Case Preparation for reloading - Wet & dry media

Let’s talk case preparation.  So you saved your Freedom Munitions brass after a trip to the range and now you want to reload them with your X-Treme Bullets projectiles, what are you using to clean and prepare your brass?  A lot of first time reloaders start out with dry media vibratory tumblers and some start with wet tumblers after speaking to other reloaders.  Whichever you choose is up to you but there are benefits to having both.

Dry media tumblers usually use ground up corn cob or crushed walnut as media.  The corn cob and walnut media acts as an abrasive to help clean the brass but doesn’t do all of the cleaning, you have to add a little case preparation cleaner or brass cleaner.  The length of time you allow the brass to tumble or the cleanliness of the media will determine the polish on your brass.  Here are a couple of examples of a dry media vibratory tumbler.

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The cons to dry media tumblers are that the media tends to spill out when transferring brass to a media separator or pan, the media becomes dirty and needs to be changed depending on the usage.  This media can also become dusty.  If you are prone to field mice they will get into your clean media unless it’s in a closed container.  There is only an on/off switch and no timer to set.  Vibratory tumblers tend to be a little noisy but not too bad if left in the basement or garage.  The pros to dry media tumblers are it is a reusable product, you can get multiple uses before replacing media.   There are no liquids to clean up.  You are able to polish completed rounds that are reloaded in dry media tumblers to clean up case lube and to put that final shine on your rounds to make sure they feed flawlessly.  There are not many steps involved with dry media tumblers.  All you have to do is dump the brass in with a little cleaner and turn it on.  Once the brass is clean you sift the brass to separate the media and then replace the media in the tumbler.

Wet tumblers can come in the form of rotating canisters or an ultrasonic cleaners.  Wet tumblers require little additives.  Hot water mixed with a little dish detergent, a squirt of Lemi-Shine dish washer cleaner and a media such as stainless steel pins produce extremely clean brass.  The base for wet tumblers have timers that can be set from one to three hours and some brands allow you to switch rotational directions during the cleaning cycle.


Pictured here is a canister for a wet tumbler, stainless steel media, dish detergent, dish washer detergent and some dirty brass.


Here is the canister sitting on the base unit that controls the rotation, this model has a timer that can be set and will shut down on its own at the end of the cycle.

Cons to wet tumbling are you have filthy water that can get everywhere when emptying the canister.  The media is very small and can require an extra step to separate it.  Pros include extremely clean brass which in my opinion is cleaner than dry tumbling.  Timer that you can set and walk away from.  Household cleaners that everyone has and serve dual purpose, cleaning your brass and your dishes.  An inexpensive magnet aids in filtering the media which can be used multiple times without requiring being thrown away or replaced when dirty.  Canisters hold more than dry vibratory tumblers.  Wet tumblers are simple to operate but require a couple of extra steps that are not involved with dry media tumblers. Once you load the canister and add the dish detergent with the dish washing aid you set it to run.  When your run cycle is complete you empty the dirty water (be prepared to see what looks like dark mud), rinse the brass and stainless steel media (works best to do this 2-3 times).  When your media is rinsed you have the option to dry it with a food dehydrator, oven baking sheet or by placing the brass on a towel and allowing the radiant heat from the sun to dry the brass.  I like to use a magnet that allows you to release the magnet, I use this to attract my stainless steel media out of the dirty water and also from the drying towel.  See picture below.


Ultrasonic Cleaners seem to be the cat’s meow when it comes to cleaners.  You are able to clean brass, gun parts and depending on the size of the ultrasonic cleaner you can put up to a 16 inch carbine complete upper in the system.  Ultrasonic cleaners use a high frequency of vibration with a mixture of 40 parts water and 1 part cleaning additive to clean.  Ultrasonic cleaners have a temperature setting that you can adjust as well as a timer to control the system.  Ultrasonic cleaners use two different cleaning solutions, one is a case cleaner and the second is a firearms cleaner.  Cons are ultrasonic cleaners can be on the higher end depending on size.  Small units are reasonable and the large unit can cost upwards of $600 or more.  Pros are that you can clean multiple items to include polymer guns.  Unit has a timer and also heating element.  Below are a small and large ultrasonic cleaner.



So clean your range brass after a long session of practice or get some brass from X-Treme bullets and get to reloading!


  • George Dorbert

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