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Old January 30, 2013, 07:19 PM   #1
coonie65
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Tumbler Alternative

I am a new reloader and was asking is there an alternative to tumblering your cases. Thanks Coonie
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Old January 30, 2013, 07:36 PM   #2
jcwit
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There is no REAL reason to tumble your cases other than wanting shinny cases.

You can clean the cases with nothing more than soap and water, make sure they are dry then reload them.

With that said I do tumble my cases buts that just my prerogative.
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Old January 30, 2013, 07:44 PM   #3
NWPilgrim
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Sure:

1. Don't tumble. Cases are generally fine to reload as is, unless they dropped in the mud. I am fairly meticulous in case cleaning but it is aesthetics as much as any functional purpose such as protecting dies, totally even primer seating, etc.

2. Ultrasonic cleaner. Generally can only do smaller batches of cases compared to a vibrating tumbler. This gets cases very clean using the cleaning concentrate and water, including inside the case and primer pockets. I cannot get them shiny this way but they are very clean. After sizing and trimming and uniforming I polish in a vibrating tumbler and corncob.

3. Hand wipe with mineral spirits of other cleaner, either just with rag or spin on a drill and use 000 steel wool. OK for small batch but seems tedious for large batches.

4. Instead of a vibrating tumbler and dry media such as corncob or walnut, you can use a rotating tumbler (like the rock polishers) filled with cleaning solution and tiny stainless steel pins. I have not tried this but looks like you can do batches larger than an ultrasonic but smaller than a vibratory, and the cases come out highly clean and polished.
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Old January 30, 2013, 09:18 PM   #4
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I commandeered the Ulrasonic jewelry cleaner someone gave my wife for Christmas. It has been in the box untouched for a month so fair game I say!

It will hold 75-100 9mm de-primed and has a basket they sit in. Couple drops of dish soap and a pinch of Lemi Shine dishwasher stuff in the water and let it run. The timer goes for 8 minutes max so you have to punch the button about 3 times as you go along. Rinse them off good and you can feel all the oil and soot are gone. It takes out all the carbon, they are not real super shiny but they are clean.

I lay them out to dry on newspaper since it is winter and with the furnace cycling does not take long. Summertime, I may set them out in the sun.
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Old January 30, 2013, 10:43 PM   #5
oldandslow
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c65, 1/31/13

As others have mentioned using a tumbler is an optional part of reloading, not a requirement. What is required, however, is some type of cleaning of the cases to be reloaded. My method for my first 80,000 pistol and rifle cases was to inspect and wipe down the exterior with a paper towel. It took six seconds a case. There were no scratched reloading dies, no missed case cracks or other horrors that people say happens if you do not tumble your cases. And if you do eventually get a tumbler remember that manual case inspection is still needed besides the tumbling. Good luck.

best wishes- oldandslow
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Old January 31, 2013, 07:46 AM   #6
Magnum Wheel Man
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I have both ultra sonic ( does not work well enough for me, so I just do small batches of nickel cases in mine ) & I used to rotary tumble with cob media, but have made the switch to the stainless pins, & my cases look like new when I get done now

I have just hand washed, by putting some dish soap in a plastic sandwich box with .25% fill of brass, & letting it soak, & giving them a gentle shake every 10 minutes or so...

BTW... I do have a scratched 357 mag sizing die... best guess, is when I 1st started loading, I didn't want to tumble the nickel cases, as it polishes off the nickel, so I must have run one in with some grit, & scratched the die... so you do want to clean your cases, somehow, to avoid scratching your die... ( when your die gets scratched, they can scratch every case you run through them ) so it's worth cleaning the cases
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Old January 31, 2013, 08:22 AM   #7
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I toss the brass in a stainless pan, add water to cover plus another inch or two, put in a couple of spoonfuls of auto dish detergent, and heat them on the stove while stirring with a stiff bristle brush. When things have come to a boil, I transfer them to a strainer and then back into the pan for a rinse. Then into the oven on 200 for about --- 1/2 to 1 hour.

Takes around an hour, and clean enough for me. I try to not get too anal about the shine. Life's too short. jd
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Old January 31, 2013, 08:50 AM   #8
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If I did that in the sink & stove
wifey would be VERY happy
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Old January 31, 2013, 08:57 AM   #9
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Tumbler Alternative

Clean them or not?

For years and years I wiped my brass with an old chunk of cloth and did fine, or so I thought.

