Should I Shoot Black Powder or Smokeless? (And How to Clean Black Powder Once You’ve Chosen Correctly)

Should I Shoot Black Powder or Smokeless?
(And How to Clean Black Powder Once You’ve Chosen Correctly)
So, you’ve just acquired a new gun made before around 1886. You are intent on shooting your new gun, so you look up how to load ammunition for it. You spend more money on the reloading equipment than you do on the gun itself. You anneal, size, fire-form, trim, and anneal again. Now comes time to make heavy things go fast. You look up load data online and find out a lot of people are shooting black powder and transitional cartridges with modern smokeless powders that are “just as good” and that forgo all that nasty, sooty, black stuff that “eats” barrels.

This is a story about communication. Specifically: smoke signals. The black powder shooter demonstrates his (or her) superiority with a large cloud of smoke that slowly drifts across the firing line and causes heads to turn. However, there doesn’t have to be a downside to all this fun. When black powder is mentioned, a lot of shooters picture pushing endless patches through the bore of their gun with somehow every patch being even more dirty than the last.

Fear not! There is an easier way! When you get home, de-prime your fired cases and put them in a container with hot soapy water to soak (after a few hours remove and clean the brass like you normally would). Next, take apart your gun completely. Take the barrel and pour hot water down the bore until the water coming out turns clear. Then take a bore brush and run it down the bore once or twice. Pour more hot water down the bore until it runs out clear again. Start running patches down the bore. It usually takes 4 or 5 patches before they start coming out clean. Follow with a patch soaked in your favorite gun oil.

Use the hot water method on all the parts of your gun that could have been contacted by black powder residue and then follow with gun oil. Make sure you dry off all the water and displace it with something like kerosene (don’t use WD-40). Enjoy turning your money into noise, now with added smoke!

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