Cleaning a Flintlock Musket

By Compatriot Bradley Jarard

This blog is dedicated to cleaning a flintlock musket.  Ideally, you should clean your musket on the same day you have shot it as black powder is corrosive to metal.  We’ll talk about some basic disassembly differences between the two most common muskets, the Brown Bess and Charleville but the cleaning aspects are the same.   For this cleaning blog we’ll due a partial takedown of the gun which should suffice for most cleaning scenarios.  This includes taking the barrel and lock off of the gun and cleaning separately.

Let’s start by assembling our cleaning supplies.

The basic cleaning kit consists of a cleaning rod, bore guide, patch worm or jag, bore brushes and patches.  Traditions makes good bore/gun lubricant or any gun lube will do.  Not shown, steel wool pads for removing rust from the stainless steel parts and cleaning brush.


You can use the rod that’s on the musket if you have acquired a cleaning head that matches its threading.  However, its best to use a modern rod that can accept multiple types of cleaning heads.


First step is to remove the ramrod and set aside.  Then remove the lock.  Begin by placing the lock in the HALF-COCK position.  Then un-screw the two screws holding the lock on.  The lock will slide out.  If not…just give it a wiggle and then place it to the side.


Now we’ll remove the barrel.  The main difference between disassembly of the Brown Bess (TOP) and Charleville (BOTTOM) is that the Brown Bess uses a series of pins to keep the barrel in place.  The Charleville uses a series of bands held in place with springs.  Regardless, you should become familiar with removal of all parts of the model of flintlock you have.


Begin by removing these pins with a small nail or punch or if you have a Charleville, remove the bands and place on your cleaning table in the order they appear on the gun.

*For Brown Bess muskets not all of the pins need to be removed in order to detach the barrel.  Some are used to keep the brass ramrod holders in place.  Once you know which ones are necessary you can place small tic marks in the wood below those pins.


The last step to barrel removal is the tang screw.  Unscrew this and remove the barrel.


Now it’s time for cleaning.  You can use just very hot water or a combination of hot water and soap.  Murphy’s Oil is a good choice.  Pour the warm water down the barrel in a tub or outside…slosh it around and do this until it run clear out of the vent hole.  Use a cup or funnel to avoid a mess.


Depending on how dirty your barrel is will determine how much you need to clean it.  If it’s very dirty then the next step would be to run a bore brush down the barrel.  Make sure it’s the correct caliber of your musket, .75 for Brown Bess and .69 for Charleville.  Scrub it up and down.  Clamping the barrel in a vice with some padding will make this step a breeze.


If you use a range rod or modern rod for cleaning make sure you use a bore guide.  This device keeps the rod centered when running it up/down and avoids scraping the sides of the bore.  This is a tapered tool that’s one-size fits all.


OPTIONAL:  After a long time you will get fouling that will build up on the breech plug.  You need to scrape this off with a barrel scraper.  Do this step first before you run with water.


Now you have to dry the barrel out and clean out any remaining gunk.  A bore mop or a patched jag will work.  Keep doing this until its relatively clean.  After you have dried the barrel as best as you can, run a last patch down with some lubricant to avoid rust.


If you run patches down the bore there is a chance you might leave one in the bottom of the barrel.  Use a patch worm to extract.


Put a little oil on the bottom side of the barrel (the part that’s next to the wood).  Now put the barrel back on the gun and replace any bands or pins.


Screw the barrel tang screw back in.


Now it’s time to clean the lock.  Run hot water or hot water/soap mix all over the lock.  Scrub all parts with a brush.  Rinse when finished.


If you detect some grit behind the cock, just undo the screw holding it on and clean and lube behind it.



DO NOT get oil on the flint or Hammer(Frizzen) face.

Lube all of the moving parts on both sides of the lock…especially the hinge of the Hammer(Frizzen).  Dry the lock thoroughly.  If you have an air compressor use it to blow all the water out. Put a small coating of oil all over the lock, front/back and wipe off any excess.  Remember not to get any oil on the flint or hammer (frizzen) face.


Reinstall the lock on the gun with the lock screws.


Some final cleanup step involve some of the exterior parts.  Brown Bess’s(top) primarily have brass parts…so use some Brasso if necessary.  Charlevilles (bottom)have stainless steel parts, so a light brushing with some oil and steel wool will remove any rust.



Now clean up your ramrod with some steel wool and light oil as necessary and insert it back in to the gun.


The very last step is to wipe down the whole gun, especially around the trigger guard where there could be some residual power residue.  After that…put it back in its case for safe keeping.


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4 Responses to Cleaning a Flintlock Musket

  1. Joe Demaki says:

    what type of oil do you use to rub down the stock? is mineral oil good to rub the stock to that sheen Joe Demski 6th MD Reg. Michigan

  2. Michael Simmons says:

    Are there any tricks to removing the trigger guard?

    • Tim Madden says:

      Michael, it has been a long time for this reply, sorry for that. I just assembled a kit by Jim Kibler. Jim has many YouTube videos on how to assemble a flintlock. My recollection is that trigger will need to be removed so the lock will need to be removed. There typically is a metal “pin” holding the trigger in place which would be within the lock mortise area. Once the trigger is removed, there should be at least two pins which hold the trigger guard in place. These pins for the trigger and trigger guard are typically removed with a very small punch (“1/16” if I recall). My recollection was it can be a challenge to put the trigger pin back in place to re-secure the trigger. Please review the appropriate Kibler video (there is a series of 7 or 8 which the trigger and guard is in the earlier stages). Note that watching the assembly of the gun will help you understand how to take it apart. Best wishes!

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