ELKVIEW, W.Va. -- For many sportsmen, shooting a muzzleloader is a love-hate affair. They love to shoot it, but they hate to clean it.
Not Glenn Jones.
When Jones shoots one of his muzzleloaders, he knows he'll have it perfectly clean and ready to put away within 10 minutes. That's a far cry from the 45 minutes it took him when he first took up black-powder shooting.
"I've been hunting with muzzleloaders for about 35 years," said Jones, president of the West Virginia Hunter Education Association. "For the first five years, I cleaned my gun the way everyone else did - using hot, soapy water and a lot of elbow grease. It was no fun and it took a lot of time."
Then Jones bought a new muzzleloader - one that included instructions for treating the barrel so it became much, much easier to clean.
"There was a little fact card that came with the gun, and it described how to 'season' the barrel, just like a cook would season a skillet," he said. "I followed the directions and seasoned the barrel of that rifle. Just like that, muzzleloader cleaning became a breeze."
He's used the same technique and materials to season dozens of barrels since then. He even recommends the technique to students in his hunter-education classes.
"A bunch of people in my classes have tried it, and they've come up to me later to tell me that it works. More important, I've had people who stopped shooting their muzzleloaders because of the cleaning hassle come up later and tell me that after they seasoned their barrels they'd gone back to shooting."
Cleaning a muzzleloader is important because black powder residue is extremely corrosive. Barrels that aren't cleaned promptly can rust badly within a day or two.
Jones said there are two different procedures for seasoning barrels - one for brand-new guns and one for guns that have already been shot.
"If a gun has already been shot, the barrel has to be stripped all the way down to the bare metal," he explained. "The best way to strip it is with a good-quality chemical bore cleaner. Once the barrel is clean, the procedure the rest of the way is the same."
The materials Jones uses to season a barrel are simple: A teakettle, a bathroom hand towel, an oven mitt, a funnel that will fit into the muzzle end of the gun barrel, a .410-bore shotgun cleaning swab threaded to fit the ramrod, and a tube of any good-quality, all-natural "bore butter."
"The bore butter needs to be all natural, no chemicals," Jones cautioned.
The seasoning procedure is simple. In fact, Jones said it takes longer to describe than it actually takes to perform.
"Basically, what you do is to heat the barrel to open the pores in the steel, and then you fill those pores up with lubricant," he said.
First, Jones detaches the barrel from the gunstock and removes its percussion-cap nipple. He fills the teakettle with water and puts it on the stove to heat up.