To clean fired cases, or nah?

SkyScrapin

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#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

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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
 
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SkyScrapin

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#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

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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
 

JeffLebowski

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#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.
 

SkyScrapin

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#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.
 

lightman

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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

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#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.
 

_Raining

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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.
 

SkyScrapin

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#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

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#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.
 
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Supersubes

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#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.
 

mikehotel

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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 *

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#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
 
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SkyScrapin

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#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.
 

Supersubes

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#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.
 

kthomas

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#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

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#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
 

SkyScrapin

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#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.
 
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Greg Langelius *

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#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

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#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.
 

Juggerxxx

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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

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#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.
 

NamibHunter

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#27
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).

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

Greg
Newbie on this site. Have been reloading for some 5 years for 30-06 and 6.5 Creedmoor. Mostly for plinking steel at 600 and hunting.

I believe the “bimetallic corrosion” effect is real: Earlier this year ran into the same issue with Hornady 140 gn ELD-M bullets in Nosler brass for the 6.5. Used an ultrasonic cleaner for 45 minutes (too long), so brass was shiny clean. Repeated a load recipe that have always produced good groups at 600 in my old barrel, left the box of cartirdges on the shelf for 3 month, then had to reseat them for a new barrel to keep jump at 0.020”, used the K&M arbor press with the force measurement tip (it measures seating force in lbs) via an LE Wilson seating die. (Btw: You get a lot more feel when seating with a small arbor press compared to an RCBS Rock Chucker). Some bullets (about half) smoothly reseated with the normal 15-20 lbs that I’m used to, other were sticking like crazy and needed 50-60 lbs of effort, then the bullet would suddenly come loose and seat with a pretty loud thunk. Clearly a very large variation in neck tension - not good. So i think the corrosion theory is correct, and the problem was likely caused by inside necks that are ‘too clean’, plus shiny new bullets, and i suspect this combo is prone to corrosion. Gulf Coast region, so humidity is high. Read elsewhere that BR shooters like to load at the bench. Maybe this is the reason? I did not see this issue before when i skipped the ultrasonic cleaning step, and simply used a nylon brush to clean inside the neck. Not sure if it takes days or months for the bond to form, but confident bullet and brass ‘welded’ together... not seen this with bullets other than shiny new Hornady from a newly opened box. Most of my bullets are bought in bulk and are a little discolored from minor corosion after a month or so. I now use corn cob or walnut media to clean the brass, and not trying to get it shiny anymore. Both types of media leave a slight oily layer on the brass. Maybe that helps to prevent bonding between brass and jacket. When i reseat catridges loaded weeks earlier, i see fairly consistent seating force now.

Early on, i did not clean the brass at all (did not have the equipment) and got superb accuracy (ES below 20 fps) with LE Wilson neck sizer and seating die (via an arbor press), for the first two reloads, using very dirty brass. Brass was filthy after 3 reloads.

But neck sizing has its problems: After the second reload the brass would have stretched different amounts, and some needed FL sizing, others were still ok, and the case volume differences then caused probelms. I recall 20-30 fps speed differences by the third neck sizing attempt, with 10% of the cases preventing the bolt from closing. Gave up on neck sizing and got a Redding Type S die set and a Rock Chucker press. My point here: Dirty brass did not cause an accuracy issue, but it will over time probably scratch the inside of an FL die, so some form of cleaning is recommended. Just don’t clean too much, avoid shiny necks and shiny bullets, or use a dry lube to isolate the two metal surfaces. Mica seems to be effective.

Btw: Using the K&M press gives you a way to sort loaded catridges based on measured seating force. SD improved some (from an initial 9-12 fps) down to 5-8 fps. Put the really bad ones in a plinking pile.

Hope this helps.
Michael
 
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Rootshot

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#28
Great thread. I SS tumble for vanity. I do have to agree that neck tension is a primary concern and that necks that are "too clean" aren't desirable. To manage this, I dip the clean and dry brass in Imperial Dry Neck Lube prior to throwing powder and seating bullets. I'm going to experiment substituting dish soap with car wash that contains wax hoping to eliminate the extra dry lube step.
 

Nodakplowboy

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#29
I use Thumber Tumbler B models for all my brass cleaning and lubing. Fired brass is tumbled in corn cob media for 2-6 hours (depending upon my schedule), then is annealed. After annealing I'll load up a separate clean tumbler spraying Hornady lube every couple of handfuls and tumble for 45-60 minutes. Re-size, tumble again for 1-1.5 hours and then continue with the loading process. On occasion a dryer sheet will get thrown in with the corn cob just to absorb some dirt. About every 10 loads a little Cabela's brass polish will get dripped in. Media is separated over a 5 gallon bucket which gets stirred up once in a while.

