Using and reusing cases can be one of the biggest savings you can have as a gun enthusiast.
You know, the cases are the most expensive pieces in a round. But you can easily reload them with a press kit.
Yes, you could pick up any fired cartridges from any firing range, but they have to go through a process before you get them reloaded.
Before the cartridge is ready to be loaded again, you have to make it look like a brand-new case. And with brass tumbler, you can do this easily.
It is a simple but helpful device. You just need to throw the media and the fired brass cases into it, and after a while, you will get clean and shiny cartridges ready to be reloaded.When inside the tumbler, a motor vibrates or rotates a bowl that rubs the media against the brass, removing every impurity from the case.
But how to choose the right tumbler? As you can imagine, there are hundreds of different models out there.
Well, we have reviewed the four best case tumblers in the market, so you don’t struggle while making a decision. Plus, we have a thorough buyer’s guide to make sure you know what to look in a brass tumbler.
Top 4 Reloading Tumbler Comparison Table
Best For Budget
Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series 110V 7L Rotary Tumbler and Media Separator for Cleaning and Polishing for Reloading
Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ 110V Vibratory Case Tumbler for Cleaning and Polishing for Reloading
This tumbler is a little different from the other ones on our list. The model uses wet tumbling to clean the cases. Because of this, you can clean as many cartridges as you did with the other models, but in a shorter time.
It uses STM (Stainless Tumbling Media) rather than the messy and dusty media dry tumblers use.
It works perfectly with any cartridge size & has a bigger container than past models. It can hold up to 7 liters and can clean 1000 .223 cases in one cycle. The load should be at the most 30 pounds, so the motor does not struggle much with it.
The rotary tumbler uses a detergent and water solution to turn that used old brass into what looks like a brand-new case. With the solution, even the insides and the primer pockets are cleaned. Plus, this solution wipes the lube of rifle cases.
Frankford Arsenal Platinum comes with a manual, detailing everything you need to know about the STM and how the tumbler works. In this manual, it says you should never use any cleaners or strong detergents that will deform or ruin the rubber lining of the barrel. So, skipping the manual can go wrong with you. Not a good idea at all.
Since the drum is watertight, you won’t get any mess when cleaning your brass. Also, this model is a lot quieter than the other models we reviewed so far. Both of these features are a little extra, but it is nice to have your workspace clean, right?
It is a great tumbler, but because of the many features, it has it calls for a little more price than the other tumblers here. But don’t worry, it is worth the money. Just make sure you have a pick-up magnet nearby, since picking steel pins that fall on the floor is no easy task.
This is one of the most popular models on the market. The motorized unit cleans the cases thoroughly because of the unique bowl it has and is simple to use as well. All you have to do is fill 2/3 of the bowl with media, add the brass cases and turn on the machine.
There is a switch on the power cord, so the tumbler won’t power up exactly as you plug it. This is an important feature since it gives you more control when working. Plus, you won’t have to plug in the tumbler each time you want to use it.
In approximately 3 hours the tumbler can clean 600 9-mm cases. If you are working with a higher caliber, it may not hold as many cases, but it will still polish them close to perfection. For example, it can hold 350 .223 casing, which is not a lot compared to the 600 9-mm cases it can hold.
The clear glass top keeps the media from falling out of the unit, and it gives you an idea of how the cleaning progress is going. However, bowl is made out of plastic, which is not as durable as you wish. This may be a major downside to it since you are looking for a tumbler that works for many years, right?
If you are getting your feet wet in reloading, this tumbler might be the right choice. It is affordable, reliable and has a big output if you are working with small calibers.
This item is way better than other models, for half the price, but if you are looking for a tumbler that can clean thousands of shells at a time, this may not be the right product for you.
Nonetheless, it is an excellent choice for anyone who is looking for a cheap product that can get the job done.
Can hold many low caliber cases
Power cord has an on/off switch for better control of the tumbler
This is one of the most silent models out there (for tumblers). The lid helps you separate the media from the brass for an easier load. This means that you don’t have to buy an additional sifter. This saves a lot of time since you need to make sure that the brass cases don’t have any residual media inside when you take them out.
It has spring that supports the bowl so the whole unit won’t move when it is on. This does a great job of cleaning the cases, but your workspace will get a little dusty. Some media will jump out of the tumbler because of the vibrations. This is because the lid does not fully cover the bowl (since it is a sifter).
