Handgun Hunting with 357 Maximum

When I initially considered handgun hunting, I dismissed it as something for either an expert looking for a challenge or just plain silly. Handguns lack the range and accuracy of rifles, they are more challenging to steady, and big revolvers (which were the only kind I ever considered) are quite expensive, recoil fiercely, and are pretty much useless for anything besides hunting.

I was not wrong about any of this. It was true and still is. It is what I DIDN’T consider which made me re-evaluate my judgements. And most of this came about from experience with deer hunting in the East, where range and accuracy concerns are really quite minimal. One of the greatest challenges in deer hunting comes AFTER the killing shot is made. Most hunters focus almost solely upon preparations and strategies leading up to the killing shot. Really, once a killing shot has been made, the matter has only begun.

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Of top concern after a shot is made is locating the deer. Unless what I considered greatly overpowered cartridges are used, deer do not just drop down dead in their tracks usually. This is something that novice and video-game hunters believe because they see it on screens. This is just not reality. Unless a direct shot to the central nervous system is made, and this is not recommended, deer die from BLOOD LOSS, which takes a while. Massive blood loss leads eventually to very low blood pressure and de-oxygenation of central nervous system, or brain death. When deer “go down” after being shot it is from concussive or shocking forces. They are very much still alive, thought they may not be able to move (because legs/shoulders/spines were broken). I have shot deer with 12 gauge slugs broadside trough shoulders, and they will look straight at you as you approach. They live until their lungs fill with blood downing them (this happens often when bullets do not pass through) or until they bleed out. To minimize the suffering and improve meat quality is advisable to exsanguinate. The easiest, quietest, and most humane way is to cut their jugular with a sharp knife if they are not moving. A very strong buck with antlers flailing about is not something one should approach, but if they are weak, you can hold them down by the antlers and cut their jugular. They die in seconds once the blood flows from their jugular. You can tell from their eyes if they are open how quickly the life passes out of them. A little old knife kills them much better than much more powerful firearms.

Given these truths about death, the actual power of the cartridge becomes rather unimportant. It really needs only sufficient power to cause enough blood loss to leave a trail of blood heavy enough to follow. You do not gain any advantage from causing more destruction to the animal, and you do not reduce their suffering appreciably. You do them a favor by shooting them cleanly in the heart or lungs. This is what will arrest their movements the quickest, cause the most bleeding, and is the most reliable shot you can take since the impact is perpendicular the the line of the shot, and is a fairly large area. Yet folks will go on agonizing over “killing power” of cartridges and bullets and ammo and whatnot. After you’ve shot some with many different kinds of ammo, you will have a very jaded view of such discussions, recognizing them for what they really are, marketing myths that have been implanted in the minds of the inexperienced by ammo/firearm manufacturers, which bankroll every hunting/gun publication and sometimes gun writers and professional hunters.

I’ve shot deer with and seen deer shot with just about everything now, and it all seems to work within reason. 357 Magnum should be viewed as the minimum out of a revolver (semi-automatic pistols in 9mm, 45 ACP, etc. lack accuracy and power) and should only be used within short ranges, with 75 yards being the most that should be considered. Given that perhaps 60% of opportunities will be had in this range, one can think of a 357 Magnum revolver being the 60% gun. And these are as common as can be. Now compare this to a typical “hunting” rifle like a 30-’06 bolt action. Such a rifle will be able to cleanly take deer out to 300 yards if the hunter’s skill level and judgement is adequate. This means that perhaps 95% of opportunities will be manageable. Think of it like a 95% gun. Then compare this to something like a 30-30 lever action. This will cover perhaps 90% of the opportunities if 150 yards is taken as a maximum effective range. Now with the rifles you have a firearm that must be aimed with both hands, and is somewhat difficult to carry, usually with one hand on it at all times, even when a sling is employed. So that increase in 30-35% opportunities translates roughly to greater difficulty in movement, especially in tight blinds and tree stands. It also means that after a kill you don’t have two hands to work around brush, climb a ladder, or drag the animal. It also means that you can’t really put the firearm down. It is not safe to do so, and the thing soon becomes a pain to keep out of harms’ way until you get back to your vehicle. Now the handgun is starting to have some apparent advantages.

