There are many people out there that are reloading their own ammunition. It’s not only because it saves you good money, but also it gives you satisfaction and you get to customize the ammunition that you will use. You get to operate your firearm smoothly once you have clean shell casings.
An important part of reloading your own ammunition is to clean your brass casings. This makes your ammunition more reliable and a great look just as well.
The case tumbler is the small machine that helps you with this process and it cleans several casings in few hours and with less effort from your part.
What’s the story with the reloading tumbler?
It’s not difficult to use a tumbler for your brass. You simply place a cleaning media (crushed walnut shells or crushed corn cob into the barrel), add some polishing powder, the brass casings, close the lid, turn it on and give it some hours to finish the cleaning.
You should use crushed corn cob in case your brass simply needs a light buffing. For the brass that is extremely dirty, get some help from walnut shells as they are harder and scrub away the most difficult dirt and tarnish. Of course, in this case, you can always use stainless steel pins.
There are two main types of tumblers: rotary tumblers and vibratory tumblers.
The rotary tumbler features a barrel that you load and place on the machine. The machine turns then the barrel and the casings tumble inside with the cleaning media. You may successfully use corn cob and walnut shell media with this type of tumbler. As the barrel is water-tight, you may also use stainless steel pins and water.
The vibratory tumbler has a large bowl to hold the media and casings. There are rapid vibrations on the machine and they give friction between the media and the casings and the friction buffs the casings clean.
Typically, you fill the tumbler to 2/3 capacity with dry media and fill the rest of the way with un-sized dirty cases sorted by caliber. You don’t really need to decap the brass before tumbling as dry tumbling doesn’t clean the primer pockets. Once cleaned, the cases are separated from the media and may reloaded right the way.
What do you need for a brass tumbler?
You may either use corn cob or walnut shell as media for your brass tumbler.
Corn cob gives a glossy finish on the cases but it needs more time than walnut to do that. Corn cob media for tumbling refers only the woody ring, as the pith and chaff are removed. Corn cob tumbler media is also used for (sand) blasting. The corn cob is tough and aggressive enough to do a good cleaning to the brass, without causing it any damage.
Ground walnut shell is more aggressive than cob and doesn’t need that much time for the cleaning. You may use ground walnut shell pet bedding for your tumbler media, unlike corn cob. You may find it in pet stores for the reptile uses. The media is not high priced and you should replace it from time to time as it doesn’t last forever.
You may also add polishing compounds to the media when cleaning. Some 1/8 cup of liquid polish is enough, but let the tumbler run without cases for 10 minutes for an even distribution of the polish.
Some reloaders also use dryer sheets cut into strips to the media. You should replace them at the end of each run as they take away a good part of powder/primer residue.
At the end of your tumbling you need to separate clean cases from the media. You can get some help from a colander or bucket or also you may use a media separator. This device is a hand-cranked plastic cage in a tub, with or without a cover. The brass and media are dumped into the media separator from the tumbler and you use your hand to rotate the cage. The cage’s slots are small enough to hold the cases but also small enough to let the medial run out. It takes less than 30 seconds to separate the media from the cases.
As primer residue contains some toxic chemical, it’s best to avoid handling the media as much as possible. Use the polishing additive to keep down the dust.
Try to sort the brass by caliber before tumbling to avoid the case of smaller cases lodged inside larger cases.
It’s also good to get the tumbler that is the closest to the size of the batches that you run and bigger doesn’t always mean better. Brass tumblers clean the best with a full load of cases.
