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 pistol brass case right away; you have to process it properly first.
One of the tasks is to tumble brass or clean brass to remove powder residue, grease, dirt, and so on. To a handloader, knowing how long 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 tools, and case characteristics. Some say it takes around a couple of hours, while others feel that one day is the minimum.
We’ll be going through the aspects of two common tumbling methods and their processes to help you get a good time estimate for each one. Based on the information below, you should be able to make an educated guess about the time requirement of your tumbling work.
Incorporate your specific needs and tastes while going through this article, and hopefully, you’ll arrive at a logical conclusion.
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 case you’re shopping with a tight budget.
Keep in mind, it would be best to go for a suitable tumbler. Small 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. These materials should be easy to obtain.
The tumbler is essentially a vibratory bowl unit that 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 of dry tumbling, there are two media types. Dry tumbling processes mainly use corn cob media and crushed walnut shells. You can get them for approximately 50 cents/pound, but this can vary.
A high gloss finish is a usual result when you use corn cob media, but it’ll take more time to process the rifle cases compared to the crushed walnut media.
The robust nature of a walnut shell permits an aggressive cleaning, therefore, a walnut shell can substantially shorten the brass tumbling operation.
Dry tumbling media can last for approximately 10 – 20 uses, depending on the state and number of 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 cases from the media manually which is quite a tedious task. Additives like Flitz Polish are capable of keeping the dust down while polishing the finish of the case.
Pour a moderate amount of additives into the hopper and let the machine run for 10 minutes before you add the cases.
These cases should be cleaned after roughly 4 – 6 hours with the dry tumbler, but it might take more than that to achieve a shiny brass finish. Some people let the tumbler run through the night or an entire day in certain cases.
The Second Method: Wet Tumbling
If you have money to spare and want the finish the tumbling process quickly, you should consider going for 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
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 tumbler 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. Stainless steel pin media costs quite a lot nonetheless, about 8 dollars/pound, but this can vary.
You should use roughly 1.2 pounds of stainless steel media for each pound of a case. Although, 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 tablespoons of dishwashing soap is often enough.
Another thing you must perform is to decap all the cases. The wet media tend to get wedged into the flash hole. As a result, you better remove the spent primers from the cases beforehand.
Without the primer, the medium would have an easy time cleaning the primer pocket and the hole of the case.
The only thing left to do is to fill the tumbler with cases, additives, and media, then wait for a bit. After a couple of hours, get everything out and use the separator to gather the newly shined 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 cases is fairly short, about 2 hours – 4 hours.
And that is most of what you should know about case tumbling. Not too hard to absorb, right?
How long it would take for tumbling brass 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.
CHANGELOG: March 30, 2022 - Made minor updates to content and formatting September 13, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links, updated article title