Now consider a handgun like T/C Contender, equipped with a red-dot sight, and using ammo tailored to the situation (which is easy and affordable with inter-changeable barrel Contenders). With $3 shooting sticks made from hardwood dowels and a cheap nylon shoulder holster you approach rifle-like opportunity characteristics with handgun convenience.

I recently purchased a 357 Maximum Contender barrel and worked up some loads using Lil’Gun powder and a variety of bullets. I observed very impressive performance, both in the velocity department, and in the accuracy one. 357 Max was a early 80s wildcat, developed by Elgin Gates to be the last word in slammin’ steel on the Silhouette range, and was called 357 Supermag. He originally intended it for revolvers. It is basically a 357 Magnum case lengthened an additional 3/10ths of an inch for more bullet weight and powder charge. In the Ruger Blackhawks and Dan Wesson revolvers it was originally chambered, flame cutting of the top strap and rapid throat erosion was observed, particularly with light bullets (under 158 grains) in the Rugers. Because the Dan Wesson revolvers have adjustable cylinder gaps, much of the problem could be eliminated, but Ruger was so alarmed that they quickly discontinued production, which sentenced the Max to relative obscurity for over 30 years as the fortunes of the Dan Wesson company declined. Not long after its quasi-banishment in revolvers, the Max found a foster home in the T/C Contender, which honestly is the platform where the Max can shine. Since Contenders have NO CYLINDER gap, the flame cutting problem is a non-issue. And since Contenders have relatively long barrels, typically 10-15″, the Max can generate considerably more velocity than in a 4-8″ barreled revolver using the slow-burning powders and heavy-for-caliber bullets that deliver maximum performance. Out of my 10″ Contender I clock 1700 FPS with 200 grain jacketed bullets and 1750 FPS with 180 gainers. This translates to essentially a flat trajectory out to 150 yards (about 5″ drop with blunt or hollow nosed bullets), with adequate velocity at that range to reliably pass through deer. Suddenly, this handgun becomes a 90% gun, like that 30-30 rifle. Yet it still can be holstered comfortably, freeing both hands, and isn’t an annoyance at your side.

Now, at ranges beyond 100 yards, I really think iron sights are inadequate. Magnifying scopes on a handgun are problematic, though, because they require a set amount of eye relief, or distance of the eye to the ocular lens of the scope. Handguns can be used in all sorts of positions, or propped against trees or placed on shooting sticks. My feeling is that a non-magnifying sighting aide, like a “red dot” sight, is ideal. They have no eye relief restriction and no magnification, but they provide a precise single focal point to aim. I have found them to greatly enhance accuracy since handguns are much more wobbly than rifles (it’s amazing how much a butt-stock can reduce small vibrations). This wobbliness makes pressing the trigger at the precise moment when the sight is over the target even more important. And the dot is to me less obstructive and more instinctual than is a cross-hair or two iron sights. I really like my 2nd gen 25mm Ultradot with 2MOA dot size on my Contender. It is also very small, so you don’t need silly hammer extensions to hammer back like you do with most handgun scopes. I have little difficulty getting 1-2 inch groups at 50 yards off sticks with my Contender, and that is all you need to hunt deer. Off hand I need to me more mindful, but I am getting better every day. In short, my accuracy with this handgun under 150 yards is nearly approaching what I can do with my Mossberg 464. And of course, being totally ambidextrous, a contender is as easy to use for a left handed shooter as a right handed one.

Shooting sticks can be made with a bit of para-cord and two 3/8ths or 7/16ths hardwood dowels. You can get all fancy and epoxy some cartridge cases on the dirt end and thread them to take arrow points. But this isn’t necessary. The knot used is called a Pruitt knot, and there are several YouTube videos that show you how to execute the knot. You want there to be a certain amount of friction so that the weight of the pistol resting on the knot will not work down,  but you do not want it so tight that you cannot adjust it easily.

