View Full Version : So I was given a muzzleloader..

January 31, 2012, 07:14 PM
Hello all,

I am new to the forum and have a few questions for you muzzleloaders out there..

I was recently given a Thompson Center Arms .50 caliber cap lock rifle. I believe its the Hawken but it doesnt say it specifically on the barrel like the new ones do according to the website although it looks exactly the same. The gun seems to be in pretty good shape other than the fact that its got some corrosion near where the percussion caps are placed. The actions all seem to work.. The hammer (assuming thats what its still called) moves and locks, the dual trigger set up works fine as well (set trigger, etc.). I believe whoever shot it last did not remove the spent percussion cap as there is one on there that is crusty and seems to be the source of the corrosion. (I already got the old cap off but the corrosion remains). I would really like to clean this rifle up and take it to the range. It doesnt have any visible damage or issues other than the corrosion and a hint of rust on the outside of the barrel (I havent looked inside the barrel yet but am definitely planning on cleaning it to the best of my ability.) My question is this.. Are there any specific points or mechanisms on the gun that need to be very closely inspected to ensure that it is safe to fire after sitting for who knows how long? (I'm not new to guns, just new to muzzleloaders) I heard that the gun had no problems last time it was used (who knows how long ago?) If I am able to use muzzleloader cleaning materials to remove the corrosion near where the percussion caps are placed and am able to get the barrel nice and cleaned without any more real signs of rust or corrision, would you guys try and give it a shot if it were yours? Should I take it to a gunsmith and have it checked out? I have read up on the load data and procedure for loading but am just curous about the firearm itself. Thanks a ton!

January 31, 2012, 07:22 PM
I know the minimum I would do is treat it like a bomb until somebody who is familiar with shooting muzzleloaders (or a 'smith) looks at it and makes sure that last shot wasn't a misfire and you still have a charge and a ball in there.

January 31, 2012, 07:22 PM
welcome to the ADDICTION! As I am fairly new to BP shooting, I'm learning quickly. Seems to me I would buy a new nipple clean the flash hole and install a new nipple. You need to make darn sure that thing doesn't have a charge and a projectile in it, as from what I've read used rifles often do have a charge and projectile in them, as alot of folks leave them that way. But the veterans will be along shortly to offer more advice.

January 31, 2012, 07:26 PM
Thats a very good point. I didnt realize that muzzeloaders are sometimes left with a charge in them. Is there a way to "clear it" so to speak?

January 31, 2012, 07:31 PM
well naturally you could clear the nipple and flash hole, put a new cap on it and clear it that way, but not knowing the condition of the bore I'm not sure I would do that. They make a projectile removal tool that will screw into the lead bullet and pull it out. But in theory the original ram rod should drop all the way into an unloaded barrel and sit flush with the muzzle.

January 31, 2012, 07:36 PM
Put the ramrod down the barrel and mark where it stops and then lay it next to the barrel with the mark even with the muzzle. If that ramrod reaches all the way to the line where the breech plug starts, then the gun is empty. If it stops a few inches before the breech plug starts, you have a loaded gun.

Also, a ramrod dropped down the bore of an empty gun makes sort of a "tink" sound as it bounces off the back of the breech. If it hits a lead ball, it doesn't make much of a sound and it doesn't bounce much.

January 31, 2012, 07:51 PM
First off I'd say that is indeed a TC Hawken model and it doesn't say so. Many early ones were not stamped as such. They call these Pre-Stamped models and more desireable to have. As far as being able to tell if it's loaded, there are a number of ways to tell. One is to take your ramrod out and drop it in the bore. If you hear a dull sound, that means you are hitting lead. If it gives more of a ringing metallic sound, that means you are hitting steel. While your rod in in there note the depth of the bore on your rod, pull it out and see where it indicates at the breech end. At this pint, I suspect it's not loaded.

Now, don't do the Buck-Skinner trick of blowing down the bore. ..... :eek:
Instead, insert a lubed patch down the bore with your rod jag end and see if you have hear a hising sound out of the nipple vent.. ... :)

As far as the nipple, just replace it after you have freed it up. TC still makes replacement nipples. It may be rusted in. You should see a small clean out slotted set screw on the side of the snail. Leave that little bugger alone as he is trouble; rusted tight.

