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  #1  
Old 10-29-2011, 08:49 AM
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Best Way to Clean Brass


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Anxious to hear of anyone's experiences with the Thumler Model B High Speed Rotary Case Tumbler, which uses stainless steel pins as a media, versus any of the ultrasonic cleaning solutions. Many thanks...
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  #2  
Old 10-30-2011, 08:35 AM
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I have used various media that it not absorbant. It doesn't remove grease/oil as well as absorbent media. I haven't used SS pins, but wouldn't expect it to be absorbant.
Corn cob is very absorbant; it removes case lube better than anything else, and lasts longer before becoming saturated. Get a bottle of Midway brass polish to add to the corn cob if you like really shiny brass.
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Old 10-30-2011, 08:52 AM
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I haven't used the stainless method, but with water and a little bit of soap it is supposed to be extremely effective. I've thought of trying it, but the initial investment is a little higher than with corn cob or walnut tumbling.
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  #4  
Old 11-27-2011, 06:21 PM
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I use birchwood casey case cleaner. It will remove the sizing lube from the inside and outside of the case. I like polishing the brass after it has been properly cleaned. I never throw cases in my dillion vibratory polisher expecting to acually remove case lube. Corn cob and walnut shell media does not really clean well enough for my taste. Both polish very well.
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  #5  
Old 11-28-2011, 02:14 AM
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Maybe I'm misunderstanding the distinction between "clean" and "polished". IME both corn cob and walnut shell media do a good enough job of cleaning cases, such that they have no grime sizing lube on them and will function well in any firearm. With a little jeweler's rouge mixed in they also give the cases a polished sheen. Both clean cases just fine, for my needs, but I really don't care how much a case shines. How can something polish very well, but not clean? Are you referring to the inside of the case?
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  #6  
Old 11-28-2011, 04:55 AM
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With the SS pins your looking at a one time buy. The corn cob/walnut media will wear out and have to be replaced.
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  #7  
Old 11-28-2011, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by jaguarxk120 View Post
With the SS pins your looking at a one time buy. The corn cob/walnut media will wear out and have to be replaced.
AND, neither corn cob nor walnut will scrub the insides of the case and primer pocket back down to the brass. However, that being said, this media is affordable and when bought in bulk, lasts a long time. I tumble with it at least once a week and use what's in the tumbler for a year before replacing it. Others use it longer than that. So I guess it boils down to what is affordable to you and how clean you want your cases to be. IMO, a factory new looking case is cosmetic and has little to do with accuracy. YMMV.
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  #8  
Old 11-28-2011, 04:44 PM
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I get my walnut media at the feed store in a 25 lb. bag for right around 19 bucks. Lot cheaper than buying at a gun shop or a retail store. The reason I started actually cleaning cases on the inside is that after running cases for a couple hours in walnut shell or corn the rcbs sizing lube I used on the inside of the case necks just would not get removed. Next thing ya know powder sticks to the inside of the neck when you pour the powder in. Also I noticed once media becomes loaded up with residual gun pwder and resizing lube the acuall polish time increases to several hours rather than around an hour. Once your media becomes dirty then media tends to stick to any and all case inside surfaces. I don,t really like pouring fresh powder in a case that has media stuck inside. Call me a clean freak but I believe clean cases on the inside is a good idea.
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  #9  
Old 11-28-2011, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by RonH View Post
I get my walnut media at the feed store in a 25 lb. bag for right around 19 bucks. Lot cheaper than buying at a gun shop or a retail store. The reason I started actually cleaning cases on the inside is that after running cases for a couple hours in walnut shell or corn the rcbs sizing lube I used on the inside of the case necks just would not get removed. Next thing ya know powder sticks to the inside of the neck when you pour the powder in. Also I noticed once media becomes loaded up with residual gun pwder and resizing lube the acuall polish time increases to several hours rather than around an hour. Once your media becomes dirty then media tends to stick to any and all case inside surfaces. I don,t really like pouring fresh powder in a case that has media stuck inside. Call me a clean freak but I believe clean cases on the inside is a good idea.
You're a clean freak.