 

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Mowing Pastures

I often think than in attempts to be as ecologically benign as possible some folks neglect mowing pastures. There are few things as beneficial, and for myriad reasons, with only a small fuel expenditure if you are using efficient mowers (or horse powered mowers). My BCS double action sickle mower with Grillo 110 tractor is amazingly efficient. Running around half throttle it easily cuts through anything I’ve put in front of it, and I can do an acre on about 3 pints of gasoline (or about $1.00).

If you don’t make at least a single cutting once in the spring or early summer in a pasture there are bound to be all sorts of weeds that will propagate. The stocking densities to assure complete destruction of weeds in a pasture (where the animals are so hungry they will eat the ok weeds and trample to foul ones) are very high, and I don’t recommend them, especially with dairy animals. It’s better to be a little understocked than overstocked. All it takes is some bad weather and you can go from a sustainable stocking level to overstocked. Since I understock deliberately, and make hay to conserve spring flush, I usually can cut down dramatically on the amount of mowing I need to do, but there are places I don’t have time to make hay, so I have to mow them and just let the hay lay there to break down.

Truly, there are few things better than this to add some organic matter and set back weeds. There is a “progressive” pasture farming group by me which purchases round hay bales and rolls them out in places they think could benefit from this. I think it a wasteful practice myself, as just mowing in place accomplishes the same with far less trouble. If you time it carefully with some pasture plants you can thicken the stand this way. Ryegrass is particularly good at this. Just let it get over mature and start to turn brown on the stems that hold the seeds. Then mow. Those seeds will germinate in the fall or next spring, thickening the stand. Much cheaper than buying seed (which is necessary from time to time).

 

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Pushing Them

A very problematic and widespread attitude in agriculture is the idea of “pushing them.”

This refers to breeding and feeding animals to increase production of a measurable output, which is actually a good thing, but it often manifests as single-minded determination to increase production at all costs.

One of the core motives that explains the “pushing them” attitude is human competitiveness–the whole blue ribbon at the county fair phenomenon. And at county fairs one can see this on full display. It is the biggest rooster or lamb that wins. There is of course no accounting for the enormous expense and care that had to go into producing these “perfect” animals. People keep show roosters indoors in solitary cages and feed special diets so their body is enormous and plumage flawless. People time lambing for January 1st so they have the maximum number of days to cram milk-replacer and expensive lamb manna into them, often in heated pens, so they are huge by show time. There is a whole array of special feeds, usually very rich in protein and vitamins, for these show animals. Applying this kind of feeding strategy widely would be uneconomic, so I view it as essentially vainglorious in a world where people go hungry. But this problem is not confined merely to the fair. I wouldn’t mind it so much if it were. Unfortunately it grips entire industries.

The first example is a pet peeve of mine. With dairy cattle there is a NEVER ENDING push on the breeding and feeding sides to maximize individual cow production numbers. Always pushing to get more pounds of milk per animal. Of course, you have to feed them very rich diets to keep up extreme production and maintain body condition. This is why so many diaries have long abandoned feeding ordinary forages like grass and clover and begun to feed things like grain, pure alfalfa hay, and corn silage. This is also the reason why so many dairies have moved to total confinement and barn feeding. The animals cannot get forage foods into themselves fast enough if you put them out on pasture, and they will burn too many calories walking around anyway, so better to just shove rich food in their face and think of them like a big gland.

