Blackpowder vs Smokeless: Which is easier to clean

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Leadshark, Jul 15, 2022.

  1. Leadshark

    Leadshark Member

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    Howdy!

    I hope I am in the correct category here:

    Today two of our club members have started a discussion that has not yet fully died down. It all started when one of the members (1) saw another member (2) shoot his percussion Hawken.

    1: "Nice rifle. Such a shame it's such hard work."
    2: "What is?"
    1: "The clean up."
    2: "No? Swab with hot water, oil and I'm done. You have way much more cleaning to do with all that residue from your FMJ."

    This has sparked a friendly but hot debate in our club about what is easier to clean. One side claims smokeless is easier to clean because your rifle won't rust away the moment moisture is introduced to the fouling and that you only really need to clean smokeless powder guns every so often.

    The other side claims black powder is easier to clean, since just hot water and oil is needed to clean it up while you need to worry about instant rust in guns that shoot FMJ.

    Help me solve this debate in the club so that these oldtimers can stop arguing and focus on the more fun part of our hobby. ;)
     
  2. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Administrator Staff Member

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    Not really an apples to apples argument.

    1. Blackpowder guns tend to get cleaned more often. That is, fewer rounds go through the barrel between cleanings. Generally speaking, a LOT fewer.

    2. Blackpowder guns need to be cleaned after every time they are fired. There are folks who feel obligated to clean a smokeless powder gun any time they shoot it, but in general that's not necessary. A smokeless powder gun can generally go hundreds of rounds between cleaning without any ill effects, and that can even encompass a number of range trips with significant amounts of time elapsed between each one. Try that with black powder gun and the results will be really unpleasant.

    What I think is probably happening is you have a blackpowder gun with maybe 30-40 rounds fired through it being cleaned because it's necessary to clean it to restore function or prevent corrosion and that's either being compared to a smokeless powder gun that's had a similar number of rounds through it and is being cleaned even though it's not at all necessary, or to a smokeless powder gun that has had several hundred rounds through it and needs cleaning.

    Either way, it's not really a good comparison.

    An apples to apples comparison would be as follows:

    Shoot 500 rounds through a blackpowder gun over a period of however many range trips it takes to accomplish the task. Clean the gun ONLY when necessary to maintain function and/or prevent damage. Do exactly the same thing with a roughly comparable smokeless powder gun.

    Compare the amount of time spent cleaning each gun and also assess the ill effects to each gun, if any.
     
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  3. CoalCrackerAl

    CoalCrackerAl Member

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    Black powder does clean up easy yes. But you have to clean the everytime you shoot them. Smokless is more conveient being they don't cleaning every time you shoot them. Unless you a lot of rounds in an outing.
     
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  4. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Blackpowder can be messy to clean but all you really need is hot water and oil. You can use Ballistol to clean and lube too, but water and oil is cheaper.
     
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  5. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    A black powder gun needs to be disassembled and cleaned fairly quickly after every time it is fired. It takes me 10-15 seconds to wipe down the exterior of my smokeless powder guns after every use. As far as breaking them down and a thorough cleaning I do that about once/year. Or after several hundred rounds.
     
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  6. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I compare BPCR cleaning with de-coppering a HV nitro gun.

    I have never put hot water or tap water down a gun barrel.
    Mike Venturino's dilute Windex works, as does dilute M-Pro 7. And no doubt a lot of other aqueous liquids, like Moose Milk.

    BP Brass cleaning is more work than the rifle.
     
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  7. LaneP

    LaneP Member

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    I don't think one is easier to clean than the other. BP suffers from the old wives tale of requiring a tub of boiling water and a long duration cleaning session in the kitchen. That's absolutely unnecessary. All you really need to do is grab a solvent that neutralizes BP residue such as Ballistol, swab the bore with a few patches of 2:1 water/Ballistol mix, wipe down the exterior, and you're done. I've never used boiling water to clean a BP gun.

    The advantage smokeless has over BP isn't being easier to clean, but that you don't need to clean as soon after shooting as is required with BP, and that's its only advantage.
     
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  8. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    I don't see how a cleaning procedure that involves water near a metal firearm and wooden stock could be considered easy.

