If you are reloading bullets to save money, making sure that the casing is clean and prepped before you reload them is essential.
When you pick up brass from the range or purchase dirty casings, they may contain dirt, burnt powder, and soot. Reloading them without cleaning them properly can lead to ammunition failures or gun jamming.
Here is a guide to everything you need to know about cleaning your bullet casings.
Now, there are many ways to clean your brass, however, one of the easiest and most popular methods is tumbling. For this, you will need some supplies, like a tumbler, and some cleaning solution. Tumblers work well and are easy to use, and they can automatically clean a large batch of casings at a time.
Vibratory tumblers use a dry method of cleaning. A vibratory tumbler consists of a plastic tub that is mounted on a vibrating electric motor. To use, put your casing in the tub, along with a dry-cleaning solution. As the tub vibrates, the solution cleans and polishes the casings.
When it comes to dry cleaning solutions, you can either opt for ground corn cobs or walnut shells. Corn cobs are better if your cases don't require too much cleaning, however, if your cases are really dirty, walnut shells are a better option.
You can get both treated and untreated cleaning solution. Treated solution generally also has polishing agents in it, and it polishes your casing as well as you clean them. If you are cleaning for the first time, a treated solution is a good option, however, some seasoned bullet reloaders also like to use a untreated solution, so that they can control the type and amount of polish they add.
So, it's that simple. With a vibratory tumbler, all you have to do is add the casings, cleaning solution and let it run for a few hours. You will get a shiny and clean brass every time. Since it is a dry-cleaning method, you don’t need to wait for the brass to dry, however, the cleaning solution can get jammed in the primer holes and has to be removed manually in some cases.
Keep in mind that the longer the soot and dirt stay on the casings, the more difficult it will be to clean, and might take longer than a standard batch. Therefore, it's a good idea to throw your casings into the tumbler as soon as you get back from the range.
Rotary tumblers are also commonly used for wet cleaning of brass. They can be a little more expensive than vibratory tumblers, but they eliminate the issue of jammed primer holes and offer better cleaning in a shorter time. Rotary tumblers have a drum that is rotated with a motor to clean the brass. You add the brass casings in it, along with some water, a cleaning agent, or even simple dish soap, and small steel pins which move inside the casings and clean every nook and cranny.
This process is faster than using a vibratory tumbler, and unlike ground corn cobs or walnut shells which are used in dry cleaning, the steel pins used in a rotary cleaner don't deteriorate and don't have to be periodically replaced. Moreover, the pins won't get stuck in primer pockets either. The cons to using a rotary tumbler are that you have to clean your brass in smaller batches, and they then have to be dried. Air drying can take too much time, however, some people also use an oven to dry the brass, and you can even buy a purpose-built brass dryer.
Chemical cleaning is another common method used for brass cleaning. In this method, the brass is soaked in water, cleaning solutions, and in some cases, citric acid as well. Then the casings are rinsed off with hot water. This method does get the burnt powder, dirt, and debris out of the cases, however, it does not polish them. It is a very fast cleaning method, especially if you use a dryer to clean off the brass. If you want a polished surface, then you can throw the casings in a tumbler with some untreated cleaning solution, and they will come out super shiny.
Some people also use ultrasonic cleaners to clean brass, this is another effective method that cleans up the brass very well in a very short period. You’ll need an ultrasonic cleaner for this method of cleaning, and they can be easily purchased in many gun stores that carry reloading supplies, or you can even order them online.
All you have to do is add your casings into the cleaner, with a cleaning solution and turn the cleaner on. It uses ultrasonic waves to clean the brass, and remove any kind of dirt, soot, or powder residue. As far as the cleaning solution is concerned, some people use a mixture of water, vinegar, and dish soap. There are also all-purpose cleaners available in the market.
If you want even faster and better results from Ultrasonic cleaning, use distilled water instead of normal water, which allows ultrasonic waves to travel more efficiently and better clean the brass. However, this is a method used by a few reloaders, mainly because the number of casings you can clean at a time, is low. Moreover, the starting cost for Ultrasonic cleaning can be a little high.
So, if you are thinking about reloading brass casings and making your own ammunition, we hope that this post helped you figure out how to make your brass squeaky clean.