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Is it Ok to polish live ammo in a tumbler?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by IAJack, Sep 17, 2005.

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  1. IAJack

    IAJack Member

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    I am posting this for a friend. He was outed from his house and hunting camp in NO from the hurricane.

    He couldn't get everything stored or packed out. The ammo is his ammo cans is fine but some of his ammo that was still in cardboard boxes got soaked for awhile. Mostly just damp cardboard due to the pressure. None of it was soaked in dirty flood water or anything. Most of it is mil spec stuff and some is the steel cased Russian stuff. It is tarnished, dirty and some rust spots etc. He asked if he could possibly place it in a tumbler and clean it up that way instead of by hand one round at a time. I told him I thought that in an unsupported chamber it shouldn't have alot of power if one went off? I told him I'd place it in the tumbler at his family's other hunting cabin out in the field with a long extension cord and place a plywood or tool box over it before plugging it in -IF I were to do it at all.

    I told him I'd ask for ideas or opinions on here

    Thanks all
     
  2. pauli

    pauli Member

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    i could have sworn i've read a thread here on polishing live ammo (and i believe the answer was that it is safe to do), but i can't find it.

    i'd be more concerned about the ammo being ruined by the water, though...
     
  3. IAJack

    IAJack Member

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    Well it is mostly mil-spec stuff, isn't that supposed to be sealed on the bullet seat and primer end anyway for use if crappy situations like hurricanes and war anyway?

    He was going to test fire a sample of rounds he hand cleaned to see if any failures and decide from there to clean the rest or dispose of it.
     
  4. Strongbad

    Strongbad Member

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    It's not a matter of the round being sealed so much as it is what happens inside the case. You might get away with it, but you might not. If you tumble loaded rounds there's a potential for the grains of powder inside the case to basically crash together and break apart etc. Changing the grain structure of the powder can affect the burn rate. So in short, I wouldn't do it. Wipe them down with some case polish or something or rub them real quick with some steel wool but I wouldn't put them in the tumble.
     
  5. wrangler5

    wrangler5 Member

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    There was indeed a long thread on this subject that ended earlier this year, but I can't find it now (read it yesterday.) There was a real split of opinion, some saying it was dangerous and they'd never do it, others saying commercial loaders do it all the time, at least one of the reloading companies says its OK (RCBS, if I recall correctly) and that they'd been doing it themselves without incident for years. Nobody could point to anyone actually having the tumbled mass go boom. One fellow, who was confident that tumbling was safe, offered to run a test tumbling ammo for several days, with rounds pulled out daily and fired over a chronograph to see if there were any change in performance (presumably from powder being broken down.) There was no follow up on that offer.
     
  6. Deavis

    Deavis Member

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    The follow-up up to that "offer" is going to get started this week and the results will be posted by another forum memeber as they are available. The offer was not full of bull as many other things that have been tossed around here when threads get a little heated. I took on a couple of extra side projects at work and have been waiting on some reloading supplies. The wait has been a little frustrating but I like to give my business to my supplier, he is a great guy and waiting is part of the game.

    I wouldn't hold my breath if you are in the "tumbling is bad camp" I fully expect the results will prove those ideas incorrect. If you realize what powder grains are coated in and think about how they "rub" together at a lower level you will realize that probability does not favor the breakdown camp. Of course, only a chronograph and a high powered optical microscope will say for sure. ;)
     
  7. Smokey Joe

    Smokey Joe Member

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    Good on you, Deavis!

    There is nothing, NOTHING, like actually testing out a theory, let the chips fall where they may! I for one look forward with great anticipation to yr report!
     
  8. wrangler5

    wrangler5 Member

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    I remember your name, Deavis, as one of the posters in that earlier thread. My conclusion after reading all that was written was that tumbling finished ammo posed no unusual risk, either during the tumbling or when firing the ammo later. But it will be interesting to see the results of the test as they are published. It was going to be a rather extensive test, as I recall, and my comment about no follow up was merely a statement of my recollection, not any criticism of the participants.

    I've about concluded that the don't-tumble-finished-ammo line is one of those sounds-like-it-might-be-right things that gets more play than it deserves, at least partly because of the litigious nature of our society today. Nobody (writer/publisher/blog-poster) is going to get sued for advising not to do something, whereas if you do advise someone to do something then somebody might someday decide to sue you (whether properly or not.) This analysis would account for such lines as "don't carry a gun with a round in the chamber," "unplug the drill before you change bits," "stop the car before adjusting the electric seat," and so on.
     
  9. BluesBear

    BluesBear member

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    Poppycock.

