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Old August 21, 2012, 04:25 AM   #1
Doc Hoy
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Cleaning Brass ... New guy


I got hold of a rock tumbler from Horrible Freight (Vibrator/Tumbler 67617 - 54.99 minus 20% coupon) and some Lizard Litter (walnut shell fine grind - grains about twice the size of salt - 12.99 for a pickup load) from Petsmart.

I tumbled the cases for about an hour and a half. I did not add anything else to the mix (Well, I put the cases in. ;o) )

They came out nice and shiney.


There is a residue in the primer hole of all of the cases.

I shot two different powders in these cases. One was Smokeless (100 rnds)and the other was 777 (100 rnds).

There does not seem to be any difference in the residue and so as logic would support, I am assuming that the offending residue is from the primer itself rather than which type of powder I used.

I put the rounds into soap water immediately following discharge (Within seconds of shooting). I washed and dried them as soon as I got home.

But then I waited a week to deprime and tumble the cases.

Did I wait too long permitting the residue to harden up in the primer hole?

Should I have:

1. Left the cases in soap water until right before I tumbled them?

2. Tumbled the cases for a longer period of time?

3. Taken a chill pill and just accepted the residue as a normal part of the process which won't have an effect on the usability of the cases?

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Last edited by Doc Hoy; August 21, 2012 at 04:36 AM.
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Old August 21, 2012, 06:17 AM   #2
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I vote #3. Residue in primer pocket is normal. You can do one of 3 things

1- get a primer pocket cleaner
2- get a primer pocket reamer
3- leave it alone and shoot.

I use #2 on mine,but im anal for cleaning.
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Old August 21, 2012, 06:47 AM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response.

I am taking your advice (along with the chill pill) for this next round of 200.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. Thomas Jefferson
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Old August 21, 2012, 08:30 AM   #4
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I like to deprime before I tumble. Cleans the primer pocket as well as the rest of the case.

If I miss a case or two and deprime after tumbling, I can feel the difference when I prime.
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Old August 21, 2012, 08:40 AM   #5
Doc Hoy
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I may not have been clear in my opening description but I deprimed and then tumbled.

The tumbling removed a good bit of the crud but some remains.

I have now reprimed the brass and was able to do so without any obvious problems.

Haven't finished the rounds so I don't know about shooting.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. Thomas Jefferson
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Old August 21, 2012, 08:46 AM   #6
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I'm not sure about the name of the tool, but it is a little wire brush that you rotate to clean out the primer pocket.

You can buy it with a screwdriver like handle and do it by hand. It works fine, but it gets old quickly.

You can put the brush in an electric drill. That works fine too. When I did it that way, I locked the trigger on the drill at low speed and put the drill in a vice I have on my workbench.

RCBS makes a piece of equipment that will take four rotating tools. Examples are a bevel and champfer that take the burr off of trimmed cases, something that takes the crimp off of primers pockets where the primers were crimped in and the aforementioned primer pocket cleaning brush.

I've tried cleaning and not cleaning the primer pockets and never noticed any difference in whether the round fired or not. Howerver, cleaning them scratches my OCD itch so I do.
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Old August 21, 2012, 09:03 AM   #7
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Lee makes a primer pocket cleaner that's a little scraper but I rarely clean primer pockets.
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Old August 21, 2012, 09:56 AM   #8
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I find that tumbling first then depriming is best for me.
I don't like running my cases through my dies until they are clean. I scratched up a sizing die rally bad and would rather not repeat that.

I don't like picking debris out of flash holes either. To me it's a real pain.

I did buy the RCBS case prep station and it's very easy to clean up pockets with it. It's not cheap and not for everyone but I like it.

I just started blackpowder cartridge loading and so far, depriming with a Lee hand press and a universal deprimmer die and dropping them into a jug of soapy water is working fine. I rinse them when I get home, or back to the RV, then let them dry. Maybe a little wiping off with a rag and I'm ready to reload. I don't have a need for bright shiny blackpowder cases if it means tumbling with empty primer pockets.

Like I said, I'm just starting BP cartridges so I'm sure I have room to learn.
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Old August 21, 2012, 11:00 AM   #9
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I have primer pocket brushes. I get them out of my reloading case once in a while to figure out what they are. Once I get to the "Oh Yeah..." stage, they go right back into their cubby hole.
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Old August 21, 2012, 11:12 AM   #10
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I don't remove the spent primer when I tumble the brass, for my BP brass I drop it in soapy water asap have an old plastic nut jar, seals tight and on the ride home it gets shaken pretty good.
My BP shooting friends tell me for that brass I should use ceramic media to get it super clean.
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Old August 22, 2012, 07:42 AM   #11
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Folks in the BPCR world either use angle cut ceramic, or the newest thing, stainless steel rods in their tumblers. The angle cut allows them to get into the corners of the primer pocket. The stainless steel pins are small enough to go through the primer hole and also get into the corners. Roundish grains can't get into a corner.