I'm not sure why you think it's a good idea, or what you mean by that, but having learned at the bench of a guy who measured almost every group he shot in tenths of an inch, I can tell you for absolutely positive that cleaning the inside of the case has nothing to do with accuracy or function. Heck, after you've deburred the flash hole and maybe uniformed the primer pocket, you don't really need to clean those out, either. As long as all of the above are free of debris, anything else referred to as "cleaning" is purely aesthetics. I've worked with cases that were fired 20 times and never cleaned, other than using a rag to wipe sizing lube from the body and neck. Shot MOA groups with those cases and hunted with others. When it comes to ammo, clean on the inside just doesn't matter one bit.
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  #10  
Old 11-28-2011, 11:47 PM
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I usually wash my brass in washingup detergent with hot water then rinse with hot water, then clean with a sonic jewelry cleaner which I bought from an Aldi Supermarket for $25 and it works wonders. God Bless, Yellowboy.
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  #11  
Old 11-29-2011, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by broom_jm View Post
You're a clean freak.

I'm not sure why you think it's a good idea, or what you mean by that, but having learned at the bench of a guy who measured almost every group he shot in tenths of an inch, I can tell you for absolutely positive that cleaning the inside of the case has nothing to do with accuracy or function. Heck, after you've deburred the flash hole and maybe uniformed the primer pocket, you don't really need to clean those out, either. As long as all of the above are free of debris, anything else referred to as "cleaning" is purely aesthetics. I've worked with cases that were fired 20 times and never cleaned, other than using a rag to wipe sizing lube from the body and neck. Shot MOA groups with those cases and hunted with others. When it comes to ammo, clean on the inside just doesn't matter one bit.
The tube of RCBS lube I have has a written caution that states too much lube on the inside of the case may destroy the powder and primer. In order to reduce this risk to zero I completely remove all case lube by cleaning my cases in a cleaning solution and hot water. I once started shooting some 30;06 reloads I put together about ten years early. The loads were spitting the necks and shooting all over the place. Shot a few and decided to stop shooting due to the plit neck situation. Later I pulled the bullets in the 30 remainig rounds and discovered the powder was caked up in chunks and had to dig it out of the cases. What caused the powder to destroy itself may have been residual case lube I suppose. Who knows for sure. Anyway every since that one bad experience I clean first,then polish, then pour the powder. Hope the above is better than just saying cleaning is a good idea. regards.
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  #12  
Old 11-30-2011, 02:17 AM
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Originally Posted by RonH View Post
The tube of RCBS lube I have has a written caution that states too much lube on the inside of the case may destroy the powder and primer. In order to reduce this risk to zero I completely remove all case lube by cleaning my cases in a cleaning solution and hot water. I once started shooting some 30;06 reloads I put together about ten years early. The loads were spitting the necks and shooting all over the place. Shot a few and decided to stop shooting due to the plit neck situation. Later I pulled the bullets in the 30 remainig rounds and discovered the powder was caked up in chunks and had to dig it out of the cases. What caused the powder to destroy itself may have been residual case lube I suppose. Who knows for sure. Anyway every since that one bad experience I clean first,then polish, then pour the powder. Hope the above is better than just saying cleaning is a good idea. regards.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I tumble cases after they've been sized, but I do have to ask the question: How much lube are you putting inside your case? For me, the answer is ZERO. I clean the inside of the neck with a brush and lube the case body, and sometimes the neck/shoulder, with a very light coating of either lube or Imperial sizing die wax. The volume I use would never result in caked powder or a compromised primer. The powder and primer never come near the case until they've been tumbled, but I'm still not "cleaning" the case.

Some guys simply prefer their cases to have a "show room shine". I'm not opposed to that, but how the primer pocket and inside of the case looks prior to being reloaded is immaterial. As long as they are free of debris, the round will function perfectly and accuracy will not be impacted. I'm not sure why you're using case lube inside the mouth, or how that amount could ever be enough to not come out in a simple corn/walnut media tumbling operation, but if it makes you feel better to have cases that sparkle like brand new, go for it! I put new fishing line on my reels 2 or 3 times per summer, even though I don't really need to.

