After a cartridge is expended, there is only one component that can be reused and it is the round brass case. While many people count on the stores for additional ammunition, others prefer to make their own cartridges. Compared to factory loaded ammunition, hand loaded cartridges permit the shooters to customize the muzzle and velocity as they see fit. However, it’s not like you can reload the brass case right away, you have to process it properly first. One of the tasks is to tumble the brass to remove powder residue, grease, dirt and so on. To a handloader, knowing how long it takes to tumble brass could be really helpful from time to time.
Technically speaking, the length of the tumbling process depends largely on personal preferences, available tool and case characteristics. Some may say it around a couple of hours while others feel that one day is the minimum. So it’s best to go through the aspects of two common tumbling methods and their times estimates to let you get the hang of the operation. Base on the information below, you should be able to make an educated guess about the time requirement of your tumbling work. Remember to incorporate your needs and tastes in order to make a logical calculation.
The first method: Dry tumbling
Because of the affordable acquisition cost and straightforward procedure, dry tumbling is a very popular method to cleanse used brass cases. It’s an economical choice in the case that you are shopping on a tight wallet. Keep in mind to go after a suitable tumbler though, small brass cases in a big tumbler might not deliver the desired cleansing effect.
Equipment and operation principle
Dry tumbling requires a tumbler, a bag of media, a separator and some additives, all of them are easy to obtain. The tumbler is essentially a vibratory bowl unit which consists of a bowl-shaped hopper on top and an electric motor at the bottom. Due to the offset weight installed on the motor shaft, the hopper shall vibrate in a circular motion when you turn on the tumbler motor. Both the bowl and the motor are secured to a stable base through a series of springs. Thanks to that, the unit should stay where you put it instead of walking all over the place.
For the media, dry tumbling mainly utilizes corn cob and walnut shell, you can get them for approximately 50 cents/pound. Corn cob offers a high gloss finish but requires more time to process the cases compared to the walnut shell. The robust nature of walnut shell permit an aggressive cleaning, therefore, it’s able to substantially shorten the tumbling operation. Dry tumbling media can last for approximately 10 – 20 uses, depending on the state and number of brass cases. A black or brownish color means you have to get a new batch of media
With the tumbler and the media, you could actually start the operation already but it’s advised to get the separator and media additives beforehand. Without the separator, you have to pick out the brass cases from the media manually which is quite a tedious task. Additives like NuFinish are capable of keeping the dust down while polishing the finish of the brass case. Pour a moderate amount of additives into the hopper and let the machine run for 10 minutes before you add the cases.
The brass cases should be cleaned after roughly 4 – 6 hours with the dry tumbler but it might take more than that to achieve a shiny finish. Some people let the tumbler run through the night or an entire day certain cases.
The second method: Wet tumbling
In the case that you have money to spare and want the finish the tumbling quickly, you should consider the wet tumbling method. The cost of the wet tumbler and its media is more expensive compared to the dry tumbling gear. However, wet tumbling is actually a cost-effective option in the long run.
Equipment and operation principle
Well, the wet tumbling gears are more or less similar to their dry tumbling counterparts but there are still notable differences here and there. The wet tumbler is a watertight drum with a motor to rotate it, all are mounted on a sturdy frame. You have to pay special attention to the speed of the motor. If it is too fast, the tumbling practically has no effect whatsoever since the case and the media would end up sticking to the drum sides. On the other hand, a slow motor speed makes the overall operation time consuming and ill efficient.
The media of a wet tumbling is stainless steel pins, they are very durable and you can use them for a long time. Wet tumbler media cost quite a lot nonetheless, about 8 dollars/pound. You should use roughly 1.2 pounds of media for 1 pound of case though the tumbler manual probably includes a recommended ratio already. Of course, you must consider the amount of water and drum capacity as well. For additives, a few spoon of dishwashing soap is often enough.
Another thing you must perform is to decap all the brass cases, the wet media tent to get wedged into the flash hole. As a result, you better remove the spent primers from the brass cases beforehand. Without the primer, the medial shall have an easy time cleansing the primer pocket and the flash hole of the brass case. The only thing left to do is to fill the tumbler with brass cases, additives and media then wait for a bit. After a couple of hours, get everything out and use the separator to gather the shiny brass cases.
Wet tumbling is a bit tricky to prepare and perform but the result is definitely worth your effort. The time it takes to process the brass cases is fairly short, about 2 – 4 hours.
And that is most of what you should know about brass case tumbling, not too hard to absorb, right? “How long does it take to tumble brass?“ That is an interesting question but the answer is not always the same for everyone because you have to take into account your needs and requirement. But with the help of the information above, you should be able to come up with an estimate by yourself.