Many gun enthusiasts are in agreement about ammunition; it’s best to make your own. This is taken to heart whether you’re heading out on the range, out hunting or target practice. However, the ammunition you create will only be better than what’s already on the market if you use high quality equipment. You’ll want to make sure the tools you use are accurate in reloading ammunition, as well as efficient. One of the most important pieces you’ll want is a good brass tumbler (also referred to as ammo tumblers or a shell tumbler) to help you reload. In this guide we’ll break down the 7 of the best reloading brass tumblers on the US market today.
How to choose a brass tumbler?
If you weren’t already aware, brass tumblers clean the brass and allow for the creation of more accurate firing cartridges. There are various ways to cleaning shells, using ammo tumblers saves money and is a safe and efficient method. The best brass tumbler will remove the majority of cleaning chemicals and leave your equipment sparkling.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all brass tumblers are created equally, so you’ll want to choose carefully. It’s important to keep in mind your budget and personal preferences. Some aspects to keep in mind;
- Type – The two main options are vibrating ammo tumblers and Rotary ammo tumblers. The former are a bit more affordable, but only allow use of dry material. Rotary brass tumblers on the other hand, while slightly more expensive has the capacity for both dry and wet media, making it the more versatile option.
- Material – This can often be a deciding factor, depending on your preference. Most brass tumblers on the market are comprised mostly of metal (typically either aluminum or steel), although some with be plastic-based. If you opt for plastic over metal, keep in mind not all plastic is of the same quality, thus reviews are extremely valuable in this case!
- Capacity – The majority of brass tumblers will have a capacity between 500 to 1000 cases at a time, make sure to double-check when purchasing if you have a preference.
- Types of Cases – Not every reloading brass tumbler will be compatible with every case, before you purchase a brass tumble, double and triple check it can be used with your preferred cases.
- Reliability – This is arguably the most important factor, as brass tumblers aren’t cheap and you don’t want to have to buy one every year (or sooner!). Make sure what you’re buying is reliable and durable, so your money goes as far as it should.
Rotary Vs. Vibrating
As mentioned above, there are two main types of brass tumblers for reloading, rotary and vibratory, one isn’t necessarily better than the other, but you’ll want to have an idea of the differences before purchasing a brass case tumbler.
Vibrating brass tumblers are typically easier to use, as many aspects are automated; cleaning, polishing, descaling, etc. This is the newer model and method and requires you use specific media (typically corncob). These models are also much more affordable, as the brass tumbler itself and media cost a small portion of what a rotary tumbler costs.
On the other hand, rotary tumblers, while more expensive gives a more thorough clean and polish to your cases. It’s also important to note that stainless steel media is the most commonly use with rotary tumblers, but you can use other options.
So while neither is “better” than the other, there is likely one that works more for you, whether it’s the price, type of media you’ll have to use or preference of clean and polish.
Dry vs. Wet Brass Tumblers
Just like there is no “best” option between rotary and vibrating ammo tumblers, there isn’t necessarily a “best” option between dry and wet brass tumblers either. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the type of tumbler you choose will determine whether or not you have the option of dry or wet.
Vibrating models will only allow dry tumbling as an option, while most rotary models will allow a choice. Though it is generally acknowledged wet tumbling is the most compatible with rotary brass tumblers.
1. Lyman Pro 1200 Brass Tumbler
Lyman is a household name for reloading brass tumblers and this particular piece of equipment is no exception. A high quality shell tumbler, it even has a built in lid for sifting, a truly unique feature. The best feature however, is that the Lyman Pro is especially quiet, something both you and your neighbors will appreciate!
Similarly priced brass tumblers lack the quietness and sifting lid, making this one of the best choices for this price range. It is exceptionally durable and efficient, with decent airflow, allowing for usage over longer periods.
This particular model is a 115V, but Lyman also sells a 220V for those of you who prefer. It can handle up to 350 cases per cycle, making it efficient yet silent. This shell tumbler is quite heavy duty, with the ability to handle 2 pounds of media at a time, very good for a vibrating tumbler and one that won’t wake the neighbors!
- Extra Quiet
- Built in lid sifter
- Heavy duty
- Only 350 case capacity
- Can be messy
2. Hornady 050202 M-1 Shell Tumbler
No matter what firearms or reloading accessory you’re in the market for, you can guarantee a Hornady product will be of high quality. This ammo tumbler is one of the best brass tumblers out there!
This particular product is larger in size than many, but simple to use, making it great for novices. After a quick study of the instruction manual and a few minutes of practice, you should have the hang of it. It has a nice capacity of up to 400 cases at a time and as a vibrating tumbler, efficiently cleans with maximum consistency.
The design includes a media sifter (very handy) and the ability to change out batches, for maximum speed. This brass tumbler is a 110V speed and very, smooth in use. This is one of the best brass tumblers on the market and is extremely long-lasting and durable.
- Larger than other models
- Needs time to warm up
3. Frankford Arsenal Platinum Rotary Tumbler
This Frankford shell tumbler is perfect for those who want guaranteed efficiency and accuracy with each batch. As a rotary model this wet brass tumbler allows for each case to be polished and cleaned to look near-new. This includes inside and outside each case.
