Over the past 13 or so years as a shooter, I’ve accumulated a respectable collection of brass. I estimate I have around 50,000 pieces of brass of different calibers.
I started shooting IDPA matches, then went on to start several shooting programs (including a Youth program and a 3-Gun program).
As a shooting program and match director, one of the critical responsibilities is tear down and cleanup. No non-profit shooting club executive wants people who leave their facilities looking like a trash pit. Ergo, long after every competitor (and usually volunteer) had left, I would spend countless hours being a brass chicken and picking up brass.
This was how I ended up with about as much brass in my garage after almost 15 years as Jerry Miculek shoots in one.
Very recently, I started wet tumbling my brass, having previously cleaned my brass in a vibrating tumbler with walnut media, car polish, steel BB’s, and a dryer sheet. Toss in a few hundred cases and leave it running in the garage over night, dump out the media, repeat.
“I’ve done it that way for years,” I thought.
Then I purchased a pair of these “jewelry tumblers” off Amazon (with 2.5 lbs each of stainless steel pins) and my mind was completely blown:
With less than 3 hours tumble time with a tablespoon of Dawn dishsoap (it’s got to be Dawn) and a teaspoon of Lemishine Detergent Booster (it’s got to be the powder), my brass came out sparkling inside and out.
Dry tumbling with a vibrating tumbler, the brass tends to have a mirror finish on the outside. However, even after 12 hours tumble time the inside of the cases still come out black.
I’ve loaded tens of thousands of 9mm, .45 ACP, 7.62×39, .223, and .308 rounds this way and it didn’t make a difference. There’s a lot to be said about looking inside a piece of brass and seeing… brass. It kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Wet tumbling doesn’t kick up enormous amounts of lead-laced dust, making me more comfortable about tumbling and processing my brass inside my basement instead of doing it in my garage and back yard.
That’s a big plus, living in Canada, where it can get to -40oC (-40oF) in the winter.
Most interesting with wet tumbling was how badly tarnished range brass was able to be restored to a bright, brass shine. Dry tumbling, I just accepted black brass cases as a fact of life. Often times, badly tarnished and dented cases would just make their way into my “scrap” bucket.
After wet tumbling 10k pieces of brass, I started thinking to myself: “What if I could fully restore and shoot that brass instead?”
Thus began the “Just F’ing Send It” Challenge!
After sorting 30k pieces of .223 brass by headstamp (20k dry, 10k wet) I selected some of the most badly tarnished and mangled brass I could find.
I wet tumbled them first for 30 minutes in a solution with nothing but about 1 tablespoon of “Barkeepers Friend” (BKF), 3 lbs of stainless steel pins, 3 lbs of brass, and about 2 lbs of water.
(Pro Tip: Don’t mix BKF with Lemishine otherwise the brass may come out pink… I did this with one batch)
After, I rinsed out the BKF solution, I re-tumbled the brass in a standard Dawn / Lemishine mixture for 2 hours and the brass came out with a brassy eggshell finish.
(I later learnt through trial and error that if I changed out the water, rinsed out the pins, and let it run another 1-2 hours, the brass would come out with a bright finish).
After drying the brass several days in my spare dishwasher, I went through my rifle reloading process:
- Lube and full length resize
- Rinse off the lube and clean in an ultrasonic cleaner
- Dry for several days
- Measure case lengths
- Trim long cases
- Ream crimped primer pockets
- Seat bullets
- Quality control
Some of the case necks were really short (Federal and WinNT), clearly visible with the cannelure of the bullet at odd depths. Not wanting to risk a compressed charge, I just let it be.
The overall lengths of the finished, loaded rounds was in spec (2.255″ OAL) with an average 25.5 grains of Accurate 2230, and Federal standard small rifle primers.
Half of the finished 20 rounds were loaded with 55 grain FMJ bullets pulled from setback Norinco Surplus 5.56 loads. Half were from 55 grain FMJ Canadian BDX bullets.
(I bought 5000 of those BDX bullets for $0.09 CAD / $0.10 USD per bullet in 2011. My last buy of Berry’s 55 grain bullets were for $0.19CAD / $0.16 USD per bullet.)
This was a load I’ve ran in the past with good results in 5 different AR-15’s, below the 26.0 grain never exceed value in my 10 year old Lee “Modern Reloader” manual.
I loaded with a Lee Auto-Indexing Turret with using Lee .223 dies, similar to the Lee Classic set shown below.
My power charge ranged from 25.3 to 25.7 grains, measured between 10 drops. If I were loading “precision” loads, I wouldn’t accept that level of variation.
As experimental “plink” loads, ran through my Liberated Communist Space Rifle, I was willing to accept it.
My target was an 8″ steel plate at 100 yards, shot from a bench, unsupported with the gas system on my Commie Space Rifle disabled (turning it into a straight pull bolt action).
I fired it in this configuration to make sure I wouldn’t lose the brass (since it hurls the brass with authority, halfway to Saskatchewan when set to the standard “1” gas setting).
I have confidently shot this load with this rifle off a rest to about 4MOA in the past.
Long story short?
10 badly mangled rounds shot just fine. 1 round needed some love taps to chamber, but once the bolt was fully in battery, it shot just fine.
About 10 other, less mangled (but badly tarnished at start) rounds fired just fine.
The best part, is the brass all came out nicely fireformed, ready to be loaded again!
Between Coronavirus Scamdemic Fearmongering and the Biden/Trudeau gun grabs, it seems as if there is no end in sight to the shortages of guns, ammo, and components.
I set out on this experiment because I don’t like being wasteful.
When I posted about the “Just F’ing Send It Challenge” on Facebook I caught a lot of snarky comments from salty shooters saying how stupid I was, how unsafe it was, and how much of a moron I was for trying it.
My response to that is that we might see a day where there might not even be ANY ammo available for anyone.
Many people chimed in saying how they would just throw brass like this away, which is perfectly understandable in an ammo market where supply is abundant and political risks to the supply chain are low.
However, until Biden is thrown out of the White House and Trudeau from Parliament, neither of those factors will hold true.
Those of us who view responsible gun ownership and target shooting as an expression of our inalienable rights and freedoms need to be less wasteful and make every round count… including the ones we load our selves from brass we might otherwise think is too sketchy to even bother with.
What do you think?
Watch me F’ing send these rounds down range here: