Cleaning Corrosive Ammunition Residue - Part III
by Kirk Lawson
In Part I, I discussed what corrosive shooting residue is, why you want to clean it, and some methods for doing so and in Part II, presented a cleaning method and fluid recipe from the 1921 U.S. War Department. In this final installment, I give you a detailed set of instructions for cleaning a high quality, expensive, imported, cap-and-ball black powder firearm from the 1864 book The Complete Manual for Young Sportsmen, by Frank Forester.
So, clean with a jag wrapped with "tow" (a patch) and cold water & elbow grease. Pump water through the nipples. Repeat until water is clear. Rinse with near boiling water. Let stand dry in a hot area. Lightly oil the steel with "clarified" vegetable oil. Oil the wood with "furniture" oil. Store in an oiled linen cloth.
Again, every man who loves his gun should make it a point to clean it with his own hands. It is all very well in Europe, where the sportsman has a gamekeeper at his elbow who knows how to clean a gun, better than he does himself, and who takes as much pride in having it clean as he, to trust it to his servant.
I have shot, more or less, twenty-five seasons in America, and having body-servants all the time, never had one to whom I would intrust the cleaning of a valuable piece. I have always cleaned my own gun before sleeping, or if I have been too much beaten with work to do so, have invariably, after seeing it as well done as a man could accomplish at night, given it a thorough and fresh going over, before using it in the morning.
The mode and process is as follows:
Bring your locks to half-cock, take the ramrod out of the pipes, and the barrels out of the stock, screw the brass jag into the lower end of a solid cleaning rod-not one of the trumpery, jointed ebony or mahogany sticks which come in the gun-case-but a tough, seasoned hickory staff, of nearly half an inch diameter, about four inches longer than the barrels, with a saw-cut handpiece. Wrap the jag as thickly with the finest and cleanest tow, as the bore of the barrels to be cleaned will admit. Moisten this tow, and insert it into the muzzle; plunge the breeches of both barrels into a bucket of cold water, some four or six inches deep. Some persons advise hot water; not so I. Hot water cakes and hardens the dirt in the barrels; cold dissolves and loosens it. Work the rod up and down, like the sucker of a pump, first in one barrel, then in the other, constantly changing both tow and water, until the former comes out of the barrels unsullied; the latter can be pumped through them pure and limpid.
Should the barrels be leaded, which all writers say occasionally occurs after very hard and very rapid shooting, when they become so much heated as to melt the shot in its transit, so that a part adheres to them-though I confess that a leaded barrel is a thing I have yet to see-a wire brush, or a little fine sand sprinkled on the tow, may be used. If the brush, it should be of brass wire, as softer, and less liable to scratch the polish of the barrels than iron; if sand, the less the better. I have never used either in my life; and I have, at times, shot very hard- to the extent, I doubt not, of several thousand shots in several single seasons, and my guns have always been in as good condition as those of my friends and neighbors.
I have adhered to a practice, however, which I strongly recommend to others, of having the breeches of my gun taken out at the expiration of every shooting season, by an experienced gunsmith, so that the whole interior may be inspected, and the least flaw, morsel of extraneous matter, or rust spot, detected and removed, if judged necessary, by dry reaming.
The barrels thus cold washed, wipe them dry externally, and pour into the muzzle of each, from the spout of a tea-kettle, nearly boiling hot water, until they run over at the brim. Reverse them and let them drain, standing erect in a corner, in the sunshine, on the hob of the kitchen grate, for five minutes, or by the register of a hotair furnace. Wipe the cleaning-rod dry, replenish the jag with clean dry tow, as much as you can force into the muzzles, work it up and down as quickly and sharply as you can, constantly changing the tow, until not only no touch of moisture is sensible on the swab, but the barrels are perceptibly heated through by the friction.
It is not an unlaborious piece of work, I assure my readers; and if they be, like the royal Dane, in a degree "fat, and scant of breath," they will puff and blow, and their muscles will complain before the task is accomplished. Nevertheless, the work will be well repaid by the performance.
The tow may now be moistened, at the most, by two drops of clarified oil, of which anon, and may be run down each barrel. The cavities around the nipples, and all the exterior grooves of the barrels about the ramrod-pipes, elevated ribs, &c., should now be rubbed clean with a bit of flannel, or the finger of a kid glove stretched over a slip of pine wood, and then brushed lightly with a proper brush-a soft tooth-brush is as good as any-moistened, as before, with clarified oil, and rubbed with a piece of chamois leather or buckskin until dry; the striker, and above all the cavity of it, which impinges on the nipple, should be cleaned out, and oiled and dried in the same manner. But, unless the gun has been exposed for a long time to small penetrating rain or snow, has been immersed in water, or been thoroughly saturated with salt air, or unless some obstacle or hitch is perceptible in their working, I do not recommend the removal of the locks.
Every time they are removed and replaced, something is lost of the exquisite finish and fitting, where the woodwork and the metal come together; which is one of the principal points of superiority in London-made guns to all others; it seeming impossible in them that the air itself, much less a mote of dust or a drop of dampness, should penetrate the accurate suture.
The lock-plates externally should be rubbed and oiled, as should the trigger-guard, the heel-plate, and, in fact, all the iron work of the stock. The wood, which in the finest English guns is now put up merely in oil, with no French varnish to be scratched at the first encounter with stock or stone, and thenceforward always to show bruised and ragged, needs only plenty of elbow grease and a little furniture oil to keep it in perfect condition. The ramrod must be oiled, reinserted in its pipes, and the gun is clean, ready to be shot again to-morrow, or to be laid by in its case until once more wanted in the field.
If the latter, lay a treble-folded linen rag, dipped in the clarified oil and pressed dry, between the striker and the nipples; lay a single fold of the same over each muzzle, and force it down with a wad inside it, about two inches into the barrel.
Clarified oil is made by putting a handful of rusty nails, old iron, or shot, into a bottle of the best salad oil. In less than a month all the impurities of the oil will sink and collect about the metals, and the residue, when drawn off carefully, instead of itself promoting, will prevent oxidization.
"From the peculiar construction of detonating locks," I quote from a clever little English work by "Craven," under a title similar to my own, "they should not be snapped either with or without the copper caps, except in the act of shooting. When the gun is loaded, the flash of the detonating powder never enters the inside of the barrel; but if snapped upon the caps, when the gun is unloaded, it drives the detonating gas into the barrels, which creates rust;* and if done without the caps, the works are liable to be injured, by reason of the cocks meeting no resistance in their fall, as in flint locks.
* This gas is far more injurious to the metals than that evolved from
the combustion of gunpowder, or than that arising from the two powders
in combination.-H. W. H.
--Frank Forester, The Complete Manual for Young Sportsmen: With Directions for Handling the Gun, the Rifle, and the Rod; the Art of Shooting on the Wing; the Breaking, Management, and Hunting of the Dog; the Varieties and Habits of Game; River, Lake, and Sea Fishing, Etc., W.A. Townsend, 1864
There you have it!