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  #1  
Old 09-01-2021, 02:12 PM
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Default Cleaning Brass

Thought I'd get some opinions on cleaning used brass. Here's my method.
I remove the spent primers first with a universal non sizing de-primer tool then load the shells into an old 10lbs rock tumbler with stainless pins, dish soap, a little bit of LemiShine, and water.
Start the tumbler and let it do it's thing for at least 4-5 hours; sometimes all day.
After they're done I drain everything into a separator and then rinse the shells and let them air dry.
The stainless pins do a much better job of cleaning than any dry medium I ever tried and even the primer pockets look good.
So far this has worked perfectly on modern or black powder residue with once fired brass, range collected stuff, even my all brass shotgun shells.
Ride Safe. Dr.Tramp...........

Last edited by Dr.Tramp; 09-01-2021 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 09-01-2021, 02:29 PM
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Dr. Tramp. That’s pretty much what I do. I use the RCBS rotary tumbler.
I also use the Frankfort Arsenal magnet to pick up the pins.
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Old 09-01-2021, 02:41 PM
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Ditto - switched over to wet tumbling a few years ago and will never go back.

Lately I have run the cases in the tumbler without the pins and the cases for the most part come out very acceptable. There maybe a little residue in some of the primer pockets but for the most part the cases are very clean and much easier on the dies.
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Old 09-01-2021, 03:06 PM
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if de-priming first watch for stuck pins in the flash hole.
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Old 09-01-2021, 03:23 PM
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if de-priming first watch for stuck pins in the flash hole.
I can see where this could be a problem. But at some point cases need to be inspected. Pins stuck should be caught at this time.
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Old 09-01-2021, 04:02 PM
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Pins stuck in the flash hole?

In the thousands of cases wet tumbled, that only happened during the first two batches. A few pins were bent, and were thrown away!

Pins sold specifically for case cleaning are sized for no-stick passing through the flash holes. Generac pins could be just about any size, and there could be a problem!

Ivan
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Old 09-01-2021, 04:09 PM
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Default How many pins have you lost....

I too use the wet pin method. Started with 5 lbs. of pins, estimate I have lost a couple of ounces of pins in 5 years. They are slippery little devils and end up in the most out of the way places.
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Old 09-01-2021, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by elpac3 View Post
Ditto - switched over to wet tumbling a few years ago and will never go back.

Lately I have run the cases in the tumbler without the pins and the cases for the most part come out very acceptable. There maybe a little residue in some of the primer pockets but for the most part the cases are very clean and much easier on the dies.
I switched to the FA Platinum tumbler several years ago and have loved the results. A few years ago, I too tried a batch of brass without the pins. The outside of the brass looks the same as brass tumbled with the pins. The difference is the inside of the brass and primer pockets do not come out as clean. It has not been enough of a difference for me, so I now tumble 90-95% without pins. Extremely dirty brass still get tumbled with pins.

I still have my Lyman 3200 and use it ocassionally, but wet cleaning is my go to system for cleaning brass.
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Old 09-01-2021, 05:24 PM
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Gone back to dry media ...treated walnut shell from Midway .
I gave the wet method a try ...didn't care for all the water mess .
Don't have running water or a sink in my reloading out building ... also didn't care for the drying process and occassional pin stuck in the small flash holes that keep appearing .
Treated Dry media cases come out shiney and stay that way ... no need to treat them to keep them looking polished ...
No right ... No wrong ... just whichever way is most convenient for you ...nothing wrong with Wet or Dry ... Clean is Clean .
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Old 09-01-2021, 05:27 PM
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I wash in 5 gallon bucket, with water, dishwashing liquid and citric acid. Rinse with clean water, and let dry in the hot Florida sun.
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Old 09-01-2021, 05:29 PM
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I just use hot soapy water in a bucket, rinse, then dry. It works fine. I don't need bling bling brass. Having tarnished brass makes it easier to sort out my many times fired brass from fresh pickups at the range.
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Old 09-01-2021, 06:02 PM
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I am another “wash it in a bucket with soapy water, rinse, and air-dry” guy.
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Old 09-01-2021, 07:00 PM
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Soap, water, salt, citric. I won't do dry anymore because of the dust.
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Old 09-01-2021, 07:20 PM
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I decap, then tumble in a Lyman wet tumbler with pins, warm water, dawn, and a pinch of Lemishine for 3 hours( max setting on the timer). If the casings are really cruddy, Iíll run them for an hour with just warm water, dawn, and no pins; then the usual 3 hours with pins. I put the casings on a big beach towel in the sun to dry.
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Old 09-01-2021, 07:27 PM
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Instead of Lemishine I use bulk Citric Acid I buy off eBay. Most of it goes into the kitchen dishwasher, far cheaper to buy it in bulk than in the little Lemishine containers in the supermarket. Only a tiny amount goes for brass cleaning. The lone advantage for using Lemishine is that it has an anti-caking agent. I have to store the Citric Acid in a gallon milk jug with a screw lid to keep it from caking badly. For brass cleaning I make up a water solution of a couple of tablespoons of CA in a gallon of water and add a little bit of dishwashing detergent like Dawn. Cases don't get shiny, but I don't care.