    If a week inside a rotary tumber won't break down the powder I don't know what will.
     
  10. Fatelvis

    Fatelvis Member

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    I've read this Q&A quite a few times.... My question is: alot of people do this. Have you ever heard of, or know anyone, that has experienced a Kaboom or major malfunction, due to tumbling live ammo? I have never HEARD of one (1) incident, and I've asked that question a couple times on different sites. Go ahead and tumble to your heart's content!
     
  11. Rockstar

    Rockstar member

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    Anybody who's ever eyeballed the action of a vibratory "tumbler" would quickly realize that there's no possibility of a "boom" from tumbling loaded ammo. I routinely tumble any ammo on which I've lubed the cases, just to remove the lube. I don't tumble but just a few minutes, though.
     
  12. Jeeper

    Jeeper Member

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    Deavis is doing the tests and I am giving it a home on the Web so that we can finally point to some actual experimentation that shows some results other than theoretical word play.
     
  13. Fatelvis

    Fatelvis Member

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    I'll be very interested in the results. Wiping every loaded round down after progressively loading them, always felt too time consuming to me! I hope it makes no difference.
     
  14. bakert

    bakert Member

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    Got to agree with rockstar, just a few minutes to take the case or bullet lube off. I know people that disagree with me but I've never had a problem.
     
  15. Sport45

    Sport45 Member

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    I don't think the tumbler could hurt the powder. Could a few hours in a tumbler be any worse than the ride across Europe or Korea in a duece-and-a-half? I'd worry more about plugging hollowpoints or deforming softpoint spitzers.
     
  16. kimbernut
    • Contributing Member

    kimbernut Member

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    Tumbling Live Ammo

    1400 - .30 Carbine cartridges loaded from 1941-1955 recently survived overnight tumbling in my Lyman 2200 in 200 round batches.Shot to point of aim at 50 yards just as before the tumbling. No problems.
     
  17. Ten_X_Ammo

    Ten_X_Ammo Member

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    I can attest that we too have been tumbling live ammo for about 30 years, without incedent. There has been an issue on a decapping machine once, before I was even born, and of course you can't avoid the occasional primer pop in an ammo load when you run millions of rounds a year. We tumble litterally millions of rounds a year, live, without incident.

    You have to of course tumble them with the proper amout of product, walnut shell, corn cob or what have you. If not, you may end up with more tiny dents in larger cases (45-70) than you would like.

    Remember that rounds like 9mm and such have a small volume inside the case the ISN'T filled with powder. Powder is SO light and HARD that I could not possibly see it breaking itself down with just a slight area to move in. I mean, you would probably have to shake a half full keg VERY hard for quite a while to develop a sufficient amount of wear on the powder to matter.

    I suppose if I HAD to worry about something, it would be with a long grained powder. The would tend, based totally on physics to break more easily than a typical ball powder. Obviously if one grain struck another right in its center with its own tip, it would potentially have enough of a 'lever arm' to snap the other grain.

    I would say, if you are tumbling slowly enough, with enough 'polising compound' you will be more than fine. No need to be turning ammo at 1800 RPM if you know what i mean! :D
     
  18. snuffy

    snuffy Member

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    already did some

    I was refered to this thread from a similar topic on AR. I'm grizz on there, I got weary of the nay sayers there and other places, and did my own test. Take a look over there at this link;

    http://forums.accuratereloading.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/2511043/m/602103723

    For those that don't want to follow the link and read the whole thing, here's my results. Now I ONLY tumbled for 15 hours. Seeing no degradation, I saw no reason to continue.;

    here's my findings!
    First the targets, then I'll copy off the velocity readings.

    [​IMG]

    The numbers 2 5 10 and 15 indicate the hours that the shells that made that group were tumbled.

    I made one little addition to what I posted last time. I took 10 winchester 300 WSM shells that had been fired before. I loaded them with the same 65 gr. of R-19. 5 were left out of the tumbler, the other 5 were tumbled for 2 hours. I pulled 2 of the 2 hr. bullets and looked at the powder. No dust or dirt, the powder was also unharmed. The two center top bulls were where I shot the win. shells, labled win control and win 2 hr.

    Now for the chrono readings. I almost stopped the test after firing the 2 hr. shells. The velocity jumped about 700 fps in three of the five shots! It was high noon on a cloudless day, I believe I was getting some bullet glint, triggering the stop screen early. I took a break and discussed it with a shooting buddy. He said I was crazy if I continued the test. Well the apperance of the cases, and the recoil convinced me there was no problems. The next 5 were at 5 hours, they were the same area that the control group were reading. And the 10 hr. and 15 hour as well!