Top 3 Brass Tumbler Reviews
When you don’t want the fuss of shopping for a brass tumbler, then the brass polish and then the cleaning media, the Frankford Arsenal Quick-n-EZ Case Tumbler Kit may be the answer. Apart from the fact it contains everything you need for case cleaning, the kit has other good things related to it. Here are the pros:
- The kit contains Quick-N-EZ Case Tumbler, Quick-N-EZ Rotary Media separator, 4oz Brass polish, 3 lbs. cleaning media and plastic bucket
- The kit is complete and you don’t need to buy anything else
- You may use the kit right out of the box
- The kit is easy to assemble
- It’s easy to use the brass tumbler
- The Frankford Tumbler is very quiet
- The in-line power switch is a nice feature
- The vibratory tumbler works very good
- The included polish works very well
- The separator cade is heavy for doing its job
As for the parts we like less, there are few to mention so here are our cons:
- You can’t use stainless steel media for the tumbler
- The lid could use a nicer knob
- The separator has a plastic construction which doesn’t seem very long lasting
- The shields are kind of misaligns and allow gaps to open up between the bucket when you’re pouring media and it goes all over around
All in all, for the money you pay, the kit is quite worth it as it performs pretty good and you don’t have to buy anything else for some time.
Even though this is not very common, you may still find a good brass tumbler for not that much money. The Lyman Pro 1200 Tumbler (115-Volt) fits the description of good quality and low-priced reloading tumbler, but it also brings to the table other good things. Here are the pros:
- The tumbler holds 2lbs of media
- The price is amazing for the quality you get
- The Lyman Pro 1200 Tumbler has a built-in sifter lid
- The media separation is easy and fast
- You don’t need to separate media sifter
- You may clean up to 350 cases per cycle
- The Lyman Pro 1200 is the best seller Lyman tumbler
- The tumbler is very well made
- The Lyman Pro 1200 is sturdy, reliable
- The tumbler gets the job done
- The tumbler works great
- It’s easy to remove cleaning agent thanks to the strainer on top
- The bowl is quit big
- It’s easy to separate brass from media with the tumbler as the bowl has a sieve for a lid
- The motor is quite strong
- It’s easy to use the Lyman Pro 1200
- The springs at the base of the bowl doesn’t allow the tumbler the “walk” when it is on
Some things need to be improved so here are the cons:
- The work area might get a bit dusty as some of the media flies out while it is tumbling
- There is no on/off switch button so the Lyman Pro1200 is tumbling once you plug it in
So, when it comes to low-priced and efficient brass tumbler, the Lyman Pro 1200 surely makes the cut.
The heavy-duty tumbler
In case you are in need for a heavy-duty brass tumbler but you are also willing the pay the extra cash, the Extreme Tumblers Rebel 17 Ammo Reloading Tumbler is a great, reliable and efficient tumbler to get. Here are the pros:
- The Rebel 17 is a heavy duty brass tumbler
- The tumbler is for the heavy duty use
- You may use it for SS Media
- The tumbler has a 17lbs capacity
- The tumbler is especially designed for cleaning brass
- There is heavy duty metal design on the tumbler for longer life span
- The thick rubber liner protects the brass
- The tumbler features high strength powder coating including inside the drum
- There are large ½” solid shafts with thick rubber rollers
- The tumbler has heavy duty sealed ball bearings
- The tumbler has seam welded, durable base
- There are also dual moto support brackets
- The tumbler features easy on/off nylon locking drum lid knobs
- The Rebel 17 has long lasting seamless drive belt
- The motor is very strong and is 3000rpm
- There is on/off switch for the tumbler
- The barrel is heavy duty steel hexagon
- The tumbler is very quiet and long lasting
- The drum lid has large, easy to use thumb screws
- You also get an extra belt
- Brass comes out very clean when you use the tumbler
- The Rebel 17 is easy to setup and easy to use also
- There is easily replaceable bearings and motor
- The tumbler is very well constructed and rugged
- The barrel and liner have a 5-year warranty
- The unit has a 3-year warranty
- There is 1-year warranty for motor also
When it comes to the parts we don’t like about the Rebel 17 we only have one to mention, the price.
But, as it’s heavy duty, quiet, strong and long lasting, the Rebel 17 makes it as a good investment of your money any given day.