Load Development - To Clean or Not to Clean - Utah Wildlife Network

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Old 03-03-2017, 10:23 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Load Development - To Clean or Not to Clean

What is standard practice in regards to cleaning during muzzleloader load development? Do you clean after every shot? After every 3 shots? Not at all? I understand that answers are probably different depending on what powder you are using. For the sake of this conversation, let's assume BH209 (as that is my favorite ML powder).

Also, do you test loads with the ramrod in place or removed from the gun?
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Old 03-03-2017, 11:08 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yes, I at least swab every shot with a patch lightly damp with windex. Ramrod removed (although I've never thought about it having any kind of accuracy effect). I use a longer range rod for loading / cleaning though...


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Old 03-03-2017, 01:20 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I clean my Black Powder ML after every 5-7 shots or at the end a 5 days (unless I forget until the next year). I clean my 777 powder gun every 8-12 shots or at the end of the season. I usually target shoot with the ram rod on the table.

But, I'm not trying to get to sub moa. I just want hunting accuracy and the confidence to kill the critter however far away I am comfortable shooting. I shoot open sight side-locks with Black and either a roundball, powerbelt or SST. I shoot an inline with a 6-18x40 scope with 777 an SST and some tests of powerbelts as a back-up.
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Old 03-03-2017, 01:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I ran some tests in my gun with dirty shots and found:

Clean barrel, dead on
First dirty shot, 2-3 MOA increase over baseline
Second Dirty shot 4-5 MOA increase over baseline
3rd shot 4-12" MOA increase over baseline (Sabots blowing off petals at that point from to much friction, some rounds cleanly missed my target).
4th shot I might as well be throwing rocks.

So... I'm comfortable with a possible followup shot from a 2nd or *maybe* 3rd shot in a dirty barrel, but if at all possible I'll swab in between.

YMMV


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Old 03-03-2017, 02:27 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The theory is that when you are developing a load, muzzy or other, is that you want to keep as many variables exactly the same except for the one you are experimenting with. Any variation in your pattern can then be contributed to the component that you are experimenting with. So yes, I would clean..at least to the same degree, between each shot. Probably as DallonC said, at least a quick swab between shots. Later on you can experiment with shooting proven loads through barrels that are not clean...one or two shots through them, so you can see how the load might work if you need to take a second or third shot. Some loads seem to work quite differently with a clean or dirty barrel. Remember, I am not just talking about working up your powder charge, but for best accuracy, use these same practices for bullet and primers as well. One more thought to keep in mine, consistency throughout the loading process is probably the biggest single factory in small, or at least predictable groups.

I am not sure what the ramrod in or out has to do with anything?? Ease of cleaning? If your gun shoots differently with the ramrod in a different position, I would opt for the position it will be in when you shoot at the game.

Last edited by BPturkeys; 03-03-2017 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 03-05-2017, 09:53 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I went to the range and did some experimenting yesterday, and had the following observations:

1. My gun shoots tighter groups if I do a quick clean after every shot. A 2nd shot would touch the first shot without cleaning, but it would open up after that.

2. My gun shoots tighter groups without the ramrod in the gun.

3. Point of impact without the ramrod inserted in the gun is 2" lower (@100yd) than with the ramrod inserted.

4. 105 grains of BH209 starts to get uncomfortable after about 10 shots.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:04 AM   #7 (permalink)
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What kind of gun to you shoot?


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Old 03-05-2017, 10:20 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I have multiple muzzleloaders. All observations from yesterday were with a Remington Ultimate Muzzleloader.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:31 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archerben View Post
I went to the range and did some experimenting yesterday, and had the following observations:

1. My gun shoots tighter groups if I do a quick clean after every shot. A 2nd shot would touch the first shot without cleaning, but it would open up after that.

2. My gun shoots tighter groups without the ramrod in the gun.

3. Point of impact without the ramrod inserted in the gun is 2" lower (@100yd) than with the ramrod inserted.

4. 105 grains of BH209 starts to get uncomfortable after about 10 shots.
I'd say you're about there and wouldn't change a thing. Holes touching is darn good(unless you're shooting only 25 yards or something) and at this point you probably just need to move on and make sure your rifle is shooting to point of aim(sight 'er in). I am pretty sure every gun "starts to open up" after the second or third shot without cleaning between shots.
Don't know what to suggest about the ram rod. You certainly need it in the field so maybe you could carry it in your pack or something. Or maybe the gun shoots well enough for hunting with rod in and you only need to sight it in with the rod in place.
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Old 03-05-2017, 04:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I leave the ram rod in my rifle and use a range rod when working up a load. I want to be able to put at least 3 shots on target incase I need follow up shots so all my work up loads are three shot groups then a wet patch of M-Pro 7, 2 to 3 dry patches and 3 more shots. If I can't get at least a 1/2 inch group at 100 yards with 3 shots I move on to another powder weight, I have never not been able to find a charge weight for a given powder that will put 3 inside a 1/2 inch at 100. I have put as many as 15 shots through multiple muzzleloaders without cleaning and saw no real accuracy degradation but the only way to know for sure is try for yourself.

Once I think I have a load I go home and clean my rifle and put it away for a couple days before I head out to the range again with my good load for 3 more shots starting with a clean cold bore like I carry when hunting. If all goes well then I'm set if not I usually have a couple backup charges to try. If the 3 shots shoot well I usually shoot groups and steel until I can't load the muzzy anymore or accuracy falls apart.
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