How clean is clean enough?


Jacob Staff
April 19, 2007, 10:01 AM
I am new to reloading, in fact I don't even have a press yet. I have been saving my brass for a couple of years and tried cleaning it in a tumbler I picked up at Harbor Freight.

I ran one batch of 38 special brass for about 2.5 hours using corn cob media from a pet store. It was too big and got stuck in the cases.

Then I ran another batch of 38 special brass for 2.0 hours using walnut media from a pet store. The outside is clean but still a bit tarnished. The inside is still dirty but is better than when I began. I have not deprimed them yet.

So how clean is clean enough for the inside of the brass cases?

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April 19, 2007, 10:04 AM
deprime them first....if media gets stuck in the flash hole, use the depriming die or flash hole deburring tool to get it out. They don't have to be super shiny, the idea is to get the surface crud off so it won't get into the action of your firearm.

The inside won't get totally clean and shiny, that's fine it doesn't matter a bit. You said there was corrosion on the outside? If the cases are badly corroded ditch them...if it's just a little on the surfcae don't worry about it.

April 19, 2007, 10:09 AM
did you put any polish in the media? Plain media will not do the trick.

April 19, 2007, 10:48 AM
Jacob Staff,

Everyone has their own definition of clean and like Kimber1911_06238 stated the purpose of tumbling is to remove the crud from the case to keep it from scratching your dies and your chamber. I subscribe to the shiny as new because shinier they are the cleaner they are. However, in the old days we use to just use a rag wipe them down and yes they were tarnished and I never had a die or chamber damaged. I tumble all brass for two hours with this media mix and my brass comes out like new:

50/50 mix of corn cob and walnut
Pretreat the media a day before with a cap full Nu Finish that way it has a chance to dry for any solvents to evaporate. What I do is add the Nu Finish after I remove my brass and run the tumbler for a while so it gets mixed up good.
With every batch of brass I add a used dryer sheet cut into 8 pieces. I discard the pieces when I remove the brass.

The guys at the range are starting to use this method because they noticed that the inside of my cases were even clean after burning Unique. True I like them shiny but honestly it doesn't take in longer with this recipe then other are running them to just knock off the crud. Even stained range brass will clean up like new, maybe not 100% the first time they get run through the tumbler but by the time they get loaded and tumbled a second or third time you won't be able to tell the difference from the others. Only rifle that I full length resize gets tumbled twice before it is reloaded; once with the primer and again after it is resized to remove the lube. By the way my home made case lube, which I found on this site, has been the best yet I have used: mix 4 ounces of liquid lanolin with 1 pint of 99% isopropyl alcohol. Then lay your brass out on a cookie sheet and give them a spritz and roll them around.

April 19, 2007, 01:05 PM
Cleaning primer pockets, especially pistol cases, is an exercise in futility. 35 years ago, I completed a 5 year accuracy study of cleaned vs noncleaned pockets on 5 of my rifles. I no longer clean primer pockets.

Depriming then tumbling will only serve to get lots of flash holes filled with media, with lots of extra time inspecting and removing crud. There is no reason to deprime before tumbling and is an unnecessary extra step, especially if you load with a progressive.

Minor build up of burned powder residue inside the case is relatively unimportant. It only comes into play when it reduces case volume, and light tumbling with walnut usually removes enough so that it is not a significant reduction to volume.

Don’t confuse stained or discolored cases with dirty cases, as the cases are cleaned of dirt and grime after a short time in the tumbler, and are clean enough for reloading. A general rule of thumb is to use walnut to clean, and corn cob to polish. Although I have never tried the mixing of the two, Idano’s suggestion of a 50/50 mix of corn cob and walnut is looking very good.

April 19, 2007, 03:53 PM
There are only three reasons that I clean cases:

1. If there really is dirt on them as in dirt from the ground.
2. If I've used case lube I need to get off.
3. If I want pretty cases.

Tarnished brass in no way adversely affects case function.

April 19, 2007, 08:41 PM
* I have a problen with pet store corn cob getting stuck in my 7mm brass and it takes me for ever to get it out. Tried the suggestion of putting it in a blender but all that did is make more dust the media still gets stuck. Any one else have this problem

*Where do you get liquid lanolin

April 19, 2007, 09:50 PM

You can find liquid lanolin at some health food stores, I guess it is an all natural skin moisturizer from the literature I saw in the store. Not all health foods stores carry it, I had to call around before I found one that did. Make sure you 99% isopropyl alcohol and not the 70% rubbing alcohol. I found the 99% isopropyl alcohol in the pharmacy section of a Fred Meyers store, but I have heard that most pharmacies carry it now as do paint stores.

April 19, 2007, 10:35 PM
i subscribe to the clean the brass after shooting club. it may not make a difference, same time it may make a difference.

have you seen the guys at the shooting range that looked like they slept in the same clothes every day. What about the guy that reeeeks of cig smoke. or the guy in the smoking beat up pick up truck. Then they pull out these guns with rust spots on them and start shooting next to you.