Yet a cow is not just a big gland, and sooner or later you are going to run up against a biological wall. The best example of this wall is with Jerseys. They are the smallest breed, with the finest bone structure, yet are pushed to produce quantities of milk that 30 years ago were considered outstanding for much larger Holstein cows. 8 gallons per day is now the expectation for a good Jersey. And their owners are always fretting about milk fever! Why? Milk fever is an acute metabolic disorder that occurs shortly after calving. The extreme calcium demand the milk glands place on the body of the animal severely depletes the circulating calcium, which is necessary for neuron function. Since Jerseys are small and have fine bones, there is simply not enough bone surface area available for the metabolic system to recruit calcium rapidly enough to meet calcium demand. This can create a situation where the cow suffers a temporary drop to very low blood calcium levels, their nervous system shuts down, and they die. This problem was not unknown fifty years ago, but it effected, or rather afflicted, only the highest production animals. Since this trait was not considered (and still isn’t) a cull-trait, the generic propensity for milk fever continues on in the population and of course the highest production animals are the ones most vulnerable to it, since the higher the milk production, the higher the calcium demand. Since nearly all of today’s Jerseys are high-production, they nearly all get milk fever to some degree.

On our cow’s first freshening, she did not get milk fever, but upon her second freshening, she demonstrated classic sub-clinical milk fever symptoms (cold ears, wobbly on her feet) in spite of being on a low-calcium diet during her dry period and being treated with Bovicalc boluses at freshening. There is no doubt in my mind she would have gone down and died had these strategies not been employed. Of course, she does make 8 gallons per day, so I should be happy. This is the price you pay for production, right? Well, no. The way I look at it, just get more cows if you want more milk. There is a biological limit for how much milk they can make anyway. They can only secrete nutrients they ingest, so these super high production cows need to eat constantly to keep up production/condition. The best udder in the world can’t do anything without a rumen to support it. Let’s say I had two 4 gallon per day Jerseys that ate about half as much and didn’t get milk fever. That would be fine by me. Might take a little longer to milk, but I’m ok with that. I’d rather take another 2 minutes to milk per day and not have the check the cow every four hours before she calves to make sure I can give her a Bovicalc/IV calcium so she doesn’t die. What would happen if someday treatments like Bovicalc became unavailable? A near extinction event?

I’ve also observed this problem with honeybees, though it usually disguises itself as being well-meaning. It has been common practice among many beekeepers to feed their bees sugar water or syrup pretty much continuously to increase production of honey. Cheap sugar is converted to expensive honey, which is robbed and then sold. Sugar water has much higher pH than honey, and nobody is going to convince me it has nutrition even approaching that of the nectar of hundreds of flowers; sugar feeding probably contributes to all sorts of colony disorders. It is not the proper food of bees, just as corn silage and grain are not the proper foods of cattle, and yet the push to maximize honey output per hive reigns supreme.

The number of new-bee beekeepers asking how to solve problems they created by feeding sugar is staggering. How do I keep ants out of my hive? Should I built an ant moat? All sorts of questions traced back to imbalances of brood compared to the amount of honey comb. Brood sicknesses of various kinds are probably caused by insufficient protein and too much sugar. Pollen furnishes the amino acids they need to build bodies of growing brood. Nectar furnishes the carbohydrates to provide the energy the colony needs for work and winter survival. So if you give them tons of sugar and no protein, what do you think it is going to do? What would it do if you fed babies tons of sugar and little protein? I suggest bee nurseries are not so dissimilar. Also, leaving them plenty of honey in the fall is much better in my mind than robbing it all and trying to keep them going on sugar water. And folks wonder why half their hives die every year.

If the goal is more honey then why not just get double the hives and take half the amount of honey from them, not feed them sugar, and leave them plenty of honey for the winter. Yea, it will take 10 minutes instead of 5 to tend two hives instead of one, but is this really significant if you have less than 100 hives?

Hives are cheap, unlike cows. I make my top bar hives out of pine boards and some screws and cheap paint. They cost me about $30 to make each and last years since they are made of ¾” wood and have durable metal roofs and I keep them off the ground. If I want more honey, I just make another hive. Of course, I do also ensure there are a variety of pollen and nectar sources for my bees, the backbone being the same plant that provides the backbone of my cattle-feeding operation—white clover. I plant Hazel and Apple and Black Locust and other trees that bring on early Spring pollen and nectar. Crimson clover and Sweetclover both have the places, too. Let things overgrow and little, instead of fanatically mowing everything all the time, an all sorts of wildflowers (weeds) will feed the bees.

