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To Clean, To Tumble or to Let it Go???

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by etrain16, Aug 28, 2015.

  1. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Okay NWFA reloaders, I've been doing my research here, on the YouTube and the Google and I'm not getting a definitive answer. So, knowing how smart you folks are, I'm going to toss out a question I'm sure you've answered before and are dying to answer again.

    I am new to reloading. Last weekend my daughter and I decapped about 500 cases of 9mm and .45 in preparation for loading. While I've got the Lee Classic Turret press, I'm starting my first hand loads using the Lee Precision Hand Press so I can get a good feel for each step along the way. I've got the one missing part for the press, the Ram Prime on the way, it will be here this weekend, so I'll be ready to start priming some cases.

    Now, here is the question. My brass is a mix of various range brass. Kind of dirty, a few a bit bent out of shape. Reading on various sites, watching videos, there seems to be a wide array of opinions on cleaning brass before loading. Some say it's not that big of a deal for pistol cases, others say they need to be tumbled, some say they should be wet washed with a variety of additives like citric acid or Simple Green, then dried in the oven. Some say deprime then tumble, others say tumble then deprime.

    So, you'll forgive my confusion in this process. At the moment, I have neither a tumbler nor any media, so tumbling, at the moment is not really an option. But I could do a wet wash to at least get the loose crap out of the cases. If I do this, is it enough? Is cleaning the brass really critical for 9mm range loads? Or is it just a wasted extra step? I'm not going for match grade loads here, and none will go through a chrono since I don't have one of those either at this point.

    Thoughts?
     
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  2. deadeye

    deadeye Albany,OR. Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes wash first this will help keep the die clean and minimize wear as well as aid in making it somewhat easier to process (especially using a hand press). You can use dish soap (I use Dawn) maybe a tablespoon per gallon with a little lemon shine (maybe a 1/4 tsp) rinse with hot water shake excess off using a colander or maybe just an old towel. Spread out on a towel and let air dry for a few days or you can use the oven method (just not over maybe 175 deg. You do not need to polish it.
     
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  3. blackadder

    blackadder Everett Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    It's up to you. If the cases are dirty with chunks of mud on them yeah definitely at least wash them. Before I had a tumbler I washed mine in lemon juice and baking soda, but that gets a bit expensive after a while. With dirty(er) brass you are somewhat more likely to get FTFs, but for plinking ammo its not a big deal. I've heard a lot of people like lemishine for their washes. Heck, just throw some dish soap and water in a plastic container with your brass and shake it up, then rinse and dry. Or just load them as is. One reason folks like to tumble/clean their brass is because it makes cracks and other issues with the brass more evident. Definitely inspect your brass.
     
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  4. ChiefStealth

    ChiefStealth Graham, Wa. Well-Known Member

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    For many years, I washed with soap and water, and oven dried. That works fine to clean brass, but doesn't make the brass shine. As another wrote, brass that is shiny is easier to inspect. That's getting a little more important lately, as I have some cases that I've been using since 1996. Shiny brass is also easier to find in the grass at the range. When I used soap and water, I de-primed first. The washing helped clean the primer pockets, somewhat. Not a lot.
    Now, I have a tumbler. It gets brass both clean, and shiny. I do not de-prime the brass first. The brass goes straight from the range bag to the tumbler. Dump it in.. turn it on.. come back in three hours. I no longer clean primer pockets for pistol brass.
     
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  5. Tirving

    Tirving Portland, OR Member

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    I think there are a few options, some just reload dirty brass, some clean with soap, water, lemishine, some polish and clean with walnut/corn cob media. Here's what I do (It's just my process, not what I think MUST be done):
    • I shoot, then pick up, and deprime my brass at the range with a Lee Handloader and a universal decamping die (unless I have shot hundreds of rounds, then I might bring it home and deprime in the backyard with a beer)
    • It really only takes me 15 minutes to deprime the ~100 cases I shoot weekly at the range. It also allows me to clean my gun at the range as I use Froglube and I heat the slide and barrel while I am decapping to apply the froglube on hot metal so it soaks in. I also use this time to reflect on my shooting and all the flinching/trigger slaps I did :)
    • When I get home, I dump the deprimed, dirty cases into a tupperware bin for the respective caliber.
    • Once a month or so, I dump 3 -4 pounds of the deprimed, dirty cases (one caliber at a time) into a tumbler with albs os stainless steel media (STM) 2 squirts of Dawn Detergent and 1/4 tsp Lemishine. I let it tumble for 2.5-3 hours, drain it, separate media and shells, and put in a food dehydrator on 135 degrees for a hour
    • Done, I keep my clean brass in glass jars because it's so shiny and purtty :)
    I like this process, as someone else mentioned, it's easier to see defects, small cracks, etc, it completely cleans the brass, even primer pockets (I know this isn't necessary with pistol brass, but this process does it). In addition, it keeps my presses and dies AND reloading bench clean, no carbon residue, not mess, the only thing I end up cleaning is spilled powder, tiny little flecks of brass from the reloading process, and I clean the inside of my dies with cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol after each session. Now, I don't reload tons of volume, I do about 600-800 rounds a month of 9mm or 45 ACP (mostly) and alternate months so I don't have to do a lot of caliber swaps.

    There you go, this is my process, yours can vary greatly. I may switch to the Frankford Arsenal Tumbler as it can hold more cases and has a couple of neat features to make the draining, separating easier. I think it'll speed things up a bit for me.
     
