Nowadays, a lot of shooters and firearms enthusiasts enjoy reloading their own shells. This is because reloading one’s onw shells are cheaper compared to buying pre-reloaded and pre-armed shells right off the shelf. Besides saving money, reloading your own shells also ensures that you get consistently high quality rounds every time you shoot.
However, reloading your own shells can be tricky. Besides knowledge, you’ll also need specialized tools that are quite expensive to help you clean and reload your spent cartridges.
Besides having a good powder trickler and a digital powder scale, you’ll also need a brass tumbler to clean and polish your spent cartridges. This ensures that every ammo you reload is a clean one and won’t have any sort of residue or dirt.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to choose the best brass tumbler for your reloading needs. Besides that, we’ll also review the 5 best brass tumblers on the market today so you don’t have to!
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What to Look For When Buying a Brass Tumbler
It’s very important to clean your shells before you reload them with gunpowder and a primer. This ensures that the cartridge won’t misfire and won’t have any form of residue left, so you can start anew. Correctly cleaning your shells is critical in ensuring a high quality ammunition that’s accurate and dependable.
Using a brass tumbler is one of the easiest and most economical way of cleaning your spent cartridges. It removes most if not all forms of residue from the cartridges. This ensures that you get a clean slate when reloading those shells.
All brass tumblers have the same function, to clean your shells safely, quickly, and efficiently. However, different tumblers use different methods and have different features. Because of that, it’s very important to understand what you want and what you need so that you can buy the correct one.
In general, when buying your own brass tumbler for shell cleaning and reloading purposes, these are the main things to consider
- Type of tumbler
- Material used by the tumbler
- Capacity of the tumbler
- Accepted Cartridges
Type of tumbler
The two most common types of brass tumblers are a vibrating and rotary one. These two operate very differently to each other.
Rotary tumblers are very old school and has been in use for over fifty years. These are generally more expensive compared to vibrating tum bler. They have a barrel and a roller at the bottom of the tool to roll the barrel and the shells inside.
This type of tumbler rolls the shells along with a cleaning media such as a stainless steel pin to clean and polish the cartridges. Basically, you load the barrel with the cleaning media and the shells you want to clean, and then position it on the machine. The machine then turns the barrel so it tumbles the shells along with the cleaning media.
Rotary tumblers are capable of being used for wet tumbling or dry tumbling. When using it for dry tumbling, the recommended media is corn cobs or walnut. However, if it’s used for wet tumbling, the recommended media would be small steel pins.
These tumblers work faster to clean and polish shells compared to vibratory ones. This limits the chafing of the brass due to repeated friction. However, it is important to note that the agents must be selected with the utmost attention to avoid abrasive behavior.
Vibratory tumblers on the other hand are relatively new and is cheaper compared to the rotary tumbler. Due to it’s ease of use and simple design, vibrating tumblers are currently the most popular brass tumblers on the market.
This type of tumbler has a large bowl that holds the shell casings and the cleaning media. It also has a vibration machine on the bottom of the bowl that’s supposed to shake and stir the bowl. The friction between the shells and the cleaning media polishes and cleans the shell casings.
Strain out the bullets after this to separate the bullets and the cleaning media and you are good to go. The vibratory process cleans and polishes the bullets thoroughly.
Even though vibratory tumblers can clean a huge amount of bullets in one cycle, this type of tumbler does have it’s disadvantages. For starters, they take a long time to clean and polish the bullets, thus making the cleaning a time consuming process.
Another disadvantage is that this process doesn’t clean the inside of the case thoroughly. Besides that, the media can also be stuck inside the primer pockets, needing further intervention from you.
Material used by the tumbler
What kind of material your tumbler is made out of is also a big factor to consider. Most brass tumblers on the market use metals such as steel and aluminum as it’s basic material.
There are also some tumblers that use durable plastic to reduce weight. However, you need to keep in mind that not all plastic is equally made, some are weaker then others and might break down with repeated regular use. If you’re looking for a brass tumbler that’ll last a long time, consider buying one made out of high quality materials.
Capacity of the tumbler
How much shells a tumbler can hold is also an important consideration, especially if you’re a hardcore shooter that shoots a lot. You’ll find that most standard tumblers on the market can clean and polish up to 500 shell cases in a single use. Some larger capacity tumblers may even handle as many as 1000 cases.
