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     We all have different ways of cleaning our muskets.  This is how the 1863 Confederate Ordnance Manual says to do it.  The first part is done after the musket is completely torn down.  If you see a number in parenthesis (), see the notes at the end of the article.  This first section is for muskets with no bluing, unless otherwise noted.

      Stop the hole in the cone (nipple) with a soft peg of wood, pour water (warm if available) into the muzzle.  Let it stand for a short time, to soften the powder residue.  Then pour it out and repeat until the water comes out clean.  Remove the wood peg from the cone.  Then hold the muzzle downward to drain for a few moments.   


      Screw a wiper (worm) on the end of the ramrod, and put a piece of dry cloth or towel around it.  Wipe the barrel dry, changing the cloth 2 0r 3 times.  You should not put oil in the vent.  This will clog the vent passage and will cause the first cap to misfire.   Using  a slightly oiled cloth on the wiper,  swab the barrel and the face of the breech-screw and immediately insert tompion. 

      To clean the exterior of the barrel,  lay the barrel flat on a board or bench, support it at each end,  and rub it with a leather strap or buff-stick.  After firing,  the barrel should be cleaned as soon as possible.   Rust and dirt are produced by capping off.  The barrel and cone should be carefully cleaned and oiled.

Field Cleaning

    It is not necessary to tear down the musket every time it needs cleaned.  It can be cleaned it the following manner;

    Place a piece of cloth or soft leather over the cone and place the hammer on top of it.  Pour water down the barrel carefully ensuring it doesn't run down the outside of the barrel.  Next,  put a plug of wood into the muzzle and shake the musket up and down.  Continue to do this until the water comes out clear.  Remove the cloth or leather from the cone and tip the barrel toward the ground, as to drain the water.  Then wipe it out as mentioned before.  Wipe down the outside of the barrel and lock with a damp cloth and then with a dry one.  Then wipe it down with a slightly oily rag.

    If the hammer is a little stiff, you must take off the lock and clean and oil the parts.

   The main spring should never be heated. This causes it to lose its elasticity, causing the lock not to work.

   The  tumbler, main spring, swivel, and all of the joints of the lock should be frequently oiled.  This is done after the old dirt and grease is cleaned away.

   Browned (blued) arms are cleaned by rubbing them with a oiled rag, forcibly, until the oil has soaked into the bluing.  This can also be done by using beeswax on a rag or cork.


  • Never drop the ramrod down the bore.  This damages the face of the ramrod and the breech of the gun.  You should slide the rod gently with             support from the thumb and finger

  • Polishing  the face of the barrel can be accomplished by placing cork on the end of the wiper

  • When you order arms, bring the butt gently to the ground.  It will save the mechanisms in the lock from shock.  It will also cause the wood to split (around the lock) and loosen and/or mar the screws in the lock

  • You must take great care to prevent water from getting between the lock, stock,  and barrel.  If water does manage to get in,  take the musket completely apart and clean and oil it.  Reassemble after it is completely dry.

  • Never take a file to the wood or barrel.  No marks, cuts, or scrapes should be seen on any surface. (3)

  • The  only time the cone ia replaced is when it shows a lot of wear or is broken off.  When installing a new one, screw it in with the fingers before using the wrench.         


(1)  A piece of soft wood dipped into flower of emory

(2) A rotten stone moistened in vinegar or water was used at the time.  Then  a hard brush, or a piece of soft wood, cedar, or crocus cloth.

(3) We know that some  men carved their names and other things into the wood.  This was not always lived by.                                                                       


The Ordnance Manual for the Use of Officers of the Confederate States Army 

by Col. J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, C.S.A.  Copyright 1863. Richmond, VA.

Reprint by Morningside House Inc.  Dayton, OH.   Copyright 1995.

      Wipe every part of the lock with a moist rag,  and then with a dry one.  If any rust is seen on the interior parts, put a drop of oil on it and use an object dipped in a mild abrasive.  (1)  Clean out the rust and wipe dry.  Then use a slightly oiled rag to oil the lock.  If the lock has become gummed up with oil and dirt, it can be cleaned by boiling it in soapy water.  This will loosen the thick oily grime.

         To clean the iron or steel mountings (bands) use a fine emery cloth. On brass parts fine steel wool and water. (2)  To remove dirt from the screw holes, screw a piece  of soft wood into them.  Wipe the mountings down with a linen rag that is slightly oiled.



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