View Full Version : Cleaning brass using "Stainless Tumbling Media"

07-10-2011, 12:39 AM
So after reading great reviews of cleaning brass using stainless steel pins, I had to give it a try. The media and lemishine is not expensive and will supposedly last forever in home use, so I sent off my order. I just ran a batch of boxer primed brass and was blown away how shiny it was cleaned. I then decided to try decapping the mountain of 8mm Mauser berdan primed brass and see how that would clean up. The 1950's Yugoslavian brass is not comparable to current Privy / PMC brass but I thought that it is anyway the first step to possibly finding a way to use it.

To deprime the brass, I clamped my neck sizing die (shank wrapped to protect it) in my heavy vice. I then took a concrete nail (hardened steel) and ground the point to a slightly hooked shape with a sharp edge (similar to the pictures I posted earlier in the 1950's Yugoslavian ammo thread). I put the tip of this tool in the indentation made by the firing pin and inclined about 45 degrees to the axis of the shell. This was then struck with a hammer to pierce the brass cup and wedge the point of the tool good. The hammer blows would then change direction such that it drives the head of the nail downwards, levering the primer out of the pocket.

Sounds complicated but took about 20 minutes to do 81 rounds including make the tool and re-grind it twice. I think I broke the anvil off in 2 cases, so I will throw those away.

So here starts the fun part. First picture is the un clean shells. Not in bad shape, but nothing to make anyone excited and certainly too dirty to reload.

OK, so much for that. Note the black muck in the neck and primer pocket ?

Now here is what a single shell looks like after tumbling for 4 hours in the pin media with only soap and the Lemi shime.

Here is a different view showing the primer pocket


Here you can see that the inside of the case neck is clean

07-10-2011, 12:43 AM
Here is a better view inside the primer pocket:

Here are the clean shells after rinsing and drying on a towel
These cases came with a texture from the factory that suggests that they were tumbled very roughly, so they do not look as shiny as cleaned new brass. However, totally serviceable without using any harsh chemicals or metal polish and it only takes 5 minutes to set up and another 5 to rinse everything after tumbling for 4 hours.

The vendor who sells the media is http://www.stainlesstumblingmedia.com/
Great company, great product...

Now I have to figure out the primer problem, but I think I have a plan...

07-10-2011, 04:44 PM
Nice, I was looking up this pin media after you mentioned them in one of your other threads, thanks for the breakdown.

07-10-2011, 08:27 PM
GREAT post, Westcliffe01! Very informative, and GREAT pics to illustrate the process.

I, too, will be looking into that stainless "pin media" myself..... Thanks again!


07-11-2011, 01:41 AM
Just 1 word of caution: I discovered on examining the 8x57 cases that on several cases the pins has gotten jammed in the berdan primer holes. If the pins jam in that position, they beat the cr&p out of the other cases when they are tumbling. That was the reason why the batch in the photographs had that "texture" instead of a near mirror shine.

This will never happen with boxer primed cases, since the pins pass through the flash hole with room to spare (the pins were designed to do this so that the flash holes would be clean too).

So in future, I will only tumble berdan primed brass with the spent primers in place. I did that today on several hundred shells and they came out sparkling. Second step is now to deprime. It is a hassle to get the water out the primed cases, but worth it for the finish.

Another personal tip is to add half of the needed volume of water nearly boiling hot to the soap and lemishine + shells. Let it soak a couple of minutes, then add the balance luke warm. Since doing this, none of the batches I ran has taken longer than 2 hours until it was sparkling clean. If time is an issue, this will cut the time in half, compared to the recommended 4 hours.

Tim Horton
07-11-2011, 12:46 PM

If you tumble burden brass with the spent cup in place, will the pins that stick in the holes from the inside cause a problem when your de-cap ?

07-11-2011, 02:02 PM
I have not yet seen the pins enter the berdan flash holes from the inside of the shell. I think they are punched from the rear of the shell and there is a burr on the powder side that makes it less likely for the pins to enter.

These pictures were the original source material that gave me the impetus to start this process. The whole story can be found here :http://parallaxscurioandrelicfirearmsforums.yuku.com/topic/25275/t/Berdan-to-Boxer-Conversion-Method.html



The tool I made from a concrete nail is a lot "finer" than the one in the pics above, but it is the same concept. Looking at the pictures again, maybe I need to drill a hole in a decent piece of plastic and use that as the shell holder instead of the bullet seating die.

But to answer the question, I don't think it will impact this method of depriming, since if there is a pin in the way, I am likely to drive it out when inserting the tool and when extracting the primer one levers it up and out.

Tim Horton
07-11-2011, 06:21 PM
What process do you have to go through to remove the Lemi-Shine residue from the brass ?

How does the complete process work with nickle plated brass ?

How does the complete process work with nickle plated brass ?


07-11-2011, 11:57 PM
Wyo, after tumbling you have dirty water that is nearly black (powder residue). You pour off as much of the dirty water as you can. Then run hot water over the pins and shells to rinse off as much of the dirt as possible. There are separators available to make removing the pins easy. I don't have one but will get one soon. I remove the shells out of the drum, making sure I get the pins out of each case and place then in a Tupperware container full of warm water. When dealing with hundreds of shells, particularly berdan primed and tumbled with the primers, this takes a while.

