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Old January 25, 2011, 10:32 PM   #1
jcsturgeon
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Polishing Brass

Hey guys, I bought a start up kit for reloading recently and I'm waiting for it to come in the mail, in the mean time I am reading "Modern Reloading" by Richard Lee. I always thought that polishing brass and running them through a tumbler was a must, but according to the book it seems like an optional step. They say if you must do it, just use a rag and polish or some steel wool.

Their argument is that tumblers can release unsafe levels of lead, media can get stuck in the shell and mix with gunpowder and it can get stuck in the primer pocket as well.

So who's right? Is polishing the brass a safety step, or just cosmetic?
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Old January 25, 2011, 10:48 PM   #2
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Having clean brass will greatly extend the life of your dies. Clean brass is what is important.

Tumbling can clean brass. Some folks use a mixture and wash brass. Others wipe off the cases. Some ultrasonically clean. And the list goes on.

I personally find tumbling the lowest effort way to clean my brass. I also like my brass to shine, so I add NuFinish car polish to my media. YMMV
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Old January 25, 2011, 10:54 PM   #3
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I use a tumbler to clean the brass, not really polish it. When you are inspecting the case for cracks or defects is a good time to see the stuck media and remove it. Ground walnut shells seem to get stuck less often than corn cob media. Do what you feel comfortable with. I prefer clean brass.
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Old January 25, 2011, 11:06 PM   #4
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The lead threat is real, though. Its in the primer dust that gets kicked up along with other dust when you separate the brass from the media. If it concerns you, a wet tumbling process with prevent that. You just need to deal with drying, instead, then.
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Old January 25, 2011, 11:32 PM   #5
Doodlebugger45
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The book is right. You need to have your brass fairly clean of grit that might damage your dies. But you don't really need to have them shiney and polished.

However... most of us start out saying "I don't want them to shine, I just want them to work". Eventually though, our vanity sets in and we really DO like the shiney brass. And for $60 or so, it's pretty easy to buy a vibrator and just toss the brass into it and get clean AND shiney with little effort.
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Old January 25, 2011, 11:41 PM   #6
silvercorvette
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Clean brass allows you to detect any signs of case is flawed or shows signs of splitting which is an indication it is not fit to reload
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Old January 26, 2011, 01:40 PM   #7
maillemaker
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I'm brand new at this myself. I've only reloaded about 800 rounds.

I ran some brass through my progressive reloader (Lee Pro1000) just to decap, and found that uncleaned brass was significantly harder to process through the machine - it took lots more force to run the brass into the sizing/depriming die. It's a carbide die, so I did not lube.

I wet tumble my brass with steel shot.

Steve
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Old January 26, 2011, 02:06 PM   #8
Brian Pfleuger
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Yep, what you need is clean, not shiny, but since you're doing the work to clean it anyway, you might as well get shiny in the bargain.... Some walnut media and Flitz polish will do both. Turn the machine on and come back in 4 to 8 hours, depending on the starting "filth". Viola! Clean and shiny, for the same effort as "clean".
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Old January 26, 2011, 02:39 PM   #9
F. Guffey
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When reloading a small number of cases I polish with case spinners I make, it takes less time to spin/polish 20 cases than it takes to tumble AND it beats the Lee Zip spinner, and when I go to the range the cases look good on the bench, and yes Lee gave little consideration to those that do/did not have an opinion, dirt, grit and grime is matter, it takes up space and has weight, when dirt grit and grime get between the case and die and or the case and chamber it matters.

For the worst of cases I use vinegar, just viengar, like my coffee, when I drink coffee I drink coffee, I do not use half caf, de-caf, mocca, I drink coffee, for the worst of cases I use vinegar for 15 minutes, wash, rinse, dry and tumble, I use vinegar once for the life of the case, for the worst of cases vinegar reduces tumbling by as much as three days for 100 cases.

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Old January 26, 2011, 02:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Turn the machine on and come back in 4 to 8 hours, depending on the starting "filth". Viola!
You play the viola while you're tumbling?