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Short run farm fencing and gates

Most rural properties these days have little fencing. Perhaps a pasture will be fenced in, or a garden here or there to try and keep deer out, but usually there are no fences around main fields or around the homestead property.

This is a for a few reasons, but the principle one seems to be the inconvenience and expense of using and making large gates to admit passage of increasingly large vehicles and machines. It used to be 8 or 10 feet was all you would need in the days or horses. Today its necessary it seems to have two 12 foot gates at a minimum to allow any large harvester or tractor through, or even to allow trucks (like propane or septic) and trailers through. Also, folks don’t like getting out of their car to open and close gates. Never underestimate human laziness! So, everybody went gate-less a long time ago opting not to replace the worn out ones that where there. This then becomes the norm of the countryside.

Two things have happened to me recently that have made me want a gate. I no longer want my dog straying off my property and more importantly I no longer want my neighbors rotten mean dogs wandering onto mine. So I decided to put up a very low cost fence that would do the job, not look horrible, and keep dogs in or out. I also put up corresponding gates. After doing so I have realized other benefits. One being that if an animal were to escape out of the barnyard or fields into our “home acre” they would still be contained. Sometimes this becomes a concern when you are delivering animals or doing something like halter-breaking a calf. Also, no more chickens crossing the road.

This type of fence amounts to treated 4×4 posts, 6′ long, sunk about 2.5′ into the ground, which is plenty, and stapling 16′ cattle panels to these posts. I cut the bottoms or tops off my 50″ cattle panels because I think it looks nicer (42″ is plenty) and allows me to adjust for uneven ground. I ran my posts every 16′ which is pretty spaced out, and had to put a post every 8′ at curves. This type of fence is not tensioned like woven wire. Cattle panels are self supporting and this obviates any need for bracing posts at ends or curves. Really, a woven wire fence needs to be a 100′ or so long in a run to maintain proper tension. Short runs of woven wire do not provide the necessary elasticity to maintain proper seasonal tension, and this can pull posts (always the weakest) out of the ground. This isn’t a problem with a cattle panel fence. Now, cattle panels are about 3x the cost per linear foot compared to lightweight high-tensile woven wire, so this type of fence is not for fields and subdivisions of fields; rather it is for use around your barnyard and house, the places where woven wire doesn’t work well.

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I don’t like the look of tubular steel gates, and I think they are very flimsy unless one gets the “bull grade” ones. These bull grade gates (made with 2″ tube and bolt-hinges instead of lag screws) cost around $200 for a 12′ gate. And you get a 12′ gate. No customizing. I have found three alternative gate materials, and I made my own Z-gates rapidly for a fraction of that cost.

The first alternative material is treated poplar corral boards. They are 1″x6″x16′ rough sawn and cost around $10 each from a local home center. The traditional Z-style gate made with deck screws and gate hinges will come in at around half the price per linear foot compared to tube gates, and they look a whole lot nicer. They take very little time to construct, too. A tip: work on top of some 4×4 or like posts one the ground and mark the posts to line up the various parts. Use a cordless circular saw and drill with a speed square to make accurate cuts, and of course, a tape measure. If you want perfectly square gates it is easy to measure the X from corner to corner to make sure they are equal, but sometimes you may want to make a crooked gate (because of crooked ground) and that is something you can’t do with a tube gate. This is the double gate pictured before.

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Remember, the diagonal goes from the bottom of the gate-end to the other corner. Also note spring-loaded gate wheels go a long way toward preventing sag. With gates this long, even these 8′ posts sunk 5′ deep would have trouble preventing sag. Each gate cost around $90; the gate wheels were $15 each. 

