Best way to clean sharps falling block percussion rifles

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Tmacmi
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2020 2:26 pm

Best way to clean sharps falling block percussion rifles

Post by Tmacmi » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:08 pm

I have an 1853 slant breech so I figured this is the best place to post the question.

I spent the better part of 4 hours trying to clean my rifle yesterday after running 24 rounds through it. I had even run simple green and a patch through it after 12 rounds.

I spent 1.5. hours just cleaning the breach block with a brush and tooth pick last night.

This morning I recalled the idea of just putting the breech block and hammer in a pot of boiling water to remove the powder. It worked but then there were rust spots in the areas were the case coloring had worn away and at the nipple. So that took more cleaning.

I corked the barrel and filled it with boiling water about 4 times.

I ran a bore brush and chamber brush down it 6 times

I then took it downstairs and rand some Thompson Center BP solvent down it with a patch about 4 times.

I am now running shooters choice lead solvent down it. I have done it about 12 times and still haven't come up with a clean patch.

What am I doing wrong? I am spending more time cleaning my gun than I am shooting it.

DaveC
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2015 1:34 pm

Re: Best way to clean sharps falling block percussion rifles

Post by DaveC » Mon Oct 19, 2020 6:07 am

I have a Pedersoli Berdan replica, and they are kind of a job to clean (like a couple cap&ball revolvers at once), but it shouldn’t take four hours.

I use an emulsion of 10% Ballistol in water and clean and wipe until the patches show light gray, and then clean/wipe with straight Ballistol. I also spray Ballistol into the lockwork and crevices where it can’t be conveniently wiped. The stuff seems to neutralize BP fouling; I’ve taken out the lockwork of cap&ball revolvers after a years’ use and no disassembly or treatment except a spray of Ballistol and found a black “mud” that wipes away with no rust or damage to blued or casehardened surfaces.

The toughest parts are the cleanout screw/nipple/fire channel and the gas-check plate in the breechblock and the corresponding sleeve in the barrel. Anti-seize on the threads and inner surfaces helps the removal, and then I use Q-tips and those little brushes Harbor Freight sells to clean paint sprayers on the channels. A heavy-bristled nylon test tube brush of the proper size grabs the barrel breech sleeve and it can then be pulled to the back of the breech mortise and wiped, and held while a pistol cleaning rod is used on the surface in the barrel. I slide it back and forth until no new fouling shows, spray it with Ballistol, make sure it slides freely, reassemble the cleaned block and lever and put it back together. If your slant breech only has the platinum ring and no movable gas check, of course you don’t have to do this. I remove the lock plate after maybe 5 shooting sessions for a wipe and spray, but generally it doesn’t get very dirty. The forend gets removed to check the underside of the barrel about as often.

Depending on how quickly I can get the breech block out and apart, I can clean the gun at the range after 35-40 shots in maybe a half-hour or so.

George Babits
Posts: 217
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:53 am

Re: Best way to clean sharps falling block percussion rifles

Post by George Babits » Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:03 am

I think you have to develop a little different mind set when working with original rifles. They definitely take a good more effort to get clean. All the little pits tend to hold fouling and lead and it is pretty near impossible to get it all out. I finally decided that with old rifles, "light grey" is probably as clean a patch as you will ever get. I think Croft Barker alluded to that in his book, "Restoring and Shooting the Antique Single Shot Rifle." Having learned what "clean" is on an M-14 under the scrutiny of a tough drill Sargent in the Marines, I had to somewhat change my idea of "clean" when I started shooting original rifles.

All that is needed to clean black powder fouling needs is warm water, but I add a little non sudsing dish soap as it helps cut the lubricant. Usually 3 or 4 wet patches does the job and I run in 3 or 4 dry patches to pick up most of the moisture. You aren't going to get a "clean" patch though. I follow that with WD-40 on a patch and let that sit a few minutes then wipe it out with a couple of dry patches. The WD-40 absorbs any moisture that the dry patches missed. Follow that with oiled patch. On my paper cartridge Shiloh, I have the block soaking in the warm soapy water too to loosen the fouling up while I clean the bore. I still usually have to pry the gas check off though. Of course with the Shiloh I am not dealing with any pitting which the originals invariably have.

There is something magic about shooting a 160 year old rifle.

George
Salmon, Idaho

Tmacmi
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2020 2:26 pm

Re: Best way to clean sharps falling block percussion rifles

Post by Tmacmi » Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:54 am

DaveC wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 6:07 am
If your slant breech only has the platinum ring and no movable gas check, of course you don’t have to do this.
I'm glad you mentioned this. Here is a photo of my breech block. I am pretty confident that is a platinum ring. To the best of my ability there is no movable gas check. I've always worried about it, but I guess you are saying if there is a platinum ring the shouldn't be a movable gas check.

Follow up question. Should that platinum ring be removed for cleaning? Also it appears to be getting pitting from shooting, Does it get adjusted with time?

Finally, what about lead build up. How hard do you scrub to get rid of that?

DaveC
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2015 1:34 pm

Re: Best way to clean sharps falling block percussion rifles

Post by DaveC » Mon Oct 19, 2020 2:03 pm

According to Marcot’s book, the platinum ring was on the breechblocks until 1855, when they were replaced with the Conant gas check. However, the first ones did have a “bouche,” or sliding cylinder, in the breech end of the barrel. This is supposed to be loose, and slide back when the rifle is fired and forward again when the chamber is loaded so the block can shut. If immobilized by fouling or rust, much more gas will leak out the breech of the rifle.

Some of your breechblock gas cutting may be due to this, if yours is stuck forward. Gas cutting also seems to show up much sooner with the use of loose powder charges poured into the breech, instead of paper cartridges. I don’t think the platinum ring is removable. At least that’s the impression i get from reading.

I think my replica is set up with the later Lawrence gas check system. There is a plate on the front of the block, very closely fitted, and the bouche is basically the barrel chamber. On firing, the gas pressure pushes the block plate forward, and the sliding chamber rearward. The parts pinch together, sealing most of the gas. Of course, the more shots fired, the less efficient this setup becomes because the smoke gets everywhere and the fouling builds up.

I’m still learning how to “manage” this. If Berdan’s Sharpshooters could keep shooting, I should be able to as well. So far, about 25 shots is when the block gets hard to open.

By the way, I couldn’t find your photo.

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