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Thread: Wet tumbling emrittles brass?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    Wet tumbling emrittles brass?

    I'm hesitant to post about this, because I know I'll catch heck for it, but here goes anyhow.

    I started a thread a while back about a bunch of .223 ammo I loaded a year or so ago, that was all cracking in the neck area when fired. I was trying to figure out why. The only real difference in my loading recently was that I started wet tumbling a couple years ago, and some surplus powder in those particular loads. I looked at the dies, and a replaced expander, wondered if that could be a factor, I don't know. Now I have some .270 brass from a year or two ago, that about half of it cracked in the necks when fired. Different powder of course, but also wet tumbled.

    I know a half dozen guys will now tell me that it's the brass, brass wears out, and I just need to anneal. That or there's some ammonia or something hiding around my loading area somewhere (not). That's fine, except for the fact that this is something new. I've had cracked necks before, typically in 20 year old reloads, not in recent reloads. In looking around online, I've seen at least a couple others complaining about increased brass cracks after wet tumbling.

    I can't say for sure, and it seems like most everyone says it can't hurt the brass. That may be true, I don't know. All I know is that I have brass cracking like it never used to, over decades of loading. Maybe it's something else. All I know is that I'm going to go through any rifle brass that I've wet tumbled but not loaded, and anneal it all. I also used to tend to tumble longer than needed, and used more Lemishine than necessary. Any brass I tumble in the future will get a much shorter ride in the tumbler, maybe an hour instead of three or four.

    I'm really not looking forward to finding more wrecked brass as I go through more ammo that I've loaded in the last couple years.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master StuBach's Avatar
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    I donít reload much necked cases so I canít speak much on the annealing issue or what not but I can say I only wet tumble my brass for 10-15 minutes and they come out nice and clean. Might the extended time have something to do with it?

    Also, in my experience the brass Iím finding lately is much lower quality than the brass of yesteryear. I love finding old cases of WWII military surplus brass cause I know it will withstand tons of reloads but modern brass seems to fail much faster.

    Just 2cents from someone far less experienced so feel free to trash or treasure.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master 15meter's Avatar
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    Work hardening from impact of the stainless steel pins?

    I know there is a mechanical plating process that uses impact to plate parts. Too long in the polisher with marginally hard brass to start?

    Just kinda what iffing. I've never wet tumbled brass.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I’ve got some 223 that’s a year or two old, brass was all wet tumbled. My situation isn’t comparable though because I anneal everything. I’ve got 45-70 that’s wet tumbled and older, never annealed, and it’s still fine.

    Fatelk, you have something going on.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    Work hardening from impact of the stainless steel pins?
    That's kind of what I was thinking, at this point. Sorry, I didn't mean to come off as quite so defensive. It's been a rough day, and I guess from past experience I expected a lot of people telling me how wrong I am.

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy
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    The zinc in brass can be bled out of it after some time in water, but what you want to avoid is salt LOL.I say that because I tried a YouTube recipe of water vinigar,and salt once ,and I ended up with greenish yellow water,and pink brass.LOL.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    Unless your brass is very pink, you didn't remove any zinc.

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by edp2k View Post
    Unless your brass is very pink, you didn't remove any zinc.
    You Sir are a natural born poet. LoL

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimB.. View Post
    I’ve got some 223 that’s a year or two old, brass was all wet tumbled. My situation isn’t comparable though because I anneal everything. I’ve got 45-70 that’s wet tumbled and older, never annealed, and it’s still fine.

    Fatelk, you have something going on.
    It's definitely something, but honestly I've been through absolutely everything I can think of and this is all I can come up with. Interestingly enough, I have some 45-70 that was also wet tumbled. We just shot 20 rounds a few weeks ago and no cracks. I have some 30-06 that I fired through the M1, and no cracks. I may have annealed that brass though; I don't remember.

    I did an experiment with the .223 brass. I pulled down the ammo with the problem brass. Some was cracked before firing, and all cracked after firing. I picked out some unfired that wasn't cracked, and annealed them. They fired fine without cracking. It sure appears to be a work-hardening thing.

    Either way, I'll be tumbling for a shorter amount of time, and annealing rifle brass.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    When I first got the tumbler, I kind of went nuts with it. I had this silly idea that the brass needed to be super shiny inside and out. It has a 3-hour timer on it so I ran it for 3 hours. The timer gets stuck sometimes, so I had some lots in the past that ran for 5 or 6 hours. I wonder if I'm finding those particular lots now.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Which head stamps are splitting? Some just seem to be more likely to fail than others.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Work hardening comes from stress, and the cases sliding over each other and some pins under water really doesn’t put much, if any, pressure on the brass.

    Super shiny brass does like to grab on the expander, but I don’t see how that would create a problem.

    I’ve tumbled for as long as 12 hours once when I got called away, that 223 brass has been fine. Hmm, I might have annealed it. Once I bought the Giraud annealer I’ve kinda gone nuts with it each winter when the shop can use the heat anyway.

