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Old June 12, 2011, 02:12 AM   #1
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Tell me about tumbling

I have a lee turret press and some dies coming in the mail. While I was shooting today and chasing some 9mm brass I kept finding brass in the grass I had missed from previous trips. Needless to say this brass was rather dirty and some were filled with dirt.

First off can I tumble and reload this brass (as long as it is not cracked ect.)?

If I can I would like to set a tumbler up in my carport (away from the rain) and tumble outside before I deprime. Because I will be using a turret press and will siz, deprime, and prime in one step I would like to tumble first.

How many of you tumble before depriming (or is the proper term decapping?)?

What media do you use to tumble? How much should I expect to pay for the media at a Big box store like basspro or sportsmans wharehouse? How many times can you use the media before you dump and change it

I am looking at a Smartreloader tumbler. It is a nano737 (I think). It is a little smaller than a typical tumbler. It holds about 300 - 9mm. Does anyone have any opinions on the smart reloader tumbler?

Thanks for all your help!
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Old June 12, 2011, 02:16 AM   #2
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buy a bigger tumbler than you think you will need as I wish I did... I tumble before depriming because it keeps dirt out of your dies. Tumbling media is cheap, pay no more than 10 or 15 $ for a 8 lb container. I just go to a pet supply store and buy it in big bags for much cheaper.
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Old June 12, 2011, 06:30 AM   #3
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I am looking at a Smartreloader tumbler. It is a nano737 (I think). It is a little smaller than a typical tumbler. It holds about 300 - 9mm. Does anyone have any opinions on the smart reloader tumbler?
As a matter of fact, I do. I own one that I recently bought from Midsouth Shooter's Supply. Thanks for reminding me. I intended to do a write-up for my blog and your post prompted me to do that.

I like the little tumbler, but it is little, and lightweight. It tends to walk across the bench while vibrating, and mine turns itself off. After about an hour, it simply shuts down. I don't know if this is by design or a design fault, but I can drop a handful of .308 cases in it, turn it on and walk away from it. After about an hour I'll return to find it off and the cases are clean. Not polished, necessarily, but clean.

The footprint of the little machine is small enough that it stays on the bench all the time, in a corner behind the press. My big Dillon stays on top the freezer and is taken out for big jobs. The little Nano stays on the bench and is used for small jobs.

I don't know how long the Nano will last, nor how durable it might be. I've only had it a month and time will tell if I wasted my $24.00. But, I like it for small jobs. I like it for cleaning the resizing lube off cases after decapping.

Edited to add photo, showing relative size of both tumblers.
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Old June 12, 2011, 06:45 AM   #4
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+1 on walnut media from pet store. Lasts a long time.
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Old June 12, 2011, 08:54 AM   #5
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You can also get a universal depriming die and deprime then tumble. I tumble to remove dirt from the cases before sizing and then do it again in clean medai to remove the sixing lube.
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Old June 12, 2011, 10:16 AM   #6
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You can use the ones you found, no problem. Throw the ones with dirt in them in a bucket with some water and a little dish soap to soak out the dirt, then air dry or stick them in the oven at 200 or so till they are dry. Check for splits and cracks.

I tumble before I decap/size- keeps the flash holes from getting media in them. You can pick up either ground cob or ground walnut at Wally World in the pet section. It's a lot cheaper there than sporting goods stores, and does the same job. Walnut will clean faster but does not put as much shine on the cases as cob. I tumble with a 50/50 mix of cob and nut, seems to clean and shine pretty well. You might want to add a cap full of car wax (Nu Finish) for more shine. As you use the media, you will find your tumble times become longer to get the same results, I can't really say how long it lasts...I change it when I think it's taking too long to do the job- maybe once or twice a year.
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Old June 12, 2011, 12:54 PM   #7
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I've got a Lee 4 hole turret too. My practice is to decap the brass and then tumble. Next step is to use the hand primer to prime the clean casings. I prime as an extra step because putting the primers in the Lee attachment, with these big old hands, is a pain in the tookus.

To extend the media life, I use about a third of a dryer softener sheet, also cut into thirds, in each batch. This picks up quite a bit of the residue from tumbling and greatly extends the life of the media (I use the corn cob mix).

