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Brass cleaners

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by MPshooter, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. MPshooter

    MPshooter Corvallis, OR Member

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    I'm new to reloading and I'm considering the purchase of a brass cleaner (among other toys :)). I have collected a lot of pistol brass that I can use to reload. I have a couple of questions to those more experienced reloaders:

    1) How critical is it to clean your brass before reloading? I've heard different opinions on this.
    2) What's your take on a tumbler-type versus ultrasonic (e.g., Hornady Lock-N-Load® Sonic Cleaner 2L)?

    Thanks in advance for any input you can provide.
     
  2. My 3 sons

    My 3 sons Bonney Lake Active Member

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    I tumble in walnut every time. Just like to make sure nothing is on or in the cases that I didn't intend to be there. I like my guns enough to shoot clean ammo rather than take my chances.
    High polish for really shiny brass looks good but I've never found any improvement in performance. It can be argued that it allows you to see imperfections easier. For rifle it has more merit in my opinion but for pistol I'm not so sure.

    I've tried the ultrasonic method a few times with marginal success. Stopped using it more because I didn't like to have to make sure they were dry. There has been a lot of loaders on here that have posted great success with it though. I think both work just fine when you have them set up right, it just comes down to your preference. The one I'm seriously looking in to at some point is the tumbler with steel pins.
     
    skydiver likes this.
  3. SHPD_Retired

    SHPD_Retired Saint Helens Well-Known Member

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    Cleaning the brass just makes it easier on your reloading dies. If you load dirty brass into your dies they can gouge the interior and make the life shorter. I clean with walnut that I get from the pet store. It is used for lizards and such. Much cheaper than buying from a reloading supply or gun store, and put in some Nu Finish car polish. It really make the brass look good. I do not think it shoots any better shiny but I do like it that way.
     
  4. RVTECH

    RVTECH LaPine Well-Known Member

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    Yep clean brass is better. For years I threw my brass in a heavy cotton bag and put it in the washer with heavy clothes like jeans. Actually worked pretty good but I eventually got a vibratory tumbler - however I have stopped using any chemical additives. Without them the walnut shell (From PetCo) stays cleaner and I just run it a little longer and I get nearly as shiny brass. I too considered ultrasonic but didn't do it for the same reason IE not having to deal with wet cases.
     
    skydiver likes this.
  5. Beta1759

    Beta1759 Beaverton Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I started with the walnut shell method in the vibrating tumbler, but now i have a rotary tumbler with the stainless steel media. More expensive start up cost, but you don't need to keep buying them like you would with walnut, and it makes the brass really really clean. Plus the walnut media method is kinda messy since you get fine particles of walnut shell everywhere (including on your cases). If you want to go the cheap route, you can always buy a rock tumbler from harbor freight (plus they usually have a 20% off a single item coupon) for like $40. then buy 2 lbs of stainless steel media and you are ready to clean! just follow the directions that come with the stainless steel media. This is what i did and i haven't had any issues with the tumbler or the media.



    http://www.harborfreight.com/dual-drum-rotary-rock-tumbler-67632.html

    http://www.stainlesstumblingmedia.com/products/media.html
     
  6. Mikej

    Mikej Portland Gold Supporter Gold Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    skydiver likes this.
  7. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    Walnut shell (which will last for years if you don't gunk it up) in a cheapie tumbler gets the brass clean. If you think the shiny surface allows easier inspection, you can add a dash of Bon Ami or better yet, Zud. In over 50 years of doing this, I have yet to see a shiny brass contest on match day or seen a hunter fail to make a kill because his brass was dull. If you want to sell used brass, polishing could be a good idea.
     