Last edited by broom_jm; 11-30-2011 at 02:20 AM.
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  #13  
Old 11-30-2011, 04:45 PM
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To answer your question Broom JM, I use the RCBS case neck brush after rolling over the lube pad per the instructions. However I have noted thru experience that it is impossible to use only a trace amount as suggested by the instructions. Also I have noted that a liberal amount aids the neck size operation and reduces case neck stretch. So your right I use more than the recomended amount. I think I,m ready to change and try one shot or imperial wax and evaluate that stuff rather than continue with the hard to remocve RCBS gooey stuff. After tumbling 200 to 300 cases contaminated with RCBS lube your media also becomes contaminated and simply cross contaminates all case internal surfaces. So ya guys can probably see why I clean before dumping sized cases in dillion 500 vibrator cleaner /polisher. cvc944, I,m going to take your advice and try one shot or the wax. Just because I,m old does not mean I cannot change my ways to something better.
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  #14  
Old 12-01-2011, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by RonH View Post
To answer your question Broom JM, I use the RCBS case neck brush after rolling over the lube pad per the instructions. However I have noted thru experience that it is impossible to use only a trace amount as suggested by the instructions. Also I have noted that a liberal amount aids the neck size operation and reduces case neck stretch. So your right I use more than the recomended amount. I think I,m ready to change and try one shot or imperial wax and evaluate that stuff rather than continue with the hard to remocve RCBS gooey stuff. After tumbling 200 to 300 cases contaminated with RCBS lube your media also becomes contaminated and simply cross contaminates all case internal surfaces. So ya guys can probably see why I clean before dumping sized cases in dillion 500 vibrator cleaner /polisher. cvc944, I,m going to take your advice and try one shot or the wax. Just because I,m old does not mean I cannot change my ways to something better.
Ron, I apologize if it seems like I'm picking you apart here. I'm an old guy who still has a lot to learn, as well!

I'm also kinda lazy, in a sense. I don't do more in the reloading process than I need to, although there is always room for improvement. To that end, I brush out the case necks, lube the case BODY, size/deprime, and then tumble clean. I have used case lube inside the neck, but only when necking a case up to another caliber. I don't say this to be critical, but the only things lubing inside of the neck might do is make it easier to operate the ram on the up-stroke and possibly reduce neck run out. I cannot conceive of how lubing the inside of the neck could possibly limit how much the neck grows, when the underlying firing and sizing processes that drive neck growth are still exactly the same.

I have to wonder how much lube you're using, if you feel the media is contaminated after only 300 cases cleaned. Again, we have different definitions of "clean", but I've run at least ten times that many cases through a batch of media before I felt it was no longer doing what I needed, in a timely fashion. Also, I would be very hesitant to use the word, "contaminated" to describe media that needs to be replaced. It's simply too dirty and worn too fine to clean quickly and effectively. I've never felt there was anything IN the media itself that would compromise my subsequent loading efforts...it just wasn't cleaning the way I wanted it to, anymore.

When I clean the cutting boards before and after processing venison, I want them CLEAN! I want bacteria killed and every spec of dirt, debris and tissue completely eliminated. I do not want them to be contaminated in any way, so I have a deliberate and thorough process for cleaning those cutting boards. Fired metallic cases? Myeh...not so much.
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  #15  
Old 12-01-2011, 11:04 AM
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Jason,

The mechanism for case growth is the expander in a standard sizing die pulling the shoulder forward. It's pretty common for case necks to be pulled off-axis by an expander, but some actually have the whole shoulder stretched. This video shows a neck sizing die with expander (Hornady) compared to the Lee Collet Die which sizes against a mandrel and so doesn't pull at all.


Ron,

If you are using a conventional sizing die with an expander, you may be able to buy a carbide expander button. Hornady makes them for their dies and RCBS dies. Lyman makes their own. Redding makes their own and these are the best ones, IMHO, as they are floating spherical sections that don't tend to pull necks off axis. Dillon's are standard on their rifle dies, IIRC, and are located near the neck portion of the die which also helps maintain neck alignment. Carbide expanders work quite well and don't require lubrication, but even carbide slides more easily with some level of lubrication, so they work best if you use a dry neck lube with them.