As Far as smiths go, most of those you go to today, don't relate well to M/L's. As few old timers are still around that can. Personally, i would pulll the lock and check for rust at the back of the lock-plate.

It's a bunch of fun getting these old orphans shooting again. Would I shoot it, you bet !!! ... :D

Be Safe !!!

January 31, 2012, 07:57 PM
Thanks for all the responses! I'm going to give it a look tonight when I get home and try to make sure if im dealing with a loaded gun or not. If not, i'll check out the nipple and then go from there. I'll keep you guys posted!

January 31, 2012, 07:58 PM
And some Pics would be most appreciated :D

January 31, 2012, 08:02 PM
No problem, I will get pics up tonight so you guys can see what im dealing with. Oh yeah, Pahoo said that the older ones are "unmarked" with the Hawken name on them.. Do you guys know when they started putting "hawken" on them or when these unmarked ones were made? I would just like to try and date the gun. As I said before, I downloaded the current TC Hawken owners manual.. Am I able to go off of that manual or have there been significant changes made and is that manual useless to me? (Especially the suggested load data)

One more thing.. Whats a jag end of a ramrod? :)

January 31, 2012, 09:00 PM
wether it's loaded or not i would run some water down the barrel and leave it soak for a half hour. If it is loaded this will make it safe to handle. you still need to know if it indeed is loaded so you can get the bullet out if there is one. As far as cleaning goes make sure the flash hole if that's what it's called is clear to allow ignition. I'm not familiar with this muzzleloader, but i'm thinking it does not have a removable breech plug. if it does though, make sure that's tight. if it's looser than the bullet the plug is what will move.

January 31, 2012, 09:21 PM
Okay if I was going to soak it, I need to remove the barrel by taking out that little pin that goes through the wood about halfway down the gun right?

January 31, 2012, 09:22 PM
Heres the pics (part 1)

January 31, 2012, 09:23 PM
Heres the pics (part 2) I even took a picture of my corrosion problem.. Is solvent the magical cleaner for this job?

January 31, 2012, 09:28 PM
Also, I drop the ramrod in there and it goes all the way down aside from where the metal starts on the other end of the rod (so about 2 inches?) I hear it hit metal I think.. Also, when I pulled the rod back out, it was wet?

January 31, 2012, 09:30 PM
Last thing! Should I soak it or no? Warm water? soap? fully submerged? thanks!

January 31, 2012, 09:30 PM
First off, Get a Fiberglass Ramrod it dose wonders without breaking ;)

January 31, 2012, 09:49 PM
wet? with oil I hope? If not run a patch down that sucker and dry it out. If it were me I would remove the barrel from the stock and I would fill the barrel up with break free and let it soak. Also spray some break free on the nipple and with a nipple wrench try to remove the nipple after it soaks for a bit. Nice looking rifle though Definitely worth the effort.

January 31, 2012, 10:05 PM
Yeah I believe it was oil. So i know for sure the gun does not have a charge. I dont have a nipple tool or any real cleaning supplies for it but will be making a trip to the gun store! I just have my stuff that I use for my handguns, rifles, and shotty's. I do have breakfree but I was wondering if I should wait to fill the barrel up with it until I have an appropriate size mop/brush?

January 31, 2012, 10:18 PM
well, when you said wet, I thought you meant condensation (water) but if its oil its probably in good shape and you can just take your cleaning rod and run a patch with break free on it down the barrel and see how nasty it is. And clean as you would your normal guns. Getting that nasty nipple off should be the priority, You can get a nipple wrench anywhere, cabelas has them. I'm willing to bet that the corrosion is just on the nipple (or at least my fingers are crossed).

January 31, 2012, 10:47 PM
oKay im not sure if i just did something bad.. I ran some white tee shirt pieces (aka my patches) down the barrel using the rod and the little attachment and about 75 percent of the way through it seems to encounter some resistance.. I put a little more force behind it and it goes all the way to the bottom of the barrel.. Did that a few times, no problem.. This time, it goes in like usual, hits some resistance, i put a little muscle into it, and it goes all the way down.. Now its time to pull it out.. its not budging... its stuck... I pulled it very hard and it came out but I can feel little grits of metal or something on the patch.. All the other times I did this, there was just some brownish liquid (I think its oil but it feels pretty watery) is it from the barrel? Gunpowder? i'm not sure what just happened but i hope i didnt mess anything up.. Shouldnt there be zero resistance? (especially 3/4 of the way in only)

January 31, 2012, 11:07 PM
Uh-oh, sounds like the previous owner left the barrel uncleaned after shooting it.

