To clean fired cases, or nah?

Jan 31, 2010
555
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Dallas, TX
#1
Long time re-loader here. Cleaning cases with SS media has always been part of my reloading regiment. I'm looking for ways to speed up the reloading process, and yet, not cut corners if it impacts my results. Ironic - I know. Rifles I reload for are all either customs, on custom actions with Barlein barrels, or Accuracy International rifles with Bartlein or Lothar Walther barrels. Chambers are as close to perfectly center and polished as can get.

Quite a while back there was a member who ran a test on Lapua .260 Remington brass life. From memory, it was in the neighborhood of 25-27 firings with a 140 Hybrid, 42.5g H4350, annealed every 5 shots, and no cleaning of brass as it was all done in one range session. After I asked 'but how did you clean the brass,' and the member said they didn't. Another member suggested that there are a ton of benchrest shooters that wipe down the neck, and leave the inside of the cases soot'd up. It was described as desirable barrier between bullet and casing that provided lubricity...News to me.

Instead of using a dry lube on the inside/outside of case necks during my sizing process for clean cases, I'd prefer removing a step. In this case, it's taking a fired case, sizing, and loading her back up for round 2, 3, 4, etc.

Who has done this and how did it impact your accuracy or velocity?
 
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mijp5

Gunny Sergeant
May 7, 2009
4,802
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#2
I only wet tumble because I take pride in having shiny brass honestly. It does keep the dies clean too. However, I never thought it affected precision in any positive way. I do see a lot of guys saying that the SS tumble is cleaning their necks too much and varying their seating pressure and ultimately opening their ES. I don't see this because my necks are never shiny. I only tumble for about an hour, and have even been shortening it to about 45 minutes lately. So my necks always have some carbon in them.

I would recommend cutting down your tumble time. But that is because I insist on cleaning my brass. No harm in trying it with dirty brass, but I would just make sure the bodies are not that dirty. Definitely don't do this with anything like a suppressed gas gun because that brass is dirty as shit
 
Likes: JeffLebowski
Jan 31, 2010
555
79
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Dallas, TX
#3
@mijp5 Good points. I shoot everything suppressed to preserve hearing. My gas gun reloads will never escape the SS tumbling process because of how filthy the cases get. I could be in for a quick 30-45m wet tumble on bolt gun brass to knock off the heavy stuff on the outside.

I loaded up 20 rounds last night with dirty cases, knocking off thicker carbon on the outside of the neck with a gritty towel, then proceeded to bump shoulders and size necks. After priming and charging, I specifically focused on the amount of seating pressure and 'feel' for consistency from round to round. It was almost comical how smooth the rounds seated and I didn't even trim or chamfer with my Gerard Trimmer. It'll be this weekend or next before I can test if this process disturbs accuracy or velocity though.

Anyone else skip the tumbling process and load dirty'd up brass?
 

mijp5

Gunny Sergeant
May 7, 2009
4,802
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#4
Seating pressure has been all the talk these days. I don’t have a chrony but with my 47, I will tell you that with about 1 thou of NT, I can pull the press handle down with 1 finger, and at 600 yds in heavy mirage, I can shoot about ½ moa with 10 shots. A few shots less and it’s closer to ¼. Vertically, it’s always very good. This is with SS tumbling for a short time
 
Mar 18, 2008
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VA
#5
You guys would be shocked to see how clean brass can get wet tumbling with a little citric acid powder and Armorall Wash’N’Wax soap sans steel pins. The soap makes the brass somewhat slick too, helps with the dies and resizing.
 
Jan 31, 2010
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Dallas, TX
#6
@mijp5 It's all about chasing consistency. That's all we're after.

@LRI It's not the wet tumbling process, it's the time involved with adding that step and then drying, etc. I'm trying to streamline my operation.
 
May 18, 2009
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#7
Clean brass is a personal thing, kind of like washing and waxing your truck. The most important thing is to be free of any dirt or grit that could damage your dies or barrel. Anything above this is extra! A dirty truck drives just as well as a clean and waxed one! Clean brass is easier to find if it hits the ground and may be easier to inspect for flaws. Some loaders take pride in really clean brass, and if this is important to you, well its important!

