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Need advice on brass tumblers

JTHunter2

Regular Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2017
Messages
310
Location
Planet Earth
Can somebody help with some information about the different types of brass tumblers, rotary and vibratory?
I don't do much brass cleaning at any one time, about 100-150 rd. of .380 or 50-75 .243 in the past. Now I'm adding in .38 Special and .357.
My questions are:
Which is faster?
Which is quieter?
Which is more mechanically durable?
Which does a better job?
Anything else you can think of that would help would be appreciated.

I have checked certain local stores with these results.

One of the largest (local) sporting goods store in the area has apparently gotten rid of a lot of their reloading supplies within the last few months and had no machines.

Checked a local chain store, Rural King as well as another nearby gun store with the same results. Lowe's had no "parts cleaners" either so I didn't bother going to Home Depot.

Harbor Freight has possibilities however. They have two vibratory tumblers as well as two rotary "drum" tumblers. The single & double drum rotary tumblers can only handle 3 lbs. per canister, which eliminated them. The larger vibratory cleaner can hold 18 lbs. which is more than I need. The smaller holds 5 lbs. and is listed for $49.99. My concern is that the motor, being rated at only 0.6 amps, may not be strong enough. OH - the bowl is also polyethylene plastic and not metal.

Academy Sports has two larger type vibratory tumblers, the Hornady M-2 ($59.99) and one from "Franklin Arsenal" for $39.99. The M-2 claims to hold about 400 .38 Special while the Franklin says it holds ~600 9mm. Both are bigger than I need or want but the price on the Franklin is appealing.

That being said, with one of those "20% off" coupons from Harbor Freight, that smaller unit at $49.99 would drop to $39.99, the same price as the Franklin and a more useful size (for me).

Any other thoughts or suggestions?
 
Last edited:

since9

Campaign Veteran
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
6,964
Location
Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
I'm not a reloader per se', although I have done reloading.

That said, I've seen them made out of paint cans, 5 gallon buckets, and 55 gallon steel barrels. They all had a center axis and bearing with a large drive pulley attached to a small pulley on a motor. Most were tilted about 30 to 45 degrees, some had internal vanes attached to stir things up, much like those inside a cement mixer. In addition to a center axis bearing, they had roller bearing about 2/3 of the way from the bottom to the open top. One guy just bolted an old skateboard onto a his frame, supporting the barrel with that. Ideally, you'll want a constant-speed AC motor.
 

since9

Campaign Veteran
Joined
Jan 14, 2010
Messages
6,964
Location
Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
Good information. One individual who favors SS pins remarked, "I know there are issues regarding an increase in seating force and release forces on the seated bullet may/can change POI but at the ranges I shoot it has not been a factor for me."

Although not a factor, the point remains that SS pins, in addition to their cleaning ability, exert a physical force on the casings. Technically, it's peening, something that even sand won't accomplish:

Peening is the process of working a metal's surface to improve its material properties, usually by mechanical means, such as hammer blows, by blasting with shot (shot peening) or blasts of light beams with laser peening. Peening is normally a cold work process, with laser peening being a notable exception. It tends to expand the surface of the cold metal, thereby inducing compressive stresses or relieving tensile stresses already present. Peening can also encourage strain hardening of the surface metal.

The downside of cold-hardening metal is that it makes it more brittle, hence the gentleman's increased seating and release forces. While I seriously doubt the 35k to 60k psi produced in modern cartridges will fail to overcome increased release forces, cleaning with SS pins does increase the hardness, and therefore brittleness of the casing, reducing cycle time before crack failure.

By how much? A WAG would be 20% to 30%.

An alternative you might consider is using a much lighter, yet sharper material: Titanium. Now, where might one find titanium pins... :)
 

JTHunter2

Regular Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2017
Messages
310
Location
Planet Earth
Here's a final update on these tumblers.
I ended up getting the smaller tumbler from Harbor Freight as it seemed better suited for my needs. Today, I FINALLY put into action as the temperatures have dropped and I wanted to run it in my outdoor polebarn. I have a 1 gal. plastic paint can about 3/4 full of red nutshell media and I dumped the entire contents into the tumbler with 100 .38 Sp. brass. With the extra weight of the material in the bowl, this thing made even less noise than when it was empty.
The brass wasn't real dirty (except inside) to begin with so I checked it after about 1.5 - 2 hours and it looked good enough. I used an old slotted kitchen spoon to scoop out most of the brass but finally had to dump 3/4 back into the paint can to get the last few pieces out. What took so long was the flash holes in about 95% of the brass had media chips wedged into them. I got a 6" piece of 14 ga. copper wire to pick out the pieces and, while it worked well, it was time consuming.
Here are "Before & After" shots.
Thanks again for all the ideas and advice!!
 

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