Pistol Case Preparation and Cleaning

Whether a beginner or seasoned reloader, one thing you cannot escape is cleaning your brass cases. Not only does brass get dirty after being shot out, this step in the reloading process is also very important to thoroughly inspect your brass for any defects such as case head separation or case splitting. This time I will touch on one or two points I find to be most critical as well as take you briefly through the steps I use when case prepping and cleaning of pistol brass:

  • Clean all brass collected
  • ALWAYS inspect for deformations and cracks
  • ALWAYS inspect for berdan primed cases
  • Deprime and resize
  • Clean again
  • Dry brass cases

Clean All Brass Collected

Although not necessary, I always clean my brass with a rotary wet tumbler with only water and stainless steel pins before doing any visual inspections. Normally 10 minutes is enough to remove most of the dirt and grit to assist with a visual inspection. This makes it a lot easier to sort through re-usable and non-usable brass without spending too much time separating soapy water from the brass and pins. This simple step also helps to identify other similar sized calibers you may have picked up such as in the case of 9mm Luger, you may pick up 9mm Short brass which is very similar but cannot be used. Any cracks, even fine ones are thrown out at this point and re-usable cases are put aside.

Whether the brass has been cleaned, deprimed or resized and cleaned after shooting, a visual inspection for cracks and deformations is extremely important to avoid any failures or damage when training, target practice or competitions are done.

Berdan Primed Brass

Now I know that many pistol reloaders do not worry much about cleaning their brass to a blink but cleaning the brass also helps you identify those pesky berdan primed cases (Berdan primed cases feature an anvil with two smaller holes which are mostly found in military issued cartridges and cannot be deprimed with a standard die). After a training or practice session at the range, most reloaders will pick up as many brass cases as they can find and take home to reload. Amidst those cases, you may find one or more of these berdan primed cases shot out by a fellow shooter which will easily break a decapping pin if not carefully sorted through the batch. I throw out all berdan primed cases in the “Scrap” box. See Figure 1 for the difference between boxer and berdan cases.

  (Image: www.ammunitiontogo.com)

Figure 1

Berdan primed brass cases as well as cracked and deformed brass cases are thrown in the “Scrap” box where I usually store them until I have enough kilograms to make it a worthwhile drive to the scrap yard where I get some money back for them. This money pays for a couple hundred primers!

Deprime/Deprime & Resize

Some reloaders prefer to use a universal decapping die such as the LEE Universal Decapper Die to first deprime the brass before cleaning. Other reloaders including myself prefer to resize and deprime before cleaning their brass. This will ultimately ensure that the primer pockets are cleaned well when tumbling. Under normal circumstances this practice is fine but if your brass is very dirty (muddy or filled with dirt) I’d suggest first cleaning the brass before running them through your dies as discussed in the first step.

Clean/Tumble the Brass, Again

Vibratory tumblers such as the Lyman Turbo 1200 Pro yield excellent results but take very long to clean brass thoroughly and often leave a powdery residue on both the inside and outside of the cases caused by the cleaning media. Most of today’s reloaders are building DIY rotary wet tumblers or have bought a rotary wet tumbler from a reputable manufacturer for faster and cleaner results. I use the Cartridge Brass CB-2000 Rotary Case Tumbler which uses stainless steel pins and cleaning solution to clean the brass inside and out in a matter of 45 minutes. This tumbler has been put through its paces and believe it or not, I have cleaned well over 100,000 rifle and pistol cases for personal use as well as the used brass we sell in store without any issues. It has certainly been put through its paces and has gained my respect over the past year of use. I will publish another article on this tumbler and steps to clean the brass in the upcoming article which will explain the ratio of water, cleaning solution and stainless steel pins so stay tuned!

Dry the Brass

Remember, DRY YOU’RE BRASS BEFORE RELOADING IF USING A WET TUMBLER. It may seem obvious but many reloaders have powder charged their brass cases before allowing the brass to dry off properly. The powder then absorbs the moisture and may cause squibs or only allowing parts of the powder to burn through which cause skewed results. I usually separate the stainless steel pins with a homemade strainer and vaguely dry the brass on an old towel before leaving the brass outside to dry. A few hours in the sun heats up the brass and evaporates the water in and outside the case. See Figure 2

9mmP brass cleaned with the CB-2000 rotary wet tumbler

Figure 2

The brass is now ready to be reloaded or stored for another day of reloading.

Chris’ Top Tips:

  • Spent primers are also saved and added to the “Scrap” box. A few thousand primers add to the weight when selling unusable brass!
  • Some Sellier & Bellot (S&B) 9mmP brass cases with the headstamps “NX/Toxic” have smaller flash holes which will bend or break your decapping pin if you try to deprime them. One way to repurpose these cases is to sand the decapping pin down all round to make a point (See Figure 2) which will then pass through the flash hole and expand it to size. This will however leave a burr in the primer pocket which will need to be removed before seating a new primer. This method is time consuming but if you are on a budget and have a lot of this brass, it may just be worthwhile!

Please feel free to comment below on your preferred method of cleaning brass or pictures of different solutions, tests or anything that you found while cleaning your brass! If you’d like to be added to our weekly newsletter for updates to the blog and promotions click here.

Once again, I am no expert and my reloading practices and styles may differ from yours. Whichever method you use to prep and clean your brass, the principles remain the same. Happy loading, C.Christofi