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Old January 18, 2020, 08:43 PM   #1
jdc606
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Cleaning BP brass for reloading

What is your preferred method for cleaning brass cases that have been loaded using black powder? A friend was complaining that his tedious process for cleaning the cases is what prevents his reloading .45LC using black powder more often. Talking small batches of 20-40 rounds at a time.
I suggested wet tumbling but looks like ultra-sonic may be less costly,faster, and quieter.
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Old January 18, 2020, 08:51 PM   #2
Oliver Sudden
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Have a jug of water with a dash of dish soap in it where you’re shooting. Drop the cases in after firing and when you get home pour it out and refill with plain water. Give it a good shake and pour it out. This kills the acid from the powder residue. Then dry if nessasry and tumble. If wet tumbling skip the drying.
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Old January 18, 2020, 09:34 PM   #3
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Deprime/dump in soapy-water mason jar at range. (per Oliver above)
Get a 45cal bore mop and pump that soapy water in/out the flash hole once home.
Rinse, put on pizza tin, dry in 'warm' oven for 15 minutes
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Old January 19, 2020, 02:04 AM   #4
Driftwood Johnson
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Howdy

I load 45 Colt and 44-40 with Black Powder in batches of 200 at a time on my Hornady Lock and Load AP progressive press. There is no provision for removing primers on a progressive press. I don't deprime separately, never have. I have never worried about the flash holes, modern primers have no problem igniting Black Powder without cleaning flash holes or primer pockets.

At the end of a match I dump my spent brass into a jug of water that has a squirt of dish soap in it. Back at the car is plenty of time, it does not have to be done as the rounds are fired. Don't wait to soak the brass 24 hours, that will give verdigris time to form. At the end of the match is fine.






When I get home I shake the jug and rinse repeatedly until the water runs clear. I dump the brass and dirty water into a kitchen sieve, the pour clean water into the jug and rinse some more. I do this several times until the rinse water is clear. This does not affect the pH of the fouling, what it does is dilute it.

Then I lay the brass on a cookie sheet with some paper towels spread on them to soak up the extra water. I used to dry the brass in an oven on low heat, these days I just let the brass air dry a few days. This is a mixed batch of 45 Colt and 44-40.






Then into the tumbler for a few hours with crushed walnut shells. I do not use expensive crushed walnut media, I use a similar product found in big box pet stores. It goes under a few different names, but it is the same crushed walnut shells you can buy for your tumbler, but much cheaper.






That's all there is to it. Been doing it this way for about 20 years.


By the way, my brass never gets like new shiny again with this method, it stays slightly stained. I always say shiny brass does not shoot any better than stained brass, it is just easier to find in the grass. If I really wanted shiny brass I would add a little bit of polish to the tumbler, but I don't care.

Here is a typical batch of my Black Powder 44-40 rounds.

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Old January 19, 2020, 09:00 AM   #5
David R
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I don't have black powder, but I bet wet tumble with steel pins would make them look like new. The ones I pick up off the ground do. All my brass looks like it just came out of the Midway Box.

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Old January 19, 2020, 10:21 AM   #6
drcook
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I suggest a Thumbler's Tumbler. Lacking that, and for very small amounts, a wet tumbler from Harbor Freight.

I use ceramic media. The brass for my BPCR rifles looks absolutely brand new. I save dehumidifier water to rinse them in (our water has lime in it). I don't like spots on the cases.

Recently I have found out about very small, different shaped stainless steel chips. I am going to get them for small, and/or bottleneck cases.

DO NOT EVER use cylindrical ceramic media in a bottleneck case. The uniform shapes will align themselves and lock inside the cases.

I have some 3mm ceramic spheres to help with this on 38-55 cases, but the stainless will be better and it even cleans into the corners of the primer pocket better than ceramic does (my ceramic is angular cut)

Every one of these cases were fired multiple times. The discoloration is from being annealed.

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Old January 19, 2020, 08:23 PM   #7
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I shoot .357 nickeled brass and don't worry about tarnishing. When I get home I swish them in warm water and rinse a couple times til the water comes off clear. Then I dry them in a toaster over @200* for 1/2 hour and then tumble in walnut media (lizard litter) for 20-30 minutes and get them back to the reloading press.
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Old January 19, 2020, 09:40 PM   #8
Driftwood Johnson
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Just to rub it in, I'll say it again.

Shiny brass does not shoot any better than stained brass. It is just easier to find in the grass.

In CAS, when we unload our revolvers we do it at the unloading table right into our hands. But as we shoot our lever guns we are dumping the empties onto the ground.

So that's when shiny brass would be a help, so the brass pickers could find all the empties sitting in the dirt or in the grass.

Other wise it simply does not matter.

In this photo one of my Black Powder 44-40 pieces of brass has been ejected from my Henry. Hopefully the brass pickers will pick up all my empties. However, it is a given in CAS that shooters will probably not recover all their rifle brass, no matter how shiny it is.






