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Case Neck Cleaning

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by rrojohnso, May 10, 2012.

  1. rrojohnso

    rrojohnso Vancouver, WA Member

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    Hey All -

    I have been reloading the same brass for quite a while now, and though I run it through a tumbler to clean the brass (and it sure is sparkling), the case neck is getting a larger, dirty ring of soot (yes, I clean my rifle). I assume it's being caused by a small amount of lube that was left from sizing, which is keeping the case neck from getting a solid seal when the round is discharged? How do you guys clean the necks of the cases? Alcohol? Hopps? I was sitting there last night looking at all kinds of things I could clean them with... thoughts?:huh:

    Thanks
    Bobby
     
  2. herdingcats

    herdingcats Des Moines, WA Member

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    Isopropyl alcohol is worth a try as you'll know right away if it is working, and it is easy and cheap to get.

    If this does not do the trick, the answer will really depend on what the ring actually is.

    It's not likely a tar or asphalt sealant since it has been forming, rather than pre-existing... but some military brass does end up having some tar or asphalt sealant on it. If this is it, then use Goo-Gone (d-limonene). It's not magic, but it seems to be the best solution for this situation.

    More likely:

    When I get stubborn stains and gunk on my brass, I put them through a little Citric Acid bath. Use 4 teaspoons crystallin (powder) Citric Acid per 1/2 gallon of HOT water (the hotter, the better... the energy activates and speeds up the acidic reaction and therefor decreases the time necessary to get the job done). Unless you also take a bath in it, this acid will not hurt you, your drains, your family or anything else for that matter. In fact, taste the crystallin form... it's the same "sour" you'll taste on "sour patch kids" or other similar candy. What's more, Citric Acid reclaims copper from corroded brass (yes, it puts the copper back on the brass case). At the same time, the brass is going through a chemical metallurgical process called passivation that strengthens the brass against both corrosion and case cracking. It's really quite something... almost a little too good to be true. But I assure you, it is safe and it works GREAT. Once you're done with the acid bath, you'll need to rinse in water and then dry the brass. Once dry, tumble it again to get the crap knocked off and the shine buffed up. You'll be shocked at the great results.

    I feel like I also need to warn you about using other cleaning methods. Be sure you are very careful with what you use and what you mix. Some a**hole sent me a set of brass that he didn't clean up enough, though he did put it through some kind of homemade chemical wash without rinsing it afterwards (I'm still not sure what it was, though the resulting reaction suggests he used Vinegar with salt... chemists, you'll guess what's coming next). The brass was so crappy, I put it though my own Citric Acid bath... low and behold, whatever the hell he used reacted with the brass as a catalyst and voila, I had full strength HCl (hydrochloric acid) on my hands... literally on my hands. Can I say OUCH?!

    I can't tell you how many home-remedy brass cleaners I've heard of that are just foolish... I think the users have zero idea what they are doing chemically (no surprise I suppose). You'll read all kinds of recipes in this and other forums. For example, beware of anything that has any variation of ammonia or triethanolamines in it. I won't go through the chemistry, but it will (i) weaken your brass, and (ii) will re-corrode your brass over and over since it dries as a salt which is just reactivated with humidity in the air... more or less, never ending corrosion. The dried salt can be knocked off the cases, but it's meticulous so why not just avoid the problem? Let's also not forget how reactive Ammonia is with all kinds of chemicals... can this dried salt on your cartridge be good for your gun or maybe not? One of the major off-the-shelf brass cleaners has an ammonia variant in it... this is pretty funny if you like "the joke is on the consumer" side of things since their product will cause more corrosion over time, and therefor you'll need more of their product. Personally I don't find it very funny.

    Vinegar is another one of these problem chemicals (the active ingredient is acetic acid). Now I should clarify, in the case of Vinegar there is no danger to the brass from the Vinegar. Vinegar was even hailed by the NRA at one point as being the end-all, be-all brass cleaner. However, while it does effectively clean brass, Vinegar does not protect the brass. In fact, Vinegar leaves an acetic acid or acetate residue on the brass, and it does not wash off with a clean water rinse. So the problem here is that anything that could have protected the brass will be either blocked or reversed by the residue. This means that brass washed in Vinegar is ALWAYS in it's most corrosion-susceptible form. If a person instead just uses pure HCl, it will clean the brass and leave no residue. So, you could do something to protect the brass long term after using it. If nothing else, the oxidation of the Zinc in brass leaves a quasi-protective layer. This will be allowed to form with a pure HCl wash, but not with Vinegar... see the difference?