Im not afraid to say it. I drive a BMW to the range, an M3. My firearms are clean very clean, my shooting accessories are always organized. I take my time setting up. My ammo is clean looking new. EVEN THOUGH I MAKE THEM. When im done shooting at the range i do quick field strip downs. Cleaning my fire arms. When i get home some of the brass goes into the tumbler. The firearms get put in the back yard and are stripped down and cleaned and lubricated..

then all cases are inspected one at a time. they are sized tumbled again and then rechecked. Bad cases are thrown out. Cases are prepped all the way. I then cast some more bullets. After the bullets are sized and lubed they are individually weighed. Then sorted. Cases are charged accordingly. Bullets are seated and checked for proper case oal. Then they are put into boxes and labeled. The guy next to me with the dirty cases and the rusty guns probably doesnt do this at all. Now he may shoot really good, his groupings may be really good. However this is not the type of person i am. I may not be the best shooter in the world. However i always believe in taking two steps forward every time i go to the range not two steps forward and one step back. Proper loading techniques are important. However properly taking care of your firearm is even more important.

April 19, 2007, 10:53 PM
Clean to your psychological level of happiness. I tumble my brass to remove the crud.

April 20, 2007, 12:49 AM

You're anal and I bet you get told that a lot. Welcome to the club brother it's the kettle calling the pot black. I feel exactly the same way, brass, guns, and cars all have to be kept clean. To me cleaning brass and primer pockets is more about discipline and creating top notch ammunition. If I was a better marksman I would probably strive for 1/2 MOA loads but since I know I am only 1 or 1-1/2 MOA shooter I don't go the extra distance and sort my casings and bullets but everything else is by the book guaranteed.

April 20, 2007, 02:34 AM
Clean brass keeps debris from being imbedded on die walls, and the subsquent scratching of cases. I clean and polish up all handgun brass, it makes it easier to detect case defects upon inspection. Seemmingly, to me, brass polished with NuFinish Car Polish seems to size easier and this noticeable with 9mm more so the 45ACP brass. So, I use NuFinish with handgun brass, and I save the Iosso for rifle brass.

There are a number of reasons for cases not being cleaned enough
1-Over loading of the tumbler can be a cause of insufficient movement of the media. Underloading with media can be a culprit
2-Dirty media try putting cut up strips of dryer fabric softner sheets in the batches of brass this keeps the dust down especially with walnut
3-Keep seperate batches of media, I have one batch I use for cleaning lube of rifle brass. I have another batch for case polishing.

Personally, Iosso case polish and corn cob is a great combo, and so is NuFinish Car Polish and corn cob.
Unless you go liquid cleaning the inside of the cases will not happen to the degree the outside gets cleaned. Ultrasonic cleaning is the best for that.

People piss and moan about getting media in flash holes. Well, on a progressive press with prepped brass a fellow just has to put a universal decapper to remove errant debris such as media.

Primer pockets do not get clean from most tumbling operations, liquid does this best.

Jacob Staff
April 20, 2007, 05:34 PM
Thanks for the advise guys.

I tried corn cob and Nu Finish. It was too big and clogged the cases so I tossed it in the trash.

Then I tried walnut. I think I over filled it and got a nose full of dust when I tried to empty it. Now I have a dust mask, Nu Finish and will be getting some dryer cloth.

After about 2 hours the cases are shinning but still have some finger prints and the inside is dusty but the powder residue seems to be gone.

I am planning on getting some new brass for my first batch of handloads just to reduce the variables in case something goes wrong.

I didn't know if I would like reloading as a hobby but so far so good. Three weeks and I have a bench made, tumbled some brass and found a good deal on an Ohaus 10-10 scale on ebay.

I think I will pick up some Unique, lead semi-wadcutters and jacketed bullets this weekend. Then I will be ready to order a Lee classic turret :)

I will keep everything organised but not spotless. Everything in moderation.

April 20, 2007, 05:58 PM
Jacob Staff,

It sounds like you're off to a good start. Unless you are dead set on those lead bullets I would recommend that you look in to the copper clad bullets like Rainier, Montana Gold, Berry and I guess Speer (I was informed all of Speer's pistol bullets are now clad, but I don't know it that is true) because they are cleaner to handle and you are not exposed to the airborne lead if you shoot indoors.

The Bushmaster
April 21, 2007, 10:24 AM
Scrat? Anal?? He's just another person trying to imitate me. Only I drive a Silverado extended cab pickup to the range (couldn't get all my gear in a BMW). Weapons must be scrupulously clean and my reloads must be so shinny that they blind the persons next to me. I take more time to set up then it takes to shoot 500 to 600 rounds at one setting. Weapons are inspected and wiped down before leaving the range. All MY brass is accounted for or I continue looking. upon arrivel home EVERYTHING is cleaned, inspected and tested for function and restowed in their proper place. Then we attack the brass...Scrat? Anal??