  6. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    It needs to be clean just like you do--it does not have to be beautifully shiny unless you intend to sell it. An inexpensive tumbler and walnut media will do the needful--add a little Bon Ami or Zud it you want it even cleaner or are cleaning really dirty brass--this method is cheap--easy, and the media will last for a long long--long time......I posted pictures some time a go somewhere on here....it's true that really clean brass is easier to inspect---really polished brass maybe not so much, especially if you are working out in the bright sunshine...which is about done for the year I guess, but still..........
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015
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  7. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Some great input so far folks! Thanks for weighing in. I knew I would get a good answer here at NWFA :s0022:
     
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  8. Dyjital

    Dyjital Albany, Ore Flavorite Member Bronze Supporter

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    range brass I always clean. I'd rather not scratch up my dies like Catwoman on Batman.

    My shot brass that's picked up is fairly clean to being after shooting. A lot of the time especially on my .357/.38 brass because it's in a revolver or a lever and doesn't get rubbed in dirt is reloaded right from the brass bin.

    So yes, range brass is always cleaned. Always.

    I use stainless media so it doesn't matter for me if it's totally dirty, light dirt or actually fairly clean... it all comes out looking new like gold.
    IMAGE_44.jpeg

    IMAGE_44.jpeg
     
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  9. Benchrest

    Benchrest The Desert Planet Well-Known Member

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    I'll loan you my tumbler for a couple weeks...

    All my brass is clean, I won't be needing it anytime soon.
     
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  10. ConcreteJungle

    ConcreteJungle Eugene Well-Known Member

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    I use an ultrasonic cleaner on all my brass. i clean the brass before depriming and after to get the pockets clean. but i do this on different days to allow the brass to dry or i'll just shove them in the oven for a few mins if i need them right away but most of the time i clean the brass the same day i get back from the range.
    and i always have clean prepped brass laying around in various stages of loading. i keep them in separate labeled bins. this is my system because i can only dedicated a few mins at a time to loading.
     
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  11. Sgt Nambu

    Sgt Nambu Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    When started with my brass I deprimed then washed in H2O with Dawn and lemon juice. Shook often soaking for a day or two. Rinsed well and air dried on a rack. Next, inspected and sorted and chamfered if necessary. Then started the reloading procedure. After I got my tumbler I tumbled every third go round, just cheap I guess!
     
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  12. v0lcom13sn0w

    v0lcom13sn0w Keizer, or Well-Known Member

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    for handgun,i used to tumble after every time i would go shoot or new-to-me brass. now,as long as its clean-ish i just load'm. i tumble them after their loaded to make them look 'nicer' Also, i usually only tumble 5.56 after its loaded.
     
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  13. misterarman

    misterarman Vancouver,Wa. USA Silver Supporter Silver Supporter

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    For what it's worth here's my 2 cents....................
    Tumble before size/deprime. Tumble again after case prep which is actually more of a polish.
    Throw in a used dryer sheet and and a cap full of Dillon media polish and it ends up coming out real purdy. The dryer sheet sucks up all the dirt etc and the media gets cleaner with every use and I can't imagine ever needing more media in my lifetime.
    Clean and "purdy" is also smoother and slicker and my thinking is easier to slide in and out of the chamber.
    Maybe a small step to reliability but my brain makes me do it. Does it really matter? I don't know, but it does to me. I have more time at the reloading bench than I do at the range so anything I can do to make a gun run right I want to do.
    Sizing dirty brass could also change your brass specs with a build up of dirt in the sizing die.
    I have also switched over to the big Dillon tumblers [CV2001] and they do a better job faster than any other tumbler I have used and I have tried a bunch. I haven't tried a CV 750 since Dillon started putting the CV2001 motor in them but I like the size flexibility the CV2001 gives me. Nothing like being able to do 2000 9mm or 1000 223 when you need to.
    Haven't gone to stainless media but it sure comes out clean and beautiful.
    My brain doesn't let me get brass wet. I'm sure the oven eliminates moisture but the cost of the divorce would certainly cut into my shooting budget if my wife caught me putting a tray of brass in her oven.
     
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  14. HotRod61

    HotRod61 Happy Valley Active Member

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    I'm with most. I clean in a tumbler. Then size and deprime than tumbler again. I like clean shiny clean brass it makes my rounds more accurate. ;) I'm with misterarman what ever I have to do at the reloading bench to have less trouble at the range is a plus and I like to reload anyways so it's a win win
    HotRod
     
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  15. atuna69

    atuna69 Southern OR Member

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    Setting brass out in the sun and breezes dry it very quickly.
     
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  16. misterarman

    misterarman Vancouver,Wa. USA Silver Supporter Silver Supporter

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    We
    We have the wind today but it may be months before we get the sun.
     
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  17. Benchrest

    Benchrest The Desert Planet Well-Known Member

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    El Nemo & The Boob will ensure many good brass drying days well into December ;)
     
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  18. atuna69

    atuna69 Southern OR Member

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    I guess we do get more in Medford country.:)
     
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  19. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    That's a kind offer, I may take you up on that. At the very least, it would let me know if I want to add one to my future purchase list.
     
  20. Benchrest

    Benchrest The Desert Planet Well-Known Member

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    You should - I feel cleaning is essential, and borrowing mine would let you know if dry-tumbling is right for you.

    All achieve essentially the same thing, clean brass - It's just the post-process that differs.

    :)