I usually tumble until its shiny. But if I don't have time I will at the least remove the case lube. And yes, the soap and citric acid works well without the media.
 

918v

Manipulated by Variables
Jul 15, 2007
1,859
140
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Miserable CA
#8
The allegations that stainless steel tumbled cases cause issues with bullets eating neck tension and extreme spread are exaggerated.

If you use the right proportions of soap to acid to water with your stainless steel media, these issues do not present themselves. And if they do they can be quickly alleviated by the use of imperial dry neck lube.
 
Feb 14, 2017
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#9
So for the people that don't clean their brass, how do you get the lube off from sizing and do you use an AMP machine? I wonder if any dust residue could harm the machine.
 
Jan 31, 2010
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Dallas, TX
#10
Fellas, this thread wasn’t posed to understand your SS media tumbling regiment or how quickly you can expedite it. The idea is to remove the tumbling step all together with a request for feedback from folks who have done just that. If you reload dirty rifle (not pistol) brass, let’s here it.

“That is a fantastic answer to a question nobody asked.” - Trey Gowdy
 
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Culpeper

One divided by F
Nov 25, 2006
2,327
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Roswell NM
#12
I never clean the brass except the outside with mineral spirits lightly soaked rag. I don't anneal. Just fire 'em up in the rifle until a few necks crack and that is it for that batch. Ever time I check with a magneto it is always the same high single digit SD with the spread in the teens. That is good enough for me. You want more you will have to do more and figure out if it is worth the extra time and effort for your goals. BTW, I just use regular dies and the inside of my gun truck looks and smells like something died in it. I never ever clean that truck. Threw a fit because the guy at Jiffy Lube used his finger to see the mileage, lol.
 
Likes: SkyScrapin
Sep 6, 2006
2,386
542
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Southern California
#13
Fellas, this thread wasn’t posed to understand your SS media tumbling regiment or how quickly you can expedite it. The idea is to remove the tumbling step all together with a request for feedback from folks who have done just that. If you reload dirty rifle (not pistol) brass, let’s here it.

“That is a fantastic answer to a question nobody asked.” - Trey Gowdy
Have you considered just dry tumbling in corncob? Less setup with cleaners, and no drying step.

I’m not a fan of chemicals for cleaning cases in general. I just don’t want to handle and breath the stuff. I also don’t want to dry cases after a wet tumble. I do think cases should be cleaned after being fired and ejected into the dirt though, regardless of the method. If for no other reason that to keep the grit out of the dies.
 
Feb 13, 2017
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#14
I used to wet tumble.

My best results are; anneal, resize, and trim (if needed) etc, spray with isopropyl alcohol, and dry with a towel, run a brush through the neck and go. Sometimes I'll throw the 223 brass in dry corncob for 30 minutes then run a brush through the neck, while inspecting the flash hole.

Lately I've also been running the 21st century primer pocket uniforming tool as a final step as I inspect the brass.
 

Greg Langelius *

Resident Elder Fart
Aug 10, 2001
5,538
794
113
Arizona, good place for me...
#15
I tumble with walnut, size with water soluble lube (RCBS), and remove the lube with a pink shop cloth and 91% rubbing alcohol. The necks get no extra care, but the alcohol removes any residual carbon from the necks' outside.

My ammo assembly is very basic and simple, F/L RCBS (mostly) dies with the sizer ball. I ignore the insides of necks/cases and primer pockets. My single special care goes into weighing powder charges, RCBS Chargemaster Lite.

The ammunition shoots as well as the load development allows. I use SAAMI chambers and bypass the concentricity question completely. I know I'm not getting utmost accuracy from my process, but what I do get makes me happy enough. What I get the most pleasure from is the time savings, at my age, time is not just money, it's even more than that.

Coming off a half year plus sidelined (my range partner had a broken C1 vertebra in a cycle accident Jan 9, he's back in the game now.), I finally got to re-zero some scopes yesterday. Got some accuracy at short sight-in distances that made me do a double take. I recognize it really means nothing but it's still neat to see five bullets go through essentially the same bullet hole, even if it is in close (25-ish yards). Looks like the upcoming range outings might be special fun.

