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Old July 12, 2012, 01:37 PM   #1
Stressfire
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Necessity of tumbling?

One more thread from a newbie - I'm sure it won't be the last

As I have stated in a couple other posts, one of the manuals I am currently reading is the 1986 Reloaders Bible.

In it, it is suggested that a tumbler is optional but a good method for cleaning used brass in preparation for reloading is to boil it in a solution of water and dishsoap, then rinse and allow to dry.

Now, I know brass won't rust, but is this feasible? Or even a good idea?
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Old July 12, 2012, 02:01 PM   #2
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I reloaded for almost two decades without owning a tumbler. I cleaned my brass by dropping them in a milk jug with soap and water, shaking them for several minutes, then putting them in the sun to dry. Worked okay, the brass was clean, if not polished.

Nowadays I simply drop them in the tumbler after decapping (there is more than one school of thought on this), but I use walnut blast media and I've never found it to clog flash holes or clog .223 brass. And, it seems to clean the primer pockets. It's a lot easier than waiting for the brass to dry. I don't use polish, I simply want my brass clean.

However, when I'm shooting black powder cartridges, I still take a milk jug to the range with me. A little water, a little Dawn liquid, and I drop the fouled brass into the jug after firing. It seems to dissolve the BP fouling.
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Old July 12, 2012, 03:16 PM   #3
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Tumbler and, if you're really lazy, a separator:
  1. Takes longer sometimes, see item #3.
  2. Less messy.
  3. Cleaner brass... dependent on how long you run it and what chemicals, if any, you use... "just clean" to a high polish.
  4. More $ for tumbler and separator.
  5. The only way to go if you want really clean cases.
Hot soap and water:
  1. Cheap
  2. Easy
  3. Not as clean or shiny... usually just good enough.
  4. Perhaps better with straight wall cases than bottleneck cases.
  5. Some folks use a separator (salad shooter ) to remove most of the water... really.

Like PawPaw's story... When I first got into reloading in the late 60s, no one had a tumbler. Now, considering how inexpensive they are, most any serious re-loader has one as a standard piece of equipment.

Cheers,
C
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Old July 12, 2012, 03:25 PM   #4
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Cool, well, I do plan to get the full boat of equipment, but for now i will take all the "home remedies" I can get.

Just sounded a little strange - I'm used to having to but this or that chemical for cleaning the actual guns, soap and water for the case just sounded weird.

So for effectiveness, does one actually boil the water or is hot tap water fine? Think my wife would kill me if I used one of her Teflon pans...good thing she's not home tonight I kid, I kid, will probably stop by Goodwill and pick up a cheap steel pan
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Old July 12, 2012, 03:40 PM   #5
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Your going to get a lot of responses on this thread.

If you casings are dirty, you can scratch your dies or embed carbon/grit into the steel, even the carbide ones. Then you will end up with all cases with the same marks or scratches.

So we most all clean to some degree. Washing can do a lot. Tumbling in a 'rock tumblers' with various media works. Shaking in one of the vibrating tubs with corn cob or walnut hulls does a good job.
The simple process of wiping down the case with a rag does well.

I have found that for straight walled cases, little cleaning is needed more than removing grit from the outer surface.

However, I have also found that bottle necked cases will build up a crust of carbon on the inner surface. I know that I don't need to but I always size, punch the old primer and clean. The sizing operation breaks up some of the carbon coating and cleaning after sizing cleans it out along with cleaning the primer pocket. OK, first cleaning with corn cob in a shaker, size/deprime, tumble with 'Simply Green' and steel pins in water to remove lub from the outside and carbon from the inside and then trim/chamfer. Now I can feed my brass to my progressive loader. I always trim to length before every loading but that is another subject and I know is not always necessary.

So, is it necessary to tumble? No. Do what works best for you.

Be safe,

OSOK
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Old July 12, 2012, 04:23 PM   #6
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I tumble in crushed walnut media for a hour or so before I resize, then another quick tumble after. I don't care about a high shine, but just basically clean. I've read a lot of people swear by lemi shine to clean there brass in as apposed to tumbling, I've not tried it myself.
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Old July 12, 2012, 04:59 PM   #7
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I think it depends on what brass you are reloading, and how dirty it gets.

When loading for revovlers and bolt action rifles, my brass never touched the ground at the range. And, I never felt an NEED to tumble it to make clean it enough or shiny.

Then I started shooting centerfire auto-loaders that spit my brass into the dirt or bounced it off of concrete pads at high velocity. And, I started finding other people's brass that was clogged with dirt. Washing that stuff often left detectable grit on the brass that had been slightly embedded by the velocity of impact or being stepped on by myself or others before I picked it up.

I do not want grit in my dies or guns. So, I tried washing, then tumbling in walnut, but still found that I needed to do careful inspection for embedded grit. That was time consuming. So, eventually I went to wet tumbling with stainless steel pins. That takes the grit off for sure, so that I don't need to feel each piece of brass for grit. It is also very easy to do, but a tad pricey to start.

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Old July 12, 2012, 06:48 PM   #8
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I clean in a tumbler.
I don't do it to get that new jewelry look. But, I want it clean enough to allow careful inspection. I'm a stickler on culling defective brass. I inspect at every stage of reloading. That is why you will never see me using a progressive press.
But....yes, I have to admit, there is a feel good effect to seeing nice looking ammo when you have finished a batch.
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Old July 12, 2012, 07:01 PM   #9
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Clean is what is important. How you get there is your choice.