I use a Thumbler's Tumbler with ceramic. Soon I will be shifting to the stainless as I load some cartridges that my ceramic media gets jammed up in.

Brass that has been tumbled in ceramic media comes out looking better than new.
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Old August 22, 2012, 08:30 AM   #12
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Don't know about how many of you do this, but I'll bet more than one or two. Every year around Christmas, my family will crack and eat close to 50 lbs of various kinds of nuts. Everything from English Walnuts, Almonds, Pecans, ect.
I started keeping the shells instead of throwing them away, and it lets me replace my tumbler media, several times a year for free. Just be sure to throw away partially filled shells and use only empty shells and don't let any of the nut itself get in there. The nut will turn to oil and wind up on your cases.

Not sure how much media costs, as I have never bought any, but every dollar counts when you like to shoot a lot.

My brass probably isn't as clean as some of the ceramics or what not could get them, but they look as good as factory when I re-load them.
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Old August 22, 2012, 10:19 AM   #13
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To answer your question Mr. Hoy. Hawg Haggen was the first to be spot on with the correct information you require. I would like to add something too it if you don't mind Sir. Those primer pocket cleaner tools are commonly found in two sizes. You need the LARGE one. Being you like those Lee products they make a >Jim Dandy do it all scraper tool.< Which will clean Large and those Small primer pockets. And accomplished both tasks with the same tool. It's a "Handy Dandy" tool to have on your bench.
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Old August 22, 2012, 10:23 AM   #14
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I appreciate all this info....


It has been very helpful. I have learned that as is true in many areas, there is some latitude in the decisions we make about how we do business.

Certainly there are some hard and fast rules but I am more confident in moving forward in the areas that are not cut and dried.

I am still looking for more .45 long colt brass at a good price.

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Old August 23, 2012, 04:37 PM   #15
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I use Stainless Steel pin media in a 15 lb. Thumblers Tumbler that I used to use for rock polishing, and have for over 6 mos now...and besides the rare pin that gets wedged in a flash hole, it has worked brilliantly (pun intended)!

I've learned a bit during that time.
The detergent you use has different results, depending on which you use.
I used Dawn liquid (as the ss media folks recommend) when I had it, which works well...partly because it contains a bit of ammonia, which I found on a deep msds search. Ammonia is not good for repeated use on brass.
I am not a chemist, but an avid reloader with a curious mind, and frequent MSDS searcher on-line.

I had some Very disappointed batches using Oxy clean liquid detergent, because it oxidized my brass right in the tumbler...and they came out very dull and ugly...probably "clean", but looked worse than when they went it.

Even the NuFinish people rave about working so well in dry vibrating media has a trace of ammonia in it.

I don't use Lemi Shine, as they suggest either, because the citric acid affects zinc in brass and removes a tiny bit of the metal.

So, having said all that...what do I use?
1 tablespoon of Simple Green, and 2 teaspoons of liquid jewelers rough buffing compound....period, nothing else.
My brass comes out brilliantly shiny.

I hope this helps someone.
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Last edited by daddySEAL; August 24, 2012 at 08:39 AM.
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Old August 23, 2012, 05:36 PM   #16
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I have the Lee primer pocket cleaner. It works if I use it though I do not most times. I also have the Lyman case prep tool kit or what ever it is called. I bought it from Cabella's for removing primer pocket crimps from .223 Rem brass. I use the small cleaner to check for pocket clearance before reaming primer pockets. If the cleaner will go in and twist I have no need to ream the pocket, a primer will seat. If it does not go in then I know the pocket is crimped.

Oh and using dry media in a vibratory cleaner will not clean primer pockets, or the insides of the cases, regardless of what you wish to add that I know of.

Doc I own the HF vibratory cleaner. I reccomend that you remove the nut holding the bowl, and add a lock washer, and lock nut. Make sure they are tight. It has so much torque it will strip the threads if you do not. Mine did. I have seen the reports of several other people that have had the same problem.

Due to bad dust allergies I started using a Sonic Cleaner to clean range pick up rifle brass. I just have to wait for it to dry before loading. I do still use the vibratory for super cruddy stuff from the buckets though I use it outside, and wear a dust mask to keep from agrivating my sinuses.
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Old August 23, 2012, 05:59 PM   #17
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Almost all BPCR shooters decap prior to emerging in whatever liquid being used.
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Old August 25, 2012, 10:24 AM   #18
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I never clean my 38's or 45 Colt's. As long as the primer fits and the hole isn't blocked what's the point? It just adds another step.
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Old September 2, 2012, 10:28 PM   #19
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Primer pocket cleaner

RCBS makes those little wire brushes that thread into the same handle as the case mouth brush. After tumbling and then sizing and depriming cases, that little brush gets twirled in the primer pocket. A very minute amount of crap comes out, but I can do about 10 cases per minute, and don't get all anal about how clean the pockets are.

I know some hand loaders that have done thousands of rounds that never ever clean primer pockets or worry about flash holes. And there is this other guy that reams the flash hole on all his brass. Whatever. Personal preference.
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