The second material I have tried, and I think works very well for gates under 8′ long, is 1/2″x4″ Ash concrete form boards. These are used to make sidewalks/patios where I live, since Ash is the wood of choice for this kind of work as the Emerald Ash borer has made a whole lot of dead Ash trees available. Ash is probably cheaper than pine where I live now. Because these were formerly concrete forms, I got them for free, and they had cement on one or both sides. I scraped most of it off with a brick hammer, made the gates like I would any other using little 1″ or 1.5″ wood screws, and then I primed (with an all-purpose exterior rated primer for masonry or wood) and painted (white barn paint) the gates to conceal the concrete. They look very cute, and I think they should last a while. These gates are so light that ordinary back-yard gate hinges or household door hinges can be used. It is not necessary to use expensive agricultural-style gate hinges.

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This gate cost about $10 for the hardware and paint. The wood was given away. 

The third material, and the one I think most promising, are Ash boards I bought from a local lumbermill. They were rough sawn, nominally 1″x6″x12-14′. They came from a dead standing tree and have many imperfections that make the wood substandard for interior uses. I bought these boards for only $7, 30% less than what the slightly longer treated Poplar boards cost, but Ash is a much stronger wood for its weight than is Poplar. I built the gates the same way but used regular exterior grade (galvanized) wood screws, not decking screws, since this wood was untreated. These screws cost less and work just as well. I then applied Thompson’s Waterseal (for wood, clear, with UV inhibitor), using perhaps a pint of it on a 13′ gate for one coat (which is all that is needed per directions). This gate came out costing about $60 total and is the most rigid. Time will tell if it lasts as long as the treated Poplar or the painted Ash. Maybe in a few decades I’ll report back, but my thinking is that wood which doesn’t come into contact with the ground and is vertical (instead of horizontal like a deck floor) doesn’t benefit much from pressure treatment. What wooden gates need is waterproofing and some UV protection. This can be provided by paint or something like Thompson’s, which both cost around the same and take a similar amount of time to apply per coat (Thompsons is one coat, while one coat for the primer, and one or two topcoats are needed with paint). It really depends I suppose if one prefers the painted or natural wood look.

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Ghee and its uses

There are many good tutorials on how to make Ghee from butter out there. It is a pretty straightforward process.

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You start with butter. Yes, pasture fed Jersey butter is this yellow. No filters or color adjustment! 

What is not commonly appreciated is the utility of Ghee and its importance to the small scale farmer or homesteader. Ghee is a high temp cooking fat, an oil at room temperature, that can be used to fry and sauté things that would smoke if butter were used. It can replace most cooking vegetable oils in the family’s diet. It is also relatively low-effort once one is used to making butter and is more or less awash in milk, which will describe anyone miking a good healthy cow.

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The skimming process.

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An example of the resides and solids left after skimming and clarifying the butter.

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Poring off into jars for safe-keeping. 

We milk twice daily, which is the norm, and we use the morning milking for drinking milk, feeding the calf breakfast and lunch, and yogurt/soft cheese making. 4 gallons works out pretty well for our family this way. The evening milking, which is another 4 gallons, is used to make butter. We simply let that entire milking rise, skim the cream, and use the skimmed milk to feed chickens and garden plants, which is admittedly not a very good use for skim milk. It would be much better if we had a bottle calf or a feeder pig to feed that skim milk too, but one can only get so much done. As our heifer calf gets bigger, we will probably start to feed her more skim milk and less whole, probably as we introduce her to hay/pasture.

 

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Blog Hiatus

I have a lot going on now, and probably will post again sometime this summer.

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Cleaning Blackpowder Muzzleloading Rifles

Backpowder fouling is different from smokeless powder fouling or metallic bullet fouling. One of the major differences is that smokeless powder almost completely combusts within the barrel leaving just a very light varnish (not water soluble) residue and possibly lead or copper fouling from the bullet (since they bullet touches the barrel). The approach to cleaning this is to take solvent, usually petroleum-based, which dissolves the varnish residue and perhaps reacts with the copper fouling to loosen it. Bronze brushes and fabric tightly wrapped around jags abrade away this fouling. This approach doesn’t work for black powder.