    Drying and re-oiling alone would take as much time as my typical center-fire cleaning.

    Also, consider cleaning time on a per shot basis. . . lol.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2022
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  9. MEHavey

    MEHavey Member

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    If a cap & ball revolver, BP cleaning is more involved.
    If a cartridge revolver, not so much.

    If a muzzleloader rifle -- more involved.
    If a cartridge rifle, an absolute breeze .... swab out/oil the bore and done
     
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  10. dave951

    dave951 Member

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    Guys- I shoot black powder competition with Civil War arms (including artillery). There are lots of "old wive's tales" surrounding cleaning etc. For PRB guns (patch round ball), a swab between shots is often required to keep shooting. For minies, get the powder and lube right and you can shoot till you run out of ammo, daylight or shoulder, the system works. Cleaning- plain old Windex does a great job. It has ammonia in it which is a base and neutralizes the acidic fouling. The water and alcohol serve to clean up. I can clean a musket in less than 10 minutes, start to finish, including oiling the bore and wiping down the outside. Guns with "patent breeches", no good way to get them cleaned other than the bucket of water method and pump it because of that sub caliber "chamber" in the breech. Those guns would include most modern stuff like the old T/Cs, CVAs, etc. It's just a function of how they are manufactured. Revolvers, can be much more involved, but the easiest is to remove the grips, put it into an ultrasonic, and let it set for a while. Remove, rinse, dry, oil, reinstall grips, done. Black Powder Cartridge, very easy to clean. Windex the bore, run some patches, oil and done.
     
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  11. gwpercle

    gwpercle Member

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    I have both ... black powder rifles and revolvers ...
    along with smokeless rifles , revolvers and semi-auto's .

    Clean up is clean up ... If you use some of the new & different products that are out now ...
    ... it's a " wash" , cleaning one is no more difficult or time consuming than the other .
    There are new products that take a lot of the "work" out of cleaning both black and smokeless ...
    Also new "black-like powders" that are easier to clean .
    The only difference I see is removing and cleaning "nipples" ... which isn't a biggie !
    We have come a long way from the days of cleaning with gallons of hot boiling water .
    Gary
    bad puns are my stock & trade
     
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  12. Pat Riot
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    Pat Riot Contributing Member

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    I have limited experience cleaning BP guns. I got into them for about a year.
    I have extensive experience with smokeless gun cleaning.

    With BP I tried what I call “Barf Juice” - Ballistol. I tried Windex, the Murphy’s Oil Soap, peroxide and alcohol solution, water with drops of dish soap and some commercial BP cleaning solutions that I can’t remember the names of. I stuck with the Murphy’s concoction.

    For smokeless I have tried many things that I won’t list now but will say I clean my Smokless guns often. A wipe down after each shooting and cleaning every other shooting. Sometimes after every shooting.

    Sure, cleaning BP guns appears to be easier, to be honest, BUT!
    If you handed my a percussion revolver and a smokeless revolver after an 8 stage CAS match and asked me to pick one to clean I would take the Smokeless gun over the BP in a heartbeat.

    Cleaning BP may seem easier to some, but it’s messier so I will say Smokeless is easier all the way around.
     
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  13. Handshaker

    Handshaker Member

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    It also depends on which BP you use. I still have about 8 bottles of Alliant Black MZ which was discontinued from Alliant about a year ago or so. Its very clean and non corrosive, that said, I think its pretty much the same effort as cleaning smokeless.
     
  14. Shimitup

    Shimitup Member

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    The way I see it there's little difference as to difficulty between the two. The issue is blackpowder MUST be cleaned if you don't want to damage it, smokeless powder not at all. I frosted the bore on my Hawken by forgetting it a few days, on the other hand I've inherited non BP guns that hadn't been cleaned in 40 years that had perfect bores. Sweat and handling is a whole nother issue that applies to both.
     
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  15. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

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    It depends. For the most part, BP cleanup is far easier than people claim. Swab out the barrel, wipe off the exterior, Ballistol everything. I've even taken to dunking an entire stainless revolver into hot moose milk (50/50 water/Ballistol), letting it soak for a while, then running a brush down the bore, shaking it off, and then leaving it out to dry. Compared to, say, cleaning a badly copper found rifle bore, it's a snap.

