Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wet tumbling without stainless pins with near stainless pins results!

  Reloaders need clean brass, usually.

  Some reloaders with carbide dies (especially pistol caliber reloaders) do not even clean their brass, but most do and most should.  Over the years, a plethora of dry tumbling techniques have been used, such as walnut hulls especially in the form of "Lizard Litter, corn cob media, and even airsoft pellets.  Additionally, additives to the brass and media mix such as mineral spirits, Nu Finish car wax, and purpose-manufactured Flitz tumbling media additive are popular.  There's drawbacks to dry tumbling, mainly dust to be mitigated; both in the overall load in the tumbler and in individual cases.  A dryer sheet in the media is a popular remedy to the dust issue, but one may experience plumes of tumbling media dust during shooting rounds reloaded using this cleaning method.

  The various dry tumbling techniques have recently been eclipsed in popularity by wet tumbling, mainly wet tumbling using stainless steel pins.  This produces vastly superior results over dry tumbling.  Furthermore, the steel pins help with slightly polishing rough edges left over from decamped primer pockets and making chamber necks smoother.  Some common drawbacks to this technique are:

  • disposing of the leftover lead contaminated water
  • stainless steel media stuck in cases (most of the time, simply removing each pin caught and throwing it away will keep this problem from occurring again with your batch of media
  • separating the pins from the brass.  This can be a chore.  Common techniques are sifting out the brass using a large amount of water to "rinse" the steel out and of course, a magnet.
  • drying the wet brass.  This does not have to be hard, but many make it that way.  Use a food dehydrator.  If you do not want to buy an extra one, simply buy extra drying trays for a whopping $9 for only brass use.  

  I tried the dry tumbling route and it was too messy, too slow, and produced mediocre results for the amount of work involved.  Next was buying a tumbler capable of tumbling liquids.  The Thumler tumbler is well spoken of, but I was certain I could spend much less and get a decent tumbler.  I found what I looking for in the Harbor Freight dual tumbler coupled with a 20% off coupon from Harbor Freight, bringing my total to under $50.  Yes, the Harbor Freight is not the same quality as the over two hundred dollar Thumler.  I do not care, I can purchase some extra drive belts, remove the motor cover so that it does not overheat, and slap rubber bands on the drums so that they turn properly.  This is a hobby that allegedly saves you money, if you can tinker just a little with the Harbor Freight tumbler, you can pocket a lot of savings.  I plan to sooner or later, manufacture a better drum for it, using this thread at ARF as a guide.

  So far, stainless media and wet tumbling worked much better for me.  However, enterprising souls at Pistol-Forum found a better way.  I read through the entire "Wet tumbling WITHOUT SS pins results" thread and tried the technique developed and detailed by the community there.  Many were using hot water, LemiShine citric acid dishwashing additive, and a very small amount of dish soap (Dawn works well).  The technique has been refined into saving money by using bulk citric acid powder (vastly cheaper than LemiShine), water, and Armorall Wash'N'Wax vehicle wash soap.  The Armorall soap helps clean the cases and adds a slight wax coating to the cases.  Regardless, the results are compelling; only slightly "dirtier" than tumbling using the bothersome time sink of stainless steel pins, but with greatly reduced time expenditure (You ARE reloading so that you can shoot, RIGHT?  RIGHT?)

  I am now a convert to the wet tumbling sans media method using water, citric acid, and Armorall soap.  I fill each drum about 2/3s to 3/4s full of brass, add hot water to little below where the lid sits, add 1/8 of a teaspoon of the citric acid powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of Armorall soap.  Then I tumble for roughly two hours.  If you add too much citric acid, some cases will become pinkish in color, I do not lose sleep over this, but those that wet tumble mainly for pretty brass might, so take it easy on the citric acid!  After that, I dump the water (safely), rinse the brass, add water again, and add another 1/2 teaspoon of Armorall for a final rinse and to ensure the cases are nice and smoothly coated with the wax additive in the soap, because in my experience; the final step of Armorall-only rinse negates the need for case lube while reloading.  After that runs for an hour, do not rinse, simply dry the cases on food dehydrator for at least two hours, once dry, reload per your normal routine.  This works for me and it works well.  Seasoned reloaders and clean brass worshippers will probably be clutching their chests in horror, but this works well for me.


Dirty brass:

Tumbling away, note the Armorall and rubber bands on the tumbler drum that ensure the drum spins properly (Thumpers Tumbler snobs can contact me about donations for a more expensive tumbler):

Nearly done, this the final rinse solution of Armorall soap and water:

Drying after final Armorall rinse:

Final product, ready to load!