When using anything other than new brass cases, it is important to clean and inspect the cartridges before reloading. When reloading for the first time, this process is often overlooked. Dirty and tarnished brass not only looks unprofessional and sloppy, but it can also be a safety concern when checking for split cases or necks. A great way to clean medium to large quantities of brass is to use a tumbler. Reloading is certainly a gear-extensive hobby so it might be tempting to skip out on this step, but hand cleaning each case can be time consuming and inefficient. A brass tumbler takes an unpleasant task and makes it simple, and provides a safer and better looking final product. Using clean brass will also help keep your dies from collecting debris, resulting in premature wear. If you are looking for the best brass tumblers for reloading in 2020, you must first decide what type of tumbler you want to use. Then, check out the reviews below to find the best tumbler in each category.
Short On Time? Here Is The Bullet List
- Starter Tumbler: Frankford Arsenal Quick-n-EZ Case Tumbler
- Quite Vibrating Tumbler: Lyman 1200 Pro Tumbler
- Rotary Tumbler: Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler
**Below are our more detailed reviews. Click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
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The Best Ways to Clean Brass
Keeping your brass clean is important, especially when oxidation can affect your tumblers. Here are the best ways to clean your brass.
Vibrating tumblers are often the cheapest and most popular option for cleaning brass cases, especially to avoid oxidation. The design is quite simple. An electric motor with an offset weight is mounted to the bottom of a covered bowl that holds the cartridges and media. The offset weight creates a vibration that combined with the unique shape of the bowl, causes the brass cases to rotate through the media.
This style of tumbler uses only dry media. It is very effective at cleaning and polishing the outside of your cases. However, it is important to note that a vibratory tumbler does not clean the inside of the case. Additionally, if you choose to clean your brass with the primer removed, remember to check for any media that might get stuck in the primer pocket. These tumblers are a great choice if you want to start reloading as soon as the cases are removed. There is no dry time, simply strain out the cases and you are ready to begin.
How To Dry Tumble Brass
Check out our Dry Tumbling Brass For Reloading 101 Article.
Rotary tumblers are generally more expensive than vibratory tumblers, but they offer the ability to use wet or dry media. These tumblers consist of a water-tight drum, with some type of roller to rotate the container. As the drum spins the brass will be carried up the side until gravity takes over and dumps the cases back to the bottom. One advantage with this style of tumbler is that the cases are cleaned both inside and out. A rotary tumbler creates a lot more agitation between the cases and media and therefore decreases the amount of time needed to clean the brass.
Best Media for Cleaning Brass
Corn cob media can be used in both rotary and vibratory tumblers. It is a less aggressive media that does a good job of polishing the brass to a nice shine. To increase the shine during tumbling, you can use a variety of polish. Many people have good luck with auto polish. Just make sure that it will not react negatively with the brass cases. You might see this media at a pet store, but it is recommended to avoid that for reloading. Often times, corn cob media from a pet store is coarser than that designed for reloading, which makes it more likely to get stuck inside cases and decreases its ability to clean.
Walnut media is another dry media that works well with rotary and vibratory tumblers. It is more efficient at cleaning the fouling and dirt off of the cases but does not give brass that polished, like-new shine. If you shoot dirty ammunition, walnut media is a good option. Many people choose to go with a combination of media, first cleaning their cases with walnut, and then polishing with corn cob.
Stainless Steel Pins
Stainless steel pins are a wet media that does an exceptional job at cleaning your brass. They are often used with water and other additives so they must be used with a rotary style tumbler. Using just the steel pins and water will work to get the cases clean, but adding a little dish soap will help keep the media fresh, and with some polish, the cases will look better than new. Separating the wet media from the cartridges is not as simple as dry media since the liquid creates surface tension between the pins and brass cases. However, unlike dry media, the steel pins are designed to be too large to get stuck in the primer pocket. Removing the primer before tumbling the cases is a very efficient way to completely clean your brass, and have it ready for reloading.
An important consideration when choosing wet media is dry time. Since the steel pins require water, you must make sure that the cases are completely dry before continuing reloading. It is often recommended to let cases dry for a 24 hour period. There are additional additives that can be used to help decrease your dry time if that is a concern. Steel pins are a more expensive choice compared to dry media options, but if properly taken care of, they will last much longer than dry media. It is the preferred method for those who want their cases to look like new, and be clean inside and out.
Match these with a good cleaning solution and you will have some great looking brass. One of our favorites is with a little Lemi Shine.