Been handloading since the early 1990's, and I went through a long phase of investigating many of the high precision handloading techniques. What special techniques I tried worked, but my philosophy has always been that a technique must provide enough advantage to be worth the extra effort. By the time I got complete results, the effort involved was overtaking the effort (and fun) that the shooting provided.

So I went back the other way, keeping track of how much I was giving up in accuracy by divesting my process of the added steps. To do this right, I had to put maximum attention into doing the remaining steps with best consistency. Well, it turned out that while I was definitely giving up accuracy, I still really wasn't all that displeased with what accuracy remained when I had arrived back at just doing the basics with real diligence.

That's a very subjective judgement and there's lots of room in it for disagreement. I no longer compete, so I'm the only one I need to satisfy anymore; and I'm satisfied.

When it comes down to accuracy and velocity, I gave up on the Chrony some time back; and now my sole arbiter of performance is the target and its gross accuracy. I'm inside 1MOA and often by a good bit. I'm not looking for pissing contests, so that's as specific as I choose to get.

Greg
 
Last edited:
Jan 31, 2010
555
79
28
Dallas, TX
#16
I tumble with walnut, size with water soluble lube (RCBS), and remove the lube with a pink shop cloth and 91% rubbing alcohol. The necks get no extra care, but the alcohol removes any residual carbon from the necks' outside.

My ammo assembly is very basic and simple, F/L RCBS (mostly) dies with the sizer ball. I ignore the insides of necks/cases and primer pockets. My single special care goes into weighing powder charges, RCBS Chargemaster Lite.

The ammunition shoots as well as the load development allows. I use SAAMI chambers and bypass the concentricity question completely. I know I'm not getting utmost accuracy from my process, but what I do get makes me happy enough. What I get the most pleasure from is the time savings, at my age, time is not just money, it's even more than that.

Coming off a half year plus sidelined (my range partner had a broken C1 vertebra in a cycle accident Jan 9, he's back in the game now.), I finally got to re-zero some scopes yesterday. Got some accuracy at short sight-in distances that made me do a double take. I recognize it really means nothing but it's still neat to see five bullets go through essentially the same bullet hole, even if it is in close (25-ish yards). Looks like the upcoming range outings might be special fun.

Been handloading since the early 1990's, and I went through a long phase of investigating many of the high precision handloading techniques. What special techniques I tried worked, but my philosophy has always been that a technique must provide enough advantage to be worth the extra effort. By the time I got complete results, the effort involved was overtaking the effort (and fun) that the shooting provided.

So I went back the other way, keeping track of how much I was giving up in accuracy by divesting my process of the added steps. To do this right, I had to put maximum attention into doing the remaining steps with best consistency. Well, it turned out that while I was definitely giving up accuracy, I still really wasn't all that displeased with what accuracy remained when I had arrived back at just doing the basics with real diligence.

That's a very subjective judgement and there's lots of room in it for disagreement. I no longer compete, so I'm the only one I need to satisfy anymore; and I'm satisfied.

When it comes down to accuracy and velocity, I gave up on the Chrony some time back; and now my sole arbiter of performance is the target and its gross accuracy. I'm inside 1MOA and often by a good bit. I'm not looking for pissing contests, so that's as specific as I choose to get.

Greg
@Greg Langelius * Your methodology and “rate of returns” approach mirrors what I’m after. Great feedback.

Have you considered just dry tumbling in corncob? Less setup with cleaners, and no drying step.

I’m not a fan of chemicals for cleaning cases in general. I just don’t want to handle and breath the stuff. I also don’t want to dry cases after a wet tumble. I do think cases should be cleaned after being fired and ejected into the dirt though, regardless of the method. If for no other reason that to keep the grit out of the dies.
@Supersubes Like you, I try to keep away from chemicals for longevity. That, and, I hate having to call my doc and go through a freaking procedure just to get a appointment scheduled, to then show up on time just to sit in the waiting room for another hour because the doc is running behind.

Most of my brass is ejected into my truck bed, carpet, concrete or short grass. I wouldn’t say that I’m dealing with gritty brass, but I agree that I’d at least towel rub fired cases just in case.
 
Sep 6, 2006
2,386
542
113
Southern California
#17
@Greg Langelius * Your methodology and “rate of returns” approach mirrors what I’m after. Great feedback.