Last edited by DWalt; 09-02-2021 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 09-01-2021, 07:36 PM
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I'm almost too embarrassed to admit how cheap (and lazy) I am. I'm using the same Thumbler's (rock) Tumbler that I bought in the 70's but wait, there's more.... I also bought a 50 lb sack of crushed (either walnut or corn cob) media that I'm ALMOST finished with. When I'm feeling really 'first cabin', I squeeze in a little Brasso. I just clean them so I don't screw up my equally old RCBS dies.....

J.
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Old 09-01-2021, 08:08 PM
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these "pins" ? where do you get them?
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Old 09-01-2021, 08:33 PM
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Walnut shells with a bit of dish soap, lemon juice and car polish.
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Old 09-01-2021, 08:41 PM
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these "pins" ? where do you get them?
I got mine on Amazon but I think they were cheaper than this...



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Old 09-01-2021, 08:49 PM
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I do wet. Soap, hot water, just a pinch of Lemishine. It takes less running time than dry. I only run them 2-3 hours and they are super clean. Yes there's drying time but my wife has so many fans running around the house I find one to set them in front of on a tray.

I don't decap. I tried it but the pockets didn't come out all that clean so I eliminated the step. I still use the little Harbor Freight double tank tumbler I bought to experiment with. For the moment it's enough but I imagine I'll get a bigger one eventually. But for now I'm keeping up with it and it doesn't take up much room.
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Old 09-02-2021, 11:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vinn View Post
these "pins" ? where do you get them?
You can get them from several sources like USA Midway, BC Precision, STM, etc. so you can shop around for the best price.
STM and USA Midway offer complete kits, tumbler, pins, everything to get started.
I initially bought 5lbs and only use half of that to tumble so since they apparently last forever you don't need a huge quantity.
As mentioned, if you choose to de-prime the shells before tumbling it's a good practice to check for pins lodged in the primer pockets after cleaning. I've never found any in small primer pockets but have found a couple in the larger primer pockets of my 45-70 brass. No biggie to remove.
A friend that shoots "Long" distance bench rifle competition stopped using stainless pins because he saw signs of microscopic peening on his shells and thought it might effect the hardness of the brass.
When you shoot at 1000+ yards as he does such little things are considerations but I'm just a plinker and have never seen any negative effect on my brass shells or my stainless 38sp stuff.
Ride Safe. Dr.Tramp..............
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Old 09-02-2021, 12:26 PM
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Default My only experience with pins!

I have never used wet/pins tumbling and will never use it! I bought some 327 Mag cases over the internet from someone that had used the water/pins method! After two broken decapping pins I inspected ALL the purchased brass and found enough pins logged inside the cases to fill 1/3 of a small pill container! I have used corn cob and/or walnut shells with Nu Finish car polish in a vibratory tumbler for over 40yrs. The brass is clean and slippery making it very easy on the dies and reloading!
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Old 09-02-2021, 01:29 PM
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I wet tumbled in the late '60s in a machine shop where I worked. The "wobbler" (today called "vibrators") held about 100 gallons of liquid. Maybe 20 gallons of ceramic media and one or two 20 gallon drums of machined parts, depending on the size of the parts. When working, the whole shop shook.