    Anyway, back on topic. If Isopropyl alcohol does not do the trick, and if you can't find Citric Acid (I got mine at a health food store)... there is a very easy solution, though it's one I don't care for. Try gasoline (but for God's sake be careful and vent fresh air properly).

    I know how that sounds... but did you know you'll find this ingredient in MANY different case cleaners and case lubricants as the active ingredient? Check out the Hexane in RCBS Case Slick. Yup, it's one of about three active chemical variants in Gas. Is there any wonder there's a "highly flammable" warning on the side of the bottle?

    Anyway, good luck and PM me if you have any questions (I won't be monitoring this thread).
     
    rrojohnso and (deleted member) like this.
  3. herdingcats

    herdingcats Des Moines, WA Member

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    I figured out which off-the-shelf brass cleaner I was thinking of... I thought it was Brasso but was not certain. It is. Given the ingredients, I can't think of a good reason to use it.

    I did a similar post at SGN on the subject that might be helpful as I included more ingredient based info about some popular brass polish products. You might notice my username over there is shazam, not herdingcats. Here's the link. My long-winded response is #7 over there.
     
  4. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    A simple case cleaner/polish is Nu-Finish Car Wax. It has no ammonia in it so it won't harm brass. It uses an extremely fine abrasive to provide the polish and leaves behind a polymer wax like finish.

    Many handloaders will use this in their corn-cob media when they "tumble" the brass.

    I have used it on a rag and merely used it to clean the necks of brass that I don't tumble.

    Now to the soot on the case necks. Assuming a clean chamber, this sooting is usually caused by a low pressure load. The case is not expanded tight enough at the neck area for it to provide a good seal against the gases pushing the bullet out the barrel. When they leak around the neck they'll deposit some soot, sometimes small gunpowder particles. Sooting can be reduced by either changing to a faster burning powder or increasing your load by an increment or two.

    When hand cleaning the cases, if there is a hard build up of soot, some steel wool (000, 0000) will usually cut through the tough stuff. Then just moisten a rag with some Nu-Finish Car wax and finish the job.

    Do not use Brasso. It contains ammonia compounds and if you use it enough the cases get brittle leading to splits and case failure.

    You mentioned "tumbler". Is it a true tumbler like a rock polisher or just a vibrating bowl type cleaner? If a true tumbler, try some stainless steel tumbling media. Those little pins will clean off all crusty carbon/soot, clean the primer pockets, and best of all, the inside of the case including the neck. It's like using brand new brass for every loading.
     
  5. herdingcats

    herdingcats Des Moines, WA Member

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    Oh man, I almost forgot something about Vinegar... and this is pretty important as to why not to use it.

    Acetic acid (again, the active ingredient in Vinegar) and any lead oxide (which you'll find all over "spent" brass) creates Lead acetate which is toxic and can/will be absorbed by your body. I think the take home lesson here is "don't use Vinegar to clean your brass". In some ways I think it's just about as dangerous as using gasoline.
     
  6. rrojohnso

    rrojohnso Vancouver, WA Member

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    Good Morning. No sir - it is a vibrating bowl type cleaner. I said vibrator once before on here, but felt dirty saying so... ;) I will one day have the money to invest in the true tumbler. I have followed what you said on that and think it would be a great tool.

    I think the problem of the soot could be caused by the lower pressure loads, never thought of that. The rounds I was shooting were on the lower end of the powder scale as I am trying new primer and new bullet combo in my .308. The soot isn't 'bad,' and I get most of it off when I wipe it, but the residual that doesn't come off is now building each time I shoot, and I need to get rid of it before it becomes a problem. When I fire my rounds, the brass remains clean and is cool to the touch... so there is a good seal there otherwise (I am just sizing with the collet sizing die from Lee).

    On another note: I would like to invest in an powder dispenser. Any opinion on that? Lyman, RCBS, Hornady... as it is, I am weighing each charge by hand (drop it with the power drop, then top it up by trickler on the scale). It takes forever to get my loads charged... If I was loading pistol or something else, that would be one thing, but I am trying to get precise measures for consistency, and the Hornady powder measure isn't very consistent.
     
  7. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    If your budget allows for it, I would highly recommend an RCBS Chargemaster. I made the jump a few years ago as I was doing the same thing. Weighing each charge by hand and diddling with a triclkler until it was just right. Now that I have the chargemaster I'm not looking back. Best money spent for tools on my bench.