    Control 1
    Av. 2781 1 2639
    Hi 2852 2 2851
    lo 2639 3 2852
    ES 212.4
    SD 122.3
    Only got 3 to register.
    Control 2 group was better in that I got 4 to register with the chrono, and the ES was 46.6.

    2 hr shells
    Av 3115 1. 2810
    Hi 3490 2. 2449
    Lo 2449 3. 3490
    ES 1041 4. 3392
    SD 460.8 5. 3428
    Recoil wasn't more, primer apperance was normal, no hard bolt lift, so on I went!

    5 hrs.
    Av 2832 1. 2837
    Hi 2862 2. 2805
    Lo 2805 3. 2836
    ES 57.2 4. 2862
    SD 24.7 5. 2818

    10 hrs.
    Av 2809 1. 2819
    Hi 2824 2. 2766
    Lo 2766 3. 2824
    ES 57.8 4. 2824
    SD 24.7 5. 2815

    15 hrs.
    Av 2835
    Hi 2907
    Lo 2758
    ES 149.0
    SD 58.4

    The winchester shells were almost identical to the new Norma brass. I won't put those reading up, they prove that even previously fired shells act the same as new brass.

    My conclusion; Tumbling loaded ammo does nothing to deteriorate the powder, causing it to burn faster, AT LEAST IN THIS PARTICULAR APPLICTAION! One conclusion you COULD draw is that at 15 hours, the accuracy improves! At least the size of the group shrunk! Big Grin

    Well I had fun, and I feel much better now. Cool It was a beautifull day, 75, warm for this late in the year in Wisconsin.
     
  19. Smythe77

    Smythe77 Member

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    I actually knew a chap that did polish his finished reloads & would set them up as the best he had to possibly win anything from some money to actually a S&W M-41, holseters & such. The ammo given highest approval by the judges was then tested with the person's h/gun & depending upon the grouping & all that clinched the wins for him.

    So dumped 50 rnds of 38 Spl with 150Gr cast SWC in an old rock tumber of crushed walnuts & resin.

    Looked good only the resin had impregnated the bullet tips.

    That was my only try & have never done it since. Any NO I have not heard of anytumbler going boom. I guess because MOST do not tumble live ammo.
     
  20. BluesBear

    BluesBear member

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    Welcome ABoardâ„¢ Snuffy(grizz)!
    It's good to see you over here.

    Thanks for posting the results of your test.

    I did almost the same thing 20 years ago, when i was in the business, by tumbling an assortment of handgn rounds for 30 days.
    My conclusions mirror yours.
    In fact I know of no one who has actually done the experiment for themselves who has had a different outcome.

    But there are still those armchair experts who will choose to believe a day dream over empirical data.
     
  21. snuffy

    snuffy Member

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    Thanks for the welcome, bluesbear!

    I registered over a year ago, there didn't seem to be much going on at that time, but then my memory is far from good! :p

    I guess I could call myself a myth buster of sorts. I'm skeptical of the "I HAVE HEARD information, repeated without actually engaging the brain to think about it.

    As was pointed out by others on AR, there's really only one reason to run a tumbler with loaded ammo,(well two if it's to remove corrosion from old military rounds). The one is why I do it, to remove the lube after loading .223 and .308 in my dillon 650. Then only for about 10-15 minutes. To get a high polish on the brass, I run corn cobb with either flitz or midway tumbler additive before sizing. I just started using the midway stuff, I really like it.

    I'll check back here more often, I might just have something else to add! ;)
     
  22. Jeeper

    Jeeper Member

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    I cant believe that happens on the internet!!! I am truly stunned!!! :)
     
  23. BluesBear

    BluesBear member

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    When I am standing face to face with someone who gives me that old song and dance about the powder grinding itself into pixie dust I ask them how long their walnut or corncob media lasts.

    Why doesn't it grind itself into subatomic particles?

    From the look on their faces you'd think no one had ever asked them that before.
     
  24. trickyasafox

    trickyasafox Member

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    i figured if the inside of the cases dont get to clean from regular tumbling, its because media doesnt circulate well within the case. how could powder be any different?
     
  25. goon

    goon Member

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    Can't speak for the powder breaking down but I don't see a loaded round causing much damage if it does go off inside a tumbler. A friend of mine stuck a 50 BMG round in the berm at a range once and shot the primer. It went off. The burning of the powder just pushed the primer out and left him with a perfect 50BMG dummy round.
    I would think that the worst case scenario would end up with setting your tumbler on fire, but that would be WORST CASE SCENARIO.
    I'll be watching for your results too.
    Thanks.
     
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