This may be a perfect opportunity to buy one of Green Mountain's legendarily accurate target barrels for this rifle. In fact, a lot of people who compete in muzzleloading matches look for TC Hawkens with neglected barrels just to get a stock on which to put one of Green Mountain's barrels on.


January 31, 2012, 11:09 PM
If that is the case.. What happened to this barrel? Is it trash?

January 31, 2012, 11:27 PM
It may still shoot and may smooth out with use. The thing about the stock barrel is that it has shallow button rifled grooves and a "compromise" 1 in 48" twist which is too fast for optimum patched roundball shooting and too slow for optimum bullet shooting.

The aftermarket barrels feature no compromise patched round ball twist rates or no compromise bullet twist rates if that's what you want.

I shoot offhand muzzleloading rifle matches mostly and I replaced my stock .45 caliber barrel with a .36 caliber Green Mountain patched round ball barrel and never looked back. These barrels have bores that are so polished that even a bore sized roundball surrounded by a patch just slides downbore with gentle ramrod pressure once started.
The firing line at Friendship is full of TC Hawkins with GM barrels in them.

January 31, 2012, 11:30 PM
Ok that makes sense. I guess what im wondering now is what was that material coming out of the barrel? Was it from the barrel itself? powder muck?

February 1, 2012, 12:16 AM
Ok that makes sense. I guess what im wondering now is what was that material coming out of the barrel? Was it from the barrel itself? powder muck?

It sounds like it has a serious corrosion problem and what was being pulled out is rust and/or scale.

Scale is:

Fouling, buildup of unwanted substances, sometimes called "scale", on hard surfaces, such as the inside of a pipe

It could be a combination of powder residue and rust. Who knows what the liquid is. Maybe the previous owner put some kind of oil or solvent down the bore to try to loosen up the scale.
Maybe you could ask him.
Anyway the condition of the bore sounds terrible, and is probably the reason why he gave it away.

February 1, 2012, 08:19 AM
From the looks of the pics of the neglected nipple area and from what going on inside the bbl. this would be my process to see if bbl was salvageable.

I'd remove the bbl. and get me a cheap, plastic wallpaper tray(they are long, your bbl should fit in one). Place bbl in tray and pour ATF(automatic transmission fluid) to cover bbl. completely. Let soak for a day or so, remove and use a bore brush in bore and around nipple. Let soak some more and repeat brushing.

I'd keep doing this till all rust/corrosion was removed from bbl. and nipple area.

Run some dry patches through bbl and using bore light, check to see how bad the pitting is. If you determine bbl. is usable, you can start on removing nipple.
If the shoulders on the nipple aren't corroded badly, use a nipple wrench. If nipple wrench won't fit ,try using small vise grips. If nipple breaks off, then removal can get tricky as you will have to carefully drill remaining nipple out being careful not to drill into bbl threads. The soaking in the ATF will help with loosening the nipple so if the nipple wrench doesn't work, you may try more soaking before attempting the vise grips.

After bbl. cleaning, inspection and nipple replacement, you determine you want to give the old bbl. a try, run some TC #13 bore cleaner soaked patches through bbl. Run a few dry patches through. Load and shoot.

Your bbl. may now be in rough shape and not ready for competitive shooting but you just won't know its accuracy till you get it cleaned and shoot it.

Also, if you work on this bbl. or get a new one, when you install the nipple, place a very small amount of 'Permatex anti-seize' compound on threads of nipple insuring not to get any in or around nipple flash-hole. This makes for future removal when repeating cleaning easier.

February 1, 2012, 10:19 AM
its stuck... I pulled it very hard and it came out but I can feel little grits of metal or something on the patch..
If you go back and read my previous reply, you will notice that I listed the use of a lubricated patch. This is preferred, over a dry patch as dry patches in unknown bores, makes for stuck ram-rods. ... ;)

Will be back for more but you do have a problem barrel and again, to confirm, you do have a Pre-Stamped TC Hawken model. ... ;)

Be Safe !!!