    They aren't cheap. Around $300 and the best time is to buy when RCBS is offering rebates. I selected the Chargemaster after reading several side/side evaluations of the "big three" auto dispensers. PACT, Hornady, and RCBS. The consensus was that the RCBS was faster (and it can be further tweaked by the operator), and very consistent in their "drops". Many of the Bench Rest shooters I come in contact with are starting to use the Chargemaster as it handles their favorite powders better than the expensive, custom, Bench Rest powder dispensers.

    I like mine because the only real waiting is for the first powder charge. I then pour it into a waiting case, place the pan back on the scale, and while the Chargemaster is dispensing another charge, I seat a bullet and measure the OAL. When I place the finished cartridge in the box, another load is waiting for me on the scale. I've even used this on a special setup I arranged on my Dillon 650 which is equipped with an electronic monitor. By using only charges dropped and weighed by the chargemaster I was able to load at a consistent rate of 100 per hour.

    There are numerous powder measures out there that aren't integrated with a scale but most do not handle all powders well. They use a variety of tubes, drums, gates, valves, and sometimes even "magic" to handle the different consistencies of powder but the Chargemaster just dribbles powder until the scale says enough. Almost always without an under or over weight charge. For the few of those I get a simple tap of the tube either fills out the charge or a tweezer load of powder granules brings it back down to weight.

    Again, if your budget will allow, it's a great investment and you won't be sorry. My only regret is that I don't have two.
     
  8. herdingcats

    herdingcats Des Moines, WA Member

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    I really don't want to sh*t on a thread here, especially since I know deadshot2 is very credible. Seriously to deadshot2, I don't mean to pick on you or start a fight.

    I also think it's important that people know what decision they are making, so education is key when dealing with chemicals. Since that's what rrojohnso asked for, I'm going to respond for his sake regarding Nu-Finish Car Wax.

    In my previous post here (#2), I mentioned that you'll find gasoline derivatives in all kinds of cleaners and lubricants. This is one of them. What's good about Nu-Finish and their approach to using gasoline as the active ingredient (specifically "Petroleum Distillates" is listed on the MSDS), is that it looks like they've made an effort to make it less volatile as it relates to flammability. The other ingredients are pretty benign such as Oleic Diethanol Amide which is added to create suds... no big deal unless you like bugs, rats or shrooms (it'll kill all those, albeit not well).

    In any case, here's what's up about using gas: it's toxic to everything in your body that you'd likely want to keep, and especially to your lungs if swallowed (yea, I know that sounds odd, but it is correct). OK, so why use costly alternatives like Nu-Finish Car Wax or Flitz when you could just add a little gas to your tumbler and get the same effect (look at the cost per Gallon and you'll get what I'm saying here)? Now ask yourself, would a petroleum distillate be a good thing for my brass, or a bad thing? Is it inert, or will it slow-but-sure eat at my powder, primer and brass from the inside out? Well, it's not inert, I'll tell you that much. Also, what about just the brass? Is this doing anything other than cleaning? From a brass corrosion point of view, I don't think this one will hurt the brass too much. On the other hand, I don't expect it to protect the brass either.

    If you do decide to use gas or anything like Nu-Finish Car Wax or Flitz, then please (i) be sure to wear protective gloves while handling it, (ii) wear a decent face mask while around it, (iii) use adequate ventilation while using it, (iv) be sure to clean it off the area you applied it to on the brass so it does the least amount of damage to you and the guns you'll use it in, and (v) dispose of it properly and away from your home (not in your soil).

    Just to get this one to sink in, here are some fun bits of info about what gas will do to you (all grades):

    Effects Central Nervous System, Harmful or Fatal if swallowed, aspiration hazard. Harmful or Fatal if inhaled. May cause chemical pneumonia (fluid in the lungs). Harmful if absorbed through the skin. Avoid prolonged breathing of vapors or mists. Inhalation may cause irritation, anesthetic effects (dizziness, nausea, headache, intoxication and death), and respiratory system effects. Long-term exposure may cause effects to specific organs, such as to the liver, kidneys, blood, nervous system, and skin. Contains benzene, which can cause blood disease, including anemia and leukemia.
     
  9. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    You get more exposure to "gasoline" each time you fuel your car than you will in a lifetime of using Nu-Finish Car Wax.:cool:
     
  10. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    I would want more proof that the petroleum distillates in Nu Finish are gasoline. I'd guess more like kerosene. When I was younger we used to put a little kerosene in our bucket of car wash soap to leave a shine.

    I don't like to use any chemicals on my brass partly for fear of harming the brass and partly for fear of contaminating my powder, but that's just paranoid ole me.

