This is the definitive hands-on guide to everything you need to know about the FA rotary tumbler. A rotary tumbler is the best way to get your brass clean. Are you interested in reloading your own ammo and don’t know how to use your gear yet? We have a ton of resources available to help out with your journey to becoming self-reliant.
I’ve received many questions about how to use the rotary tumbler since I posted our Step-By-Step Guide | Reloading Your Own Ammo blog. If you’re one of the new reloaders and trying to understand which tumbler to get or want to know how to use the Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler, you’ve come to the right place.
What is a Rotary Tumbler?
There are many different types of tumblers that rock collectors and hobby miners use to clean rare rocks and stones. That’s not what we’re going to talk about though because we are in the gun business.
A rotary tumbler for brass cleaning is a simple machine that uses a barrel with 2 end caps that seal in the brass, water, cleaning solution, and media. I’ll walk you step-by-step to show you how to use it, but once your barrel is sealed, you place it on the rotary machine and let it spin for the allotted time to clean your brass.
What’s included with the Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler?
Tumbler Drum (1)
|Motorized Roller Tumbler Base (1)|
|End Caps (2)|
|Sealing Inserts (2)|
|Rubber Seals (2)|
|Sifting Inserts (2)|
|Stainless Steel Media (5lbs)|
|EZ Sonic Brass Cleaning Solution (1)|
How Do I Use the Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler?
|1. Install the Sealing insert (make sure the rubber seal is around the insert) into one end of the drum and tighten the cap until sealed.|
|2. Flip the drum over and add all dirty brass into the drum.|
|3. Add 5lbs bag of stainless steel media to the drum.|
|4. Fill the drum with water to the bottom of the mouth opening|
|5. Add 4 bottle caps of the EZ Sonic Brass Cleaning Solution to the full drum.|
|6. Install the second sealing insert and tighten the cap until sealed. Make sure you test the seal over a sink or bathtub.|
|7. Place the drum onto the rollers of the tumbler base.|
|8. Once the drum is in place, turn on the timer switch (plug in the base).|
How Do I Prepare Brass for the Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler?
One of the reasons I wanted to do an in-depth write-up of the rotary tumbler is because many people don’t use it optimally. For example, how many reloaders wash your brass twice? Even more, how many of you keep your primers in the brass? These are questions that I couldn’t answer until I bought my own and read the manual.
- Take your brass directly from the range and run it through an initial cleaning with just water (no media is needed yet). The point of the initial cleaning is to ensure that the brass is clean enough to handle without getting grease or oil all over yourself.
- Once the oils are off your brass, they’re ready to be deprimed, deburred, sized, and trimmed. For best results use the Frankford Arsenal Case Prep Center. This one tool will deburr, trim, and size your brass. Anytime you’re not sure about something, refer to our Step-By-Step Guide | Reloading Your Own Ammo blog for a point of reference.
- Deprime each piece of brass with the Frankford Arsenal Coaxial M-Press machine. If you don’t want to use your M-Press, you can use the manual Frankford Arsenal hand de primer tool to save time.
How Long Should I Run the Timer for an Effective Clean?
When Jarrod Grove from Frankford Arsenal showed us how to use this machine, this was one of the first questions we all asked him. Going by the manual, it depends on the type of brass, the size of brass, and how much you want to be cleaned.
FA recommends if you have less than 500 pieces of brass, you only have to clean them for 1-2 hours. If you have more than 500 pieces of brass, you need to clean for 2-3 hours for the most effective clean.
Pro-Tip: One thing Jarrod does on the weekends is he’ll load his spent brass from a bucket into the tumbler and set it for 3 hours and do whatever he needs to do. Whether you’re hanging out watching the football games or doing household chores, take advantage of the set-it and forget-it technology they use in their tumbler.
How Many Pieces of Brass Can Fit inside the Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler?
The total number of individual pieces depends on the type and size of your brass. For example, I can fit about 1,100 9mm cases and anything smaller, but couldn’t fit that many 7mm Rem Mag cases.
I would contact Frankford Arsenal for a more exact count, but I know you can fit at least 500 5.56mmx45mm cases. No matter what the overall weight of the drum with all contents can’t exceed 30 lbs.
How Do I Clean My Brass With the Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler?
- You add the brass, water, EZ Sonic Brass Cleaning Solution, and media. Close and seal the lid.
- I just turn the dial to 3 hours when I wake up on a Saturday and by college football kickoff my brass is clean and ready to be drained.
- Screw on the sifter cap to allow all the dirty water out into a bucket or sink.
- Use the sifter cap to allow media to be filtered out from the now clean brass. I Always poor your media into a plastic container.
What Should I Do After My Brass is Clean?
It depends on if you are in your first clean without stainless steel media or are in your second clean with the stainless steel media. The biggest difference being if it’s just water and cleaning solution, you can empty the contents out much easier and faster. Regardless, the steps are similar, just adjust for the media and you’ll have no problems using this great cleaning tool.
- Once your timer is turned off and the drum is no longer spinning, take the drum to the sink, bathtub, shower, or even to a garden hose. Just use a 5-gallon bucket so you can catch the media and dirty water. Not all media will be filtered during this process because there will undoubtedly be media stuck inside the brass cases.
- Stand it upright and unscrew the threaded cap and sealing inserts and replace them with the sifter cap and threaded cap to keep it secure.
- Empty the dirty water and media into a 5-gallon bucket. I use the FA Media separator that I attach to my bucket to help dry my cases. It’s more gear, but it’s well worth the price in time and frustration that you’ll save.
- Flip over the drum so you see the sealed end. Change the sealing inserts with the remaining sifter and tighten the cap.
- The best way to do this according to Frankford’s Brand Manager is to fill a separate bucket with water and submerge the drum in the bucket. Once the drum is submerged, water will pass through both open ends. Shake and flip the drum around the bucket to agitate it to get that final sparkling clean to your brass. A less messy way would be to place the drum in the sink and allow running water to pass through it. Agitate the drum for a few minutes as water (cold) passes through and your brass will be clean.
- Pull the drum out of the water (or turn off the sink) and shake the drum for a minute or so to get out any remaining water trapped inside.
- Attach the media separator bowl to an empty bucket (place bucket inside a sink).
- Pour all remaining contents of the drum into the bowl and close the lid to the bowl.
- Overflow the bucket with water and rotate the handle clockwise a few times and counter-clockwise a few times.
- Empty the bucket until the bowl is above the waterline (Empty 2/3 water).
- The fun part! spin the bowl as fast as you both ways to dry your brass as quickly as possible.
- Remove the clean and dry brass and place them into your ammo box or what I do is place them in the 100 Round Frankford Ammo Boxes (About $6.00 on Amazon).
Note: There is no reason at all to not spend $6.00 on an ammo box for the amount of trouble it will save you through your reloading journey. I have 4 of them to hold different calibers and to store them safely and somewhat inconspicuous.