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case cleaning: tumbler w/ media or ultrasonic??

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by mingansr, Mar 11, 2012.

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  1. mingansr

    mingansr Member

    Jan 14, 2012
    S.E. Wisconsin
    i posted this wrongly in the autoloaders forum. sheesh!

    i have purchased a new Lee MasterLoader for my 40 sw xd. (by the way, u can't purchase for better price than FSreloading.com, the factory authorized distributor. 220 plus shp. ebay couldn't come closer than 239 +. just an fyi) my fellow travelers at xdtalk.com suggested a media tumbler over my thoughts re an ultrasonic tumbler.

    my fear is that the tumbler, which i can purchase for about 45 on ebay, can get cases clean on outside, but not inside. and since the primers are still in cases, an xdtalker said don't try to resize and deprime dirty cases. so, the dilemma is that i'd be priming cleaned-on-outside only cases, i'm gonna be loading new primers into a dirty pocket. don't like that idea.

    now, if i'm gonna use ultrasonic so that both inside cart's and primer pocket are clean (i like idea of clean!), the answer to resize dirty cases before cleaning problem is to buy Lee's universal decapping die, placed in the first station, which won't resize, then take case out of press. this would add a step in the autoloading process. hey, i'm retired, so i got time on my hands. an extra operation, though tedious, will allow me to fully clean my cases before replacing the sizing/depriming die and continuing on. what say you sage gents/ladies to my idea?

    appreciate your help. i'm a new member. are you guys as good as my xdtalk compadres?
  2. slowr1der

    slowr1der Member

    Mar 25, 2010
    I have a tumbler and I use 20/40 grit media and it does fine with deprimed cases. If I use larger media you just have to pick it out of the flash holes. That said, it still doesn't do great at cleaning the primer pockets, and you need to use a tool to clean them.

    That also said, I don't like the dust it puts off, the fact that it doesn't clean the inside of the cases, etc. If I was to do it again, I'd buy a tumbler that I could use stainless steel pins in. IMO it's the only way to go. I'd like to eventually upgrade, but I haven't yet. I sure wish I'd known about it before buying my tumbler though, as I'd have just bought one to start with. Now when I do upgrade, I will not only have to buy that setup, but I will also have a $60 tumbler that I am using now that I won't need.
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
  4. jim243

    jim243 Member

    Sep 11, 2009
    Ultrasonics clean but don't polish, take more work than tumblers are messy and requires more work.

    Cleaning primer pockets are only margially effective as to performance in your reloads (does not help in my opinion) just make sure your flash holes are open.

    If you like shiny polished brass, a Lyman tumbler with 50% fine corn cobb and 50% fine walnut (Zilla Lizard Litter, any pet supply store) will give you the best results and do it in a short time (about one hour).

    Just a suggestion.
  5. jcwit

    jcwit Member

    Oct 19, 2007
    Great state of Indiana
    I don't worry about the primer pockets, meaning that I do not bother to clean them.
  6. 918v

    918v Member

    Mar 16, 2006
    I wet tumble in stainless media. Cases are clean inside and out, and polished just like new.
  7. rsrocket1

    rsrocket1 Member

    May 20, 2010
    Sacramento, CA
    Unless you are anal about the cases or are trying to show off your loaded rounds, the pistol will not care at all whether the cases are clean, clean and shiney with clean primer pockets, or just wiped down to ensure any dirt is off. Very likely the same will apply to your shot groups.

    Taking 200 spent cases, putting them into a vibratory tumbler with crushed walnut shells and a couple of cut up used dryer sheets, setting an appliance timer for a few hours and coming back to clean and shiney cases without dust is about as easy as it gets.

    I've personally seen how nice an ultrasonically cleaned case looks with shiney primer pockets and a like-new inside, but I have better things to do than to babysit a cleaner and reset it every 8 minutes or deal with lead laden black water (from the spent primer compound) and then drying the cases.

    With the vibe tumbler, the used dryer sheets come out a dark gray and are disposed of with minimum exposure to me and the media is separated from the cases with a couple of turns into a bucket outdoors.

    Unless you buy an industrial type ultrasonic cleaner with a big transducer (not the Hornady/Lyman/Harbor Freight version), much of the cleaning action is from the solution, not the ultrasonic action. I've seen that those cleaners realistically clean about 18 45ACP cases at a time when using pure ultrasonic action (using a drop of Dawn detergent with water only and spaced apart in a suspended beaker directly over the transducer with four 8 minute cycles). Any more than that and you might as well tumble them around in a Lemi Shine solution in a Folgers cofee can.

    The US cleaner does work well cleaning intricate places like AR bolt carriers and 1911 frames so they do have their place, I just don't care for using it to clean cases.
  8. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

    Sep 16, 2007
    Even if I had a wet tumbler or ultrasonic, I'd still have a vibratory. The vibratory tumbler is only 50 bucks and it'll dry and polish a load of cleaned, strained cases in about 15-30 minutes. Just strain those bottlenecked cases extra well, to avoid corncob swelling up and getting cemented inside.

    If you tumble lots of consecutive loads, it'll take longer and longer. But if you can give the media time to dry out, the same batch of media will quickly dry a few full loads per day.

    Here's another thought:
    Expander balls are made of steel, even on the carbide sets. Vibratory tumbled cases can generally be expanded/flared without any lube, because of the soot on the inside of the neck. SS tumbled brass is more prone to sticking, stretching, and galling/scratching, unless lube is used. Neck lubing rifle brass is a pain. Neck lubing every 4th or 5th pistol brass plain sucks. Having your press stick harder on the downstroke sucks, even if it doesn't make scratches.
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