If you’re a gun enthusiast, you know that two considerations stand above all others when buying equipment to make custom ammunition: safety and efficiency. The advantages of a brass tumbler for those that make their own ammunition include cost-efficiency, safe firing, and a ton of saved time.
No doubt you know that there are a ton of ways to clean shells and create high-performance cartridges that fire accurately. A brass tumbler is the safest and most efficient method we know for removing chemical cleaner and other debris from your cartridges. You also don’t need to break the bank to get one: we have plenty of options below for shopping on a budget as well as on a high premium with the highest expectations.
If you’re looking for a brass tumbler within your price range that has all your desired features, this guide not only gives you reviews of the best products we could find, but also a buying guide and FAQs to help you figure out what your needs and preferences are when it comes to shopping for brass tumblers.
- 1 What is a Brass Tumbler?
- 2 Best Brass Tumbler: The Top 5 Recommendations
- 3 Buying Guide
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions:
- 5 The Takeaway
What is a Brass Tumbler?
If you’re a gun enthusiast who stumbled on this article without first knowing why you might need a brass tumbler, we’ll give you a quick rundown so you can understand the product reviews below. If you’re already on board, you can jump ahead to the reviews.
For those who want to take advantage of all the options available for making custom ammunition and reap the financial savings of doing so, brass tumblers should be part of your arsenal. Reloading requires cleaning the brass casings to improve the efficiency of your ammo, fire safely, and make them look good as new. To maximize the safety and efficiency of your custom rounds, this is an essential step.
However, cleaning brass casings is a time-consuming task when you have to clean each bullet individually. This is where brass tumblers come in. With a cleaning media like crushed walnut shells and some polishing powder, you can clean a batch of brass casings inside the tumbler in just a few hours with no extra work from you.
There are two main types of tumblers, with results that vary depending on which brand you buy. Both are represented on this list so it’s important to understand the differences.
Rotary tumblers employ classic tumbler mechanisms with a barrel that the machine turns with the casings inside (hence why it’s called a “tumbler”). For over 50 years, people have been using rotary tumblers to clean their shell casings, taking advantage of multiple types of cleaning media depending on their preferences.
Since a rotary tumbler’s barrel is airtight, you can even try liquid cleaning with stainless steel cleaning media and water.
Vibratory tumblers clean the casings by vibrating them in a large bowl. This creates a system of friction that forces the cleaning media to buff against the casings and clean off the scuffs and dirt, including any lube and oxidation.
This type of tumbler is more modern than the other and has only been commercially viable for about 20 years. There’s no major advantage to using them over rotary tumblers, but some enthusiasts prefer them. It comes down to understanding the differences in the cleaning mechanism and comparing them to your needs.
Best Brass Tumbler: The Top 5 Recommendations
Let’s get into the reviews!
The Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ Vibratory Tumbler uses a more modern mechanism, so it employs a vibrating bowl instead of a tumbler barrel. For those that want the latest tech in their case tumbler, this could be the one.
What caught our eye about the Frankford Arsenal tumbler was its ease of use. There’s an on/off switch on the cord mount for added safety and a clear lid so you can see what’s going on inside. With basic walnut or corncob cleaning media, the Frankford Arsenal tumbler can easily remove lube and oxidation from brass casings with just a few hours in the machine. The bowl is shaped to provide faster brass agitation, which makes it a more comprehensive cleaner than similar models.
This system even extends the life of brass casings, ensuring they can be reloaded again and again. The best part is that the Frankford Arsenal tumbler comes at a value price, making it our easy choice for the best general use brass tumbler on this list.
Those that aren’t experienced with the technology and don’t know exactly what they want out of a brass tumbler can’t go wrong with this one.
The Lyman Pro 1200 Tumbler is another affordable tumbler that comes with a built-in sifter. This allows you to separate the cleaning media from the casings after a cleaning cycle. In each cycle, the Lyman Pro Tumbler can clean 350 casings at a time, just reminding you how time-consuming it would be to do the same work by hand.
For many people, the biggest downside to a brass tumbler is the excessive noise. Thankfully, the Lyman Pro 1200 tries to mitigate this concern with a rubber lid and feet that reduce the clatter somewhat. It also comes with thermal protection so you can run an extended cycle without having to monitor the tumbler for overheating.
This is an easy to use brass tumbler that handily comes with a built-in media separator and a huge 350-case cycle capacity. It’s also near the bottom of the prices on this list so it’s easy to confirm as one of the top all-around options for gun and ammo enthusiasts.
This Frankford Arsenal Platinum series tumbler is a rotary model, meaning you load the cases into a tumbler barrel rather than a bowl. It has a large capacity of 3.3L (about 300 cases per cycle) and weighs about 8 pounds.
The Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler comes with a lot of ease of use constructions that are great for beginners. The seal on the tumbler is proofed for leaks so you don’t have to worry about dust from the cleaning media making a mess during a cycle. There’s a clear viewing window so you can see what’s going on inside. But the truth is that you probably won’t be in the room – it’s easy to use the twist cap opening and simple switch and just let it do its thing.
This is one of the smaller rotary tumblers out there, which would be good for tighter workspaces. Unlike some vibratory tumblers, with this rotary model you can use stainless-steel pins as cleaning media, which can be tumbled with water and used to deeply clean certain kinds of casings.
