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BPCR BRASS CLEANING SOLUTIONS FOR
A TUMBLER

By Wayne McLerran
Posted 5/6/20

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), gvest67@yahoo.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.

Some I have not tried but reported to work well:
Buffalo Arms sells a concentrated brass cleaning/burnishing solution for
tumblers.  
https://www.buffaloarms.com/1-quart-of-tumbling-compound-for-
ceramic-stainless-steel-media-cmcomp
.  I understand it’s an excellent cleaner
and burnishing solution for brass.  By the way, it’s not Shooter 2 compound and
is not acidic and should not harm nickel-plated brass.

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.

Wishing you great shooting,
Wayne