Picking a higher capacity tumbler means that it’ll be bigger, heavier, and more expensive compared to one with a smaller capacity. Because of that, you need to analyze and consider how many shells you need to clean and polish before buying a brass tumbler.
As a general rule of thumb, most brass tumblers can hold any type of shell case that you throw at it. However, if you’re cleaning large shell cases, it’s best to make sure that your tumbler supports it. Sometimes, a shell case is just too big to be cleaned by a tumbler. In other cases, the tumbler is just not designed to clean that particular type of casing.
Because of that, you’ll have to make sure the tumbler you’re buying is designed for use with the cases that you use. You don’t want to be buying a tumbler that can’t clean and polish your cartridges right? It’ll just be an expensive decoration for your reloading workbench.
Brass tumblers are generally an expensive purchase. Because of that, you need to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. We’ve talked about buying tumblers that are made out of durable materials so that they’ll last a long time, but reliability isn’t just about durability.
Having a tumbler that is well made and uses high quality components drastically increases it’s longevity and reliability. You won’t have to worry about it suddenly breaking down during regular use because a small part of it broke.
In general, having a durable and reliable tumbler that’ll last you a long time is very important because it saves money in the long run. A durable and reliable tumbler ensures that you won’t have to purchase a new one every couple of months.
The Best Brass Tumblers for Reloading – Top 5 Picks
OUR #1 CHOICE
[su_service title=”Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ 110V Vibratory Case Tumbler” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The Quick-N-EZ 100V vibratory case tumbler is one of the more popular choices among firearms enthusiast. This vibration based brass tumbler from renowned brand Frankford Arsenal will do an incredible job of cleaning and polishing your shells.
This is a vibrating tumbler where the shells are mixed with a cleaning media and then vibrated. This vibratory action polishes and cleans the cartridges at the same time, ensuring you get a nice and clean shell to reload.
As the name suggests, the Quick-N-EZ tumbler enables you to quickly and easily clean up your spent shell casings. This is done via a uniquely designed bowl that forces the brass to brush up against one another to increase friction. The increased friction increases the cleaning speed and efficiency of the tumbler.
The tumbler takes up a small amount of space on your reloading bench and has a large capacity. You’re able to load up to 600 9mm brass cartridges or up to 350 .223 brass shells inside of it.
Keep in mind that even though you can use this brass tumbler for cleaning a small number of cases, it’s not optimal. The Quick-N-EZ is designed to optimally clean 600 9mm brass cartridges. You’ll get the best performance and effectiveness by loading the tumbler near it’s limits.
However, due to it being a high capacity vibrating tumbler, the Quick-N-EZ will be quite noisy. If you have sensitive ears, make sure you have a set of ear plugs ready when using this tumbler.
The build quality on the Quick-N-EZ exceptional, it’ll last a long time if you take care of it well. Although we didn’t have any problems, some friends have pointed out that several Quick-N-EZ tumbler has manufacturing defects in their motor. This causes the motor to burn out prematurely, causing the machine to break down.
Overall, the Quick-N-EZ is a fantastic vibratory brass tumbler that’s extremely easy to use and reliable. For all the features that it brings, the Quick-N-EZ is also pretty cheap compared to it’s rivals.
If you’re looking for a simple and high quality vibrating brass tumbler, you can’t go wrong with the Quick-N-EZ tumbler from Frankford Arsenal. This is simply one of the best brass tumblers on the market today, if you don’t mind the sound.
[su_service title=”Lyman Pro 1200 Tumbler (115-Volt)” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Lyman is one of the most trusted names in the world of gunsmithing and reloading equipments. The Lyman pro 1200 tumbler is further proof of their excellence in this field.
This is a quality tumbler that produces less noise compared to other vibratory tumblers. It also has a built in sifter lid to ensure you can easily separate the cleaning media from the shells.
With its powerful thermally protected motor, built-in sifter lid, and advanced bowl design, the Lyman Pro 1200 Turbo Tumbler can help you to remove oxidation, old lube, and fouling from your brass cases so that you can get them ready for reloading within no time.
The sifter lid is a fantastic add on feature for the Lyman pro 1200 because most tumblers at this price range does not include a sifter. This makes it harder to pick up single cases one by one. You also won’t have to shell out extra money for a media sifter to filter out the cleaning media when using this.
This vibratory tumbler has a decent capacity of about 350 cases of 38spl cases per cycle. It’ll also hold about 2lbs of cleaning media inside it’s bowl. The capacity is large enough to handle the requirements of most shooters that shoot as a hobby.