I tried wet tumbling cases a couple times but the pristine brass didn't shoot any better, and the mess wasn't worth it (I could easily get shiny brass by just leaving the tumbler running a bit longer (corn cob blast media 14-20). I shoot alone, no need to impress anyone with my "purdy" handloads and I prefer to judge my handloads by what happens on the target...

Way back when, brown handloads were a sign of a handloader, a "badge of honor"...
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Old 09-02-2021, 01:41 PM
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Way back when, brown handloads were a sign of a handloader, a "badge of honor"...
Heck yes. A point made by the late John Wooters. He also said something to the effect, "Heavy handloads, over time, will cause undue wear on even the best made, strongest firearm". (I just got done reading the other thread about the heavy lead bullet/Unique loads and I had to throw that in somewhere.)
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Old 09-02-2021, 01:58 PM
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I rarely need to clean my brass, but when I do, my FA vibratory case cleaner and corn cob media is plenty adequate to give me pretty brass.
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Old 09-02-2021, 02:17 PM
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I rarely need to clean my brass, but when I do, my FA vibratory case cleaner and corn cob media is plenty adequate to give me pretty brass.
Simply put, but about all that needs to be said. These threads always turn into the vibratory cleaner and dry media vs. the wet, ritualistic cleaning methods of the fastidious. Nothing new, nobody swayed either way, and everyone gets back to business as usual.
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Old 09-02-2021, 07:22 PM
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Simply put, but about all that needs to be said. These threads always turn into the vibratory cleaner and dry media vs. the wet, ritualistic cleaning methods of the fastidious. Nothing new, nobody swayed either way, and everyone gets back to business as usual.
Agreed, we all seem to gravitate to what works best over time. Iím a corn cob media with a cap full of NuFinish car polish guy. Brass comes out great; clean, shiny and smooth. I donít find dust to be an issue at all, I think the NuFinish helps with that... I never decap prior to tumble, nor clean pistol primer pockets, to me, itís a waste of time. Iíll clean rifle primer pockets.

One thing Iíve evolved to over the past year is that I bought a second tumbler. Cuts down on my prep time, as I have my .38, .357, 9mm and similar diameter cases cooking in one tumbler while my .44 and .45 size cases are in the other. I get them all done at once.
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Old 09-02-2021, 07:52 PM
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I don't need my brass to look new, which I'm sure wet tumbling does. I just want it clean enough to not scour my dies, which dry medium does.

I don't wash my car every week either. I live on a gravel road and this time of year it's pretty much a waste of time.

I've sold a lot of dry medium cleaned brass and nobody has complained about it being dirty, but I understand why some would want it as clean as they can get it.
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Old 09-02-2021, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwpercle View Post
Gone back to dry media ...treated walnut shell from Midway .
I gave the wet method a try ...didn't care for all the water mess .
Don't have running water or a sink in my reloading out building ... also didn't care for the drying process and occassional pin stuck in the small flash holes that keep appearing .
Treated Dry media cases come out shiney and stay that way ... no need to treat them to keep them looking polished ...
No right ... No wrong ... just whichever way is most convenient for you ...nothing wrong with Wet or Dry ... Clean is Clean .
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Old 09-02-2021, 10:24 PM
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Soap, water, salt, citric. I won't do dry anymore because of the dust.
Throw 1/2 dry sheet in the mix and no more dust.
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Old 09-02-2021, 10:38 PM
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Throw 1/2 dry sheet in the mix and no more dust.
Remember to use a Used dryer sheet. New ones make a mess on the brass. They also help the medium stay clean.
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Old 09-02-2021, 11:08 PM
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I’m surprised no one has mentioned a sonic cleaner. Curious to hear about those results.

I use dry media with Flitz polish. Shiny as new in about two hours, and I have a crank-turned basket separator. I don’t recap first, as I use a progressive loader and don’t want the extra step.
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Old 09-03-2021, 01:37 PM
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I used a sonic/heated cleaner at work, a Heavy Construction Equip. Repair shop. Sometimes I'd sneak in gun parts and a couple times I cleaned some brass. The cleaner we used held about 100 gallon of liquid w/"soap" and worked OK for my use except the City had to keep eveything "environmentally friendly" whether the product worked or not and the liquid we had to use was no better than plain water which is worthless on a Cat diesel head...