Hope this helps.
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Old June 12, 2011, 01:16 PM   #8
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Most of the Component suppliers or manufacturers make or sell a vibrating tumbler brass cleaner. They are all pretty much the same and most only come with a 1 year warranty on the motor, so it would be reasonable to think that is the weak point. Mid-South does warrant theirs for 3 years motor included. Walnut and corn cob will do most of your cleaning, but if you find brass that has been out in the elements for more than a year, the brown corrosion will probably need a more aggressive media. Brass does not need to be pretty to function well, just clean.
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Old June 12, 2011, 01:53 PM   #9
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I pretty much use corn cob media I buy in bulk for cleaning and polishing everything,my brass never really gets dirty other that some powder burn residue. I mix a couple cap fulls of NuFinish car polish in with ever new batch of media and let it work in before adding the brass after that I just add a cap full every three or four batches of brass if its needed. A couple strips of used dryer sheet added to each batch of brass will help keep the media cleaner longer. I tumble about 30 min. before resizing and 30 min after to remove any lube on the cases before loading.

For weathered/tarnished/powder burned brass you can use a product called Lemi Shine. I get mine at Wally World,just mix one lever teaspoon per quart of HOT tap water in an amout to cover the brass and let the brass soak for 30 min. stir or shake the brass in the container and let soak another 30 min. then rinse with clean water and let dry before tumbling. It will clean the brass inside and out and after tumbling it will look good as new.
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Old June 13, 2011, 09:37 AM   #10
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Differnent route

Got to love that free range brass.

Deprime first with drill press (pistol) or Lee Universal depriming die. Rinse and agitate the brass to remove sand/dirt/grass/spider webs, etc. Wet tumble with stainless steel media. Size then hand prime with RCBS hand held.
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Old June 13, 2011, 08:37 PM   #11
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Forget the tumbling. Go for a ultrasonic cleaner. I hardly use my tumbler anymore since I bought a ultrasonic cleaner. I use universal decappers and then clean them. They come out primer pockets clean, inside clean and outside almost like the do in a tumbler and in a tenth of the time. I bought a used 2.5 ltr ultrasonic cleaner off ebay and use Hornady additive. One cap per tank of water. You wouldn't believe how new the shells look.
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Old June 13, 2011, 08:53 PM   #12
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First off can I tumble and reload this brass (as long as it is not cracked ect.)?
Absolutely. I would dump the packed dirt and garbage out of the cases before tumbling.

How many of you tumble before depriming (or is the proper term decapping?)?
I do. I have no earthly idea what's logical to spend the time to deprime before tumbling....especially when one uses a turret or auto-indexing press. Negates the reason to have one in the first place. For pistol brass, there's not one single physical advantage in doing it, IMO. Decapping, depriming, both are acceptable terms.

What media do you use to tumble? How much should I expect to pay for the media at a Big box store like basspro or sportsmans wharehouse? How many times can you use the media before you dump and change it
Walnut to clean. Corn to polish. I buy mine from Midway. Tried the cheaper walnut media from pet stores. Went through the whole rigamrore with controlling the extra dust. It's more hassle than what it's worth. I rather spend a couple extra bucks for quality walnut media and be done with it. I'm not familiar with the size of your tumbler, but I would add about a tablespoon of low odor mineral spirits in your walnut media. Let it run for about 1/2 hour and then dump in your brass. It doesn't take much so don't overdo it.

I love using Midway's polish in the corn media. Again, a little goes a long way. If you use too much, you'll load up the media. Do not use ANY polishing agent with ammonia such as Brasso. People still do it claiming they let it dry to a powder before adding it in. To me, it's completely defeating the purpose since ammonia in those polishing agents is the main active ingredient. All they're doing is putting in "snake oil" by then. Besides, there's a TON of non-ammonia based compounds available. For the longest of time, I was leary of using Nu-Finish car polish. I finally succomed and tried it out. I have to admit I'm a convert. The stuff is cheap and, once again, a little goes a long way.

I normally tumble in walnut for an hour or two and 4 to 6 hours in corn. Just keep an eye on how long it takes for your brass to get cleaned/polished. You'll know. Just remember a fresh batch does the job really quick. Subsequent sessions will take longer but will level out.
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Old June 15, 2011, 12:53 AM   #13
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Use walnut for general cleaning since it's harder and scrubs better. Use corncob for polishing since it's softer and will hold polish better. If you order from they will deliver a 40 pound bag to your door for about $26 total. You can't beat that anywhere, That's about two full 5 gallon buckets full plus a little extra. It comes in two grades or sizes. 12/20 is somewhat large, and will get stuck in the flash holes if you deprime prior to tumbling. 20/40 size is much finer and drops right through the flash holes.

I keep several Home Depot buckets for my media. #1 is what I use to clean dirty brass. Keep it for just that purpose. Adding used dryer sheets does indeed trap the dirt, and just throw it away when removing the brass and media from the tumbler. Makes the media last a lot longer. It's very important to keep dirt off the brass, whether you wash it or tumble it. Dirt will ruin a die very quickly. Bucket #2 is used for cleaning loaded ammo after loading, mostly to remove any lube that's on the brass. Tumble your ammo in a tumbler about 1/2 full of media for about 20 minutes, and the final ammo will be clean of all lube.