As we’ve said before, the Lyman Pro 1200 vibratory tumbler is a lot quieter compared to most vibratory tumblers. This is a great feature and is important if you live in a dense neighborhood. They’ll thank you for not disturbing them with the sound of your tumbler. We found that we could use this tool almost any point during the day and not disturb neighbors or family.
However, quite a few of our friends have reported that the Lyman pro 1200 suffers from a manufacturing defect regarding it’s bowl. This may cause the cleaning media and brass to clump together to one side, thus reducing the cleaning efficiency.
In more extreme cases, the bowl might even break after a few uses. If you suspect that your Lyman Pro 1200 suffers from these manufacturing defects, immediately contact them for a refund or a replacement.
Overall, the Lyman Pro 1200 is a great vibratory tumbler that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. If you don’t mind the non-transparent lid, the Lyman Pro 1200 is one of the best vibratory brass tumblers around.
[su_service title=”Hornady M-1 Case Tumbler” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Hornady is one of the most well known brand when it comes to firearms and ammunition. They always pride themselves on quality and reliability. This is evident in the Hornady M-1 Case Tumbler, a high quality medium sized vibratory tumbler.
This brass tumbler is extremely easy to use and operate. Even for those who have little experience in cleaning and reloading their own shells. You will find that in just a few minutes of using this product, you’ll have mastered the basics of using it safely and correctly.
The Hornady M-1 has decent capacity, it can clean and polish up to 400 .38 shell cartridges or 180 30-06 shell cartridges at a time.
Thanks to the cyclonic and vibratory motion of this tumbler’s motor and bowl, you can be sure that your shell will be cleaned and polished consistently. After being cleaned, they’ll look like new without any gunpowder residue or oxidation.
Like the Lyman Pro 1200, the Hornady M-1 also has a built in media sifter. This helps you quickly separate the cleaning media from the shells. It’s designed so that you can quickly clean your cartridges and change batches, increasing your productivity.
The M-1 brass tumbler is pretty well made, most of it’s components are built to handle the vibration. Besides, it has a quiet fan-cooled motor that lasts for a long time. If you take care of it well and use it according to instructions, the Hornady M-1 tumbler will take care of your shell cleaning needs for a long time.
However, a few of our friends have reported that a small number of M-1 case tumblers suffer from manufacturing defects. Always check your product for defects and faulty parts after receiving the product to ensure you can claim a refund or a replacement.
Overall, the Hornady M-1 case tumbler is a great vibratory case tumbler that’s able to clean most types of shells without much hassle. If you’re in the market for a great quality brass tumbler for cleaning and reloading your shells, you won’t regret buying the Hornady M-1.
[su_service title=”Lyman 7631550 Cyclone Rotary Tumbler” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The Lyman cyclone rotary tumbler is a great rotary tumbler that has a large capacity of about 1000 .223 brass shell cartridges. It’s also equipped with a rubber lining that’s designed to protect the case from friction and will reduce the noise during operation.
When using the Lyman Cyclone, you don’t have to worry about overheating the motor or over-cleaning your cartridges. This tumbler is equipped with a timer that allows you to automatically shut it down after anywhere from 0 to 3 hours. This ensures that the Lyman Cyclone’s motor does not burn due to overheating.
The tumbling drum is also designed with a large end cap that makes loading and unloading shells painless. It’ll help you clean a large number of shells quickly and efficiently.
Besides getting a great quality tumbler, when buying the Lyman Cyclone, you’ll also get a media sifter and 5 pounds of stainless steel tumbling media.
The stainless steel media that’s included is designed to clean your shells thoroughly, polishing it and removing any residual gunpowder. Because of that, you can be sure that your shells will look like new after you’ve put them inside this tumbler.
Lyman’s dual sifter system is very advantageous because it allows you to separate the media pans from your cases quickly. This two pan system is quite unique and is also pretty fast, increasing your productivity when cleaning shells.
Overall, the Lyman Cyclone is one of the best rotary tumblers on the market besides the Frankford Arsenal platinum series tumbler. If you’re looking for a high quality, high capacity rotary tumbler that’s reliable, the Lyman Cyclone will not disappoint.
What is The Best Cleaning Media when Tumbling your Shells?
Generally, there are three different kinds of media that are frequently used to clean brass shells. These are corn cob, walnut shell, and stainless steel pins.