The down side to corn cob is it's messy. I've even separated using the bucket inside a large Tupperware style storage bin and it still gets on the floor. Broom, dust pan and cheap shop vac clean it up.

I used to punch out primers after re-sizing and prior to tumbling lube off, but don't do that any more. Got tired of inspecting every pocket for a grain of media. It only takes a couple of minutes to shake out what little media is left in a case. Truth of the matter, I don't even clean primer pockets anymore. Must be getting lazy.

Haven't gone down the SS/wet tumbling road and don't plan to. My system works for me.
 

lightman

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#30
I tumble my fired brass the first time before I load it. Unless it gets really dirty I just wipe it off and load it again and again. I've never seen any increase or decrease in accuracy either way. I do clean the primer pockets every time. As to removing case lube, I either wipe it off or spray some degreaser like brake cleaner on an old towel and roll them around on it.

There are many reasons for tumbling brass. Some think that its easier to inspect clean brass. Some think its easier to find ejected brass on the ground if its clean. Some do it for vanity reasons, much like keeping your truck or house clean.
 

Milo 2.5

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#31
I use Thumber Tumbler B models for all my brass cleaning and lubing. Fired brass is tumbled in corn cob media for 2-6 hours (depending upon my schedule), then is annealed. After annealing I'll load up a separate clean tumbler spraying Hornady lube every couple of handfuls and tumble for 45-60 minutes. Re-size, tumble again for 1-1.5 hours and then continue with the loading process. On occasion a dryer sheet will get thrown in with the corn cob just to absorb some dirt. About every 10 loads a little Cabela's brass polish will get dripped in. Media is separated over a 5 gallon bucket which gets stirred up once in a while.

The down side to corn cob is it's messy. I've even separated using the bucket inside a large Tupperware style storage bin and it still gets on the floor. Broom, dust pan and cheap shop vac clean it up.

I used to punch out primers after re-sizing and prior to tumbling lube off, but don't do that any more. Got tired of inspecting every pocket for a grain of media. It only takes a couple of minutes to shake out what little media is left in a case. Truth of the matter, I don't even clean primer pockets anymore. Must be getting lazy.

Haven't gone down the SS/wet tumbling road and don't plan to. My system works for me.
I'm mostly with you, I've been tumbling in corm media for over 30 yrs. I never agreed with ss tumbling, why dry brass and why introduce a lube to seat bullets. But if that is the routine, from the very first firing, it is a baseline and should work.
Corn media cannot remove carbon form necks altogether, plus your media is charged, leaving another base layer.
I made the mistake of sonic cleaning a batch of brass, they came out squeaky clean, no oils or polish of any kind, I just had to fire them again to start back over.
I am a one pump chump for the most part when it comes to sizing brass I want the case sized, the neck dia correct and primer gone, so I fight media in flasholes.
I would never run dirty brass into a die, and I like shooting around people with clean brass for some reason, I know, may be the only thing they did right, just in my head.
It is all about doing the same thing over and over exactly the same, I anneal every firing for the most part unless the necks on new brass seem soft and I need to work harden them some.
 

wapiti16b

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#32
I anneal when needed then clean with corn cobb or rice for an hour or so and clean primer pockets/flash holes . I fell for the whole ss tumbling thing and found with my methodology my SDs were not as good as a vibratory tumbler and the additional steps were not worth the time spent . I still use the rotary tumbler I bought but for applying HBN to my bullets and not much else !
The reason I went to ss& rotary was so I could get that LAPUA look with my old annealing system , I have since abandoned that system and have been salt bath annealing and am VERY happy with the results , best $$ I've spent in a long time JMHO !
 

reubenski

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#33
If everone has their own personal hell, handling every single piece of brass is mine. I SS Wet tumble and dry using a dehydrater. Sometimes I just skip cleaning brass altogether and load dirty brass. I have tested non-tumbled, cleaned with a towel brass vs. Wet tumbled brass. Didn't see a single bit of difference. The junk about "too clean" brass/ neck tension has crept in my mind and I don't load in advance. Pretty much shoot within a couple of days if not the next day of loading. I thought about switching to walnut but the idea of having to clean kernals out of the flash hole kill it for me. When shooting a match, I really can't get away without cleaning. The brass is filthy, dusty. Dumping of brass in a wet tumbler and then in the dryer is a lot less work than handling every piece of brass.