    On the other hand, my smokeless revolver cleaning methods are very simple too. I honestly don't know whether I spend more time and effort cleaning them as compared to my percussion revolvers, but neither is much of a chore.
     
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  16. Zygodactyl

    Zygodactyl Member

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    It's a shame they don't make Black Mag III anymore. The factory blew up and the owners went to jail. It was a black powder substitute that smoked like black powder but smelled like oranges. It left only a white ash in the bore that cleaned with a single patch. Then oil and you were done. I used it both in muzzle loaders and cartridge arms. It was definitely easier to clean than smokeless and real black powder.
     
  17. Handshaker

    Handshaker Member

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    This sounds like Black MZ. I paid 10 bucks per 1lb bottle from Sportsmans warehouse a couple years ago. Still have 8 bottles.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2022
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  18. MEHavey

    MEHavey Member

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  19. chicharrones

    chicharrones needs more ammo

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    My only foray into BP is with a cap and ball revolver. I’ll just say I’ve bought many more cartridge firing smokeless revolvers due to ease of use and the much higher round count interval between cleanings.
     
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  20. Gus Chiggins
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    Gus Chiggins Contributing Member

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    Cleaning a muzzleloader with boiling water isn't difficult. It gives you the opportunity to get rid of all the fouling around the drum and nipple at the same time. I use a stiff toothbrush on the exterior areas while the breech end of the barrel is in the hot water.
    A couple of wetted 4x4 patches wrapped around the appropriately sized bore brush will create a good seal and give you the hydraulic
    action to suck the hot water up the barrel. I have a dedicated plastic pail and cleaning rod just for this.
    Go get one of the borescopes that hook up to your smartphone and you'll see!
     
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  21. 792mauser

    792mauser Member

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    A quick wipe down and a few oil soaked patches over the iron/steel parts of a BP firearm and done.

    The fouling is only dangerous if it can absorb moisture. It canna do that if it is already loaded with oil. The salt in the fouling is what you want to remove.

    But if the fouling remaining after a quick clean is already full of oil. The salt will still absorb moisture but be unable to get at the steel.

    BP fouling is incredibly easy to remove.
    And FAR less toxic to remove. Just some water and patches is really needed. Hand soap just makes it a bit faster to break the oil and fouling.
     
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  22. Hal

    Hal Member

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    I used to use hot tap water to clean up after shooting BP. I'd also add a little soap to get rid of the bullet lube that seemed to be all over the place on the revolvers. Rifle - not so much.

    Tape water, as hot as you can get it, heats up the metal and makes it dry really quick & it dries out all the little nooks and crannies - like the small hiding spaces around the nipples on the cylinders of revolvers.

    Smokeless is about the same - IMHO. I don't mind it as much as cleaning up after BP though.
    It might be a different story if I had to clean up something more complex than a Colt 1851 Navy replica.
     
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  23. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    The residue from firing of black powder is corrosive to the extreme, so is the residue of Pyrodex.

    At various times beginning in the mid 1950s i traded for or bought cheaply a hundred or two original muzzleloaders: They were worth little until the Civil War centennial. The bores of at least 75 percent of those guns were trashed. BTW: In the old days when guns were put away for an extended period of time, they often filled the bore with melted tallow or unsalted butter.

    Modern day muzzleloader shooters do little better. i've looked at oodles of modern muzzleloaders and modern replicas at pawn shops. The bores of most were trashed.

    Cleaning a black powder rifle:

    Before leaving the range i swab the bore of my muzzleloader with a patch wet with Windex with vinegar, now called Windex Multi-Purpose Cleaner. At home the bore is swabbed with a patch wet with tap water followed by dry patches. Then the bore is swabbed with a patch wet with WD 40 followed by a dry patch. If the gun will be fired soon the bore is not lubed. If the rifle is to be put away the bore is swabbed with a patch moist with Militec 1 or synthetic motor oil.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2022
  24. tark

    tark Member

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    Curious as to why. I can't think of a better was to flush out the salts from corrosive powders.
     
  25. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Because I don't have to. I get adequate cleaning with ambient aqueous mixes.
     
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