This is where knowing your preferences and experiences comes in handy because you can’t choose between vibration and rotary tumbling unless you’re experienced in creating custom ammo. However, if you want heavy-during cleaning with stainless-steel media in a tried and true tumbling mechanism, the Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler isn’t the cheapest model on this list, but it’s one of the smallest and sturdiest.
If per cycle case capacity is your main concern, you can’t do better than the Hornady Rotary Brass Tumbler. The rubber-lined drum can hold 6 liters of media and cases (or up to 5 lbs. of media in total). If you want to use the more aggressive stainless-steel pin media to clean the cases, this rotary brass tumbler is ideal. It even comes with the media, so you don’t have to go out of pocket for it.
There’s a 110V Hornady Rotary Brass Tumbler model, which is standard, but it also comes in a 220V version, both of which can run for up to 8 hours. For a modern touch, this brass tumbler can be activated by a touchpad and timed with a digital interface.
The quick seal compression lid keeps debris dust inside and is lined with rubber to mute the noise. If steel pin tumbling media is your preference, the Hornady Rotary Brass Tumbler has a large case capacity and a powerful motor. The higher price is the only downside to an otherwise powerful and efficient brass tumbler.
The Rebel 17 Tumbler Stainless-Steel Ammo Reloading Kit is priced high and works for cleaning all caliber sizes, especially primer pockets. The stainless-steel media is included and will never rust or wear out. Even though the Rebel 17 Tumbler has the highest price on this list, the fact that you never have to replace the cleaning media is a huge plus.
With just a few drops of Lemishine Detergent, brass cases can be easily shined and cleaned at a maximum case capacity of 2-4 pounds. The 17 stands for the total weight capacity, which accounts for the increased price.
For the price, the Rebel 17 Tumbler comes with a 5-year warranty on the barrel, a 3-year warranty on the unit, and a 1-year warranty on the motor. The drum is thick and lined with rubber to help with the noise and the seamless drive belt is built to last a long time. Heavy-duty sealed ball bearings and stainless-steel media make this 220V brass tumbler the most intense on this list.
In order to get the brass tumbler that matches your needs, use this brief buying guide to sort out its main features.
We’ve already been over the difference between vibratory and rotary tumblers. Typically, rotary tumblers are more expensive. Vibratory tumblers, on the other hand, can’t use liquid cleaning solutions and stainless-steel media.
Choosing the tumbler type is partly dependent on preference and partly what we just outlined above – the top of this article has more in-depth definitions if you’d like to compare the mechanisms.
Brass tumblers are for gun enthusiasts, but depending on your level of experience you may need a higher per-cycle capacity limit. Some on this list have a capacity limit of 17 pounds of media and some have far less. This could be a huge deciding factor when choosing between brands.
The construction of the brass tumbler may be the biggest non-quantifiable concern. After picking from the two tumbler types and your maximum capacity limit, the material makeup of the tumbler mechanism and container should be a major criterion when you decide what to buy.
Many brass tumblers are made of metal or with metal components but many of the cheaper models also contain plastic parts. This can cause over-twisting a lid or bolt to split its heavy plastic parts. Since a reliable, long-lasting machine is an essential aspect of your choice to buy one brand of brass tumbler over another, comparing the material construction to your needs should be a huge part of your buying process.
There are many types of bullet casings, differentiable by millimeter and material. They are not all made equal and you may not be using them all. The brand and model of brass tumbler matters in this sense because they don’t clean all types of cases.
The cost range on this list is wide, from less than $60 to $300. Those who are looking for budget picks because of their lack of experience or premium options because of the features they know they need, there are brands on this list for them.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What does a brass tumbler do?
A brass tumbler vibrates a tray or rotates a tumbler barrel filled with dirty shell casings and a cleaning media like ground up corncob, walnut shells, or stainless-steel media. The friction generated between the cleaning material and the casings buffs and cleans the brass bullets after a few hours of continuous use.
Do you need a tumbler for reloading?
Brass tumblers are not necessary for reloaded cartridges or creating custom ammunition. Since casings need to be cleaned before reloading, however, enthusiasts will be searching for the most cost and time-effective way to do so. Since brass tumblers are easily the most efficient way to clean a batch of casings, they should be considered required for reloading by anyone who wants to do it regularly.
Can you tumble brass too long?
You only need to tumble brass for about 2 hours to buff out and clean it to your satisfaction. If you accidentally leave the tumbler on for longer than that, the cleaning media will continue to work on the brass until the media itself is practically dust. The brass won’t be hurt at all. In fact, you would probably lose the tumbler to overheating before you damage the brass.
A brass tumbler is not a requirement for gun enthusiasts who want to make and clean their own brass casings for custom ammunition. However, reloading can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor without one, depending on how much ammo you plan on reusing. Since you can get a quality brass tumbler for a small investment, most enthusiasts should look into it to save a ton of time and money on their reloading routine.
Our top pick for general use is the Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ Vibratory Case Tumbler. It’s a reliable machine that has a more aggressive cleaning cycle than most tumblers on the market. It’s easy to use and comprehensively cleans brass for a longer lifespan on your ammo. It does it at a budget price that should fit comfortably within anyone’s needs.
Safety and efficiency are essential when you’re preparing brass casings to be reloaded. Use this article to find a brass tumbler that works for your needs, in terms of the type of tumbler, the cost, the features, and the materials that it services. The reviews, definitions, and buying guide should help you sort out your preferences and your needs in order to choose between the brands of brass tumblers we listed, or to compare ones you found on your own.