    You should take a few pieces of old brass and soak them in a heavy concentration of lemi shine so you can see what the color change looks like. I doubt that’s your issue, but good to have first hand experience. I find that the lemi shine concentration isn’t critical when wet tumbling, but is when ultrasonic cleaning.

    You should take 200 pieces of brass, load them identically, fire them, then divide them in half, one half gets dry tumbled the other wet. Keeping each group together repeatedly load, fire and clean until you get 50% failure. That’ll tell you if wet tumbling is your issue.

  13. #13
    Boolit Bub
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    faltelk, I've also thought the same with wet tumblers work hardening our brass and have on occasions had a friend anneal cases for me in his AMP annealer who provided the write up link I've attached, hope its going to put your mind at rest and cheers

    https://www.ampannealing.com/article...he-microscope/

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    I don't think it's the Lemishine. I've seen and had pink brass before, and that's not the case here.

    I've pulled nearly 1,500 rounds, and about 80% were cracked when I pulled them. The other 20% crack on firing, unless I pull and anneal then before firing; then they don't crack. The headstamps are a range mix. In my hand right now I see LC15, PMC, LC14, WCC04, AGUILA, FC12, LC12. The majority is recent manufacture LC. I've never had nor seen a 100% failure rate like this before, in ammo loaded for a year. Whatever it is, I've hashed it over too much already. I'm just going to anneal all rifle cases I load from now on, if there's any question about it.

    By the way, as I mentioned in the other thread, it's not a chamber problem; they crack when fired in 4 different rifles.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

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    You have a mystery going on, for sure! I would not think that a short tumble would work harden brass. Maybe when your timer sticks and they tumble longer, but I'm still doubtful. I tumble for 2 hours and have not had this trouble. I have heard that longer times in the tumbler can "peen" the case mouth.

    I have had new Winchester brass get neck splits on the first firing and this caused me to buy an annealing machine.

    Good Luck figuring this out.

  16. #16
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Im wondering if the stress relieg process of heating and cooling the cases would help. At work some tooling Angle plates cee blocks and other things. we would give them a treatment over 1-2 weeks. When you went home you set the in the shop freezer ( -60*) and when we came in the next day would set it out for the shift to warm. this was done every day the last 3 to 4 days the part was taken to the heat treat and warmed to 200*. These were much more stable after this. when finish ground they didn't move or shift Like they did when grinding in after heat treat. Also they stayed on longer before needing touched up.

    On the cartridge brass cases the annealing may be relieving these stresses along with softening the cases. Many things can cause stress and hardening of metal. bending or harmonics patterns, peening. I cant see wet pin tumbling causing a lot of stress but there is the chance that at the right rpm and load the vibration pattern may be right to set up some. I cant see the lemishine or dawn chemically causing tis but other soaps may contain small amounts of ammonias or salts that could.

    I have always used corn cobs so the above is just my thoughts on it

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Drew P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimB.. View Post
    Work hardening comes from stress, and the cases sliding over each other and some pins under water really doesn’t put much, if any, pressure on the brass.

    Super shiny brass does like to grab on the expander, but I don’t see how that would create a problem.

    I’ve tumbled for as long as 12 hours once when I got called away, that 223 brass has been fine. Hmm, I might have annealed it. Once I bought the Giraud annealer I’ve kinda gone nuts with it each winter when the shop can use the heat anyway.

    You should take a few pieces of old brass and soak them in a heavy concentration of lemi shine so you can see what the color change looks like. I doubt that’s your issue, but good to have first hand experience. I find that the lemi shine concentration isn’t critical when wet tumbling, but is when ultrasonic cleaning.

    You should take 200 pieces of brass, load them identically, fire them, then divide them in half, one half gets dry tumbled the other wet. Keeping each group together repeatedly load, fire and clean until you get 50% failure. That’ll tell you if wet tumbling is your issue.
    Super shiny brass that holds on to the expander,, because of galling on the ball, which could leave long vertical and pretty deep scratches in the brass, making weak points and leading to neck cracks.

    Were the failures vertical?

  18. #18
    Boolit Bub
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    Years ago I bought some once fired LC 308 brass from Dillon. I processed all the brass, loaded it all and put it up in an ammo can. A few years later I opened the ammo can and could smell the IMR 4895, probably 75% had split necks. I fired a couple with necks that had not cracked and they split at the neck upon firing. I only dry tumbled with corncob.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master starnbar's Avatar
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    I have had the brass issue too and it could be from tumbling or just brass that wasn't annealed long enough I use all most all gi brass and certain lots will split about half the necks tend to think its in the manufacturing end as it was only gonna get shot one time out of a military weapon. for what its worth maybe yes maybe no

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy

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    Would think the gentle rolling of the ss pins and brass would also peen the brass, peening is used some times to relieve stress in steel after welding.

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