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A reloader who has been working with bullets for years and those of you who recently found or have been given rounds of old cartridges may found yourself in need of an equipment or tool to clean things up. One way to do that is to get a brass tumbler to clean those rounds of bullets.
There are various brass tumblers available out there with also different media offered. From the most traditional corn cob to modern stainless steel. Every company has its own selling point and we’re here to help you see and compare each of them.
Media For Brass Cleaning
There are many types of materials that can be used for brass tumblers, but there are mainly two that are well-known. They are corn cobs and walnut shells. These two materials are widely available with corn cobs generally more expensive (up to twice the price of walnut shells).
The media that you use is important because the tumbler simply shakes everything in it. Without good media, you are just wasting electricity and time by turning the media for hours.
Corn cobs are usually the expensive choice that people make and are the less aggressive media compared to the walnut shells. It’s best used on fired rounds and does not hurt the cartridges in the process. It works well in both kind of tumblers and typically does not produce much dust when still decent. After a long run, you’ll start having flying dust while letting it run in a tumbler that is typically open.
Worth noting that you shouldn’t think of corn cobs to be the same as kitten litter. They have different components and tumbling with kitten litter will cause dust to fly around.
Walnut shells are the cheaper choice and they are similar to pets’ bedding, particularly, the reptiles’ bedding. Walnut cleans more thoroughly as they are more aggressive. Suitable for your cartridges that look like they haven’t been used for the last 30 years. It’s best that you don’t use them on cartridges that still look mostly-fine because it might scratch them.
If you want a refined look on the cartridges, you can get treated crushed walnut shells media. They are the same things, but the latter has additions included, so you don’t have to add car wax into the mixture anymore. Using dry sheet in the mixture will also reduce the red dust that may stick inside the cartridges.
The last type is the stainless-steel pins type which can only be used in a rotary tumbler as opposed to the previous two that can be used in both. Stainless steel pins work best in cleaning and getting you that shiny look on the brass. But it requires water (while detergent is optional) to work or you will have to run the pins with cleaning liquid before you can use it again.
It gets wet and you have to dry them quickly. You also have to air out your cartridges or warm them to get them dry quicker before you can start reloading with those new-looking brass. It gets the brass shiny like nothing else can, but at times when you rotate it too much or put too many cartridges in a single run, you might crack the mouth of the cartridges.
Top 3 Best Brass Tumbler
The Quick-n-EZ tumbler from Frankford became our best brass tumbler due to its simple, but convenient design for usage. Any reloader will find this and its complete kit set as a must have. The whole kit set comes with a rotary media separator, 4 oz. of brass polish, 3 lb. of cleaning media and a plastic bucket to separate the brass from media.
The Frankford Quick-n-EZ tumbler is a vibratory tumbler that only does dry tumbling with either corn cobs or crushed walnut shells media.
- The capacity of up to 600 9mm or 350 .223 cartridges easily
- On-off switch for easy usage.
- Easy pairing with the separator that Frankford sells separately
- The whole set is available at a much friendly price!
Cons: When you want to separate the media, you have to get a media separator or you will have to pick up every single one of them and knock the media out of the cartridges.
On the other hand, when pouring the media, you risk having dust and lead that the media absorbed fly around the room and you will risk inhaling them. You need to wear a mask when working on this part.
The rotary tumbler gave us our most favorite result. It is the best tumbler in terms of the results of the cartridges and we don’t think dry tumbling can do better. With 5 lb. of stainless steel pins, water, and solution, you will get a glossy result and thoroughly cleaned inside-out brass in much less time. But, of course, it comes at a much higher price than others.
The rotary tumbler can be used with dry media for dry tumbling as well aside from wet tumbling with stainless steel pins.
- Shiny and thoroughly cleaned because the stainless-steel pins are aggressive enough to really rub those dust, grease, and dirt off the brass. It gets better when you add a little detergent solution into the mixture.
- Shorter run-time as with other tumblers you may have to run them for up to 12 hours, but a rotary tumbler takes 4-5 hours to clean the dirtiest cartridges there is. Note that is can get longer if your cartridge is heavily covered in oil, dirt and everything dirty.
- High-capacity of up to 1,000 .223 cases in a single run.
- Quiet as the Frankford Rotary Tumbler has a dual-layer drum to dampen the noise, so you don’t have to worry about it bothering you while you do other things.
- Long-lasting as the steel pins last for hundreds of runs or cleaning hundreds of thousands of dirty cartridges within a much shorter time.
The Lyman Pro holds up to 350 38 spl. cases per run and is designed to be a dry tumbler with corn cob and crushed walnut media. We are pretty sure you can use other types of dry media given that they are not too heavy for the plastic materials. It has a sifter lid that makes it easy to just sift the media out in a bucket after you finish the tumbling process.
This vibrator tumbler is only for dry tumbling with corn cobs, crushed walnut, and other dry media. It is not designed to hold up steel pins with water.
- Capacity is equal to 350 38 spl. cartridges per run.
- Sifter lid that gets rid of the steps in getting your cases out and clean. Just prepare a bucket beforehand and shake the tumbler to sift the media from the brasses.
- Made in the USA
How does a brass tumbler work?
Different brass tumbler works differently and we’ll explain to you how each of them works. The first type is the vibrator tumbler which usually works with dry media such as corn cobs and crushed walnut shells. It creates a motion inside the tumbler that allows the media to scrub the cartridges and usually requires a couple of hours before you can get a good result.
How long is enough? Depends on how dirty the cartridges are and how clean the media that you use. As you can guess, the dirtier is the cartridges and media, the longer you should run. Some get them run as long as 5 hours to get a shinier and cleaner look. But if getting it clean is all you want, tumbling for an hour is enough to get most cartridges clean.
A rotary tumbler works by rotating the tumbler and similar to vibrator tumblers, the time you need depends. Although, we won’t recommend you to tumble more than 3-4 hours as the steel pins can and will scratch your cartridges for that long. A good 1 or 2 hours of rotating is enough to get the grit, debris, and dirt out of them.
A rotary tumbler can work with both dry and wet media. With wet ones, you will need water, solution and it’s optional to add a little detergent in. It’ll give a shiny look once it’s finished. Depriming the bullets is also recommended to get a more thorough clean and with wet tumbling, you can let the cartridges dry quicker.
Things to consider before choosing a brass tumbler
Brass tumblers are different from each other and it also depends on the budget that you have in the long run because the cost of the media that you use is the determinant.
Importance of having a brass tumbler
A reloader will always end up with used cartridges with a smudge on them. And for the record, buying new ones all the time is definitely not an option. At the same time, they look way too dirty sometimes and there is too much residue left, making weighing and reloading a complicated process. Some of you ended up with an old set of ammunition and you want to reuse the cartridges.
A brass tumbler helps remove the residue and lead, as well as clean them to make them look as good as a new brass. It’s a long-term investment that lets you recycle your brasses and use them for a couple of rounds before getting new cartridges.
Back in the days, people used to clean inside out with rags and some types of cartridges such as rifle are pretty hard to clean. They end up reloading anyway and shoot with it. Cleaning one by one manually is a big job and ain’t nobody got time for that in this era.
If you don’t need to clean a huge batch of ammunition every time, getting a rotary tumbler is a better choice for you. It gets the job done and you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on the first experience.
Between dry and wet tumbling, we are sure that each of us has our own preferences. Wet tumbling is usually meant for bigger batches of the cycle. While dry tumbling is typically the cheaper choice with walnut shells being the cheapest media of all. Depending on budget and the capacity you need, there is a tumbler that you need in our list of best brass tumblers, and we hope you enjoy your review!