I find a tumbler a very economical solution to:
- removing carbon, dirt, grit and whatever from fired brass, even if it never touches the ground
- removing sizing lube from cases that have to be lubed for sizing
- making my brass shine (what can I say, I like brass that shines better than new )

Yes, I reloaded for several decades before tumblers were available, but that doesn't mean I have to sacrifice now...
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Old July 12, 2012, 09:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Stressfire
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Join Date: June 16, 2011
Location: Ohio
Posts: 863 Necessity of tumbling?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
One more thread from a newbie - I'm sure it won't be the last

As I have stated in a couple other posts, one of the manuals I am currently reading is the 1986 Reloaders Bible.

In it, it is suggested that a tumbler is optional but a good method for cleaning used brass in preparation for reloading is to boil it in a solution of water and dishsoap, then rinse and allow to dry.

Now, I know brass won't rust, but is this feasible? Or even a good idea?
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Boil? Overkill. Tumble? Overkill. Wash? Overkill. But nice to do.

For decades I just wiped my brass clean with a soft cloth.

I have a tumbler now and my brass is prettier but shoots just the same.

Some people wash their brass in a bucket with soap and water, just sloshing it around. Some then dry it in a warm oven (the hot water helps evaporation, which is why boiling water might be preferred) or in the airstream of a fan. It will take a while to get the insides of the cases dry, but that is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

Tumbler is easier than all that sloshing and drying.

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Old July 13, 2012, 10:18 AM   #11
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Well, washing will have to suffice for now - out of disposable income for the moment

Did the soap boil last night - still quite a bit of crud left inside the cases which I wiped out with Q-tips, boy did my hand ache after that fun

It's done and clean now, but did I keep it on the stove long enough? Is the water supposed to boil off?
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Old July 13, 2012, 11:05 AM   #12
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Quote:
When loading for revolvers and bolt action rifles, my brass never touched the ground at the range. And, I never felt an NEED to tumble it to make clean it enough or shiny.
Me too. I just do a quick wipe with a paper towel before resizing. After several cycles of this, I'll dump into the tumbler.

Note that if shooting BP, you'll need to wash every time. BTW, I normally just use hot tap water and some soap to clean 'em up. Not boiling water.

Don't worry about the 'inside' of the case. Just dry them and use 'em.

Note, if you have a decapping die to just knock out the primers, you should do that before you clean them. Otherwise, as soon as out side of case is dry, resize them and get the 'wet' spent primers out. They tend to hold water .
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Old July 13, 2012, 11:45 AM   #13
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IF tumbling cases was "necessary" we couldn't have reloaded before the first tumblers; we did. There are no specific ways to clean cases, never was. But clean is a lot different from the glittery polish many today seem to equal with clean.

Clean cases are the goal. It matters not if the cases are briefly tumbled or simply wiping the exterior down.

Obviously removing any dirt, gravel, spiders or such from inside demands a bit more effort but getting the insides surgically clean is meaningless. Few cases will require boiling in lye on the night of a full moon, etc, to be made clean.
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Old July 13, 2012, 12:00 PM   #14
Mike38
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I’ve been reloading for around 15 years now. Have never, and probably never will own a tumbler. The way I look at it, a hole in the X-ring or a downed animal doesn’t care how nice and shiny the brass was.
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Old July 13, 2012, 12:17 PM   #15
Stressfire
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rclark
Don't worry about the 'inside' of the case. Just dry them and use 'em.
Now you tell me....
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Old July 13, 2012, 04:44 PM   #16
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I used a 4" chunk of wooden dowel that fit the case and chucked it up into a cordless drill and clean the spinning case with 0000 steel wool. I did that for years.
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Old July 13, 2012, 08:33 PM   #17
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sf, 7/14/12

The age old tumbling question with many opposing answers, all of them right for that particular person.

I've reloaded 90,000 rounds in the last seven years including pistol (9mm. 45acp, 38 sp, 357mag, 44sp) and rifle (270win, 30-06, 30-30) and used a tumbler just once in the first 80,000 rounds. It was too loud and didn't improve either the shooting or reloading of the cartridge.

So my system was to take each case, inspect the base, rim, body, mouth and interior before wiping it down with a paper towel. It takes between 6 and 7 seconds per case. This way I can clean and remove any damaged cases (remember tumbling does not get you out of inspecting each and every case for defects). The cases were clean but not shiny. I never scratched any of my dies, either carbide or non-carbide dies.

My only problem was that I would get some high-primers from the primer pocket residue after a number of reloadings. I finally bit the bullet and bought stainless-steel-pins and a Thumbler's rotary tumbler from Buffalo Arms and tumble the cases after I deprime them. Now the primer pockets, interior and exterior of the cases look all shiny and new. I figured out the time element for the SS-pin tumbling and my handling of each case takes about three times as long per cartridge (de-priming, tumbling, case inspection and drying). So while I get a better result their is a major labor component involved now.

So take a look at all the poster's replies above and figure out a system that works for you. Good luck.

best wishes- oldandslow
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