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Old April 11, 2013, 03:42 AM   #1
Join Date: April 10, 2013
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Case cleaning overkill?

Hi all,
I'm new to reloading and have a D-650 on backorder. While I'm waiting for it to be sent, I thought about getting the rest of my gear and bench set up for its arrival.
So on to my question. I've read that carbon deposits can really shorten barrel life so I've been thinking about depriming and stainless steel wet tumbling to get the inside and pockets clean + carbon free.

Since my time is kind of precious to me I've thought about the most time efficient way to clean all the carbon, here's what I've come up with.

1.) Wet tumble cases with spent primers
2.) Bake at 200 degrees until dry, then cool.
3.) Load into case feeder and mass deprime with a toolhead with only a universal decapper attached
4.) Wet tumble again until pockets are clean, while changing out toolhead to reloading setup.
5.) Re-dry cases, cool and reload.

Is this overkill?
Any downsides to tumbling and baking twice?
Will swapping the tool heads back and forth make it too inefficient?
Will running the spent primers through the first time make it pointless?
Thoughts, comments, concerns?
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Old April 11, 2013, 03:56 AM   #2
Scottish Highlander
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Personally I just de-prime and neck size the brass. Inspect for damaged , check brass oal ( over all length ) and steel wool each one as I inspect. The neck mainly seems to be the dirtiest. Then I clean out the primer pocket and there ready to go. I rather it this way so you handle each individual case and visually inspect it as you clean it. Then I know when I powder / seat bullet I'm happy its ready to go safely. I'm quite new to this to and I'm sure there is quicker ways but I enjoy the process and find it quite satisfying

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Old April 11, 2013, 04:05 AM   #3
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Why not deprime before you run them the first time so the primer pockets get clean on the first run I don't see a need to do it twice.
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Old April 11, 2013, 04:19 AM   #4
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Seems a bit of overkill to me. Tumbling before depriming keeps you from scratching up your sizing die with dirty brass. Since you plan on using a universal decap die, that isn't an issue. Tumbling after depriming ensures that you get the primer pocket clean, though how much of an issue this is is a point of debate. It certainly doesn't hurt and a clean primer pocket helps assure consistent primer seating.

I tumble once then load using a decap/sizing die. Still a little crud in the primer pockets but I haven't found it to be a problem.

If you want the spotless primer pockets, decap then tumble. If that doesn't bother you, tumble then load, skipping the universal decapper.
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Old April 11, 2013, 04:29 AM   #5
Join Date: April 10, 2013
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Thanks for the replies,
I thought I would take the extra step of cleaning twice to keep my case feeder assembly clean and avoid cross contamination, especially since I'm eventually going to upgrade to bullet fed with case lubed MR. bullet. I'd like to do so while still maintaining speed by crank, inspect, bucket, repeat.

Sounds like the consensus is not needed?

BTW, I'm a nurse and used to work as an engineer so I can be a little "retentive" about my tools and contaminants.

Last edited by DennRN; April 11, 2013 at 04:35 AM.
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Old April 11, 2013, 08:24 AM   #6
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I've been reloading for years, & just made the switch to wet tumbling, this last year, & I couldn't be happier, I used to dry tumble, & clean my primer pockets with brushes in my RCBS case prep center, then bought an ultra sonic, wasn't impressed... love my wet tumbler... I did buy a Lee universal decapping die, & have run into berdan primed cases, & crimped primers, & haven't broken a pin yet

double tumbling, would be a total waste of time IMO, just get a universal decapper & wet tumble once, everything will get clean enough, if you use the right solution, & enough time...
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Old April 11, 2013, 08:50 AM   #7
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Sounds like you're detailing a '60's muscle car for a concourse level event. Unless you're one of those guys who likes sparkle clean cases, tumbling in a walnut media with a piece of your wife's dry sheets included to keep it clean, plus a squirt of Nu-Fiinsh car polish/cleaner, is all you need. Cases come out clean, inside and out, and ready for the loader.

Carbon from the inside of the reloaded case has zero effect on bore wear. I'd be more worried about cleaning your barrel with a jointed cleaning rod than any carbon issue. My AR with more than 2000++ match rounds, (a conservative estimate) shows no wear from "carbon".

I don't remove primers prior to tumbling, do not clean primer pockets on any hand gun brass, and have never had a FTF with any of my loads so prepared. I do clean rifle primer pockets with a small Lyman brush, but suspect that it has no effect on accuracy.

Be advised however that seating primers slightly below the case head level is essential. A high primer may get you a FTF at best, or an out of battery firing at worse...both to be avoided. Lyman recommends seating all primers .003 to .004" below case head level. I've never measured but can feel primers seated too high or just right. A good treatise on the subject of case prep for competition can be found in Zediker's, "Reloading for Competition".

If you're anally involved in case prep, carry on, but it's not going to make any difference in the quality of your loads, nor the practical accuracy life of your barrels. BTW, from a philosophical point of view, the only reason I clean handgun brass is to prevent damage to my loading dies. For nearly 40 years, for instance, I never cleaned revolver brass since it never came in contact with dirt on the ground.

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Last edited by rodfac; April 11, 2013 at 09:02 AM.
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Old April 11, 2013, 11:48 AM   #8
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Get a basic single stage press for depriming. Punch out primers and tumble. If it's range brass complete with sand, mud, small gravel, grass and spider webs, then wash it to remove the crud prior to tumbling.
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Old April 11, 2013, 02:12 PM   #9
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Personally, I would take a whole different route. What carbon deposits shorten barrel life? Those from burned powder? Primers? Where did your info come from?

What cartridge are you reloading? I haven't cleaned a handgun case's primer pocket in years (and my OCD is ok with that).

