Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Initial Reloading Purchase - Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ Case Tumbler

Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ Case Tumbler and Media Separator
I’m slowly working my way into the reloading world. Since I didn’t want to run up a credit card to buy everything at once, I’m buying items piecemeal while I save for the next purchase. My first investment was the Frankford Arsenal Quick-N-EZ Case Tumbler Kit from MidwayUSA. The kit came with a media separator, crushed corn cob tumbling media, and Frankford’s brass polish. This is everything you need to get started with cleaning cases.

So far I’ve used this tumbler for some .38 Special cases and it did great. The corn cob media was initially treated with the Frankford Arsenal brass polish and allowed to cycle in the running tumbler for a few minutes as directed, then the cases were added. I think I put too many in for this batch. The instructions say to add the cases with the tumbler running until you see they don’t move freely. I think my problem was that as I was adding them to the tumbler, I was mesmerized by seeing them disappear into the media. It’s like they get swallowed up in quicksand, but then you see them swim by every couple of seconds. Well, I added until they slowly bobbed along on the surface. A coworker of mine that reloads told me this is okay, it will just take longer to get them shiny.

What have I learned so far? 
  1. When you clean brass, do yourself a favor and don’t do it in a room you are trying to watch television in (or directly adjacent). It does make enough noise to make hearing the TV difficult. It also tends to annoy your significant other. The level of annoyed will depend on so many factors (many unknown) that they cannot be listed here. Take it somewhere that it won’t be heard. 
  2. I also learned not to start a load and then stop it until the next day. My first batch I ran for about 20 minutes and then shut off until my show was over. Well, then I decided to finish it the next day. This apparently causes your corncob media to stick inside some cases. Retumbling will remedy the problem on most of the cases, but I ended up sorting through every case and taking a small flathead screwdriver to scrape the rest of the media out of the 2 dozen or so that didn’t come completely clean. 
  3. Sort your brass by caliber before tumbling. I was warned about this ahead of time. It will keep smaller cases from getting into larger cases and preventing them from being cleaned. If you’re going to reload .45ACP, be sure to learn the difference between small pistol primers and large pistol primers. You don’t have to sort them before tumbling, but you have to sort them sooner or later.

Typical .45 ACP cases before tumbling
The tumbler itself seems to be well built, and it does the job. It holds a decent amount of pistol brass. I didn’t count how much I put in this initial load, but I’d guess it was about 200 pieces. There are larger, probably better, tumblers on the market, but I didn’t want to sink a ton of money into some items initially. I read reviews on the tumblers out there and opted for a model with good reviews but not the most expensive. One feature I like most is the inline ON/OFF switch. Others praised this in their reviews, and I saw complaints about other tumblers because they didn’t have this feature. It is definitely more convenient than messing with a plug every time you want to start and stop your tumbler. What I also liked about this tumbler was that it came with everything I would need to start cleaning brass the day it arrived. Later, I can change media and polishes to see what works best for me.
Typical .45 ACP cases after tumbling in corn cob with Frankford Arsenal polish

The media separator is okay. It does the job, but I have a few minor complaints about it. 
  1. This is another noisy evolution, and if not done in the proper location at the proper time, it will elicit additional complaints from your significant other. 
  2. With a moderate load of brass in it, it tends to lift out of the cradles attached to the bucket while you’re turning the basket. Maybe higher priced models have a way to lock the basket shafts in place? Regardless, I can live with it for now. I just have to take it slow, and remember I’m not spinning a load of clothes in a washing machine. 
  3. I probably shouldn't be complaining about this, because I’m sure the alternative is much worse. The pin that locks the basket closed is a real booger to insert and remove, hence it keeps the basket closed really well. Again, the alternative I’m sure is much worse. What I would recommend for Frankford though is changing it from a round headed pin to an L shaped pin so it’s easier to grab. The little elastic cord provided on their pin isn’t stout enough to use to pull it for very long.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this first purchase. I’m now looking for a beam scale and bullet puller. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to start cleaning out my workbench in preparation for setting everything up.

Be safe.

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