@Supersubes Like you, I try to keep away from chemicals for longevity. That, and, I hate having to call my doc and go through a freaking procedure just to get a appointment scheduled, to then show up on time just to sit in the waiting room for another hour because the doc is running behind.

Most of my brass is ejected into my truck bed, carpet, concrete or short grass. I wouldn’t say that I’m dealing with gritty brass, but I agree that I’d at least towel rub fired cases just in case.
The nice part about the corncob is you can use the same tumbler to tumble off the case lube, post sizing. It’s amazing how much stuff the corncob will absorb.
 
Likes: SkyScrapin
Jun 17, 2009
855
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Houston, TX
#18
I feel like wet tumbling is a vanity thing. Looks nice and shiny, but no quantifiable gain in performance. More of a pain in the ass as well.

I dry tumble with rice for ~45 min. I don't even bother to clean primer pockets. SD's of 4-6 in all my loads. It's easy, and it works.
 

M77

Private
Oct 17, 2012
117
28
28
31
Australia
#19
generally speaking , after a match i will just decap my brass .
throw them in a vibratory tumbler corn media / rice
and then size them , that way i dont get alot of drag when i FLS .
after 3-4 firings i will then Stainless tumble for an hour or so just to get them really clean
 
Jan 31, 2010
555
79
28
Dallas, TX
#21
Consensus is, corncob/rice to knockoff outer debris. Size, trim, prime, powder and seat.

I’ve got some “towel cleaned” brass loaded up for a second firing. Going to see what the impact is and determine if the above is necessary.
 

Greg Langelius *

Resident Elder Fart
Aug 10, 2001
5,538
794
113
Arizona, good place for me...
#22
I have to eat some of my words, especially the part about ignoring the insides of the necks.

I put together some fifty 143gr ELD-X 260 loads Thursday and fired some (ten) Friday. I didn't like the results at 25yd, so I started breaking the remaining ones down Saturday with the RCBS collet bullet puller. Out of 40 rounds, 12 were so firmly bonded, they literally would not budge no matter what.

I wised up, ran them through the seater die with a shorter OAL and the bonds all broke far enough to pull the remaining. I interpret this bonding to be a product of high humidity during fabrication (we are deep into the Arizona Monsoon Season right now) and the powder residue inside the case necks. I was astounded at how much and how fast that bonding occurred.

Accordingly, I have ordered a case prep center for $109 on sale at Midway, along with military crimp removers for both sizes, and will be using neck brushes on all my fired brass in the future, to clean out residue, as well as using dry lube inside the necks, to chemically/electrically insulate the brass/copper bullet contact (i.e. establish some prevention of Bimetallic Corrosion).

Secondly, I will no longer be judging loads, especially with long bullets, based on dispersion at short (i.e. 25yd) distances. I'll subsequently wait until I have 100yd (at least) results.

I probably never really needed to break down those loads at all, but it's still good that I did, so I could get banged over the head with this neck bonding thing.

This message brought to you by one very embarrassed poster...

Greg
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
7,736
4,438
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MA
#23
Unless your cases are extremely gungy a half hour in corn cob should make them not only clean but reasonably shiny.

I found if I run the vib for too long the dirt softens, warms, congeals and adheres to the cases defeating the purpose.

I send my cases out to anneal. The annealer uses SS to clean.

The first loading after anneal sucks as the sizeball (carbide) clunks its way out of the necks.

With carbon no problem.
 
Feb 13, 2017
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#24
I started out using SS media and then switched to wallnut. I was surprised at how well the wallnut worked in only 1 hour of tumbling and have not looked back. Wallnut doesn’t clean the pockets as well but that’s why there are pocket cleaners. Wallnut has saved a whole days worth of time waiting for cases to dry.
 

Fig

Janitor of the Hide
Mar 15, 2018
2,130
3,128
113
The Most Dangerous City in the USA
#26
I think wet SS tumbling is actually faster if you care about your primer pockets being all crudded up. Cleaning/uniforming them kills your brass life IMO. I only tumble long enough to clean the primer pockets, which is all I really care about. I believe that having clean primer pockets makes them last longer.