Once pins and shells are separated, I flush the pins with more clean water to remove any residue or metallic particles. Then I dump the pins back in the drum, ready to go the next time. If it may be a while, I leave the cover open so that things can dry out. Once the media is clean and ready to go, I then work to dry out the brass. Regular deprimed boxer shells drain almost immediately. Ideally, one would blow out the shells with compressed air, they will then dry very quickly. Since I currently don't have a compressor, I blow by mouth through the neck, this gets any droplets out the base of the shell.

To make sure I do not tumble too long, I have a 24 hour timer that I have set the on time from 12AM to 4AM. When I want to start, I plug in the tumbler and rotate the timer to 12AM to get it going. (4 hours was the recommended tumbling time, I will probably change it to 12am to 2:30am based on my experience so far.) If I am cleaning after sizing, I need less than 1/2 hour (to remove all lube residue) so I just rotate the timer to 1/2 hour from the shut off point. That way, if I am absent minded I won't find that I have had the brass in the tumbler for the last 24 hours (or more !)... I also unplug the tumbler after I am done...

The lemishine seems to dissolve, I can't find any residue after the rinsing process.

I don't have any nickel plated brass and doubt I am going to buy any. Why would anyone buy nickel plated brass except if you were going to carry the same rounds in a stainless gun for years on end ?

07-12-2011, 01:31 AM
So here is a look at the 7.63x39 ammo I ran on Sunday and was depriming this evening. The finish on these is better than the 8x57 since the flash holes were bigger and no pins jammed in them.

I ran these for 20 min, after soaking in near boiling water for a previous 15min cooling down. The soak seems to make a big difference in how fast the deposits are removed, particularly from the primer. At 20 minutes, setting up and rinsing / drying takes longer than tumbling.


Those with sharp eyes will see the gouge in the case in the top left of the pic below. This was from the crap non functional magazines I got with my rifle from DPMS. Shameful. I will have to throw some of these casings away.

Here is a primer pocket after 20 min of tumbling. Looks pretty clean to me. Not a mirror shine, but this area is getting reworked anyway. The #200 primers are smaller than the berdan primers, so we have to squeeze material in there to get the boxer primers to fit. By the looks of the flash hole I would say that a couple of pins went through it, it is that clean.

This ammo started out at $186/1120 rounds in about April, after my appeal process with the FBI.... The second case I bought was at a different vendor and was about $230 delivered to my door. The last (probably) I bought yesterday for over $230 + shipping... Inflation is incredible for 1970's to 1980's ammo.... Anyway, whichever way you look at it, it is less than the price for just a bullet, and just more than the cost of a primer and powder. The brass is basically for free and it is pretty decent. The newer brass is in much better shape since I shoot from magazines that actually feed...

I am going to try reloading with 308 bullets (I have 110gr on order) since they are cheaper than the 0.310 bullets and I am sure that DPMS used a 308 barrel on this rifle, since that is what they have tooled up.

07-13-2011, 02:29 PM
Intersting, thanks for leading us thru it.
What are you gonna use to re-work primer pockets?

07-13-2011, 07:28 PM
I am looking at making a crimping tool which is about 0.040" larger in diameter than the current primer pocket. Load the round upside down onto a pin which supports the base of the cartridge from the inside of the case. The press then raises the cartridge up into a die which has a recess the diameter of the bottom of the shell (to stop material being displaced outwards) and against the crimping tool which compresses the material around the edge of the primer pocket.

If the material can't move in the axial direction (due to the support pin) and it can't move outwards due to the support ring, it has to move inward. I will have to figure out how deep to crimp in to get a small enough diameter to be close enough to hold the #200 primer.

Then use a standard Lee/RCBS type boxer primer pocket swager to open up to the exact right diameter. These are about $40.

The original article I keep referring to the guy uses a ball bearing to crimp the edge of the pocket hole smaller. I don't like that approach, since it creates a line contact between the brass and the primer which will probably become loose faster. I would like to have a more substantial land that the primer will engage.

I have access to a lathe, so it should not be a big problem to make these kinds of custom tools.

07-13-2011, 07:52 PM
On removing the Berdan primers, I just stumbled upon this video and his method is a lot slicker than mine. So I think I will be building a copy of this tool very soon.....

10-25-2015, 12:19 PM
YOU are my hero!
Anyone that will mess with manually removing Berdan primers has my vote for President! :)

I'm a machinist by trade, so this might not make sense,
But for a 7.62x54 Russian shooter down the road that reloads his Berdan cases,
I took a sizing die, built a cap for it that holds the case in the die, yet allows the primer to escape,
Then connected an old 'Port-A-Power' pump to the rod thread end.
The guy uses old motor oil to pop the primers out hydraulically.
(Port-A-Power, a hydraulic pump that has several attachments at the end of a hose, Jaws, Jacks, Crimpers, Ect.)

Bless his old 80 something body, he just wasn't capable of depriming by hand anymore, but he loves to shoot that old rifle...
Still has to insert each brass, screw on the cap, pump, then unscrew and remove each brass, but no 'Muscle' involved.

I've used SS pins for years, but I've not tried to deprime Berdan, I can see where it would cause problems if the pins weren't larger than the priming holes...

10-25-2015, 11:04 PM
It is simply amazing Lee Precision with all their hand reloading sets which also includes a 7.62x54 Russian caliber reloading set did not fabricate a berdan depriming punch tool.

But they did not!