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Old 09-03-2021, 02:52 PM
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Glad to see I'm not the only one who adds an extra step to their case prep and decaps before tumbling. Shiny brass makes me smile and I like to believe clean cases resize with less wear on my dies. Walnut media with an occasional squirt of Flitz, start the tumbler in the morning, go to work, and come back to a future so bright I need to wear shades. 😎

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Old 09-03-2021, 07:18 PM
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Iím surprised no one has mentioned a sonic cleaner. Curious to hear about those results.

I use dry media with Flitz polish. Shiny as new in about two hours, and I have a crank-turned basket separator. I donít recap first, as I use a progressive loader and donít want the extra step.
I use the Lyman sonic cleaner. Warm water, Dawn & Lemishine for 20 minutes/batch, rinse and set on driveway to dry. Decap first.
They come out looking almost new but clean.
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Old 09-04-2021, 10:25 AM
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Dry tumblers pose a huge lead exposure risk. Save them for cleaning the lube off of loaded ammo. Lead exposure is also a good reason to decap before tumbling.



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Iím surprised no one has mentioned a sonic cleaner. Curious to hear about those results.
Cases get clean but not shiny. If you don't care about shiny brass then it's a good alternative. It's a dual use tool because you can clean gun parts with it. Sonic cleaners are also less expensive and more compact than tumblers.

Last edited by Paul in Nevada; 09-05-2021 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 09-04-2021, 12:04 PM
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I used to dry tumble brass. Not routinely, but when I felt like it. Shiny on the outside, but not inside. Corn cob would stick in the primer pockets. Then somebody mentioned the dust. Hmmm... I quite doing that.

Like many folks, I went to wet tumbling with stainless pins - sometimes. Rifle and revolver cartridges as a rule are just wiped off and loaded. Semi-auto cases hitting the dirt usually get "pinned." Now that I started shooting ISSA, I use 9mm range pickups. Those get deprimed and treated to pins. Not only hard on my dies, but I'd probably wind up shooting sand and bugs down my pistol barrels.

The stainless pin approach really does make case inspection easy. That's a good thing with range pickups. It also makes the cases squeaky clean - literally. And therein lies a problem. The cases do squeak and drag on the expander. Sizing is more difficult even with carbide. Cases are so clean they have greater friction. I read about adding car wash n' wax to the soup. It does help by leaving a bit of "slippery" on the cases. I tried mixing Meguiar's wash and wax with the soup of Dawn and Lemishine. I found it's better to first clean up the cases with pins, Dawn and Lemishine. Then tumble the cases without pins in a soup of water and wash n' wax.

Perhaps I'm obsessive, I guess. But it works for me.
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Old 09-04-2021, 12:15 PM
rockquarry rockquarry is offline
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I've been using either a tumbler or vibratory machine, always with dry media since these machines became a fad about forty years ago. I've not had the dust problem that many here mention. If you're getting dust it may be because you're using a dry media not intended for brass cleaning or maybe the media is of poor quality. Put a tablespoon of mineral spirits or a commercial liquid polisher like Dillon and others sell. That should eliminate dust entirely.
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Old 09-04-2021, 12:43 PM
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If itís filthy range pick-up brass, I wet tumble with no pins to get them clean enough. After theyíre dry I resize and de-prime. I figure itís a waste to use a universal de-priming die if Iím gonna have to resize them later anyway. After they are resized I expand them. When I have enough expanded (the tumbler limit), I wet tumble with pins. Now theyíre clean inside and out. When theyíre dry I tumble them in crushed walnut. The wet tumble gets them so squeaky clean they can stick in the dies. The dry tumble with Nu-Finish polishes them up.

It sounds like a lot but the tumblers do all the work. The initial tumble without the pins is effortless. Itís the pin separation that takes some time.

For my own brass that isnít filthy since I pick it right up, I skip the no pins wet tumble and just resize and de-prime, then expand and wet tumble with pins when I have enough to fill tumbler for capacity.

I find the process soothing. I like clean brass.