February 1, 2012, 12:52 PM
The only thing for it is to pour boiling water in that barrel and work on it with a bristle brush and patches until it comes clean.

Then buy yourself a tiny AAA flashlight and drop it down the barrel and see how it looks.

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter how it looks, what matters is how it shoots. :)


February 1, 2012, 01:20 PM
Thanks for the responses.

Shortwave, this is probably a dumb question but it will help me understand what I need to do... What does bbl mean? Also, I am definitely going to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection. Thanks for the tips. Im not looking to get into competition, just looking to try punching some paper at the range for some old shooting feel. I just want to make sure it doesnt blow up!

Pahoo, the patch was sprayed with breakfree and kept coming out black/brown but started getting cleaner. It got stuck twice and thats where I pulled the junk out of it. Definitely looks like a prestamped hawken.. Any idea on age?

maillemaker, you are absolutely right and the idea about the flashlight is genius! I will try the various methods you guys have given me for cleaning. Thanks a million!

Oh hey, basspro only had metric nipples... Im assuming this gun uses standards?

February 1, 2012, 01:23 PM
posted by Pahoo:

If you go back and read my previous reply, you will notice that I listed the use of a lubricated patch. This is preferred, over a dry patch as dry patches in unknown bores, makes for stuck ram-rods...;)

^^^This is experience talking.^^^

You don't want to run a dry patch down a bore unless you know the bore is cleaned.

Also, old Indian trick... if you ever run a dry patch and it sticks your ram-rod, pour #13 solvent down bore and let patch soak up solution. Will make things a little less sticky and easier to remove.

February 1, 2012, 01:51 PM
Okay guys here's a big question I have. If I can get the bore fairly clear and cleaned, my nipple replaced or cleaned out, and am wanting to try shooting it.

Do you guys suggest going off of the current tc hawken manual for load data to at least attempt to shoot this thing? Do you suggest a light load or anything like that? The manual calls for the following as the lightest load.. 50grains ffg to obtain 1357 fps and 716 ft lbs using a .490 diameter, 175 grain lead ball (are they all pretty standard in weight?) I have some lead balls but I dont know the weight but I know they are for the gun... Should I weigh them or does the size kind of dictate the weight?

FYI it says 110 grains is the max.


February 1, 2012, 02:18 PM
My apologies for not posting this sooner but was trying to address your initial questions. Basically, you have layers of neglect inside that bore and may take some time to get down to the actual bore. I have seen some real wrecks that surprisingly came back, in pretty good shape. Then there are some that are long gone. ..... :mad:
On and unknown barrel such as yours, this is how I address the fix:
1) Remove the barrel, plug the nipple vent and mount in a vertical position with the breech end in a Large jar. I do this in my outside shop bench.
2) Full the bore with mineral spirits to the muzzle and I never use water. You can allso use Ballistol ... ;)
3) Plug the muzzle end with a rubber stopper and let it site for a minimum of three (3) days, at week would be better.
4) At the end of the soak, I remove the muzzle plug and start working a bronze brush, starting at the muzzle and using short strokes, slowly advance the brush down the muzzle. I use one of my poly range-rods.
Feel the brush/Rod as it will indicate the rough areas along the way.
Repeat this process two or three times or whatever it take as long as you can feel that you are making progress.
5) Remove the barrel from it temp. mount and pour out your dirty mineral spirits.
6) Remount and start swabbing with a swab or clean patches...
7) Now you are ready for a good inspection. I have a number of bore lights that I can drop down, to the breech end a look down the bore. At this time, you want to look for pitting. .....:eek:
A good source of bore lights, are Bobber lights that you can buy for about $3.00 in the fishing section of Walmart.
8) From there, you can best determine what your next step will be. I have some slightly pitted bores but but your performance will hurt. ... ;)

Be Safe !!!

February 1, 2012, 02:20 PM
I do want to order a new nipple. Is there a certain part number I need or how will I know im buying the right stuff.

Will something like this work?


February 1, 2012, 02:22 PM
Makes sense, Pahoo. Thankyou for the insight. Maybe I was jumping the gun (lol) Definitely going to try and get my hands dirty tonight with this thing. Plese let me know about what nipples I need. Thanks

February 1, 2012, 02:44 PM
You don't have to get these from TC but here is there link and Specs. You can buy these from just about any place, This is still current material. If you lived in town, I'd gladly give you one of mine. ..... ;)


Be Safe !!!