April 21, 2007, 10:44 AM

I was leaving a benchrest match once and whiling packing the car someone came by and while shaking his head said, "I don't pack that nice coming to the match much less leaving" I am mellowing out a bit though. :)

April 21, 2007, 12:56 PM
hahahahah im not the only one. Now i think if we were playing soft ball i might throw my gear in the trunk any way i can. however i am shooting out of rifles that are over 20 years old. Most i bought brand new. It just makes better sence to teach your children proper shooting techniques. Develop a routine and stick to the routine. No shortcuts especially when reloading. Am i anal about how i am with my firearms? Maybe i am. However if your not doing the same thing. My question is why not. Are you the guy at the range with the rust spotted gun and the ammo thats been loaded 20 times and never cleaned. If so can you please let people know at the range so we can keep are distance and take out the video camers.

:what: :what:

April 21, 2007, 01:04 PM
My range car.

The Bushmaster
April 21, 2007, 02:31 PM
Scrat...Nice car...Fix the gate...:D

April 21, 2007, 09:20 PM
I fixed the problem, I bought walnut media that was ground up very fine. The corn cob I bought and all the ones I looked at were the size of fruity pebbles much to big I guess for moving around the brass properly

Thanks guys

April 21, 2007, 10:24 PM
I have a problen with pet store corn cob getting stuck in my 7mm bras and it takes me for ever to get it out. Tried the suggestion of putting it in a blender but all that did is make more dust the media still gets stuck. Any one else have this problem

My wife said to button the top button on your blouse to keep from getting corn cop in your bras. However she thought you may be as flat as a board being 7mm and all, so it should fall out if you just jump up and down a few times.:neener: :neener: :neener:

April 21, 2007, 10:44 PM
what da

:what: :what:

April 21, 2007, 11:19 PM
With all this reloading has anyone thought about cleaning the dies? Sorry but it's one thing I do about ever 3 months.

Friendly, Don't Fire!
August 10, 2008, 06:23 PM
Clean to me is when the brass looks like new jewelry:).

August 10, 2008, 06:41 PM
It's possible that all tumbling media is not created equal. Walnut media is harder to use than corncob, and gums up the primer pockets alot easier, because most companies over-treat the media to start with. Go corncob, and it will last quite a while. Get it from Midway or some dedicated reloading place, and add a little cleaning solution occasionally. Ditto on the dryer sheets. That sounds like a good idea too. Use a good colander or "sifter" to get the brass dumping chore done fast, and shake the crap out of it - You're not going to hurt it. You shouldn't have any problems with getting shiny brass every time.Yes, cleaning the brass as soon as you get home is a very good idea. Don't do like I used to do and leave your brass and tumbling stuff in a slightly damp basement or extremely hot attic or garage for very long. It gets, well...funky!

After a few firings, deprime the brass on a cheap Lee decapping die and then use a Sinclair or Lyman primer pocket cleaner too. You can put the tools in a cordless drill and put a piece of rubber or leather in your hand to hold the brass from slipping(helps!) OR use a drill press on very low speed while carefully holding the brass in a gloved hand - make it fast and easy to "git r done". It's worth the time so you get consistent primer seating = no gun a goin' click because the primer wasn't all the way seated. Been there, done that - gun goes click, shooter gets embarassed, while slightly nervous. Shooter re-cocks the hammer. Gun goes bang! Hope this helps.

August 10, 2008, 06:42 PM
The only reason to tumble your brass it so keep them from scratching your dies.

My brass rarely 'sparkles'. I use a rock-tumbler and tumble for four hours minumum after firing in walnut or corn cob depending on what I have around. After sizing, I give them another hour to get the lube off. They come out pretty shiny after the process.

During the first round, I keep the primers in. It's a pita to get the media out of the pockets if deprimed. I clean the pockets anyway with a reamer.

For small sessions, less than 100 rounds, I wipe the brass off with Goo-Gone and be done with it. Takes much less than 4 hours. That solvent is oil based and evaporates quickly and doesn't mess up my lube. For the inside necks, a quick swab with a q-tip and rubbing alcohol does the trick.

Yea, my brass doesn't sparkle, but I don't care. If sparkling brass tightened my groups, I would.

August 10, 2008, 10:24 PM
Just a thought here, but it looks to me as if some of the polishes suggested in this thread aren't ammonia free. I won't claim to be an chemist but I've read that it has an adverse affect on brass. When tumbling, I add Flitz Tumbler/Media Additive. It is ammonia free. I'm sure that many have used polishes with ammonia and haven't had any problems but I don't see any reason to risk it. Plus, Flitz is just a great polish.

August 11, 2008, 08:52 AM
i buy only media made for brass cleaning, not for animals to go to the bathroom on. there is a reason it is made the way it is. also, you do have to put polish in with the media. it makes it work much better. if your cases are stained from sitting for an extended period of time (which it sounds like is part of your problem) use the THR brass cleaning soloution; 16 oz water, 8 oz. white vinegar, 1 TBLSP salt, 1 tsp dish detergent. drop your brass into this, agitate for 10 minutes, rinse repeatedly in cold water, let air dry. then polish your brass in good, treated media. they will come out looking almost like new. if you have any cracks or corrosion problems, then you will be able to see them (this coming from a guy who cant see worth a darn). i dont know who thought of this soloution, but is really works. the best buck you will ever spend on cleaning your brass. it will leave your brass a dull "etched" clean yellow brass color, at least for the most part. then, when you polish it, it will come out nice and shiney, and shiney is good!

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