Rattle tubs filled with various grits do an excellent job. Dust, noise, sometimes residue build up and are the down side. The outsides look great, the insides, not so much.

Simple soaps or detergents with water takes off oils and surface gunk, but doesn't clean off the discolorations. But, hay, they are clean.

Rock tumblers with steel pins and all sorts of fluids work quite well. Of all of the thousands of rounds of brass that I have cleaned with steel pins, I have found maybe half a dozen cases with two pins wedged in the flash hole. Cases are clean inside and out, primer pockets included.

Sonics or ultra sonic cleaners. I have a little one, aren't they all little? Unless you spend copious amounts on them? I tried it, it worked well, it too too long to process with the small size and limited number of cases I could do at one time. With a larger (much larger) tank, this would be a good option. For now I use mine to super clean AR bolts and BCGs.

That's about all I can think of at this time.

Things to avoid are any fluids that have detrimental effects on the brass.

What do I use? I rattle tub first, size and deprime, rock tumble with steel pins, then load and wipe em down with a cloth. Humm, maybe I get carried away some times.

Enjoy,

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Old January 31, 2013, 09:02 AM   #10
Magnum Wheel Man
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I do like to have clean primer pockets... especially on my rifles I shoot at paper... may not make a huge difference in my group sizes, as I'm not a "sniper" by any means, but think of myself as just an average shooter, & I do see a little difference in accuracy with a properly cleaned & sized case...

that & I do get irritated to throw away ( or have to polish out ) the scratches on a die... & this was a revolver cartridge, my revolver cases see alot less time in the dirt, than semi auto cases...
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Old January 31, 2013, 09:31 AM   #11
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Magnum Wheel Man,

Back in the day, I did a lot of PPC shooting and a little competition between Departments. The city would pop for the ammo to be shot during the meets but not for practice. I did a lot of practice and reloaded and casting to be able to keep up. I was using a 4 inch S&W Model 14, double action only. Many, many 38s were loaded and fired. This was in the days when carbide sizing dies were more than I could afford. I/we just got used to having scratched on the cases.
For all of the attempts and work to polish out the grit/lump or what ever in the steel sizing die, another 3 or 5 hundred rounds later and another one or more were back. Back then no one tumbled brass to clean it that I knew of. I would wash it down with water and wipe them off some times. (Most of the ranges I used were/are on the river side of the levee, river mud!).
Things have changed, well I have.

Enjoy,

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Old January 31, 2013, 10:08 AM   #12
Magnum Wheel Man
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OLDPAPPS... one of my favorite safe queens is a revolver I inherited from my FIL... he got it, when one of his best friends died... friend was a MN state Highway Patrol, & he was state champ in the pistol competitions for many years ( back when they were using 357's )... I don't know if he had this revolver tuned or not, but it's one of my best shooting... my S&W 610 has one of the best triggers of all my revolvers, & this "old beater" 357 is better... I take her out on sunny days every couple years, just to let see the day light... I'm sure I embarass her with my shooting ( I invision her like a bird dog, that turns & gives you a dirty look when you miss )

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Old January 31, 2013, 10:08 AM   #13
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I tried the citric acid water and dove dish soap mixture and worked well . put the cases in ziplock bag and covered with solution shake bag periodicaly if you like. citric acid was at walmart in canning section.
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Old January 31, 2013, 07:30 PM   #14
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Get a large wide mouthed plastic bottle with a fitting cap. Put the brass in. Add 2 table spoons of vinegar, a shot of dish soap. Fill with water to almost full. Shake for a few minutes. Pour out soapy water. Add clean fresh water. Replace cap. Shake for a bit. Repeat till the water stays clean with no soap in it. Then pour the brass onto a towel. Let it dry for a while. If you put it out in the sun they will dry faster.

I did this for year before I got a tumbler.
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Old January 31, 2013, 08:39 PM   #15
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Quote:
Then pour the brass onto a towel. Let it dry for a while. If you put it out in the sun they will dry faster.
Now that part of the process, I'm kinda picky about. I couldn't just leave them in the sun for awhile and trust that they would be dry inside. A 200 degree oven will vaporize any moisture, and isn't hot enough to harm the metal.

