Vibratory tumbler vs rotary

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Rotary tumbler or vibratory tumbler? This question is confusing for many people, but let’s be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of both to choose which is the most suitable for your needs.

How reloading tumblers work

The machine takes care of all the work. All you have to do is insert the media in along with brass cases, turn the machine on, then sit back and wait for about 2 hours for the old cases to shine and be new.

You can choose to use wet or dry media to clean your cases. The tumbler you choose to use will be a rotary or vibratory one. Both are extremely efficient in cleaning brass cases, but they operate with different methods.

Rotary Tumblers:

A rotary comes with a barrel, which you load and then place on the machine.
The machine turns the barrel and the casings tumble inside with the dry or wet cleaning media.

Vibratory Tumblers:

Vibrating tumblers have a bowl that holds the dry media and the cases.
The machine vibrates rapidly and the vibrations create friction between the brass and the media, which polishes the casings and leaves them clean.

Tumblers do not only serve for polishing and rock tumbling. They also have other applications in the process of polishing and burnishing jewelry (gold and silver) as well as brass products like gun cartridges, and various other metal components (from cutting to polishing). The mass finishing process of various manufactured products is actually the tumbling process.

Rotary and vibratory advantages and disadvantages

Rotary advantages

Very simple to utilize.
Simple in design.
Lower cost at first.
Smoothes rough to create the most pleasing round shape.
Less supervision is required than vibratory
Very quiet when in use low noise from the solid rubber barrels.

Rotary disadvantages

It is slower than vibratory (often around 4-6 weeks for an entire batch).
Needs more grit media/polishing media/corn cob media/ceramic media.
Leakage from the barrel can be a problem for certain types.

Vibratory advantages

Faster than the rotary (30% or more).
It is possible to polish more delicate and fragile materials.
The upright design will mean fewer leaks.
You can stop and inspect a little more easily.
Utilizes lesser consumables (grit/polish) compared to rotary tumbling.

Vibratory disadvantages

More expensive.
It doesn’t make the rocks round as much as rotary tumblers.
Needs more supervision and management (suggest inspections twice a day).
Very loud in operation.

When choosing a rock tumbler, need to consider a few things:

Tumbler capacity

Tumblers are available in a variety of capacities, which indicates the amount of material that can be tumbled in one batch. It is essential to take this in advance since hoppers or tumbler barrels should be filled correctly (usually between 1/2 to 3/4 full) to get the best outcomes. Tumblers with inadequate capacity are likely to result in over-loading and frustration.

A bigger barrel can be used to fill smaller amounts by adding a few plastic beads as a filler. The capacity of barrels is typically stated in pounds, however, it is generally better to think in terms the volume.

Certain tumblers permit the option of using two barrels simultaneously so that you can make several batches at once, this can speed up the process significantly. You can use only one barrel with these tumblers if you want, however you can choose to make your output double. In general two barrels are the best price, but many people are content with one.

Speed of action

Traditional rotary tumblers tend to be slightly slower than modern vibratory rock tumblers. Be aware that even with slightly quicker vibratory tumbling it’s still slow. The total time needed will be determined by a variety of factors, such as the smoothness/hardness of the material, the type of abrasives utilized, etc.

But, with all other factors all things being equal, you can achieve a faster result using vibratory tumblers.


The majority of the time the rotary tumblers are cheaper however, they consume more media (grit) as compared to vibratory tumblers. If speed of operation is of lower priority, a rotary tumbler may be a good choice. Vibratory tumblers work quicker and consume less media.

We receive a lot of inquiries from people who are thinking about whether they should purchase tumblers. We do not recommend the very cheap rock tumblers. They are typically not strong enough (both in terms of construction and an electric motor) and typically do not last long.

In such cases, we recommend an alternative rotary tumbler with a lower price that lasts and performs well. However, if it proves not to be of interest for a long time they are easily sold to another person.

Why use a tumbler for reloading?

Before tumblers were invented, people had to wash their bullet cases manually. For this, a mixture of citric acid and water or soap and water was made. Many people also utilized vinegar or detergent.

A few people would use the rag to clean each case one at a time. It was tedious. In addition, it was a challenge and very slow. Even after all this, the result was not pleasing and sometimes sloppy. Utilizing a tumbler could save you from all this. Also, it can create better quality and stylish cases that you can reuse.

A reloader can benefit from the tumbler’s capabilities in these ways:

Utilizing a tumbler is among the best savings you can make by reloading it.
The bullet’s case is typically one of the highest-priced components that make up the gun. It’s the only component that is reusable. Utilizing a tumbler could aid in saving money by reusing the casing.
You can also purchase fired cartridges. Pick up brass ones that are available at various shooting ranges. You can whip them up in the tumbler and you’re ready to go.
Cleaning your bullets can be extremely difficult and with the help of tumblers, it’s just as easy.
A tumbler can also help you cleanse your ammunition to your liking. This makes them more professional-looking.

In addition, it can help you save an enormous amount of time. It’s real that it helps you get the job done in a much shorter time. While creating a professional-looking result.


How long do you leave in the tumbler?

Please ensure that you don’t leave casings for too long. Even if the unplated brass is not dangerous, the nickel studded gold and press can be damaged.

Can you use a vibrational tumbler with metal pins?

Make sure you do not use metal products when using the vibration cleaner.


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Author - Hans Wimberly
Hans-Wimberly - the owner of Gearsadviser
When I`m not spending time with my beautiful wife and great 3 children, you will find me reloading ammo!
Doing sport shooting, or talking with my friends about (oh, yeah!) guns.

Read more about me here.

At Gearsadviser, I`m committed to ensuring that you have the best possible reloading experience. I conduct thorough research, testing, and evaluation of reloading gear, offering impartial and informative reviews to assist you in making informed purchasing decisions. My reviews are based on hands-on testing, research, and analysis of customer feedback. I regularly update my reviews to reflect changes in product availability and new information, so you can be confident that you're receiving the most current recommendations.

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