February 1, 2012, 02:56 PM
Also, old Indian trick... if you ever run a dry patch and it sticks your ram-rod, pour #13 solvent down bore and let patch soak up solution. Will make things a little less sticky and easier to remove.
Excellent point and that is exactly what we did on one stuck rod. You think that pulling a ball is bad, a stuck rod will make that look easy. When you work up your supplies, make sure you include some good old #13, BoreShine or equal. ..... ;)

Be Safe !!!

February 1, 2012, 06:54 PM
I do want to order a new nipple

Notice the thread size specs, ( 1/4" x 28) on the nipple. After you remove the old nipple, you can get a 1/4" x 28 tap and clean the threads up in the breach plug where the nipple threads. Careful not to cross-thread. ;)

February 1, 2012, 11:28 PM
You guys have been a great resource. Thankyou so much for responses.

So I got some good news! I think that issue I was having with a blockage in my barrel has subsided.. Maybe I pulled out whatever was in it but the rod goes in fine now AND I am now getting air coming from the nipple. (I'm getting the whoosh sound now!) I also used a bore light and it seems pretty clear aside from some slight speckles of rust here and there. Definite step in the right direction!

February 3, 2012, 02:45 PM
Just wanted to give an update.. Soaked barrel in breakfree for 2 days and have gotten ALOT of the corrosion out of the barrel. No more stuck rods! I have a new nipple on order but the existing nipple was removed and cleaned, along with the spot under then nipple. Bore is quite a bit cleaner and I can hear a whoosh of air every time I push the rod down it. Whats next? Give it a shot?!

February 3, 2012, 07:36 PM
Have you used a light to see what the inside of the bore looks like?

What ramrod do you intend on using?

A wise investment would be to purchase a nice 'range-rod'. Someone had earlier posted of using a fiberglass rod. Don't think I'd use fiberglass as it's hard on the lands of the riflings. A regular range-rod for bp guns are coated as to not wear on the bore.

I would not use the original wooden rod to load any more then I had to and when I did use it, grip the rod close to the bbl.(barrel) outlet and push load in a little at a time. The old wooden rods are known to break and it's easy to run the wood through your hand, making for a less than enjoyable outing.:(

Also, at this point, you know there's no charge in the bore right!

Take your ramrod and put it in the bbl.(barrel). Mark the end of the ramrod right where it exits bore. I use a knife and score around the ramrod. For future use, you can always know if there's a charge or not by this mark.

You also need to purchase a nipple pick to clean out the hole in the nipple. I've found that torch tip cleaners you can buy at most Lowes, Menards store work well or you can get a regular nipple pick from your LGS.

February 3, 2012, 07:52 PM
Have you used a light to see what the inside of the bore looks like? Yes I have used a bore light and I dropped some of those walmart fishing bobber lights in to check it. It looks clean and the rod and cleaning pad pass through without issue now

What ramrod do you intend on using? I only have the original wood one but can definitely get another one.

Also, at this point, you know there's no charge in the bore right! Yes there is no charge, the rod drops all the way in (as specified in the owners manual, and ive put boiling water in the barrel, as well as soaked it with break free, as well as ran cleaning patches through until it came out clean.)

I am definitely going to mark the rod for both loaded and clean.

I will purchase a nipple pick. For now its been flushed with break free and I used a small pipe cleaner to get as much of the crap out as I could.

February 3, 2012, 08:20 PM
Don't think I'd use fiberglass as it's hard on the lands of the riflings.

Fiberglass is harder than steel these days?:confused: I guess after 30 some odd years my Enfield is a smooth bore from using nothing but a STEEL ramrod.

February 3, 2012, 08:34 PM
Fiberglas® isn't harder than steel, but it is abrasive. It can damage the lands, especially since they're more flexible than steel and can rub against the bore more easily.

February 3, 2012, 08:47 PM
Very true mykeal ...

...and that's why decent fiberglass rods are polymer coated.

Raw fiberglass rods should only be used with a bore guide.

