cleaning loaded ammo


January 3, 2012, 07:55 PM
ok so i tumble my brass, and it looks all shiny for a few days.......then after handling it for several days or weeks the brass gets kinda nasty it ok to tumble loaded ammo or is there some other trick to keep the ammo looking like factory ammo

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January 3, 2012, 08:08 PM
That's a controversial subject, and you'll likely get strong opinions on both sides of it before this thread has run it's course.

I routinely tumble my reloads briefly (30 minutes or so) as the last step before boxing them.

I've tumbled my carry ammo once before when it was getting dingy with no ill effect.

or is there some other trick to keep the ammo looking like factory ammo Tarnish is what makes it look like factory ammo. Cleaning it up and making it shiny will make it look like reloads.

January 3, 2012, 08:20 PM
I don't personally do it. I just don't feel real comfortable with tumbling loaded rounds, especially if they are pointed tipped or pointed soft point.

What I do is put one at a time in the trimming shell holder in the drill, and then use polish and a clean cloth to bring back it's luster. But I don't do this as a common practice, only for rounds that are extremely tarnished.

January 3, 2012, 08:46 PM
Not a problem, I tumble my old tarnished ammo all the time.

Hondo 60
January 3, 2012, 08:52 PM
While it's safe 99.9999% of the time, there's always that .0001% where a bullet may bang into the primer of the next round.
Or the powder (I would think especially stick powders) could break into smaller pieces & cause excessive pressure when intentionally fired.

I personally won't tumble loaded ammo.
As BeerSleeper said, it's a controversial subject.
The ammo & powder mfgs & Reloading Manual writers will warn against doing so.

Just my 2 of course YMMV

January 3, 2012, 09:01 PM
Everyone looks at it from a safety aspect. Even IF a primer got struck, hard enough to dent the primer cup, and it went off, you still don't have a shooting bullet here. Absent a chamber to contain it, the the brass case is going to pop off or blow out long before any dangerous pressure is built.

What about looking at it from a functionality aspect. My last batch of 9mm used remington primers. 3 of them have failed to fire, and with good, solid firing pin strikes. I have no proof one way or the other, but I'm beginning to wonder if tumbling could potentially reduce the reliability of primers. (just an idea...)

January 3, 2012, 10:12 PM
My grandfather post load tumbled ammo in his truck for decades. I also haven't had any problems useing corncobb to knock off lube.

January 3, 2012, 10:17 PM
I see no need to take the chance tumbling reloads, that is one of the reasons I use nickel brass instead of yellow.

January 3, 2012, 11:36 PM
When you tumble the brass use a cap full of Nu Finish car polish. Put it in and let the tumbler run for 10-15 minutes before adding the brass to mix in the polish. This will coat your brass and help prevent tarnish. I add polish every 3 times I tumble brass. I tumble my loaded brass and have for a long time never had a problem with it. If you are worried it is not safe don't do it.

January 4, 2012, 01:28 AM
Plus what frog said, and no you're not going to blow your self up or hurt youself either for that mater. Plus you're not going to degrade the powder whether stick or otherwise, if this were a problem ammo for our military and any other military would be in jeopardy by the time it got to the battlefield.

How do you think the ammo manufactures get their ammo looking so good before boxing? They tumble it of course.

January 4, 2012, 01:37 AM
I understand you want to know whether or not to tumble loaded ammo, but my trick to keeping loads shiny is to wear cheap Latex or Nitrile Gloves when handling the brass. It's not too difficult to get used to, and all it does is keeps the oils from your hands off of the brass. Tight fitting gloves won't get in the way anyway.

Again, Just my 2cents worth.

And I have seen tumbling media looking stuff in my HP's from the factory before. I think they must tumble too.

January 4, 2012, 01:41 AM
Tumbled tens of thousands of loaded rounds - no go boom. Watched an Audi 5000 Quattro burn to the ground with 1,000 rounds of loaded 9mm in the trunk - no go bang. Watched a LeBaron Convertible burn next to the Audi with a loaded 12 gauge and big surprise - no go boom. Tumble away...

