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Thread: Wet vs. Dry Tumbler

  1. #1
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    Wet vs. Dry Tumbler

    My old Midway branded tumbler is still just chugging along, and that's fine by me. However, at some point in time that thing is bound to die. When that happens, I will need to make a decision - Stay will dry media or make the switch to wet media.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    Dry tumbling is a fairly dirty/dusty process but the casings come out dry, ready to load.

    Wet tumbling requires a bit more initial outlay for equipment and you have to dry the casings after tumbling but the media (stainless steel pins) are a one time cost.

    I'm sure this has been debated countless times.

    Any insight is welcome.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    I can't tell you anything that you don't already know. I also have a Midway vibrator tumbler that I replaced my old Thumbler Tumbler with when it wore out after an unimaginable number of miles. I used to use the red jeweler rouge impregnated walnut media, but it's just too dusty; so I switched to the brown/tan walnut media, and sometimes the yellowish corncob media depending on which is available. I'm happy with the results-- clean and shiny. I just tumble for personal use, loading dozens but not hundreds at a time, so a different system might be desirable for those loading in greater quantity. When the Midway tumbler dies I'll likely get another of the same.

    DG

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy
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    I made the switch to wet tumbling about 3 years ago. I did that because I wanted the primer holes cleaner without worrying about the dry media getting into the primer holes. There is a slight learning curve on how much lemishine and detergent and if you add some kind of liquid wax to keep the brass shiny after the whole process. I like the way my brass looks and goes through my Hornady LnL.

    Sent from my SM-N975U using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    I still use both. I use wet with pins for the ones I have at least a coffee can full of cases if I am doing smaller batches of 20 to a hundred I vibrate usually , so I don't have to sort out the pins on a few cases but that said the wet tumbling does a good job to with no pins it just does not get the primer pockets clean like the pins but does as well as vibrating . They both have advantages .
    Buy both

  5. #5
    Boolit Bub
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    I have dry tumbled for years and just switched this month to wet tumbling. The finished product is much nicer and the time to process, excluding drying, is way shorter. Both have their advantages but the wet gets the nod as of now. I am a small batch reloaded - maybe tumbling between 75 to 200 cases at a time.

    I built my tumbler and have about $20 in it total, not counting the SS pins.

  6. #6
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    Der Gebirgsjager - thank you. I'm in no hurry to replace my current tumbler and it's not expensive to dry tumble. I think we're of the same mindset. That tumbler is nothing more than a plastic bowl, a synchronous 60Hz motor and a offset weight. It doesn't get much simpler. I'm amazed at how long that thing has continued to work. The dust is slightly annoying and I occasionally have to replace the media (although not often). Part of me says just keep doing what I'm doing.

    XDROB - I'm not terribly concerned about primer pockets. I generally clean brass with the spent primers in place. I clean primer pockets on rifle brass after depriming but handgun brass just gets tumbled and reloaded without concern for the primer pocket.
    I do like the idea of continuously reusable media but I don't like the idea of needing to dry brass after tumbling.
    How do you handle drying the cases?

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I use this they are sold under several names mine is from Cabelas https://www.midsouthshooterssupply.c...h-brass-sorter
    It is great for separating the pins from the brass fill one half with water and rotate 99.9% of the pins will be in the bottom . This idea came from a member here I wish I could recall who and it works.
    Outpost also told me about using a paint filter to pour the water through to catch the pins that also is great I use both.
    Use the media separator with the top half removed and a blow drier if I am in a hurry to dry the brass , but pouring it on a towel and picking up the ends to roll it around and get most of the water off then air dry is another way some guys use an oven.
    If you wet tumble I think you should remove the primers first the pins clean the pockets and you don't trap water in the primer pocket.
    My system may be more complicated than need be but it is still much faster when doing large quantities and the brass comes out much cleaner. But for small quantities its much more work than vibrating in my opinion .
    My system is constantly evolving some of the other members may have methods that are better I always am watching for better ideas.

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy


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    I switched over to wet tumbling about 7 years ago. I really like the results better with wet tumbling. The only extra step is setting up the cases to dry off after they are done tumbling.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petrol & Powder View Post
    Der Gebirgsjager - thank you. I'm in no hurry to replace my current tumbler and it's not expensive to dry tumble. I think we're of the same mindset. That tumbler is nothing more than a plastic bowl, a synchronous 60Hz motor and a offset weight. It doesn't get much simpler. I'm amazed at how long that thing has continued to work. The dust is slightly annoying and I occasionally have to replace the media (although not often). Part of me says just keep doing what I'm doing.