Dry neck lubes, even for standard expanders, are preferable, IMHO to the wet ones for the very reasons you mention. There are two approaches available. One is to use a dry powder. Motor mica on inside neck brushes is a common example. Imperial neck lube is powdered graphite in a tin that you stick the neck into. NECO makes a container of ball bearings with moly dust on them that you roll the neck in.

The other approach is to buy a tube of Lee case sizing lube, which is water base and dries out to a white dry lubricant. Dilute a little with alcohol or water to thin the paste into a slurry and use a Q-tip to run it around the inside of each neck ahead of applying lube to the outside and let it dry before lubing the outside and sizing.

All the above dry methods work. If you don't clean these off you may see a reduction in neck hold on your bullets which may affect your load level by a few tenths of a grain. You'll need a chronograph to evaluate that. Any of the cleaning methods discussed should remove them effectively.

The only argument I've seen for getting cases completely clean is Humpy's fight to eliminate all traces of time hardened carbon that might blow loose and go down the bore with the bullet. He's got a theory based on observations of military testing (see post #25 here, followed by his thread The Carbon War Chronicles) that this carbon contributes significantly to barrel wear. The stainless pins and ultrasonic cleaning are the only ways I know to really clear that out, with the stainless being perhaps the better of the two from the standpoint of efficiency. I own a 2.5 gallon standard ultrasonic and it works, but the length of time needed to clear primer pockets completely varies with the cases and maybe the brand of primer used or the time since last firing. If I could afford one of those Crest industrial gun cleaning units with ten times the power density, that might not be true. But I don't have seven grand to drop on an ultrasonic. From that standpoint the pins are attractive, if slower.

The solutions for pins and ultrasonics are similar. I use 5% citric acid by weight (an old arsenal cleaning recommendation) in water plus about a teaspoon per gallon of Dawn or Ivory or other dishwashing liquid to act as a wetting agent and grease and oil solvent. That's for the ultrasonic. I think Humpy and others use more detergent with the pins and I've seen others use just a teaspoon or two of citric acid in the form of Lemishine cleaner, which would be a much smaller percentage. With the tumbler running hours as compared to the ultrasonic running 10-40 minutes (depending on the case condition) 5% acid may be too much or at least unnecessary in the pin tumbling.
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Old 12-01-2011, 07:59 PM
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Unclenick, thankyou so much for your informitive post. I have printed your post and will use it for reference while I,m trying out a different lube. I use all RCBS full length and neck sizing dies. I,m definitly looking at making a change or two. Thanks again for sharing. regards; RonH
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Old 12-02-2011, 02:35 AM
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Originally Posted by unclenick View Post
Jason,

The mechanism for case growth is the expander in a standard sizing die pulling the shoulder forward. It's pretty common for case necks to be pulled off-axis by an expander, but some actually have the whole shoulder stretched. This video shows a neck sizing die with expander (Hornady) compared to the Lee Collet Die which sizes against a mandrel and so doesn't pull at all.
Nick,

Great information, as always, but are you saying that case necks do not flow forward or get longer when the round is fired, particularly in a chamber with a generous neck or freebore? I know one of the reasons pistol cases that headspace on the mouth rarely need to be trimmed is that they are right up against the end of the chamber upon firing, so they have no room to stretch. In fact, immediately after firing, when the brass has sprung back, said cases are often shorter than when they went in the chamber. It is not until being resized that they are the correct length again.

Also, I'm guessing that the shoulders on bottle-necked cases aren't being pulled TOO far forward during any sizing operation, or else the case would no longer fit in the chamber. I've been adjusting my RCBS full-length dies to only partially size the case, as a means of neck-sizing, for as long as I've been reloading. As long as I only shoot those rounds in the gun they were shot in previously, I've never run into a problem with necks growing quickly or cases not chambering well. Am I missing something in what you mention above?