  8. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    I just wash them with hot water and a touch of soap and Lemi-Shine.. rinse and dry. I ain't dead yet. whatever, people used to do essentially the same or tried to approximate same forever.. I've done that for about forty years.
    Might have to blast off the ground in mud with the hose and then colander/sift them first of course.. depending.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2014
    filsonhand likes this.
  9. Sstrand

    Sstrand La Grande OR Well-Known Member

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    How much Bon Ami? I assume Zud is similar. Would Bartender's Friend work? have been putting in some pieces of dryer sheets and Flitz.
    The dryer sheet come out quite full of dust. My mom used to clean windows with Bon Ami. that was a long time ago.

    Sheldon
     
  10. MPshooter

    MPshooter Corvallis, OR Member

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    Thanks for all the great feedback! It seems that most of you like the tumblers better than the ultrasonic cleaner.
     
  11. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    No Flitz. Flitz is gunk when used in the tumbler. Flitz is great to polish revolver cylinder faces in order to make them easier to clean them.

    I have never used bartender's friend. I read the label and passed on it. I don't remember why now. I have used Zud (best) Comet (ok but maybe a little gritty) and Bon Ami (ok). How much Bon Ami? How much soap when you wash your hands? How much brass do you want to clean? How dirty is it? What size? How big is the tumbler?


    Why isth is neww ebsite so slowit make s my slow typing look like t his unless I go back andcor rect the whole post?
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2014
  12. Sstrand

    Sstrand La Grande OR Well-Known Member

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    Sinister
    OK, I'll try some Bon Ami (which I have) and will try to find some Zud.

    Sheldon
     
  13. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    Those guys that used dirty powder in those Schuetzenfests using those Pope barrels using one piece a brass 30,000 times sure stopped to fluff and tumble it after each and every shot. not
     
    Sstrand likes this.
  14. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    So reasons to perform some kind of cleaning:

    1) Reduces die wear
    2) Looks good
    3) it can improve function in semi-automatics (corrosion having a higher coefficient of friction)

    Cleaning methods:

    Washing - lemishine, CLR, vinegar and laundry soap, etc. This does the best in terms of removing dirt and crud from the shells. Stainless steel pin media is pretty much this process ++ in that it removes more of the crud and leaves you essentially with almost new looking brass
    Tumbling in walnut - Walnut is several times harder than corncob, as a result it does a very good job of removing crud that corncob is simply too soft for, however it has a tendency to burnish the surface and leave it looking kinda matte. I have never seen very shiny brass made with walnut, but I have seen clean brass made this way.
    Tumbling in corncob - Corncob does a very good job of creating a high polish on brass, but usually it needs an abrasive to help it out. It won't score the brass or remove corrosion and crud the same way stainless or walnut will, I use corncob as a finishing process not as a cleaning process.

    My method - As someone who has worked in the commercial ammunition field for a decent number of years now, the method I've adopted is washing, processing, and then finishing. So when used brass comes in, it's usually washed in CLR, with some agitation and then hot air dried. The brass is then lubricated and processed, it is washed one more time in a solution of either dawn dishwashing soap or powdered laundry detergent. It is again forced air dried, and then sent for tumbling in corncob.

    For corncob, I prefer a polish that leaves a bit of a wax behind, right now flitz, dillon and berry's all produce very good tumbler additives, dillon and berry's are nearly indistinguishable in terms of performance. Generally when you start seeing cycle times going up, if you add a cup of mineral spirits to 50lbs of media, it will cut the tumbling time down and again give you better results.

    When I tumble, I usually use either a large vibratory bowl, or a cement mixer. Vibratory bowl is much faster than rotary tumbling, however the results are generally the same. In either case, the pre-wash removes most of the lead contaminated dust, and also makes your media last much longer than it would otherwise. I highly recommend whatever you do, washing is your first step.
     
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  15. filsonhand

    filsonhand In the Silicon Forest Smooth as a Rhino 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Like mentioned above I also soak brass in dawn and lemi-shine after running thru a lee decapper die then clean the primer pocket with a q tip easy peasy and no chance of a primer not getting seating fully...someday I might upgrade to an ultrasonic:)