Last edited by kbm6893; 09-04-2021 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 09-04-2021, 12:51 PM
Maurice H Maurice H is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr.Tramp View Post
Start the tumbler and let it do it's thing for at least 4-5 hours; sometimes all day.
4-5 hrs seems excessive. Mine look great within two hours.
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Old 09-04-2021, 01:28 PM
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for those using citric acid, vinagar or any type of acid it is corrosive and that's what makes it clean so well.You should neutralize the acid to stop the corrosive action of the acid.
I have used vinegar and water with a drop of dish soap in a five gallon buckets and just agitate by hand once in a while more or less let them soak for an hour or 2. Then they are rinsed and neutralized with baking soda to stop the corrosive action. they come out nice and clean with enough shine for me.
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Old 09-04-2021, 03:32 PM
kbm6893 kbm6893 is offline
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for those using citric acid, vinagar or any type of acid it is corrosive and that's what makes it clean so well.You should neutralize the acid to stop the corrosive action of the acid.
I have used vinegar and water with a drop of dish soap in a five gallon buckets and just agitate by hand once in a while more or less let them soak for an hour or 2. Then they are rinsed and neutralized with baking soda to stop the corrosive action. they come out nice and clean with enough shine for me.
I used to add a dash of Lemi Shine but I stopped due to rose colored hue on some brass. I thoroughly rinse the brass in clean water after the tumble but it still happened. Just hot water and Dawn for me in the wet tumbler with pins.
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Old 09-04-2021, 05:32 PM
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My best tip for cleaning brass is when shooting 45acp and 9mm at the range, separate the brass BEFORE dumping them in your case polisher.
Because only the 45 will be clean and all the 9mm will be stuck inside the 45acp. 😬 I mean really stuck inside the 45acp. 😂😂😂
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Old 09-06-2021, 03:42 PM
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My routine is deprime/resize, rince off rcbs case lubes in hot water, ultrasonic cleaner with lemishine+salt+lemon/vinegar disposal for 15 minutes, rinse in hot water, put cases in a plastic colander and blast them for about 5 minutes( from a distance) with my handheld heating and reload. So simple and easy and fast it's ridiculous. Are they clean you ask, yes, they're awesome.
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Old 09-07-2021, 09:02 PM
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I have my popcorn. If the case outside is clean, it's time to reload. Clean primer pockets, shiny inside of cases, mirror like polish / shine on outside of cases are all grossly overrated. Just how do you dry water washed cases in the winter time in Minnesota? Flash dry in the sunshine is possible year round in Georgia.

Has any one compared group sizes with clean / polished brass versus dirty brass? I shot some of my best scores with untumbled dirty brass that was only wiped off with a shop rag, rifle or pistol. This year I've shot some of my worst groups with mirror polished brass. Maybe it was the passage of 40 years, rather than shiny brass. The tumbler ran all night, the brass had a shiny glow after 11 hours. Time is precious for me, and I'm not wasting it with mirror bright, eye blinding brass.

See you at the range.
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Last edited by Engineer1911; 09-07-2021 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 09-08-2021, 12:35 PM
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Exactly, I dont tumble mine at all. The ultrasonic loosens the black crud inside the vase and all I do is make sure they're dry and reload. This process is for pistol brass, some of my rifle brass gets a different treatment but what I'll do to it is more for consistency in dimension not a super shiny appearance, sometimes that doesnt hurt my feelings though.
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Old 09-08-2021, 12:41 PM
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How to dry water-washed cases in winter? Simple. All you need is an oven, a cookie sheet, and a long-suffering spouse.
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Old 09-09-2021, 12:52 PM
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Or you can do like I've done thousands of cases and just use a heatgun, takes about 5 minutes. They'll get no hotter than they do when you fire them if you just use common sense and not put the heat gun an inch from your brass and hold it there. It's much faster than the oven and you wont have to be interrogated by the wife.
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Old 09-09-2021, 01:57 PM
len917 len917 is offline
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How about going to Walmart and buying a cheap toaster-oven for $15
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Old 09-09-2021, 03:57 PM
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I like many others use the wet method. I decap/resize then load up the tumbler. I place a layer of SS media in bottom of tumble and put in 100-150 pieces of brass and fill the water just above the brass. No chemicals used. My brass may not be the prettiest but the insides and primer pockets are pristine. Have fun with it!
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