- Corncob Media. The corncob media can be quite effective, but it is not designed for cases that are heavily tarnished. This media can be used in both vibratory and rotary tumblers. However, it only has a moderate cleaning capability and is designed to be used for slightly worn shells. This media is not able to clean heavily tarnished cases.
- Walnut Shell Media. Walnut shell is a cleaning media that’s stronger compared to the corncob. Use this if you have brass casings that are severely tarnished and need extra cleaning. Like the corncob, this works for both vibratory and rotating brass tumblers.
- Stainless Steel Pins. The stainless steel pin is the most effective type of media for polishing brass. It has the strongest cleaning power and enables you to deep clean your shell cartridges. However, you can only use this with a rotating tumbler, it won’t work with a vibrating tumbler. For best result, insert a small amount of dish detergent, cleaning agent, or wax into the tumbler drums.
There are no ‘best cleaning media‘ it all depends on how much cleaning power you need and what type of tumbler you’re using. If you’re using a rotary tumbler, the stainless steel pins might be your best bet. However, if you’re using a vibratory tumbler, walnut and corncobs provide different levels of cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions when Buying a Brass Tumbler
Here are several questions that people tend to ask before buying their brass tumblers. See if your question has been answered!
Q: How Long Do You Need to Tumble Your Brass?
Answer: This is an age old question that can only be answered by experience. Usually, it takes about four to five hours for a regular vibratory tumbler to clean and polish a shell. However, this depends on a lot of factors such as how much shell you put into your tumbler, the cleaning media of choice, and the condition of your shells.
What you’ll likely find is that after 10 or 20 uses with your tumbler, you’ll know exactly how long it would take to get your cartridges looking like new.
Another thing to consider is that it’s not a good idea to turn on the tumbler for too long. Besides damaging the motors that vibrate or rotate the tumbler, you can also damage the cartridges. If there is too much friction, the brass in the cartridge will chafe and get irreparably damaged.
Q: How to Make your Shells Shine Like New?
Answer: If you want to make your shells shine and look like new, you should probably opt for dry tumbling your shells. This is due to the combination of factors, one of them is the fact that there is no soapy residue when doing dry tumbling. The other factor is because when dry tumbling, you’re cleaning and polishing your cartridges at the same time.
If you really want your cartridges to shine like new, the amount of time that you leave the cases inside the tumbler also matters a lot. It will usually take somewhere between four or five hours to get the shiny look. However, it may take longer if your shells are old and rusted.
You’ll probably need to include some form of cleaning agent or a wax inside your tumbler to get that shiny new look from your cartridges. However, make sure that your tumbler supports the addition of wax or any form of cleaning agent. If not, you might just void your warranty.
Q: Dry Tumbling or Wet Tumbling – Which One Should I Choose?
Answer: Choosing between dry or wet tumbling depends on what kind of tumbler you are using. If you’re using a vibrating tumbler, dry tumbling is actually your only option. In fact, you’ll find that wet tumbling your shells inside a vibration tumbler quickly voids it’s warranty.
However, a rotary tumbler supports both wet tumbling and dry tumbling. Because of that, you can choose between the two according to your needs and wants.
If you want to quickly remove debris and residue, wet tumbling is probably your best option. This also allows you to remove dried mud, rust, or any other hard-to-remove residues. These type of residue can be hard to clean, even with steel pins. Adding a wet media will really help to remove any dirt or debris that has built up within the case.
However, if you want to polish your shells so that they look like brand new, dry tumbling them is the best option.
Q: How to Take Care of a Brass Tumbler
Answer: As with any other product, make sure that you take care of the equipment well. Store your tumbler in a cool and dry place, where it’ll not get damaged and knocked around. Clean it regularly after every use and provide proper maintenance.
By doing this, your tumbler will last a long time without breaking down or requiring servicing. You’ll save more money by not having to buy a new one after a couple of months.
In general, you need to identify what you need and want when buying your brass tumbler. If you’re looking for a general purpose shell tumbler, the Frankford Arsenal platinum rotary tumbler is one of the best choice. However, if you’re looking for a cheaper vibrating tumbler that’s easy to use but still high quality, the Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ might be a better choice.
At the end of the day, all of the products reviewed and recommended within this article are top class and will not disappoint you. However, they have different function, niches, and price points. Choose one that best suits your condition. This article should give you a clear idea of what to look for in your brass tumbler, how to use it, and how to care for it.