe cleaners to use for various things. For some odd reason I got the idea to grab a half dozen and bend the ends over double for about 2 inches and then bend a "crank handle" into the other end. This bundle of cleaners has turned out to be THE BEST THING I've ever come up with for cleaning my BP cylinders The hard bristles in the cleaners really scrubs off the fouling left from a day of shooting well. For .44 6 to 8 seems to bundle up nicely and fit the chambers nicely. For .36 I'd suspect 4 to 6 to do nicely.

    For cleaning I use hot water with a dollop of dish or laundry soap. As many here will say the powder residue ONLY needs water. But we goop the guns up with grease, bore butter, crisco and other gunks as a lube and sealant. And that stuff simply comes off better with some detergent in the water. Then a rinse under a full hot tap then immediately dry and oil.

    I use Ballistol oil for my black powder guns simply because it is compatible with the future fouling. Any oil will work but to keep the barrel easy to clean you need to dry away any petroleum oils. On the other hand nothing needs to be done with Ballistol used for lubing and protecting other than load and shoot.
  12. Mike OTDP

    Mike OTDP Well-Known Member

    There are cleaning rods with a jag specifically for scrubbing out a chamber. They're pretty standard in the N-SSA. I clean with Simple Green, dry, then lube with Ballistol.

    You'll find it helps to soak the cylinder in a cup of 25% Simple Green/75% water. I normally run a patch through the chambers, set the cylinder to soak, then work on the barrel and frame. By the time those are done, the cylinder scrubs clean with 1-2 patches.
  13. unknwn

    unknwn Well-Known Member

    A month or so ago I posted about wearing out screw slots by constant dismantling for cleaning, and Driftwood Johnson came to my rescue with the following:

    "....Totally dismantling a BP revolver every time you shoot it is not necessary.

    I am assuming you are cleaning it with hot water. If so, stop doing that. The problem of cleaning a BP gun with water is getting all the water out again so it does not cause rust.

    Here is a little known fact. If you infuse Black Powder fouling with oil, it will not cause any rust. As most of us know, Black Powder fouling is hygroscopic. It absorbs moisture from the air and that is what causes the rust. If you can soak the fouling with oil, it behaves like a sponge that is soaked with water. It cannot absorb any more water.

    Run down to the store and buy a quart each of Murphy's Oil Soap, Rubbing Alcohol, and Hydrogen Per Oxide. Mix them in a 3 quart juice jug. Next time you shoot, clean the gun with this mix, I call it Murphy's Mix. Be sure to use it very liberally, slop it all over the gun and work some down inside the hand window, the hammer opening, and the trigger opening with q-tips. Then follow up and lube the bore, chambers, and outside of the gun lightly with Ballistol. Work the Ballistol into the action too.

    Here is how it works. The alcohol is about 20% water and the Per Oxide is about 97% water. Yes, water is an excellent BP solvent and that is what does the actual cleaning. When the water evaporates it leaves the oil soap behind which coats any fouling left behind and renders it harmless. Really, it does. The alcohol serves as a drying agent to speed up evaporation and the 3% Per Oxide provides a little bit of fizz to help lift the fouling.

    I go through about 20 pounds of Black Powder every year in CAS. I shoot Colts, Rugers, clones as well as original Top Break Smith and Wessons. And several lever guns and a shotgun. Once a year I take them down to remove all the black, oily guck left inside the actions. There is always plenty of it, but there is never any rust because the oil that coats the fouling down inside has made it unable to cause rust.


    Been doing it for years.

    Try it, you will save your screws.

    Last edited by Driftwood Johnson; November 27, 2012 at 09:11 PM. ....."

    Myself, I will be taking his advice and only dismantling my frame/action portion of the gun far enough to get the grip wood out of my "Murphy's mix" solution.
    That way I will only be putting wear on three screws for my everyday cleaning.
  14. unknwn

    unknwn Well-Known Member

  15. mykeal

    mykeal Well-Known Member

    It always amazes me when somebody starts one of these 'best way to clean' threads, the incredible lengths some people go to in accomplishing something so simple.
  16. JRs12Valve

    JRs12Valve Well-Known Member

    I just use the Birchwood Casey Black Powder Cleaner. Take it apart, wipe everything down, make sure all the powder is off, and you're done.
  17. swathdiver

    swathdiver Well-Known Member

    If the water is near boiling when you rinse them off, then they will dry completely in seconds on their own.

    There are phosphor black powder bronze bore brushes that will clean the bottom of cylinder chambers. The bristles go to the bottom. If you run the same brush through the cone threads, you'll wreck the brush. Use a different one or a Q-tip.

    Doing away with all the fancy chemicals, I use a rag, q-tips, cleaning patches and bore butter to clean and lubricate my revolvers. They run just fine and no rust or corrosion. Out of habit from my race car days, I use Permatex anti-seize compound on the cone threads but it's become apparent that bore butter would suffice for that too.
  18. Hammerdown77

    Hammerdown77 Well-Known Member

    This is the method I have settled on as well and it works like a champ. At first I was worried about letting the mixture get down in the action and causing rust. So long as there is oil in the action (there always is), you won't have a rust issue. You might have a gunk issue, but you can leave that until you do your bi-annual disassembly. There's really no reason to fully disassemble the revolver every time you clean it.
  19. kwhi43@kc.rr.com

    kwhi43@kc.rr.com Well-Known Member

    Be damm sure to use only "Bottled" water when you clean them!
  20. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    It's an interesting idea, and I appreciate that popping the barrel off causes wear and tear over time, but I really like to have a shiny revolver after sessions. Leaving the crud in there would wake me up at 3 AM.

    Because of the chlorine? I haven't seen any rust from using boiling water and bore butter. Most of the moisture evaporates off as steam and the rest is displaced by the goop and rags.

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