February 3, 2012, 08:49 PM
Wood ramrods can embed dirt and grit and it works like a lapping compound wearing the bore right at the most critical point for accuracy, the muzzle.
That's why you see nearly all serious target shooters load their muzzleloaders with a stainless steel rod equipped with a bore guide to keep the ramrod from rubbing on the muzzle.

Lubed or dry patches, it's your choice. A lot of target shooters use dry patches, but they also clean the bore between shots instead of depending on a lubed patch to keep the bore clean.
Lube can be anything from bear grease to spit. It will take trial and error to find the most accurate load. Extremely tight ball/patch combos aren't always more accurate than the looser and easier to load combos, however, if you can start it with your thumb, it's probably too loose.

After shooting it, look for your used patches, usually about 15-20 ft in front of the gun, and study them, looking for holes burned in them or tears. I have a TC Patriot muzzle loading pistol that's very accurate but if I try to shoot .440 or .445 roundballs out of it, it burns holes in the patches. If I load super tight .451 balls, everything is okay. These balls are actually bigger than the bore and it takes a mallet and a short starter to get the ball and patch started, once started, I can easily ram the ball down to the powder with a short steel pistol cleaning rod. I think TC just cut really deep grooves in this gun's barrel and it needs a ball that tight in order to seal the bore. Blowby is what blows holes in patches.

February 3, 2012, 11:50 PM
Hey guys, I just wanted to take a second to thank all of you guys for your help. You turned a guy whos never even touched a muzzleloader into someone you was able to diagnose, fix, and bring a life back to a hawken that hasnt been shot or cleaned in who knows how long. After using elbow grease, multiple solvents and liquids that you guys suggested, having a few long nights, a bathroom that smells of breakfree, a wife that made me clean said bathroom, and some instilled confidence of knowing what parts to clean and what to look for (again, thanks to you guys), I felt as if it was time to hit the range. Using some supplies that my buddy had for his gun (which are the supplies I will be buying, thanks to shortwave for being kind enough to PM me a list!) and buying some powder (my gun shop only had 777), I set up at my gun club and began using the loading procedure that you guys taught me. I decided to start with a 50 grain load of 777 (which equates little more than 55g black powder), made sure to check my ramrod length before a charge and after a full charge, set my cci cap, and BOOM! She fired like a beauty! I even hit the target (granted it was only like 50 feet but hey!) I fired her about 5 more times moving up to an 80g charge. I can honestly say that was alot of fun and after I get done typing this post, I will be ordering some balls, a new rod, patches, etc! (I better get enough to give some to my buddy since I mooched his stuff!) I really wanted to give you guys an update on the status of this project but more importantly, take a second to thank all of you guys for your help. Its really amazing what i've learned in a few days. Whats even more amazing is that you guys, who are not paid or forced to help were willing to take time out of your busy lives to respond and help some guy youve never met, and probably never will meet. If any of you are ever in the high desert area of southern california, I owe you a beer! (After we hit the range, of course!)

Thanks a million,

p.s. Dont think you've gotten rid of me yet, i'll be on these forums now that you guys have gotten me addicted to muzzleloading! (I cant say my wife will like you though!)

February 4, 2012, 12:28 AM
So glad things went well for you and you had a good time.

Have fun and enjoy!

February 4, 2012, 09:54 AM
Glad it worked out for you.

If you live reasonably close to Phoenix, AZ, you might want to schedule time to check out the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association's Western Nationals held on Feb 29 through March 5 this year.

You'll see a lot of stuff that you can't buy at Cabelas or Bass Pro in trader row.

http://www.nmlra.org/shootsDetails.asp?cat=NMLRA Sponsored&ID=188

February 4, 2012, 10:24 AM
I'm glad the ole rifle came back to life for ya!! The Muzzleloading bug has a MEAN sting don't it???? I've been shooting for as long as I can remember but now that I've got into this, I rarely shoot the cartridge guns, only to practice with my CCW pistol.

February 4, 2012, 02:34 PM
Yeah its certainly a mean sting! It's a ton of fun. I'm hoping to get back to the range ASAP!

got ammo?
February 10, 2012, 12:44 AM
I hear ya, Garyson
I was given an inline and a Kentucky pistol recently, and wasn't quite sure if I could operate them or even wanted them. but these guys here on this forum gave me the best advice on how to use them, and I am now "ADDICTED" as Deerslayer put it.