Cleaning brass that was loaded with BP


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AethelstanAegen
February 24, 2013, 05:14 PM
I've started into the reloading game and I've starting by using a hand tool kit for .45 Colt. Anyways, I was wondering if you guys took any special steps to clean your brass after it's been loaded with B/P. IE, do you just stick it in a tumbler like one would with cases that had been loaded with smokeless, or is there another step I should be taking as well to make the brass last (it's starline brass). Any general B/P reloading tips would be appreciated as well.

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Jim, West PA
February 24, 2013, 06:02 PM
Jist stick it in the tumbler.

rcmodel
February 24, 2013, 06:04 PM
Some folks drop it in a gallon windshield washer jug with some soap & water in it to get the BP fouling out of it while fresh, before it sets up like concrete.

Then dry and tumble later.

rc

Grunt
February 24, 2013, 07:01 PM
I just deprime my cases with a Lee "glorified nut cracker" hand reloader then dump them in an old coffe can with hot soapy water. I take a nylon brush to the inside of the cases (kind of like cleaning the inside of a bottle), rinse them and throw them into the tumbler.

Doak
February 24, 2013, 07:47 PM
This is the process I use for Sharps .50 - 2.5'' brass w/BP: Colt .45 - 40 brass is similar.

Take a plastic container, w/sealable lid, to the range. Water w/spoon o' bakin' soda high enuff to cover the spent brass, standing upright, in the soda-water, in the container.
Place the brass in the soda-water asap after firing. This neutralizes the acids that aggresively attack brass.

Upon returning home, I rinse the brass in a cullender, knock the primers out manually, w/plastic mallet & punch, brush 'em inside w/test tube brush, under water, and blow 'em dry w/compressed air.

Then scrape the primer pocket bottoms w/ a suitable instrument, 'n' blow 'em out.

I don't clean 'em any further. And here's my reasoning: the brownish luster that gradually developes on the brass, whatever it's chemistry, becomes a protective coating. It combined w/the brass metal to form the coating. If it's removed, it simply forms again, using up more brass metal, gradually thinning the case even more than sizing & trimming does already. I just leave it on there, & let it do it's job...protecting the brass from further oxidation.

And ya also gotta anneal the brass now 'n' then, if ya wanna keep usin' it fer a long time. This is the best way I've found to do that:
Use a four-fingered mechanics "claw" that works like a syringe. Use the "claw" to hold the rim/head, primer end, of the cartridge case. Adjust the case, in the claw, so it spins true, when ya rotate the shaft o' the tool, w/yer fingers.

Brass quenches the opposite of carbon steel. When ya quench brass, in water, it gets softer. Runnin' the brass thru sizing/expanding dies work-hardens it. Eventually it cracks, unless it's periodically annealed.

So, ya got yer case trued up in the claw. Yer spinnin' it w/yer fingers. And yer movin' just the lip o' the mouth o' the case over the tip of a very low intensity propane torch flame. And yer doin' this in a low light location. And ya already made sure the spent primer was removed from it's pocket. This is important, for allowing the water to flow up into the case, when ya quench it, so that the case isn't "air-locked", and cools too slowly.

OK, so the brass doesn't need to turn red like quenchin' steel. And this is why ya do this in subdued light, so ya can see when the brass is just beginnin' to show the faintest beginnin's of turnin' red. And ya wanna keep the heat at the mouth end of the case. If ya get the whole case hot, you'll ruin it. The head will become too soft, & the primer pocket will enlarge, & become loose, after the next reloaded firing of the case.

So keep the heat from goin' more'n 1/2 way down the case toward the head. And this doesn't mean turnin' it faint red 1/2 way down the case. This means turnin' just the lip of the mouth faint red, & enuff heat will migrate back toward the head to do the job.

OK, the whole reason fer the "claw", 'n' spinnin' the case, is to get the heat evenly applied to the lip o' the case, and then, very quickly, plunge the case, in the vertical position, hot end strate down, into a tall column of water, like a quart or 1/2 gallon juice container. Quickly is the key element here, in this process, before the whole case gets hot.

It's time consuming to explain it all, but the process moves along rapidly, & ya can anneal 50 or 100 cases in less time than ya mite think. Once ya get a rythm goin'.

The problem w/standing the cases up in a pan o' water, heatin' 'em, & tippin' 'em over is: uneven heat & uneven quenchin' = uneven hardness/softness in the brass.

Kindest Regards,
Doak

AethelstanAegen
February 24, 2013, 08:10 PM
Thanks for all the info, gents. I had dumped them in some hot, water immediately after firing and I'm just removing the primers now (having shot yesterday). Depending on how clean I get them with my brush I may go ahead an purchase a tumbler or just leave them cleaned up with the little bit of patina as Doak says.

Driftwood Johnson
February 24, 2013, 08:14 PM
Howdy

BP fouling will attack brass pretty quickly.

I always fill a wide mouthed jug with water and add a squirt of dish soap. At the end of the day, all the brass goes into the jug.

You will hear a lot of talk about 'neutralizing' the fouling, but the real trick is diluting it. All I do when I get home is I rinse the brass a bunch of times in water. Does not have to be hot, cold is fine. Rinse the brass until the water runs clear. That dilutes and washes away the fouling. That's all there is to it, let it air dry and then tumble like normal.

For the record, with 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 44-40, 44 Russian and 38-40 brass I have never annealed it. I just keep shooting it.