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Blackpowder is a completely different kind of material, and it combusts very incompletely. In fact, about 40% by weight of the original power charge is left behind as a sooty, sulfurous residue. This reside is very reactive with petroleum based oils and solvents and trying to clean it with such will lead to a mess, not to mention consume tremendous quantities of expensive cleaning solvent. Fortunately, blackpowder fouling is quite soluble in water. Hot water with a little dish detergent added is excellent and costs almost nothing, making black powder firearms actually easier in many ways to clean than smokeless, and certainly cheaper. The large bore diameter helps as well.

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The first step is to fill up a tea kettle with water and set it on the stove to boil. The next step is to get a cleaning rod with proper jag on it and some cotton t-shirt type cloth cut to the proper size. The next step is to detached the barrel from the lock and the stock. Once the barrel is removed it should be prepared for cleaning by removing the touch-hole plug (flint-locks) or priming nipple (cap-locks) and have a rag or tape wrapped around the barrel somewhere. If there are any plastic parts on the barrel that may be effected by boiling water, they should be removed (and this is why muzzleloaders should never have fiber optic sights or scopes). I take a little pyrex cup and put a little bit of dish detergent in it and bring the barrel, cleaning rod, pliers or an adjustable wrench, and the kettle out water outside onto gravel or a deck or somewhere where it will not be a problem if it gets dirty. Now pour boiling water into the pyrex cup and pour that soapy water down the barrel from the muzzle end. The water should shoot out the hole in the bottom of the barrel. Now the barrel will be warm. Take the cleaning rod and drive a the patch wrapped jag down the barrel using the muzzle protector. If it comes out relatively clean then you may proceed with rinsing it with boiling water from the kettle, otherwise keep repeating soapy water and patch cleanings.

Once the barrel has been rinsed thoroughly with boiling water it will be far too hot to touch and can only be handled with oven mitts or pliers or something. This is why you wrap the barrel with cloth. It will prevent marking of the finish with tools. This heat will result in the water evaporating very quickly. Take it all inside and put it on a cotton towel or some fabric that wont melt. Now clean off the rod and jag and liberally apply a muzzleloader lubricant like T/C Bore Butter to the patch and drive it down the barrel while it is still hot or warm but can be handled. The heat will liquify the grease and it will creep all over and once cooled will protect the barrel from corrosion, provide lubrication for the next shot taken, and help further the “seasoning” of the barrel.

I lubricate the patch with the same kind of bore butter, so every time I reload the rifle to fire it most of the fouling from the previous shot is pushed down to the breech and the barrel is anointed with lubricant. This keeps the barrel conditions consistent from shot-to-shot and completely prevents any lead fouling from being deposited. With this kind of cleaning/firing regime, the barrel seasons much like a cast iron skillet, too. A petroleum-type solvent (like WD-40 or anything out of a rattle can) will ruin this seasoning. Supposedly petroleum waxes (like paraffin) do not have this effect, but they are not good lubricants for the bullet/patch, so I think it is best to stick with a natural (non-Petroluem) type greases for lubricantion and protection of the barrel, and to stick with hot-water based cleaners. One can use saliva or water to lubricate the patch, but unless you are going to clean the barrel and grease it, this will promote corrosion.

I always use cloth (pillow ticking) patched lead round balls, and frankly think plastic sabots, conical bullets, and all that stuff is not only expensive, but disappointing to use. I’ve never found any I could easily get down a barrel with the provided ram-rod which is what you will use while hunting. To me if I cannot reload in the field, then it is a no-go, and I’ve always been able to get lubed-patched round balls down with the ordinary ram-rod. They are accurate and have adequate external and terminal ballistic performance on deer at the ranges muzzleloaders should be used (under 100 yards). If you want long range performance, then you should hunt with an ordinary firearm in the ordinary firearm season using a scope, and I think hunting authorities should discourage the use of “modern” muzzleloaders.

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