Caring For Cartridge Cases Just Got Easier.
With component prices soaring, care of what we have is paramount. Ultrasonic case cleaners have hit the reloading market and the new one from RCBS is among the best. I looked around for some pretty dirty brass and found two candidates. My old Bertram .405 Winchester cases had been loaded pretty hard until being retired once Hornady brass became available. There was always a little blow-by on the cases since operating pressures are relatively low by modern standards. I kept them because they have greater internal volume than the Hornady and I have several good loads worked up for them. So they served for the dirty smokeless test.
The second candidate was some old balloon-head .44-40 cases I had fired with black powder. I left them in soapy water overnight by accident and they had turned an unsightly dark olive. Tumbling in corncob media didn’t touch the tarnish.
Step one is to deprime the cases. This is important so the solvent can be washed from the brass when clean. Otherwise, you can have problems with corrosion, as the solution will be trapped in the primer. My Lee Universal Decapper is entering its 3rd decade now and quickly dispatched the spent primers. Put in 1 ounce of RCBS cleaning solution per 40 ounces of water. The bath holds a maximum of 83 ounces (2.6 quarts) and the minimum is 51 ounces (1.6 quarts). RCBS recommends distilled water, which I keep on hand for rust bluing. You can use tap water, but if the mineral content is high, as it is where I live, you can run into spotting problems. The solution’s bottle has a built in measuring cap.
Running my .405 cases through the bath of heated water for 30 minutes got the majority of the very sooty interiors and primer pockets cleaner than they’d been since new. The cleaner removes all lubricants and carbon residue. I let my cases air-dry overnight and they began to tarnish. Since the cleaner makes the cases squeaky clean, if you don’t mind a little tarnish, you’re good to go. If you want bright shiny brass, a following tumble polish in corncob media will put the shine back on.
Jeff’s .405 WCF cases (above) had been loaded many times with just a quick tumble now and then. Insides were filthy as were the primer pockets. Now they are clean inside and out (below).
An extreme case of cleaning involved Jeff’s old balloon-head .44 WCF cases fired with black powder and accidently soaked overnight in soapy water (above). Nothing touched the ugly tarnish including tumbling for several hours. Bathed 30 minutes, then a bath change and another 30-minute bath, and then a 1-hour tumble cleaned the cases better than hoped for.
The .44-40 cases were cleaned for 30 minutes and the now extremely dirty bath water was tossed, the basin wiped clean and new bath made. Another 30 minutes and they came out looking respectable again. In rinsing them and rubbing them between my palms, the leftover black surface gunk wiped off. A 1-hour tumble polish completed the process, giving the old cases a luster they haven’t had for years.
As a final test, I cleaned .50-95 cases freshly fired with black powder. The Ultrasonic case cleaner was run for 30 minutes and the bath water quickly became very, very dirty. After a second fresh bath, the uncleaned fired cases were bright, including the primer pockets. I’ve found a way to put the fun back into shooting black powder cartridges. Kent Sakamoto, the Customer Service Manager at RCBS, suggested trying a simple dish soap and water bath to remove the soot before using the more expensive solution.
Capacity is about 400 or more 9mm cases, and around 100 .308s. Sakamoto added that the Ultrasonic Cleaner seems to work best at or near capacity. It seems the cases in close proximity to each other speed and aid cleaning. Just be sure the cases are randomly dispersed and all completely submerged. Stacking them neatly seems to retard cleaning according to Sakamoto. With rifle cases, it is important to get all the air out of the inside.
With normal use cleaning smokeless powder residue, the bath water can be used several times. Just let it sit, so all the fouling sinks to the bottom of the bath, and drain it into a clean bucket. Wipe the carbon residue off the bottom of the tank with a paper towel and pour the now slightly murky solution back in. The more times the same bath is used, the longer it will take to clean cases. The Ultrasonic is a great addition to my reloading kit. It is very quiet and efficient compared to my old tumbler, which now is semi-retired to quick polish jobs. The new Gun Cleaner & Lube solution for the Ultrasonic Cleaner will be available soon. It promises to make gun-cleaning chores just as fast.
By Jeff John
Ultrasonic Case Cleaner
605 Oro Dam Blvd., Oroville, CA 95965
(800) 553-5000, www.rcbs.com
Capacity: 2.6 quarts (max)
1.6 quarts (min)
1 to 30 minutes
Temperature: 104, 113, 122, 131, 140 degrees F
Ultrasonic Frequency: 36,000 Hz
Tank: SUS 304 stainless steel
Housing: ABS plastic
Drain: Valve w/ detachable hose
Weight: 8 pounds
Tank size: 3.1” x 6.9” x 9.8”
Unit size: 7.6” x 9.2” x 15.2”
Price: (cleaning solutions): $22.95 Brass, $26.95 Gun Cleaner & Lube