I load on a 550B so the allure of cleaning brass and then loading from A to Z has a lot of appeal to me vs. prepping brass in stages. So now I pretty much alternate between cleaning completely (decap, wet tumble/ dry, size, tumble again without pins, dry again, chamfer, then load), partially cleaning (wet tumbling, drying, lube and load, shoot brass with dried lube on it), or just lubing and loading dirty brass. Depends on how dirty it is.
 

NamibHunter

Private
Minuteman
Dec 26, 2018
27
16
6
#34
If everone has their own personal hell, handling every single piece of brass is mine. I SS Wet tumble and dry using a dehydrater. Sometimes I just skip cleaning brass altogether and load dirty brass. I have tested non-tumbled, cleaned with a towel brass vs. Wet tumbled brass. Didn't see a single bit of difference. The junk about "too clean" brass/ neck tension has crept in my mind and I don't load in advance. Pretty much shoot within a couple of days if not the next day of loading. I thought about switching to walnut but the idea of having to clean kernals out of the flash hole kill it for me. When shooting a match, I really can't get away without cleaning. The brass is filthy, dusty. Dumping of brass in a wet tumbler and then in the dryer is a lot less work than handling every piece of brass.

I load on a 550B so the allure of cleaning brass and then loading from A to Z has a lot of appeal to me vs. prepping brass in stages. So now I pretty much alternate between cleaning completely (decap, wet tumble/ dry, size, tumble again without pins, dry again, chamfer, then load), partially cleaning (wet tumbling, drying, lube and load, shoot brass with dried lube on it), or just lubing and loading dirty brass. Depends on how dirty it is.
Have not done a truly ‘scientific’ test, but i have loaded Prime brass years ago without ever cleaning them even once, as i did not have the equipment at the time. After 5 reloads the brass got very dirty, almost black. (Yes: People looked at me funny at the shooting range...) FL sized every time using Imperial sizing wax, and they shot well at 600 yards. Stripped the cheap RCBS die after a while and it was very dirty inside, with black gunk, and the expander ball had clear scratch marks on it. Did some reading up on primer chemical composition and discovered that many/most primers have ground up (powdered) glass to help create more friction (for reliable ignition) and glass powder is clearly not good for your expensive dies. So bought an ultrasonic cleaner and switched to cleaning brass every time. Have since switched to a vibratory tumbler using corn cob or walnut media. And now i have too many steps in my reloading process...

I would bet eventually accumulated carbon deposites in the primer pocket will start to effect primer seating depth, and cause problems. So probably worth cleaning primer pockets at least now and then.

Btw: Have heard of multiple BR competitors who have completely stopped cleaning brass, and reported good results. BUT the BR guys use very tight chambers and neck size only, not something that is practical for hunting or across-the-course competition. Their methods do not really apply to any other shooting sport.

My opinion is that you can very likely get away with skipping the cleaning step (tumbling or ultrasonic cleaning) if you don’t mind the tolerances shifting inside your sizing die over time. I would still recommend cleaning the primer pockets every 3 or 4 reloads. Die damage is probably a very slow degradation process but not something i would feel comfortable with trying on a $200 comp die. On a cheap $35 die, i would say go for it and see where it leads. Then let us know what you find! Genuinly interested in your results.

Somebody should start a thread on ‘minimalist reloading’. What is the absolute minimum you can get away with and still shoot adequate 0.8 MOA groups. I think we all buy way too much equipment - myself included because there is not good info out there about exactly how much each steps helps group size (or not). More steps require more equipment and so much more time. Leaving less time for shooting, and then the nut behind the bolt becomes the weak link in the chain.

Just my humble opinion (says the guy with an entire room full of shiny BR derived kit!).... and more on the way!!

[Edited to remove typos]

Michael
 
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BJames

Something witty
Belligerents
Jan 20, 2014
99
31
24
Alaska
#35
I went from tumbling in walnut/corncob media to wet tumbling with stainless pins. I saw my ES/SD numbers jump a bit, 8-9 SD to 11-12 SD. Went back to walnut/corn cob because I got tired of the extra step drying brass. ES/SD numbers went back down. Now I pretty much only do it in the off chance a piece of something could scratch my $280 dies.

For shiny brass, I leave them in longer. I forgot about a batch once, tumbled in untreated corn cob media for 14 hours, oops. Came out shinier than with SS media.
 
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