If your time is precious, don't use it up on unnecessary operations; Tumble, inspect, reload; all that's needed. Wet cleaning, oven drying, depriming, wet tumble, load; way too much un-needed work...

BTW; For a new reloader a progressive press is often (almost always) fraught with problems and frustrations. Much better to learn on a single stage press where every step is done individually and learned thoroughly. Even worse for those of us who are "perfectionists" and nearly always in a hurry...
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Old April 11, 2013, 02:24 PM   #10
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I would say that is serious overkill. when I reload I rarely tumble my brass in the first place. if it's tarnished yes I tumble it but I do not do it to get rid of carbon. carbon happens even the cleanest burning powders around leave it behind. what little exists inside your brass that can cause any real issues is cleaned by the tumbler when I am polishing my brass.

then there is your double tumbling, over tumbling can seriously reduce the life of your brass. tumbling for a couple hours does not cause sufficient wear to cause concern but over tumbling can wear your brass thin. my older brother forgot about a load of brass he was tumbling and accidentally left it overnight, that was the last loading he got from his brass, it was worn too thin and the case expansion was down right scarey.

if you are really concerned about it resize and deprime first, then put your brass through a single, short tumbler cycle like an hour or 2 tops... then it should be good to go...

I'm new to reloading too and I've noticed that too much caution in certain areas can actually be detrimental...
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Old April 11, 2013, 05:59 PM   #11
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"I've read that carbon deposits can really shorten barrel life..."

Glad I wasn't sipping coffee when I read that, my keyboard would have been flushed, I've been doing this stuff nearly five decades and haven't heard that one! I suspect what you've read is people trying to justify the time and high expense of doing something totally irrelivant to the quality their reloads. No one has demonstrated any benefit at all to shiney case exteriors or surgically clean interiors; justify it as we may, all we're doing with any case cleaning process is making them look purtier.

Those who claim it's easier to spot cracks in polished brass may be right - for themselves. I vib tumble to clean (never polish anymore) cases and size them before looking for cracks; what may have been a tiny, hard to see crack before sizing will become huge afterwards.
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Old April 11, 2013, 06:25 PM   #12
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I've read that carbon deposits can really shorten barrel life so I've been thinking about depriming and stainless steel wet tumbling to get the inside and pockets clean + carbon free.

Lets dispel some myths here. Carbon on the inside of the shells and bottom of the primer pockets does NO harm to your barrel.

Since my time is kind of precious to me I've thought about the most time efficient way to clean all the carbon, here's what I've come up with.
All the carbon? It won't hurt your barrel. What kills barrels is throat wear, and that's caused by the extremely hot powder gases just in front of the chamber. Also, that carbon does NOT build up, like some say it does.

Dry tumbling with walnut or corn cob with some mild tumbler polishing media, will remove any build up of carbon. What's left won't harm anything.

You want to tumble BEFORE sizing to get abrasives off the outside of the cases. Be careful if you tumble after sizing to be sure you get the tumbler media out of the primer flash hole. Leaving it there can and will disrupt the primer flash to lead to inconsistent velocities and accuracy.

then there is your double tumbling, over tumbling can seriously reduce the life of your brass. tumbling for a couple hours does not cause sufficient wear to cause concern but over tumbling can "wear your brass thin."
Huh? Do you really believe that?! Tumbling in soft walnut or corn cob with a tiny bit of polish in it will not "wear" brass thin. Maybe if you had sand or hard silicone abrasive, then you might remove some material. If it did remove metal/brass, then you'd be able to measure it, by weighing it. If it got thinner, it would weigh less. It just does NOT happen!
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Old April 12, 2013, 03:07 PM   #13
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I get your ideas.

If you really want to bulk deprime without fouling your case feed mechanism I would dry tumble first, rather than wet/stainless. That avoids the drying step, you have simple media separation, the primer prevents most media from getting in the flash hole and it would get cleared during decapping anyway. Also, getting a primer pocket dry when the primer is still there and the residue has absorbed the water is not easy. I try to avoid putting dirty cases through my progressive, but cleaning the case feed mechanism is the easy part. If you decap on the press you'll end up with primer gunk in and around the shell plate, which is more difficult and perhaps more important to get clean. Personally, I usually decap by hand on a single stage press when I come back from the range, although that usually only amounts to 100 cases at a time (rifle, 308). If I have larger quantities I still process 100 at a time, because that's all I can get in my wet tumbler at the moment. After decapping I wet tumble, resulting in clean cases inside and out before they get near the progressive.

The theory about barrel damage is related to primer residue, which hardens over time and can get blasted into the throat. The next round can pick it up, embed it into the bullet, then drag it down the barrel. The guys behind the theory claim to have bore-scoped barrels that were treated identically, with the exception that one had only fired rounds with clean pockets, and the other had fired rounds with dirty pockets. Apparently one barrel was visibly scored while the other had no such marks. This is not my theory and I have no idea how much of a problem it may be, but it certainly sounds feasible and those who came up with it are clearly convinced. I'm not trying to convince anyone either way though.

Regarding the drying, take care if you use a domestic oven – the temperature control on some of them is not too precise, and if you accidentally annealed the entire case you could have a problem.

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Old April 12, 2013, 04:13 PM   #14
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Overkill is a relative term.... Depends on who you are ...

when I reload I rarely tumble my brass in the first place.
+1. Same with primer pockets rarely get cleaned. Never have noticed any performance difference (when I first started way back, I 'thought' it was necessary) and it does save time. There does come a point where I finally tumble and clean pockets, but its quite a few reloads before I deem 'needed'. This is revolver brass... I shoot maybe 20 rifle cartridges (excluding .22) a year ... if that...

Oh course if I pick up cases off the ground ... they get tumbled and checked ... the first time.
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