As a rule, do you lube the inside of your case necks, prior to resizing them, to minimize neck growth?
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Old 12-02-2011, 05:13 AM
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I use a nylon brush tha has a few drops of oil on it. brushing the case necks cuts down in the friction when pulling the case back over the expander ball. It also takes off some of the powder fouling/carbon from the case neck. I do this or full length or neck sizing.

All my resized cases are given a bath with hot soapy water after resizing.
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Old 12-02-2011, 10:17 AM
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Jason,

There was just recently a fellow on another board who couldn't get resized cases to chamber at all. A case comparator insert on the Hornady caliper adapter showed his shoulder slightly longer after resizing than it was going into the die. I think that's pretty unusual but it can, especially with a neck sizing die that never sets the shoulder back at all, occur, as his case evidenced. Simply pulling a neck off-axis is more common. It is also possible with the Lee dies to set them up so the expander is too close to the neck (decapping pin not protruding as far as it should), and that can actually cause enough jamming to stretch things pretty badly, though that is obviously a setup mistake and not something inherent in the design.

Upon firing at rifle pressures, cases fireform to the chamber, springing back a little, but mainly being pretty close to full size unless the load is too light. When you full-length resize, narrowing by the sizing die first elongates the case, moving the shoulder forward. When it enters far enough to encounters the shoulder in the die and begin to be set back, the brass in the extra shoulder length has to go somewhere, so it flows up into the neck, lengthening it. Neck length is what you actually reduce when you trim, since the sizing die controls the dimensions of the rest of the case. Shoulder flow into the neck causes not only increased length but the formation of the "dreaded donut". I am not sure, but I expect that in the RCBS X-die design, once the neck has filled the space between the neck recess and the mandrel, that extra brass probably flows down along the mandrel and into the case rather than making a donut or adding neck length.

Some of the high pressure handgun rounds actually do grow and need trimming, but some shorten, as you've observed. I once tracked some .45 ACP Winchester brand brass through 50 reloads at target pressure levels and got an average loss of half a thousandth per load cycle. So they were about .025" shorter when I finally retired them. They didn't have a lot of readable headstamp left either.

So, you are right about the shortening occurring, but interaction with the end of the chamber isn't the culprit. Those .025" short cases were not headspacing on the case mouth. The extractor hook would have stopped them going forward before they reached the end of the chamber. Besides, as I've put up elsewhere, I actually seat .45 ACP cast bullets to headspace on the bullets, so even my new cases don't get their mouths all the way to the end of the chamber.

What happens in the .45 ACP is that, first, it is operating at a pressure too low for the brass to stick to the wall of the chamber. As a result, the case gets blown back to the rear of the chamber rather than stretching back at a pressure ring, as happens with a high power rifle case. Second, most of the pistol rounds we shoot have slightly tapered brass by original design, with a chamber cut to match. We then resize straight with a carbide ring. So, when the case fires there is extra room for expansion at the rear of the chamber. Just the reverse of narrowing and elongating in a sizing die, these widen and shorten. When you subsequently resize they don't come all the way back. This is partly because they are getting a little harder with each resizing, but mostly it seems to be than the sizing die also flows a little brass rearward. In a rifle die that is likely assists in creating the donut, too.

Anyway, the bottom line on shrinkage verses elongating is the presence or absence of the brass sticking to the chamber wall. Sticking seems to start occurring somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000 psi peak pressure loads. In magnum handguns and the 9 mm you seem to get a mix of shorter and longer cases with loads running at about that pressure or a little higher.

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  #20  
Old 12-02-2011, 12:49 PM
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I understand and agree that sizing a bottle-necked case results in the case OAL growing, which is corrected by trimming the neck. However, do not the same forces create longer necks on a case when they are fired? The case expands, seals against the chamber walls and the only place where there is likely to be less restriction is at the mouth of the case, particularly if the chamber is cut a little long. Isn't this the reason case length is fairly critical on straight-walled pistol cases, but bottle-necked cases have as much as .010" difference between maximum and trim-to length?
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