Wet Tumble Brass Planning

Photo Aug 23, 4 01 38 PMThe wet tumbler and stainless steel media should be arriving soon from Utah.

Time to do some planning.

Equipment Needed

  • Thumler’s Model B, high speed tumbler
  • 5 lbs stainless steel media (from STM)
  • 1 Tablespoon measure (for the Dawn)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon measure (for the Lemi-Shine)
  • Magnet
  • Sandwich baggie (for magnet above)
  • Container(s) to measure 1.66 lbs (or 3.66 lbs) of brass


  • Dawn dish washing detergent
  • LemiShine Detergent (powder, from Walmart or Target)

I will modify the cleaning sequence documented elsewhere slightly. My sequence will be:

  1. Deprime all dirty brass (Lee Universal Depriming and Decapping Die).
  2. Add 5 lbs stainless steel media to drum.
  3. Measure 1 gal (8.34 lbs) cold (filtered) water and add to drum.
  4. Add brass (1.66 lbs) to drum.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of Dawn dish washing detergent.
  6. Add 1/4 teaspoon of LemiShine detergent.
  7. Tumble 3-4 hours (high-speed tumbler).
  8. Pour out most water (careful of the stainless steel media going down the drain or, worse, into the garbage disposer!) and rinse repeatedly with warm tap water.
  9. Pour out most water, do a final rinse with filtered water (to minimize spotting).
  10. Dump into clean media separator and separate brass from stainless steel media.
  11. Use magnet in baggie for final separation (stainless steel will be on outside of baggie — remove magnet and stainless steel should drop away from the baggie).
  12. Dump brass onto towel and let dry in sun.
  13. Inspect brass for any remaining stainless steel pins (see primer hole esp.).

Once everything is here, there are a couple of variations I want to try.

  • Run the cleaning as documented above.
  • Decrease media by 2.0 lbs and increase brass that same amount (from 1.66 to 3.66 lbs). How much does the time need to be increased when there’s less stainless steel and more brass to get the same degree of cleaning?
  • Omit the LSD. Does it make a big difference?
  • Leave out the stainless steel media. Is it a big deal or not?

Weighing Brass

I don’t have a scale to accurately measure things in the 1-5 pound range so I’ll have to calculate the shell count based on the weight of one shell, count out the shells once but then fashion some sort of scoop to quickly get the right amount in the future.

So, I used my powder scale to weigh various brands of 45 ACP brass (all deprimed). For the five brands sampled, the average weights were as follows.

Brand Average Samples
WCC Match 89.57 grains 3
RP (Remington) 83.36 8
Starline 78.04 12
Winchester 85.57 7
Federal 83.20 2

To protect the tumbler from accidental overloading, I decided to use the highest average shell weight (WCC Match at 89.57 grains, deprimed) to calculate how much 45 ACP brass can be cleaned in one batch.

At 7000 grains per pound and 89.57 grains per shell, there are 78 deprimed 45 ACP shells per pound.

So, with the full measure of stainless steel media, I can add 1.6 lbs of brass to reach the tumbler’s 15 pound limit.

That’s 125 shells.

Hmmm, that’s not very much.

For shooters using the same gun in Center Fire and 45 caliber 900s, there will be between 180 and 200 dirty shells. At 125 shells per batch, that means two runs to clean all the brass. Not good.

But with a reduced load of stainless steel media and a longer run, I should be able to clean more brass. But how much longer for how much more brass?

The brass question is easy. If I use only 3.0 lbs of stainless steel media instead of 5.0, I can add 2.0 more pounds of brass. That’s a total of 3.66 lbs of brass in one batch.

286 shells, if my calculations are correct, is about 3.66 lbs.

Is 286 shells enough to clean a single Bullseye match plus EIC?

Yep, it sure is!

90 center fire plus 90 in 45 caliber plus another 30 from the EIC and, say, another 20-30 from alibis, and you have a total of 230-240 shells.

That 3.0 lbs of stainless steel will let me clean the brass from a 2700+EIC in a single batch. That’s perfect!

But it’s true that the tumbler will probably have to run longer to get the same degree of cleaning with 3.0 lbs of stainless steel media instead of 5.0 lbs.

But how much longer?

That experiment will be the one I’m most interested to see.

Continuing my planning, I now need to figure out what container I can use to measure 125 shells, and then 286 shells? Guess I’ll have to count them out the first time and then go looking around the shop.

The empty 1 quart yoghurt containers I use for reloading might be OK if I cut one down for the small load of 125. I could then use two “scoops” for 250 and then toss in another handful or two to get up to the 286 mark.

How much is “a handful”? That’s easy enough to figure out — just do it and count them. I can do that later.

But looking at the dirty brass I have on hand, there’s a problem.

I don’t have enough.

My, my, what’s a fella’ to do?

Oh wait, there’s a 2700 on Sunday.

How about that for a lucky coincidence!

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