BPCR BRASS CLEANING SOLUTIONS FOR A TUMBLER By Wayne McLerran
There are numerous commercial and home developed concoctions used by black powder cartridge rifle (BPCR) shooters for cleaning dirty brass. I’ve experimented a good bit with various brass cleaning methods and tried several concentration of four cleaning solutions when cleaning with ceramic media or stainless steel pins in a tumbler. The methods are discussed in an article posted on my website, http://www.texas-mac.com/Case_Clean... amic_Media_and_Stainless_Steel_Pins.html. I currently use a Thumler’s tumbler with ceramic media when cleaning BPCR cases, or stainless steel pins when cleaning smokeless rifle or handgun cases. The tested cleaning solutions are listed below as are a few I have not tried but are reported to work well.
Those I’ve tested: Lemi Shine automatic dishwasher detergent powder - Found at grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, etc. Different concentrations were tried in water with and without a squirt of Dawn dishwashing detergent. When comparing the results with other solutions it did not work as well with or without the Dawn, but adding a squirt of Dawn helped.
Cascade brand automatic dishwasher detergent. Widely available at grocery stores, Amazon, etc., it works great but no better than the following two. It contains several wetting and cleaning chemicals including sodium hypochlorite which is the main ingredient found in chlorine bleach and is not recommended for cleaning brass even in low concentrations.
Shooter 2 concentrated liquid cleaning and polishing compound – Available from Shiloh Sharps (https://shilohrifle.com/cleaning-supplies/ceramic-media/) or directly from the supplier Greg Vest (989-330-5179), email@example.com. Greg’s address is 5864 North Bollinger Rd, Vestaburg, MI 48891. Shooter 2 works great using 1 tablespoon of the concentrated solution. I’d rate it as effective as Strat-O-Sheen with Dawn and a little easier to use. As a cautionary note, due to the ingredients it’s not a good idea to use the solution on nickel- plated cases. It’s slightly acidic and will remove the plating over time. Note – For those of you that previously purchased the solution and ceramic media from Dave Maurer, the original owner of Shooter 2, Dave sold the business to Greg in August 2018.
Strat-O-Sheen powder burnishing solution – 5 lbs available from https://www. riogrande.com/Product/Strat-O-Sheen-Powder-Burnishing-Compound-5- lbs/3390175. Using 1 oz, I tried it with and without Dawn detergent. It worked OK without the Dawn, but with a squirt of Dawn it works great. The cases were cleaned quickly and came out very clean and shinny inside and out, including the primer pockets. It’s not acidic and will not harm nickel-plated cases.
Dawn dishwashing detergent or other brands of dishwashing detergent are an effective brass cleaner in a tumbler without using other additives. See more about using Dawn below.
Scrubbing Bubbles liquid bathroom cleaner – Found at grocery stores, Walmart, Amazon.com, etc. It’s reported to do an excellent job when using 1oz or so in a tumbler.
Simple Green & vinegar - Using 1oz of Simple Green all purpose cleaner and 1oz of white vinegar is reported to work very well. Simple Green is readily available at grocery stores, home improvement stores, Walmart, Amazon.com, etc. Note – since vinegar is acidic the same warning concerning using Shooter 2 compound with nickel-plated cases likely applies. =================================
Recently, based on a recommendation for a fellow shooter, I tried only Dawn dishwashing detergent and water. The cases had been deprimed and tossed into a soaking solution at the range during the match. Next day the brass was cleaned for 1.5hrs with only a squirt of Dawn in the tumbler with ceramic media. I was pleasantly surprised how well it cleaned. The cases did not come out quite as shinny on the outside as with the other solutions I’ve used but the primer pockets and inside case walls were clean. Although I prefer to see the outside of the brass nice and shinny with minimal stains, my main concern is to get the inside as clean as possible. Powder fouling on the inside can result in erratic chamber pressure due to bullet, wad and powder column friction on the case walls affecting velocity and standard deviation. For the same reason dirty inside case walls can also result in case stretching and even splitting. This is especially important in long cases such as .45-90, .45-110 or .45-120. By the way, other brands of dishwashing detergents may work just as well.
Some shooters can’t stand to shoot brass with a lot of surface stains. I tend to fall in that group. Although Dawn detergent does a good job of removing the fouling it’s not very effective at removing stains. So I’ll continue to tumble clean with Dawn detergent and toss in a small amount of Shooter 2 solution or Strat-O-Sheen to remove stains.
The following will minimize the cleaning time in the tumbler: 1) Deprime at the range and allow the brass to soak for a few hours in a soap solution such as Dawn and water to soften the fouling? 2) Use hot water in the tumbler.
By the way, my tumbler is located in my office/loading room so minimizing the tumbler noise is important. Therefore soft rubber automotive door gasket material was installed around the bottom of the tumbler and the tumble is filled close to the top with water when cleaning. The soft rubber also keeps the tumbler from moving around on the table. The rubber padding and full container of water are effective at significantly reducing the noise but the cleaning time may have to be extended since the cases are being subjected to less agitation due to the buffering effect of the additional water.