Yes, my brass is a bit stained, it never comes out shiny like new, but shiny brass does not shoot any better than stained brass.

Regarding primer pockets, I go a long time before I clean them out.

J-Bar
February 24, 2013, 09:29 PM
Howdy

BP fouling will attack brass pretty quickly.

I always fill a wide mouthed jug with water and add a squirt of dish soap. At the end of the day, all the brass goes into the jug.

You will hear a lot of talk about 'neutralizing' the fouling, but the real trick is diluting it. All I do when I get home is I rinse the brass a bunch of times in water. Does not have to be hot, cold is fine. Rinse the brass until the water runs clear. That dilutes and washes away the fouling. That's all there is to it, let it air dry and then tumble like normal.

For the record, with 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, 44-40, 44 Russian and 38-40 brass I have never annealed it. I just keep shooting it.

Yes, my brass is a bit stained, it never comes out shiny like new, but shiny brass does not shoot any better than stained brass.

Regarding primer pockets, I go a long time before I clean them out.
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This.

I have been shooting black powder and subs (even the evil Pyrodex) in .38, .357, and .45 Colt for quite a while, and have NEVER cleaned a primer pocket. I do not deprime before washing or tumbling...I pop the used one out just before putting the new one in on my Dillon.

loose noose
February 24, 2013, 11:02 PM
What Driftwood Johnson said, I shoot .45 Long Colt, 44-40, 45-70 as well as 38 special in the holy black, and all I do is put my empty cases in a plastic jar with water and dish soap, until I get home and then I rinse them quite thoroughly. Never had any call to anneal the cases.;)

boommer
February 25, 2013, 02:48 AM
45colt you don't have to put them in a jug at the range, just when you get home knock the primers out and not in your sizing die and throw them in soapy water and take a bore mop and scrub the inside, rinse let dry if you want put them in the tumbler or such if you want, I do but that's your choice. I use compressed air to blow the primer pockets out to keep them corrosion free.

1KPerDay
February 25, 2013, 01:57 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANeHbCjGIwM

I thought this method was pretty interesting

Driftwood Johnson
February 25, 2013, 06:51 PM
Howdy Again

Just to reiterate. I have found there is no need to scrub out the inside of cases that have been fired with Black Powder. After a good rinsing, and a good dry tumble, there will be a fine coating of dusty stuff on the inside of the cases. I have reloaded my cases for years without worrying about that fine dusty stuff on the inside of the cases. It has not mattered at all. Just rinse, dry, and tumble.

Regarding cleaning primer pockets; no, I do not clean them. I load all my handgun ammo on a progressive press, both Smokeless and Black Powder, and there is no provision for cleaning primer pockets unless one interrupts the process after resizing and decapping to clean primer pockets. I have not found this to be necessary.

Let me elaborate a bit if I may. I have noticed that after a number of reloadings, maybe six or so, a bit of residue does get deposited on the floor of the primer pockets. Enough so that after a bunch of reloads the primers may be standing a couple of thousandths proud of the case head. All the books will tell you that this is wrong, that it is trouble waiting to happen. One problem is that an improperly seated primer may rob the firing pin of some of its energy, and the primer may not fire properly. The other no-no is that a high primer may lead to an out of battery discharge in a lever rifle. Let me say that after loading an awful lot of BP ammo I have never had a misfire from a high primer. They all go bang. Of course, the hammer spring must be strong enough to set off all primers, a highly tuned gun with extra light hammer springs might have a problem. Regarding the safety of high primers, so far I have not had an OUBD in a lever gun. (Knock on wood) Nor have I had high primers bind up a revolver. We are only talking a couple of thousandths here.

Still, I recently got a whole new batch of 45 Colt and 44-40 brass from Starline and it is nice to see the primers seated nice and sub-flush the way they are supposed to be.

I think that is the bottom line for me, after a whole bunch of firings I will probably just replace my brass rather than clean out a couple of thousand primer pockets.

boommer
February 25, 2013, 11:10 PM
driftwood you are right on cowboy loads, but it only takes a few minutes extra to bore mop and blow the primer pockets out and you you don't have to worry about high sided primers and interfering on cylinder rotation and consistent bullet tension. I'm just a little anal on my cases and that comes from rifle cartridges at some over a buck a case.

Driftwood Johnson
February 25, 2013, 11:56 PM
And there's the difference. When I sit down to load 45 Colt or some other pistol cartridge, I load a few hundred at a time. I don't want to spend my time cleaning out a few hundred primer pockets before I even get started. Never have had a primer that was high enough to keep a cylinder from revolving.

Prairie Dawg
February 26, 2013, 01:24 PM
Another way to consider is to wet tumble with ceramic media.
I put my 44-40 or Schofield cases in a canvas case on my guncart.
When I get home, I deprime & dump in some soapy water to rinse.
Then I tumble them in ceramic media with a bit of dish soap.
Primer pockets get cleaned along with the cases.
I use a Thumbler's Tumbler now, but used a Lyman 600 bowl with my Lyman 1200 before that.
--Dawg

Cosmoline
February 26, 2013, 01:27 PM
I do like Driftwood says, then wet tumble it with no stainless media. The results have been great and my brass has a really cool almost gold-black patina on it after cleaning. It's not corrosion, it's some kind of reaction to the cleaning process that happens if you're not polishing it. I'll post some pics here shortly.

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