Myself, Santa brought me an ultrasonic cleaner for Christmas, so I just switched from tumbling. 20 minutes in an ultrasonic cleaner, and voilá!
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Old January 26, 2011, 03:14 PM   #11
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jcsturgeon,

You're main concern is clean brass. Dirt that transger to your dies will cost you in the end. Shiny is nothing more than vanity. I'm sure that if you're ever in a situation with a BG or out hunting, you'll be commended on such pretty brass. At least wipe them with a clean soft cloth. And run a brush down the necks.
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Old January 26, 2011, 03:23 PM   #12
maillemaker
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I continue to be puzzled by the continuous distinction on this forum between "clean" and "shiny" or "polished".

I usually let my brass tumble overnight. When it comes out, it is both clean and shiny. I dunno - maybe you can get it shinier still or something, which I'm not up for doing, but to me, clean is shiny.

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Old January 26, 2011, 04:09 PM   #13
Brian Pfleuger
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Originally Posted by maillemaker
I dunno - maybe you can get it shinier still or something, which I'm not up for doing, but to me, clean is shiny.
Clean is definately not shiny. "Shine" requires the removal of the surface layer of corrosion. "Clean" requires removal of dirt, which is much easier. Dirt effects things further down the line. Basic surface corrosion does not.
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Old January 26, 2011, 05:12 PM   #14
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jc, 1/27/11

I reload about 14,000 rounds a year, mostly 9mm, .45, 38 special and .357 magnum, with a few hundred 30-06 and .270 Winchester thrown in.

Cleaning and inspecting each case is a must before reloading, tumbling to make them shiny is not. Even if you tumble the cases you still have to inspect each case afterward. I take each case, wipe the rim and base with a paper towel, then the case walls, and finally look inside to complete the process. It takes six to seven seconds each. There is no problem seeing case wall cracks and no problem with scratching the reloading dies. I tried tumbling years ago and for me it was just wasted time to get a shiny case. My bullets go the same place with my dull, clean cases as they do with a shiny case. Good luck.

best wishes- oldandslow
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Old January 26, 2011, 05:33 PM   #15
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Maillemaker,

Try lubing your cases sometime, then running them through your carbide dies. I think the difference in feel will surprise you. Just cooking spray is good enough in that instance.


Peetzakilla,

Not only does an oxide layer do no harm, Hatcher found it does some good. He left new cases on the roof of the Frankford Arsenal for a year, some polished some not. This was in an area where chemical plants kept the air pretty corrosive. It was between the World Wars, before pollution controls. After a year, the polished cases were heavily corroded and eaten through. The unpolished cases were not.

The reason I polish them has nothing to do with vanity or pride, but rather with keeping down attrition. Firing a lot of self-loaders that toss the brass around, I find the polished yellow brass is just a lot easier to locate in the grass. Oxidized brass coloring seems to be a naturally occurring form of camouflage.
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Old January 26, 2011, 07:00 PM   #16
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UncleNick
Peetzakilla,

Not only does an oxide layer do no harm, Hatcher found it does some good. He left new cases on the roof of the Frankford Arsenal for a year, some polished some not. This was in an area where chemical plants kept the air pretty corrosive. It was between the World Wars, before pollution controls. After a year, the polished cases were heavily corroded and eaten through. The unpolished cases were not.

Interesting result. I'm not surprised that the surface oxidation protected the cases but I would have guessed that the polished cases would have simply oxidized and thus been equally protected.

Me, I polish my cases because it makes them pretty. I guess that goes under "vanity".
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Old January 26, 2011, 07:12 PM   #17
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Nothing wrong with shiny cases though.