Layman Pro does not have an on/off switch included. You will have to make sure everything you need to clean the cases are already inside the tumbler before you plug it in. This may be a problem since you will have to reach for the power output every time you want to use it. And if you don’t have one near your workstation, it may get tedious after a while.
This model holds up to 2-lb of media that can clean up to 350 .223 cases at a time. This means that it has a great capacity for small calibers, but a much smaller capacity for big calibers (as the last model did). But don’t worry since it can clean all kinds of cartridges.
It has a drive system included, so the airflow cools the unit. Plus, the components are durable since this model is designed for heavy-duty work.
And to top that off, it is not expensive. This is a good investment, since it is durable, and it works perfectly. It doesn’t matter how much time you have spent reloading; this is a great tumbler for both beginners and veterans.
Has a sifter included, so you won’t have to buy the tool separately
An economic model designed to last for a long time
Hornady never fails to deliver quality, and this tumbler is not an exception. It may not be as big as other models, but it is sure as heck easy to use. Even beginners can get the hang of after a few minutes of toying around with it.
It takes 400 .38 cases to fill this unit once the media is inside. Thanks to the cyclonic action, each cleaning cycle is consistent. And because of this, you can be sure that every case will be thoroughly cleaned after each cycle. This makes up for the little room the bowl has. The dimensions of the container are smaller than usual.
Its design enables fast change between batches. With the help of the media sifter that’s included, it takes almost no time to change a clean batch of cases for a dirty one. A fast load of the cases and the fast cleaning process makes this tumbler perfect for those of you that reload many cases at a time.
110 volts deliver a constant speed to the motor, helping in a smoother process. Since it is a dry tumbler, you can expect a little dust around the tumbler after each cycle, but the clear lid keeps most of it on the inside.
The heavy-duty components of this tumbler are designed to handle the vibration from the motor, increasing the usage time of the unit. The whole unit is stable, but it will move on the table do to the continued vibration.
If you are looking to spend the least amount of money possible, this model is for you. As we mentioned earlier, it is designed to withstand wear and tear, and this is tough to find on cheap tumblers.
It is designed to be resistant to wear and tear
Media sifter comes included on the package
Dimensions of the container are smaller than usual
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Case Tumbler
There are hundreds of different brass tumblers on the market, but each of them has a unique feature that separates it from other models. But don’t worry, since there is a perfect tumbler you.
To make the right decision, you must compare different aspects in each unit. Here are a few things you should take into account when purchasing a brass tumbler.
How Much Can the Tumbler Hold
The amount of shells that tumblers is an important aspect. The more cases a brass tumbler can hold, the faster the cleaning process will be. Most models are designed to hold up to 500 cases at the same time, but there are models that can hold up to 1,000 cases.
As you can imagine, the more cases it can hold, the less economical the tumbler will be. If you are working with a progressive press, you will probably need a tumbler that can hold many cases at a time. Because of this, the decision of which model to buy really comes down to how many cases you need to clean at a time.
Kinds of Cases the Tumbler Can Load
Most tumblers can hold every type of case, but there are models that can handle a specific type of shell better than others. For example, if you are looking for a model that can hold 1,000 low calibers cases, this same model will not hold 1,000 .45 cases.
To make sure you get the right brass tumbler for the caliber you are working with, read the product specifications before deciding which one to buy.
If you are working with many calibers at the same time, it is recommended that you buy the unit that can hold more cases of the largest caliber.
Is the Tumbler Reliable
Quality is the first things buyers look for in a product. Maybe the price on some tumblers can seem high, but in most cases, this means they are the best models in the market. But don’t assume that if the price is higher, it will be of better quality, there are exceptions as well.
You have to make sure all the components of the tumbler are perfect to get the job done. The gears and bolts should be secured and firm even after hours of cleaning cases. Also, it is important that the wheel that turns the tumbler are constant on their speed for better cleaning.
The most common models are made from either unbreakable steel or plastic. Obviously, steel tumblers will be more durable than plastic ones, but don’t underestimate the durability of the plastic.
Steel tumblers are a bit more expensive than plastic units. But if you spend more money on the first purchase, you will pay less in the years to come. You don’t want to spend time and money buying a tumbler that will stop working after a few months, right?
If you follow the instructions on the manual and give the tumbler proper maintenance, you can be sure that the tumbler will last a lifetime.