    XDROB - I'm not terribly concerned about primer pockets. I generally clean brass with the spent primers in place. I clean primer pockets on rifle brass after depriming but handgun brass just gets tumbled and reloaded without concern for the primer pocket.
    I do like the idea of continuously reusable media but I don't like the idea of needing to dry brass after tumbling.
    How do you handle drying the cases?
    I don't do really big batches. So probably about 2/3 hundred at a time. When done from the wet tumbler I put them in a crank style media tumbler that I used when vibrating tumblering. That get most or all pins and water out. I then lay them out on a towel with a fan blowing over them. I turn them around so the air from the fan dries them out. As I said I don't do big batches and I'm not in a hurry to reload them so I just wait ( usally over night). So far I've been very happy. They are bright and shiny. Easier to find on the ground when showing outside. And as I said earlier I believe the wax helps going through the various stages of reloading them.

    Sent from my SM-N975U using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I like having clean brass ready to go, especially for plinking and pistol, so I have 5 gal pails for dirty by caliber and 50cal ammo cans by caliber for clean and ready to reload. When I have a dirty bucket full I process it. I do decap prior to tumbling mostly to speed drying.

    Like things sometimes do it can get out of hand, at one time I had more than 30 ammo cans of 38spcl, I was giving it away by the box once I noticed. People do seem to appreciate gifts of clean brass, especially new reloaders.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I use both wet and dry tumblers depending on how dirty the the brass is and I like to deprime every thing before tumbling.

  12. #12
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    I used a Lyman turbo tumbler for about 30 years. Got it shortly after I started reloading when I only did a few calibers. Did a pretty good job and other than the media dust, dealing with the primer pocket media debris, incomplete interiors, cost of media replacement especially if your case cleaning is a high case count. I never minded it when only doing a few hundred hangun cases. I'd just load it up turn it on and come back in 8 hours. I don't remember just when the wet/pin tumbler method started, but it seemed much simpler and more efficient than the dry media method. Now the Lyman pretty much sits in the corner looking dejected.

  13. #13
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    Wet SS pin cleaned brass, with the proper cleaning elements. Looks like new!
    Been using my F.a.r.t. since it came out.
    Will never go back to Dry media tumbling.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    I'll never go back to dry media. I started wet tumbling a couple of years ago. Someone here mentioned 7 hours for dry tumbling. I never need more than 90 minutes wet tumbling to get brass that looks as good as, or better than, new. Far better results than I ever got dry tumbling. I can have brass cleaned and dried in less than 7 hours. However, I won't criticize anyone who wants to dry tumble. We each have methods that suit our own personal situation. For me, it's wet tumbling.

  15. #15
    Boolit Mold
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    I want to know more about wax

    Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by rswink View Post
    I want to know more about wax

    Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk
    Car wash n wax wax? I use Dawn to get the lube off and it fights Wash N Wax if the 2 are mixed. I tumble with Dawn, rinse the clean brass then do a final rinse in Wash N Wax that I keep in a jug and use over and over. If you powder coat Auto Wash N Wax may work for tumbling.

    I used to use a dry vibratory tumbler and like my wet setup better.
    Mal

    Mal Paso means Bad Pass, just so you know.

  17. #17
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    Example of wet tumbling and S/S pins. 3 hour run time. These cases in a box for 10 years before cleaning.





  18. #18
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Paso View Post
    Car wash n wax wax? I use Dawn to get the lube off and it fights Wash N Wax if the 2 are mixed. I tumble with Dawn, rinse the clean brass then do a final rinse in Wash N Wax that I keep in a jug and use over and over. If you powder coat Auto Wash N Wax may work for tumbling.

    I used to use a dry vibratory tumbler and like my wet setup better.
    Thanks, my brother brought me a bucket of 300BO and 30-06, buying him a classic loader for the 30-06 for XMas this year and need to make things shiney for him.

    Sent from my Pixel 4 using Tapatalk

  19. #19
    Boolit Buddy Gtrubicon's Avatar
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    Wet tumble, you will see the difference for yourself, I donít have emergency reloading sessions, what I clean may be done a week or so prior to loading. Little lemishine, little wash n wax and then put em in a beach towel in front of a fan. They dry pretty quick. The thing I like most about wet tumble is how clean the inside of the case is, super easy to see the level of powder inside once itís charged.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    I do both now. after sizing wet tumble with pins and citric acid. then roll them around in a towel then dump them in my cleaned dry tumbler with clean corn cob and a bit of nu finish car wax. its certainly more work but im someone that wants things to look perfect even if its more time and no measurable performance gain. but im happier now, feels good to start with perfect looking brass and a thin protective coating to prevent tarnish. loading pretty cases is just more enjoyable than dark dirty cases.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check