Originally Posted by Buffalochip
The aluminum rod should be fine, but all rods should be used carefully, particularly when starting them down the barrel. I have used a steel rod in my Thompson Center Hawken for 25 years, shot hundreds of loose powder loads through it, and I can still hit a beer can at 100yds with open sights. Loose powder is fine and has been for centuries--just measure it carefully, seat the bullet with consistent force, and keep the barrel reasonably clean. It is unlikely that any minute variations in velocity will affect accuracy at practical distances. Besides, BP is cheaper than pellets and will allow you to practice moreiif your budget is tight. Soap and hot water are fine, but use a brush when it really needs a good cleaning or before putting it away for an extended period--it won't hurt it. Your friend seems a bit inexperienced.
I'm kind of new to the whole black powder thing, so this may sound dumb, but isn't it a bad idea to use a steel ram rod on a steel barrel around black powder? I always assumed that non ferrous metals were used on the rods to prevent spark, not because they were softer.