Best Ways To Clean Brass Cases
If you are someone who is into reloading, then cleaning the brasses is mandatory for you. There are several ways to clean the brasses for reloading. But the most popular and time effective method is to use a tumbler with the polishing media.
Here are the best ways to clean brasses explained-
First, decide on which type of tumbler you want to go for from the two type of tumbler available in the market.
A vibrating(or vibratory) tumbler will allow the user to automate processes like cleaning, debugging, de-scaling and polishing. A traditional method of cleaning brass is to use one of these vibratory tumblers along with a corn media or walnut.
The biggest of the benefits of using such a tool is, it’s cost. A vibratory tumbler and its media can be picked up for a fraction of cost comparing to other methods. Besides, this method will do the job of cleaning the grit or dirt off and polish the case with perfection.
The next option you have in hand is to use a rotary tumbler along with a steel media. This method is so far, the most expensive ones. But it has its perks that we’re going to tell you below-
This method works by dumping down small pins of stainless steel into a rotary tumbler and clean and polish the brass instantly. In terms of quality and effectiveness, this combination works as the best method to clean up brass and it comes out to look as polished as a new one.
Case Cleaning Products:-
After you decide on which tumbler you are going for, you need case cleaning products since there are some cleaning products especially meant for the specific type of tumbler. Go for the products that remove powder fouling residue, discoloration, and all the rust.
Best Media For Cleaning Brass
Media is another important factor to determine the outcome of the polishing. There are many options available when it comes to.
These are a little mild media you can say. If you are going to polish once fired brass, then corn cob is the best option to go for. Once fired brasses aren’t very tarnished so a mild media is appropriate for this type of brasses.
Reach out for treated corncob media since an extra polishing compound is present in it and it will give the best polishing result ever. The brass will look not only clean but shiny like the new one after using this treated corn cob media. Another great thing is that you can use corn cob for both vibratory and rotary tumbler.
Walnut Shell Media:-
Walnut shell is another well-known media to polish the brasses. These are more aggressive than the corn cob ones. So if you have brasses which left unpolished even after many reloading, then you can go for walnut shell media.
To get the shiny polished look, you need to opt for treated walnut shell media. You can also add polish to untreated walnut shell media to get the similar effect.
You can use the walnut shell for both the rotary and the vibrating tumbler but the nutshell media works best with vibrating tumblers.
Stainless Steel Pins:-
Stainless steel pins are the most popular brass cleaning media out there in the market. But these are only usable with rotary tumbler since you need to use water and liquid dish cleaner to polish the brass. And need to add polish separately since the dish cleaner will do the job.
Stainless pin media is too good to clean thoroughly the inside and the primer pockets. So these are the most effective media to clean every inch of the brass casing. Using stainless steel pins also makes the process faster. This process is less messy and the chances of damage are less than any other method. The great news is that these stainless steel pins will last you forever so you don’t have to buy them each time you polish the brasses.
But there are some demerits as well with this steel media. If you are on the budget then this media can be a little pricey for you. And another thing to note that you need to dry the brasses after polishing. Using a dehydrator will make the process fast and easy but this will cost you some extra money and steps. But when you will look at the finished products, you will find all the efforts were worth it.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Will the STM work with vibratory tumblers?
You don’t use the same media for wet tumbling and dry tumbling. Usually, we are tumbling uses a heavier media, that won’t do anything in a vibratory model.
Do I need to dry steel media after I am finished working?
Steel media won’t rust if you leave it wet. SO don’t worry you can leave it inside the tumbler for the next time you need it.
Can I use tap water for wet tumblers?
Yes! You can use any kind of water as long as it does not have any chemicals on it.
How do I separate cases that stuck together during the tumbling?
If you are working with a soft media you can try separating them by hand. Just be sure you don’t deform the case in the process. If you think you make ruin the case, there are many tools can help you with this.
Which one is better, dry tumbling or wet tumbling?
Well it depends on what how much you are willing to pay for a tumbler. Wet tumblers are usually faster than their counterparts. But they are a bit more expensive than dry tumblers.
On the other hand, dry tumblers are cheaper overall, but they tend to work slower.
Joseph Fox is a 45 years old blogger & passionate hunter from United states. He is also a firearm enthusiastic & likes to share his experience with you. He has a teaching background & now works as an author of Gunloading.com.