    I get a very fine water based polish from an auto paint supply store, often a 3M product. I also like a product called Black Magic. Then I know when I wash the cases, I'm just washing the tumbling media, a fine abrasive (pumice) and water away. I just put a squirt of that polish in my media.

    One more time. Brass is a mixture - not an alloy - of copper and zinc. Being "free," the softer zinc can be leached away by acids and strong alkalines, leaving porosity and weakness.

    I know, paranoid me, LOL. :thumbup:
     
  11. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Gunner-

    The reference to "Gasoline" was as I read was to point out that the "Petroleum Distillates" that Nu-Finish contains are part of the same family of petroleum products that gasoline belongs to.

    "Petroleum Distillates" is a wide term used to describe the lighter products that come from distilling crude oil (Naptha). Paint thinner, Stoddard (Safety Solvent), etc., are all in this family. Gasoline, as we use it in our cars, contains a whole host of additives that can make it very harmful to our health. At one time it contained a dangerous aromatic, benzene. Gasoline is not intended for cleaning but paint thinners and safety solvents (petroleum distillates) are designed for use around humans. Common sense says use with ventilation because it stinks. It also irritates skin. As for car polish, the amount of distillates they contain is small and the frequency one uses them is also small.

    Just how much of "gasoline's cousin" does a tablespoon of Nu-Finish contain. Not enough to worry about. If one is that picky, they need to worry more about that flatulent relative that stinks up the house. That "gas" contains Hydrogen Sulfide and Methane. Careful, both are harmful to your health ;)
     
  12. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    Deadshot - I'm well aware of what petroleum distillates are and that's not what concerns me. I am more concerned about other things which might be in a polish such as polymers or whatever else might be able to contaminate my powder or primer. Like I said, I'm probably just paranoid, but I'd rather use something that's water based. I want clean brass. To each his own.

    As for flatulence, a long time ago I worked with some guys who were really gross. They (we) we actually traveling bank auditors. We'd be sitting around in a hotel room and if one of them was about to pass gas, he'd hold a match or lighter to his butt, and right after he passed the gas he'd stick a flame there and actually get a flash from the burning gas.
     
  13. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Being a Bank Auditor explains it all:cool::cool:

    As for the "flame thrower" I remember those days. Used to commute to a job via Ferry Boat from Bremerton. Boredom prevailed on the return trips. One of my fellow travelers was doing this and ended up burning the entire seat our of his jeans. Had to walk off the boat with his coat tied around his waist. Also stood a lot on trips for the rest of the week:laugh::laugh: Had to make frequent trips to the restroom to apply more burn ointment. That was almost 50 years ago and it still makes me grin, a lot.:cool::cool:


    Now back to our regularly scheduled programming-------
     
  14. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    I love that ferry ride. A couple of years ago my wife and I drove all the way up the WA coast from Astoria, around through Port Angeles, through Sequim ("Squim" for those who don't know) and caught the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle, right near the farmer's market. After making lunch out of things we got at Pike's Street Market, we were out of time and blew back down I-5 to home, with just one overnight stay near Salem.
     
  15. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    From the sound of things, your tumbling media is getting too old, replace it.

    Also, adding about 2 tablespoons of "mineral spirits" to your media before tumbling tends to help "reactivate" the waxes in the media, and gives you a better finish, it also helps dissolve the case lubricant and sequester it in the corncob.

    This is part of the reason I wash brass after sizing instead of going straight to tumbling. The washing method outlined as the first response is a good one, I usually use hot water, laundry detergent and vinegar and then force-air dry.

    At the ammo factory, we had issues with crud building up on the casings after tumbling... it ended up just being too much lanolin contamination in the media and changing it out fixed the issue. Using the washing process we eliminated the need for frequent replenishment of media, which is a big issue as our polish is expensive (the media is cheap).
     
  16. rrojohnso

    rrojohnso Vancouver, WA Member

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    For the record, the Alcohol didn't do a thing. On to the citric acid. Question: I have reloaded these specific hulls 3 times. They have only been neck sized each time. Each of the rounds fired haven't been hot loads, and they show no signs of wear.

    Should I anneal them before the acid bath, or after?

    Thanks
     
  17. Dave Workman

    Dave Workman Western Washington Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Gentlemen..GENTLEMEN!


    All you really need to do here is go to the hardware store. Buy a package of the very finest steel wool available...the kind used for buffing...and then soak your cases in soapy dishwater and VERY GENTLY run the steel wool around the neck a couple of times, rinse, allow to dry and throw your brass in the tumbler with standard media. I've been doing this for years. No bad effects on the brass. On the inside of the neck, use a round nylon cleaning brush to accomplish the same thing.