Buy a tumbler large enough so that you won't be spending a lot of time loading and unloading brass. Only you know how much you're going to reload and how often. Try to get a tumbler so you can run enough brass to load at least one session at a time. In other words if you're going to load 300 rounds of ammo at one sitting, then tumble at least that much brass at one time. Someone said, buy larger than you think you will need.
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Old January 23, 2012, 05:23 PM   #14
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I use untreated corn cob media. I treat it with the Iosso Brass Polish from Midway. It works great!!! Try it and you will be amazed how bright your brass gets after 5 hours.
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Old January 23, 2012, 08:18 PM   #15
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I have no experience with that tumbler, but it should get the job done.

You can certainly use that older brass, it should polish right up with some walnut or corn cob media and maybe some polishing compound. I tumble before depriming and it works well for me, others tumble before and after, and yet others tumble after. It is up to you, they will all work.

Regardless of what you do, there is a lot of lead dust in the area of the tumbler, especially when you dump it and separate the media from the brass. I recommend doing this outside, and with a respirator, or outside at the very least. This is the largest concentration of lead dust in the reloading process, and should handled accordingly. Some people may say i am going a bit overboard, but it is cheap and doesn't take a lot of time to just throw a mask on when you dump the media.
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Old January 24, 2012, 11:01 AM   #16
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Gritty range brass

When using range brass that has mud, etc. in it, I have found that it often also has some grit that is embedded in the brass. Probably happens when somebody stepped on it or it hit concrete hard when ejected. My rotary tumbler with dry walnut media was NOT good at getting the EMBEDDED particles off brass that I picked-up, so I had to do a LOT of inspection to be sure that I would not use a piece that would scratch my dies or guns.

To solve that problem, I switched to wet tumblig with stainless steel pins, water and soap. That removes embedded grit and everything else. If you deprime first, the primer pockets get completely clean, as does the inside of the case. So, now I deprime on a separate (cheap Lee C-type) press using a universal decapping die that doesn't touch the brass, then wet-tumble the brass, let it dry, and it is like using new brass as far as cleanliness is concerned. It also dries faster if you have the primers out.

I don't think you can wet tumble with the vibrating type tumblers, just the rotary types. So, you need to decide if you want to do this BEFORE you choose a tumbler.

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Old January 24, 2012, 12:31 PM   #17
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Cleaning brass is not science. Throw in whatever you shoot, pour in some of the cheap ($26 for 40# delivered, on line) a little car polish and let it run. If you find a dirty one when you load, toss it or, clean it up with an screwdriver, etc. and put it in with the next batch.
If you don't get good movement of the brass and media, take some out.
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Old January 24, 2012, 03:24 PM   #18
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This is a necro-thread. The OP went ahead and bought that Smartreloader hunk of horse-$%&% and it's a piece of yellow crap.

Smartreloader crap should be universally avoided no matter WHAT the product. It's cheap, chinese crap and if that's not enough, many of the products they sell are absolute, direct rip-offs and copies. Complete and total copies. Berry's has seen their brass separator out & out stolen by them and Smartreloader also copied a press and they actually copied a casting flaw in the original press when they completely stole it and made a direct copy.

Besides buying complete crap, you are supporting really shady chinese business practices. I wouldn't use that garbage if it were FREE. (but I'd take it if it were free, so I could destroy it and keep it out of someone else's hands)

We have some absolutely terrific companies building products in our hobby. Most all of them have proven time & time again how well they support us and this industry. They deserve our business and they absolutely deserve our loyalty.

Please support a complete and total embargo on anything marked "Smartreloader."
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Old January 24, 2012, 07:08 PM   #19
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Amen! ^^^
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Old January 24, 2012, 09:33 PM   #20
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first to the OP.are you wanting to know about tumbling or vibrating.they are both two different things.

one vibrates to work and the other uses a media to clean along with some sort of agent or not( corn cob/walnut )the other works with a harded type of media say SS pins and soap/ have to dry your cases all so when you tumble.( not my thing )

the vibrating kind for the most part is the cheapest way out.the tumbling can get rather high.but most have changed or want to.

heres my thing.I like to use the vibrating type with a cheap car polish with corn cob media.I don't think the inside of the brass really needs to be as clean as the long as the out side is clean I know I want hurt my dies.( and it looks good)I even use old dryer sheets to help with the media has been used for some time now and still going.

to me you can look at it this way.just how clean do you want your brass to be.then you will come up with the money to buy what you think will do the right job for you.its a mind thing to me more than anything else.
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