The capacity is very high, with the ability to handle up to 1000 cases at a time, one of the best out there. The best part is even as a large capacity ammo tumbler, this Frankford model that handles large and small loads alike with amazing efficiency.
You’ll be able to watch each load through the see-through end caps, allowing for inspection of each batch while they’re cleaned. As this has the capacity for wet media, sifting caps are included to drain water at the end. The best feature however, is the adjustable timer, ensuring you’ll never leave and forget to shut the machine off! Check out this model today, you won’t want to miss it.
- 1000 case capacity
- Wet media tumbler
- Adjustable timer
- Needs to be drained
- Can take up large space
4. Frankford Arsenal Quick Vibratory Brass Tumbler
This high quality brass tumbler is one of the more unique models on the market, with a special design that promotes efficiency and top-of-the-line cleanliness. It’s sufficient capacity and economical price make it an easy buy.
This ammo tumbler has the ability to hold anywhere from 350 to 600 cases, depending on the size. The best aspect however, is the unique bowl design that increases the movement of the brass, for an aggressive, clean that promotes an extended brass life. It uses 110V, ensuring an efficient use of energy.
This reliable and durable case tumbler is an economic choice, both for the price and the extension of your brass life, you won’t want to miss this purchase!
- Extends brass life
- Easy ON/OFF switch
- Can be messy
5. Hornady M-1 Wet Brass Tumbler
This wet brass tumbler is a great product from Hornady and is guaranteed to clean and polish efficiently. It has a fair capacity and is much more compact and lightweight than other wet tumblers for brass out there.
This ammo tumbler has the capacity to process 400 cases at a time to a high quality. It also comes with a sifter, very handy so you don’t have to separate brass from media by hand. At only 6 pounds it is portable and can be taken from the yard to your workshop when the weather turns and is easy to transport when moving.
This brass tumbler is specially designed for cleaning and buffing in a quick and efficient manner, get yours today!
- Wet tumbler
- Only wet media
- Not super durable
6. Frankford Arsenal Platinum Lite Rotary Tumbler
This smaller and more compact case tumbler is perfect for novices or those who process smaller quantities of media. It’s easy to use and won’t take up too much room in your garage, workshop or yard, making it one of the best wet tumblers for brass out there.
With a capacity to clean and polish up to 300 cases at a time, you won’t be doing large quantities, but then again if you’re not looking for something heavy duty, this is the perfect brass tumbler for reloading! The cap is an easy twist off for viewing through a clear window to check your cases’ progress.
The best feature however, is the simpler ON/OFF button, which makes this a great, simple and compact purchase for less frequent ammo enthusiasts. Or anyone who wants an easy case cleaning process, make sure to get yours today!
- Simple use
- Small capacity
7. Lyman Pro Magnum Brass Tumbler
This brass tumbler for reloading is a great product for anyone looking for a high quality machine for reloading. It’s high capacity and durability make this a no-brainer to buy.
The Lyman Pro Magnum has the capacity to process up to 1000 cases at a time, making it one of the most efficient and high capacity brass tumblers out there. The motor is especially heavy-duty, giving you peace of mind that this shell tumbler will last for a long, long time, no need to go out and buy a new one every year.
This ammo tumbler is extremely quick, but doesn’t sacrifice quality and will last quite a few seasons. You definitely can’t go wrong with this option from Lyman.
- High capacity
- Long lifetime
- Slightly expensive
What media should I use in my brass tumbler for reloading?
There are different types of media you can use in your reloading brass tumbler, generally speaking the three mainstream options are; corncob, walnut shell, and stainless steel pins.
Corncob media is quite versatile and can be used in both vibrating and rotary shell tumblers. Keep in mind however, it’s not a great choice if your cases are very worn down, only use in lightly tarnished cases.
Walnut shell is great for older shells that haven’t cleaned used in a while, or is heavily worn, it’s also okay to use in both vibrating and rotary tumblers.
Stainless steel pins should only be used in rotary tumblers, often marked as stainless steel brass tumblers. It’s the most effective media, but is limited in this capacity. Stainless steel brass tumblers do the absolute best job cleaning and polishing, so if that’s your goal, best to buy one that is compatible with this media.
How long should I tumble my brass?
The general school of thought is four to five hours should be sufficient for obtaining clean and polished brass that appears new. However, the more cases you have in the machine, the longer it will take, for example 400 cases may only take 4 hours, but 1, 000 could take up to 6. This is also dependent on your specific machine, so keep in mind it may take a few uses before you have a decent idea.
How can I polish brass to appear new?
Dry tumbling is the way to go if you want fully polished brass that shines brand new. There are a few reasons for this, mainly that that dry tumbling doesn’t allow soap and residue to build up in the machine and cake the cases in the processes.
However, no matter which method of tumbling you choose, you’ll want to leave the brass in the machine for a sufficient amount of time. If you’re using a wet brass tumbler, try including some car wax in the mix for maximum polish.
Best practices for brass tumbler care
You’ll want to store your brass tumbler somewhere safe and secure and ideally, low humidity. Make sure you clean it regularly (especially if you use it a lot) and perform all regular maintenance.