This photo of my Trapdoor rifle shows how my 45-70 rounds all have the same 'patina' on the brass from being fired and shot more than once with Black Powder. I could throw some polish in the medial if I wanted to, but I don't care. Regarding polishing with steel pins, I've been doing it this way for 20 years and just don't see a reason to change.

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Old January 19, 2020, 09:43 PM   #9
jdc606
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Thank you

Thank you all for sharing your experience. I have passed the info on to my friend. Has me all excited about shooting black powder so I'm surfing the web for an 1851 Navy.
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Old January 20, 2020, 12:15 AM   #10
44 Dave
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.44-40 shoots cleaner than .45 Colt because the cartridge neck is thinner and seals the blow back. Love my .44 WCFs !!
Have been using nickel brass lately, easier spot and to keep track of from others.
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Old January 20, 2020, 04:40 PM   #11
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I use a rotary tumbler with stainless steel media for cleaning .45 ACP brass. Then I dry/polish with corncob media. It makes the brass look brand new.

I don't have any BP cartridge guns.

As for dirty brass not making any difference.

Clean brass absolutely does go through sizing dies better than dirty brass. The difference in force required is amazing.

But for me, making ammunition is a craft. Like any craft, it involves craftsmanship, and pride in one's work, and attention to detail. You can finish a gunstock with a chainsaw or sandpaper. Either one will still function just fine, but one has a higher level of craftsmanship.

Functional is fine, too.
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Old January 20, 2020, 06:34 PM   #12
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For me it is a craft also. Stained, miscolored cases are fine for the bang bang bang crowd, but when you are loading for precision, dirty cases just don't cut it.

I am loading for results such as pictured below. That is 5 shots, 200 yards, soule type iron sights, 45-70, 72 grains 2F Goex, WW cases, 540 gr Paul Jones Creedmore bullet.

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Old January 20, 2020, 07:13 PM   #13
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I don’t shoot anything close to what Driftwood Johnson does or many others. When I’m shooting my 1873 Trapdoor I have a decap rod and cup from a Lee loader that after shooting a dozen or so I will decap cases and put in a jug of water/soap mixture while the barrel cools off then do the same again until I’m done.
With the small amount of 44 magnum blackpowder cases I shoot I do the same. Then they get wet tumbled with any other smokeless cases.
I don’t have a dust tumbler anymore.
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Old January 20, 2020, 07:22 PM   #14
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VERY nice group.
i am, however, in the "patinaed cases shoot just as well" camp. Patina on a case does not mean that It is dirty; it is merely a different color.

Have you tried shooting the load mentioned using cases that are discolored?
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Old January 20, 2020, 07:32 PM   #15
drcook
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Nope. Have not. Everytime I shoot, the cases go into the tumbler. Just part of the routine. Loading for long range accuracy is all about routine. I have shot the 45-100 & 45-110 out to 1000 yds and the 90 to 985. The 70 only to 235.

Bullets are weighed to +or- 3/10's of a grain, cases are from the same lot (never mix lots), I bought powder in 25lb cases so all the loads are from the same lot of powder. Each charge is weighed on a beam scale.

By tumbling them in ceramic, the cases are clean inside and out. I neck size, control all my seating depths with a micrometer, depth mics and dial calipers. My loads are just like precision smokeless loads, the overall lengths, seating depths etc vary by +or- .002.

The other advantage to bright shiney cases is being able to judge when the right temp is hit when annealing.

I don't have one of the fancy annealing machines, so I do mine by color. I use a spark plug socket (you know the ones that have rubber inside) to hold a tube stuck in them and then the case goes in. There is one that is just the right size for 45 caliber cases. I have commercial ones for the other cases.

I spin them with a battery powered drill.

You cannot tell color when the cases are stained. You can go too far heating them up, I have learned to judge when they are just right. As I said, with dirty and/or stained cases, you simply cannot judge color.

When the cases get too hard, then accuracy falls off, the same as if you get them too soft by overheating during annealing.

You can tell the folks that don't do it by the steps. Their loads just aren't that accurate. I know if I can hold 2" (3" at most) at 200 yards, it will be good to 1000.
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Old January 20, 2020, 08:30 PM   #16
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In all honesty and actuality, there are different games in the BP world.

What works for one, is overkill for the other, or underkill as it may.

A person just has to find out what works for the venue that they are in and stick to it.

I have to admit to poking the bear a little, sorry.

I have loading blocks that hold 50 cartridges, there is just something cool about 50 45-110 loads that are all shiney ..... new looking.
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Old January 20, 2020, 09:15 PM   #17
Jim Watson
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I shot BPCR Silhouette and Midrange for several seasons.
Decap cases at the range and bring home in soapy water as above.
I started out with a test tube brush, ugh.
Then a Thumler and ceramic, later steel pins.
Tumble, rinse, dry in a low oven.
I never worried about a little water spotting but wanted the coke gone.
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Old January 20, 2020, 09:39 PM   #18
drcook
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I am going to get some of this.

https://tbbullets.com/stainless-steel-tumbling-media/

Recently, I also moved into the long range smokeless arena and ceramic media jams up in bottleneck cases.
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Old January 20, 2020, 10:44 PM   #19
Driftwood Johnson
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Quote:
I don't have any BP cartridge guns.

As for dirty brass not making any difference.

Clean brass absolutely does go through sizing dies better than dirty brass. The difference in force required is amazing.
Who said my brass is dirty?

It has been polished. It is clean. It is stained, but it is not dirty. There is a difference between Dirty and Stained. My Stained brass runs through the sizing die just as easily as brass fresh out of the bag.

Here are a few boxes of my Black Powder brass. It has all been polished. Yes, it is stained, but it is not 'dirty'. It slides up in the sizing die just fine.




Quote:
I have loading blocks that hold 50 cartridges, there is just something cool about 50 45-110 loads that are all shiney ..... new looking.



When I load 45-70 I use loading blocks that hold 20 rounds. Yes, this photo has been staged, and the brass is brand new. But you get the idea.






Don't get me wrong. I like shiny cases fresh out of the bag too. Here is a batch of 200 45 Colts being loaded into shiny new cases.






And here is a batch of 200 44-40s being loaded into shiny new cases.






But this batch of 44-40s will shoot just fine. The brass may look dirty, but it is not, it is clean. Stained, polished and clean. Runs through the sizing die like poop through a goose. And it hits everything I aim at.


Last edited by Driftwood Johnson; January 20, 2020 at 11:32 PM.
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Old January 21, 2020, 10:07 AM   #20
drcook
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My buddy used to use a cement mixer from Harbor Freight to clean his brass until his wife used it and let concrete get hard in the tub.

Another buddy worked out how to build a tumbler from a 5 gallon round bucket and some junk motors.

If I remember, I will share the plans as soon as I get some more info from him.
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Old January 21, 2020, 01:44 PM   #21
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If you have an old treadmill with a good motor you can make one using the motor and rollers.
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Old January 21, 2020, 08:40 PM   #22
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Damn Driftwood you sure seem to have a lot of fine revolvers.
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Old January 21, 2020, 10:38 PM   #23
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A couple of the Stevens don't have the wood done in these pics (at that time). I do my own stock finishing. There was a guy that reproduced the old redish Winchester hand rubbed oil for finishing.

I did not do the Shilohs. I did design a recreation of a cartridge though. There was a cartridge called the 42-100 Wesson. I used a 45-100 case, necked down to .429 and had a mold for a Creedmore built. Because it was a historical cartridge, the folks at Shiloh built a rifle for me chambered in it. It is the only one in existence. I also have a unique, possibly only 1 of a 45-110 with a 34" round tapered barrel, for shooting long range. There are octagonal barrels though that weigh 15lbs or so (which my 110 does).

There is different equipment and different techniques for different venues.

The Stevens 44 1/2's are takedown rifles.

I used to have one of the 1886's as built by Miruku, but sold it to fund another single shot, along with the guns that I was going to shoot CAS with. I decided I liked long range precision shoot better.

The top Shiloh was sold to help pay for my daughter's wedding. The first pic, is the 42-90.

The last pic is a stock picture of a Pedersoli Competition Rifle. I have one of those also. It started life as a 45-70 but a 45-110 reamer found its way into the barrel. It is phenomenally accurate.

Don't let anyone tell you Pedersolis won't shoot. Their fit and finish is not up to the standards Shiloh does, but they don't hold a candle to anyone in the accuracy department.

I have a set of Montana Vintage Arms long range soule sights on it. Without doing any load development, just throwing a load together, it would shoot 3" at 200 yards.

I am going to list it for sale soon, so if anyone is in the market, it will be a complete package, rifle, sights, brass (Norma) and a mold.

The rifles with recoil pads are my wife's and daughter's rifles. They have a barrel in 38-55 and 38-70 (not 38-72) I worked up a cartridge based on .405 brass without the bottleneck of the original cartridge.

There is a reason why I like and use shiney brass









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Last edited by drcook; January 21, 2020 at 10:48 PM.
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Old January 21, 2020, 10:48 PM   #24
drcook
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there is a probably a little bit of OCD also involved also about the shiney perfect brass.

also what other folks do. most of the folks I shoot with all tumble their brass in a wet tumbler. you conform to the game. CAS folks dress and shoot, the long range folks I know build precise, good looking loads.

Here is the Pedersoli.

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Old January 22, 2020, 01:54 PM   #25
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Quote:
there is a probably a little bit of OCD also involved also about the shiney perfect brass.
Methinks more than a little, just sayin. FWIW I don't shiny up my bp brass either. Yeah it's prettier shiny but pretty doesn't shoot any better.
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