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The Best Brass Tumblers on the Market in 2020
Best Starter Tumbler:
Perhaps the easiest way to get started cleaning your brass is with a vibrating tumbler. The Frankford Arsenal Quick-n-EZ tumbler is highly recommended for its ease of use and reliable operation. Out of the package, it is ready to go; just add your choice of dry media. The capacity for this tumbler as stated by the manufacturer is 600 9mm cases or 350 .223 cases. This should be acceptable for most reloading situations. However, if you only want to clean a few cases at a time, you might consider something smaller. The price point also makes this tumbler a great option if you do not want to invest a lot of money in professional quality equipment. The difference between the Quick-n-EZ tumbler and higher priced models is the amount of noise produced. While the noise is not obnoxious, I would not recommend this tumbler if you plan on constantly running it and cannot have it in a separate room. Overall, this is a well built and reliable tumbler that will get the job done even for the advanced reloader. We also highly recommend their bullet puller.
- Quick and easy to setup
- Large capacity for varying case sizes
- Dry media only
- Noise pollution
- Cord mounted power switch
- 600 9mm, 350 .233 cases
Best Quite Vibrating Tumbler:
Lyman is well-known for their quality reloading products and this tumbler is no different. If noise is a concern for you, the Lyman 1200 Pro tumbler would be an excellent option. At just a slightly higher price point, it produces far less noise than many of the competing products. Additionally, it comes with a built-in sifter lid which is a nice feature. You can easily separate your media from the brass cases. Many tumblers in this price range do not include a sifter, meaning you either have to buy a separate one, or try to pick your brass out piece by piece. This model is 120V, but they also sell a 220V model if you have a workshop setup. The capacity on the tumbler is fairly standard, cleaning up to 350 cases per cycle. I would recommend this tumbler to anyone looking for a full-feature vibrating tumbler. I also highly recommended turret press and case trimmers.
- Built-in sifter
- Low noise level
- Dry media only
- 350 case capacity
- 120V model
Best Rotary Tumbler:
If you want to get series about clean brass, the Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Tumbler is the go-to choice. The rotating drum will clean and polish the cases to like new, both inside and out. This tumbler is packed with great features that make it simple to clean your cases. Most notably is the capacity, you can tumble up to 1,000 .223 cases at once. Even with smaller batches, this tumbler will still function; simply adjust the amount of water and cleaning solution. Additionally, the dual-layer drum is rubber lined, which helps reduce the noise. The end caps on the drum are see-through, so you can inspect how the progress is coming along. It also comes with a set of sifting end caps that allow you to drain off the water when it is done. Another important feature to this tumbler is an adjustable timer, so you never have to worry about forgetting to shut it off. Lastly, the Platinum Series Tumbler comes with 5 pounds of stainless steel pins, so it is ready to use when delivered.
- Includes 5 pounds of stainless steel media
- Extremely efficient at cleaning brass
- Produces some noise when running a lot of cases.
- Higher initial investment costs
- Dual-Layer Drum
- 1,000 .223 capacity
- Belt free gear drive
Best Brass Tumblers Final Thoughts
Having clean brass for reloading is an important step that should not be overlooked. It can extend the life of your dies, make it easier to check for splits in the cases, and adds the finishing touch for professional looking reloads. When looking for the best brass tumbler, you must first pick your media. If you only want to use corn cob or walnut media, the Frankford Arsenal Quick-n-EZ tumbler is a great option. It will clean your brass just as well as any other vibrating tumbler but is a much cheaper option. However, if you live in a small apartment or noise is a concern, the Lyman 1200 Pro should be your go-to choice. It features some really nice upgrades for just a little extra money.
The other option for tumblers is to go with stainless steel media and a rotary tumbler. If you want the cleanest and shiniest brass, in the shortest amount of time, you should look into the Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series tumbler. It is the most expensive to get started, but it should last you a lifetime and deliver the best results. Any of these tumblers will give you all the benefits of reloading with clean brass. Depending on your budget, you can pick out the one best suited to your needs. Choose the best brass tumbler for your requirements and never reload with dirty cases again. Most of these tumblers come with manuals but it is also recommended to get yourself an overall reloading manual to help you understand the whole process together.
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Mark is dedicated to improving his skills and prides himself in putting in the time and effort to be successful in the field. During the fall and winter he is focused on waterfowl hunting and will hunt every chance he has. He has a simplistic hunting style, often using only a handful of duck decoys over an ultra-low profile blind. When waterfowl season closes, you can find him fishing, camping, or at the shooting range preparing for 3 gun and IPSC competitions. Mark is passionate about hunting and the outdoors, and loves helping others get involved.