Birchwood Casey does have a liquid case cleaner that works pretty well. It's got some kind of mild acid in it -- phosphoric, acetic, licergic, --- I can't remember. jd
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Old January 31, 2013, 09:57 PM   #16
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I have used a scotch brite pad and then a towel. Now I use Never Dull wadding and a towel. Slow, but it works.
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Old February 1, 2013, 11:39 AM   #17
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dish soap and warm water will clean inside and out, 1/4 cup or so per gallon of concentrated lemon juice will shine them up. In a week or two they dull out from oxidation, that is just what brass does. Mesh laundry bag hung off the dryer door gets em dry in 30 minutes
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Old February 1, 2013, 07:34 PM   #18
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I tried the citric acid water and dove dish soap mixture and worked well . put the cases in ziplock bag and covered with solution shake bag periodicaly if you like. citric acid was at walmart in canning section.
This method works exceedingly well for me. I don't remember wher I got this, but:

The citric acid powder is mixed 2 teaspoons to a quart of water.

The exact concentration does not matter too much. A half-ounce in a gallon of water also works. High concentrations are not needed. Citric acid is the active ingredient in home-made brass cleaners that use lemon juice.

To use, pour enough boiling-hot water into a large glass (or non-metal) bowl to cover your dirty brass. Add the citric acid and give it a quick stir with a non-metal spoon. Then dump in your brass, and stir or swirl the container for a couple seconds. You will see the tarnish and dirt being removed almost instantly. Usually takes only a few seconds to a minute or so, and it's done-- there is no need to soak for a long time.

The brass will look almost like-new, cleaned inside and out. Rinse the brass with clean hot water, and set aside to dry. You can tumble to polish the cases after drying, and brass treated with this solution polishes quickly. To reuse the solution later, just reheat it.

The advantage of citric acid is that it will not penetrate or damage the brass like ammonia-based brass cleaners will, and it works even faster. Also, citric acid passivates the brass, which means that after washing in the hot solution, the brass is actually made more corrosion-resistant. If you store brass for long periods, that's great news.

FWIW!
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Old February 1, 2013, 08:58 PM   #19
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just got my dies and single stage press and was kinda wondering about cleaning the brass as ive seen people say need a tumbler or spinner...after reading this thread was wondering why cant a person just put one round on every tine in the dishwasher hell theres got to be about 80 or so tines in my racks in the dishwasher....if they fall off then when they daughter unloads the dishwasher [ha ha unloads] cant she just throw them on towel for me to mess with in the morning or is this just a bad thought....by the way havent loaded any shells yet still in the reading and being a little scared lol....have shot my whole life but at 44 just gettting in to loading
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Old February 2, 2013, 07:56 PM   #20
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NO AMMONIA!

Whatever you do to clean your brass, remember that ammonia (even fumes) weakens brass. Many polishes contain ammonia, so read the ingredients. They don't always smell like it.

I used to just wipe my brass down with a towel. Now that I have a tumbler, my brass is prettier, but shoots just the same. Anything else I would say would just repeat the excellent advice already given here.

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Old February 3, 2013, 10:57 PM   #21
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I'm running low on the commercial sonic cleaner concentrate so I thought this is a good time to try the citric acid DYI solution. I cannot find it at local pharmacies or canning supplies so broke down and paid the shipping for online. Thanks for mentioning this again as it reminded me at an opportune time.
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Old February 4, 2013, 04:55 AM   #22
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This maybe useful for others. Citric acid is available at brew shops. Lemishine powder, not liquid, is available at walmart.
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Old February 4, 2013, 02:20 PM   #23
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As you can see there are many ways to clean brass. For me the tumbler seems to be the easiest. Having to wash then rinse then dry just seems to take too much time to me. I tumble. It takes me maybe three minutes to load the tumbler and unload it. While it's running I am sitting in front of the press loading ammo. As soon as it comes out of the tumbler it's ready to load.
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Old February 4, 2013, 04:45 PM   #24
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Like others said, shiny brass is 99% cosmetic. I reloaded mebbe 12 years before I got a tumbler. I used a rag lightly dampened with mineral spirits to wipe each case as I inspected it prior to loading. No, my dies didn't wear out, and yes, I could spot any defects in the cases. The first year I reloaded mostly range brass, .38 Spec. and did hundreds this way. When I got up to 200 - 300 rounds per week, I decided to get a tumbler.

BTW, you could easily spot the reloaders at the range; they were shooting dull, brown, ammo and picking up all the emptys when they were done. The only shooters using virgin, shiny cartridges were usually new shooters or police...
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