January 4, 2012, 08:16 AM
The possibility of detonating a primer while tumbling or vibrating seems very far fetched. Not even on my radar.
One concern I might have is that some (unknown) level of polishing might affect the powder charge by causing it to grind itself, or degrade any deterrent coating that might be present.
It would take a whole lot of tedious testing to determine if any combination of components or processing time would produce such an effect. Seems like it would be nonexistent or at most minor in any real world situation, but who really knows? And if there is any such effect would it be enough to materially change internal ballistic performance? Doubt it, but I won't polish loaded rounds anyway. Waste of time and they already look good enough.

January 4, 2012, 01:35 PM
Detonating outside of a chamber and barrel, the case flies farther than the slug. Inertia at work. There's absolutely minuscule risk, even if the round popped. If you could somehow cause a chain-reaction in a tumbler, you might have a problem.

Watch this:
And this:

January 4, 2012, 02:01 PM
I tumbled a few .44Mag round with LRNs a few days ago. The cases look shiny, but the bullets are now quite dull. I suppose they got coated with dust or polishing residue.

I'm not worried about shooting these, but I was not pleased with the aesthetic outcome.

January 4, 2012, 02:41 PM
How you suppose they get some of that factory loaded ammo so nice & shiny??

That's right, they tumble it after it is loaded.

So do I.


January 4, 2012, 02:48 PM
And they haul the stuff in a rough riding semi trailer all the way across the country. If a 24 hr trip banging down the interstate won't grind the powder down then IDK what will, then of course that very powder was transported to the ammo plant or to your point of use.
Plenty of ammo is transported loose, the most being 22 Rimfire, if there ever was a chance of detonation it would be in a pallet of bulk 22 ammo.

January 4, 2012, 02:50 PM
I've tumbled many, MANY thousands of rounds of ammo after it's been loaded. Never had a problem.

The idea that ammo will explode in a tumbler is an old wive's tale that's been circulating for years. MIGHT a round detonate in a tumbler? Yes. Is it a reasonable possibility? No. Even if the point of one bullet contacted the primer of another round, it's all moving around in a sea of corncob, not being held still while a sharp pointed instrument hits a primer.

I wish I could find it quickly, but someone did a very exhaustive study a couple of years ago on the effects of tumbling on powder granules. I think they tumbled loaded ammo for up to 30 days and test fired the ammo after various tumbling times. They found absolutely no changes in velocity in any of the ammo. Accuracy likewise was unchanged.

Tumble away.

January 4, 2012, 03:16 PM


January 4, 2012, 03:17 PM
I have tumbled many many rounds of loaded ammo before, and it didn't make any functional difference besides making them really shiny. If you feel like doing it, just do it.

January 4, 2012, 03:25 PM
My concern is not igniting the tumbled round. It is rather if there is an air space between the propellent and the cartridge walls that the powder inside the cases will be fee to shake against insides of the loaded case. Many powders have surface coatings that could be damaged. This could change burning characteristics. I have no proof that this can actually happen. The same concern would be present for rounds that ride in cars for long periods of time. By loose powder loads for example the standard military loads for the 30-06 will allow the powder to shake inside of the case.

January 4, 2012, 03:27 PM
I have been "blessed" with dry skin, and I don't tarnish my brass much at all when handling them.

What I do, if I think some particular ammo will sit around for a while (Deer loads, for instance), I wipe each cartridge with a clean dry towel and then put it away in its box right after handling.

Metal Tiger
January 4, 2012, 03:33 PM
Thanks for the links RCmodel - interesting stuff.

January 4, 2012, 06:33 PM
Many powders have surface coatings that could be damaged. This could change burning characteristics.

As noted in the links above, this has been tested - up to a 48 hour tumble. The powders did not change in any measurable or qualitative way, nor did performance. It's safe to say that 10-20 minutes in a tumbler will have even less than no change.


January 4, 2012, 09:46 PM
Get some surgical gloves for reloading. I have sweaty hands. And I always tumble them for 20 or 30 minutes after I finish 50. Safe and clean.

January 5, 2012, 05:51 AM
any kind of gloves will do. I use a pair of ordinary, brown, jersey gloves.

They don't need to be kept sterile. Just free from sweat and fingerprints.

January 5, 2012, 07:47 AM
Turtle Wax polish.

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