I only got my tumbler 6-8 months ago. I still had a cache of some of the loaded rounds I had made before. They were clean because I had washed them in vinegar and boiling water. But after a few days they developed this greenish brown patina on them. Kind of interesting looking actually. So, I convince my lovely wife to actually go shooting with me one day (an extreme rarity). She absolutely refused to use those "disgusting, vile, ugly" things in her revolver. She was convinced that they must be dangerous because they weren't shiny. Only the shiniest yellow cases could go into her .357. And I had some in those lovely shiny nickle cases. She absolutely loved those! No doubt they shot better too!
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Old January 27, 2011, 12:17 PM   #18
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Everyone has their own method to their liking, but for me I toss all the brass I shoot in the tumbler with corn cob media to clean it. After it's sized I polish the brass by tossing it in the tumbler again, but I add a cap full of Nu-Finish so the brass will shine. Now I'm ready for reloading. I have found that loading with clean brass is easier in the dies. By using this method I never have to clean my dies.

This method is easy for me, because I load in stages. In other words, I have coffee cans with clean brass, sized brass, primered and belled brass, etc. This way when I am ready to load on my single stage loader I pick up the last can with shells sized, belled, polished and primered and I am ready to just add powder and bullets. Whenever I see a can getting low I fill it with the appropriate stage. Works for me. Of course I only use this method with .45 ACP as that is what I load the most.
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Old January 27, 2011, 01:13 PM   #19
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Tarnished copper/brass is almost black and the tarnish is harmless. Brass corrosion is green and indeed weakens the case metal just as rust does thin steel.

Clean cases are clean. The color doesn't matter and for the life of me I can't tell that seeing cracks/splits are any easier to spot on shiney cases. I do tumble but I don't delude myself that doing so is anything but eye candy. Finding loose autoloader cases in the grass is a valid concern for those who face that problem but the polished metal shoots not a bit differently than tarnished.

The idea of "lead poisioning" from tumbled cases is, IMHO, vastly over rated. There is precious little "lead" left in a bore after firing and much less inside the cases. What is there doesn't produce a lethal green fog to rise from the tumbler bowl. Just don't keep your nose over the tumbler for hours as it works and don't lick your fingers clean afterwards, all will be well.

Keep the dust in your media down by tossing in a couple of 3" squares of a loose material to trap the powder (which is mostly excess polish anyway) so you can toss it out. The most common trapping material is a used drier sheet but scraps of soft cloth will do it too.

Last edited by wncchester; January 27, 2011 at 01:21 PM.
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Old January 27, 2011, 01:16 PM   #20
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I tumble my brass because it will extend the life of my dies. I don't polish my brass to a mirror shine. That to me is optional.
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Old January 27, 2011, 01:59 PM   #21
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I polish mine to a mirror shine...when I forget to turn off the tumbler.
I do worry about the lead issue though. I separate the media and cases outside of my house, while wearing a face mask. Tumbler dust is up there with shooting in an indoor range for increasing your lead blood levels. It's also a good reason to routinely wipe up around your loading area.
After chemo, I've had enough heavy metals coursing through my veins.
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Old January 27, 2011, 02:09 PM   #22
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I polish mine in tumbler and some one iin here(great tip) mentioned downy fabric sheets,Sure does keep dust down. It's easier on dies and shows you care what your doing to do that step.Out at the range i shoot at we are always swapping rounds to see how some one elses load works. Last thing i want to do is hand him a bullet that looks like i found laying in the dirt.
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Old January 29, 2011, 12:11 PM   #23
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I deprime all my cases before wet tumbling with SS media for two hours. They come out looking virginal inside and out. The only exceptions are the nickel 45-70 cases for the Creedmoor. Those get vibed in walnut with a bit of mineral spirits added. Either way, my dies only get clean brass.


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Old January 30, 2011, 06:14 PM   #24
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I like Corn Media the best unless the brass is very ugly then I will use wallnut. But if your brass is not something you picked out of the dirt and mud then Corn will work great.

The Cheapest way I have found to get corn is at Granger and ask for Natural Dri-Zorb Corn. It comes in a fifty pound bag and is cheap. Or if you like ask some friends and split the bag up.

For shiny I add 3 cap fulls of Nu-Finish car polish to the media and let it run a few minutes to distribute the Nu-finish Car Polish. Then add the Brass.

Works great.
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Old January 30, 2011, 09:54 PM   #25
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Worn Die & Polished Brass

How can one tell when one's die is worn?
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