Tumbling brass question
In making my list of equipment to buy for reloading I see quite a few using vibratory tumblers, does it really do much of anything to clean the inside of rifle cases though? I see it shining the outside, but how big a real is that in the process really? seems the media wouldn't have much room to get inside and do anything a .223 or .260 or such, compared to straight 9mm or .45 cases.
Depends on the size of the media. I use a fine media that gets in my .17 cases easily, but that's all it does. There is no tumbling action inside the case, so it does very little to the inside. It is important to make sure all the media comes out after tumbling.
Originally Posted by SND
I believe it takes the rotating drum type to get the insides polished.
I suppose if you do not yet have anything, there is a lot lot be said for the cut stainless media used wet, it cleans both inside and outside to perfection. And helps keep the dust from tumbling which is high in lead down to a minimum.
Your brass needs to be clean, first to prevent scoring the sizer die, second to prevent damage to the firearm's chamber.
It does not need to be shiny, a case green with smooth, clean tarnish works as well. But, a brassy case, not necessarily polished brilliant, is easier to inspect for cracks.
The build up of carbon deposit inside a case is not a factor. Carbon deposits in the primer pocket can build to a point where it causes high primer seating, but it doesn't happen immediately. I deprime before tumbling to help slow the build up.
Cleaning cases can range from the method used by our grandpa's, wiping them off with a rag and a little solvent of your choice, to vibratory or a rotary tumbler with walnut or corn cob media, to tumbling with stainless pins in a rotary tumbler, to cleaning in an ultrasonic cleaner. The last two will restore the worst possible nasty case you can find on the range to new appearance. I've used all of these methods.
Generally, walnut should be used for cleaning cases and corn cob for polishing cases. I use untreated media almost exclusively, on rare occasion I have used a cap full of polish with walnut. I delube in plain corn cob by rotary tumbling for 8 minutes or so. Plain walnut can also be used to delube but a little more time is needed.
You'll most likely be best served to start with a vibratory tumbler. Worry about getting into other methods after you've mastered the basics of reloading, there will be enough to keep you busy for a little while.
Finally, a caution. Don't use the pretreated media from Lyman. The iron oxide polish added will get all over your cases and cause a lot of extra work to sort out afterwards.
If you're interested, check the Reloading forum at AR15.Com - Your Firearm Resource. (AR-15, AR-10, M4 Carbine, M16, H&K, SIG, FNH, FAL, AK-47, 50 Cal, M1/M1A, Handgun, Pistol, Training, Hunting, and More!) for help and answers for all your questions. The forum pretty much specializes in helping new reloaders get from their first question to their first shot of reloaded ammunition. Link: Reloading - AR15.COM . You'll find answers about where to buy cheap media, how to make superior case lube, and just any other question likely to come up. (It ain't about AR's, it's about reloading for whatever you're shooting.)
In the art metal world the general school of thought is rotary tumblers work the outside sharp edges of stuff the hardest. Vibratory tumblers work all surfaces (internal and external) pretty evenly.
Rotary tumblers are great for knocking the parting line off of cast items and smoothing out sharp edges. They are not so good at working concave/internal surfaces.
But we are not talking about removing metal, cleaning burnt crap off is what is important.
This may contraindicate what many say about a rotary tumbler with SS media, but I would say it is the water/soap that does most of the work on the inside of the cases. Soapy water is a great cleaner if given enough time. If the same media and tumbler were used dry I think the great cleaning that people are seeing on the inside of the cases would disappear.
I use a dry vibratory tumbler because it is cheap and works well for me, but I soak all of my brass in a bucket of soapy water for a few hours (or days) before I put it into the tumbler. Actually I give it a few quick rinses after the soak to remove as muck crap as possible. Let it drip dry in a strainer while shaking every so often for a while before you put it into the tumbler. If you leave the top off of your tumbler while it is not in use the media will dry out from the small amount of water that you have introduced on the moist brass.
Also I think by soaking/rinsing you are removing the vast majority of the burnt powder that makes your dry media dirty, so your media will last a very long time before getting unusably dirty. I also hope (perhaps wrongly) that it is also removing a good amount of the lead (from the primers) and other various hazardous stuff from the brass before it gets vibrated into a super fine dust in my tumbler for me to later breath and scatter around my reloading space. I have read that the area that typically has the worst contamination of lead is the tumbling area of a reloading operation.
This works well for me, I don't process 1000's of rounds of brass at a time so the moisture never builds up in dry media.
I have several rotary tumblers and metal media that I could use, but don't. If you were going to process piles of brass at a time or really filthy stuff than I would use the wet rotary tumblers, but if you are using your own brass that you have just shot then it is really clean and not worth the added hassle.
A dry vibratory tumbler will do a fine job.
I can address the comment above about rotary tumblers.
For several years I've used a Lemishine and water solution to clean up range pickup brass, by soaking it for several days. The worst brass gets a bath in soap and water first to remove the mud and lime from the chat on our range.
One day I noticed that the carbon was soft enough after an hour of soaking to simply wipe out of the primer pockets or the interior, slick as anything. Before this, when I was soaking, every time I walked by the container in the garage I would give it a good shake in hopes of loosening more of the carbon; a few small flakes always came out, but mostly, it stuck tight. More direct mechanical means was needed to break the softened carbon loose.
Those of us that tumble in stainless pins use a solution of dish soap and Lemishine in water. Tumbling for 3 hours is usually needed to get every spec of carbon out, no matter how small. I have also included vinegar in the solution, but don't now. After tumbling is complete, a rinse in cold water and drying is needed.
The mechanical action of the stainless media is required to separate the carbon deposits from the brass substrate.
Lemishine contains citric acid, and other sources of citric acid will work as well if dish soap is also used to provide a surfactant. The citric acid passivates the surface of the brass cases, preserving the like new look of the brass. Maybe brighter than new. If vinegar is used, the cases will tend to turn darker yellow as the passivation is not preserved.
Lemishine is found in powdered form amongst the dish washing soaps and so on at Walmart, about $4 per container.
The forum I linked above includes several threads from reloaders that built rotary tumblers due to the cost of commercial units such as the Thumbler's Tumbler.
I wholeheartedly agree with the above positive comments. My Lyman 3200 tumbler is now a (clunky) door stop, and both my ultrasonic cleaners have been relegated to degreasing trigger ass'ys etc with detergents. A Thumler and 5lbs of SS pins is a one-time purchase, and the pins can be left in the drum wet with no consequences. Forget buying media and polishes ever again, and the setup handles much more than brass with the right solution. 2lb batch, 3-4 hour run, perfection. Hey, we're here and not on a woodworking site 'cuz we don't like dust, right?
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