Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler

Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler

While vibratory cleaners certainly do a good job, the fact remains that if you really want to get your brass looking factory new, there’s no better option than a wet tumbler with stainless steel media.

Until recently, the odds of coming across a wet tumbler at your local gun store were pretty slim.  That left would-be customers with only a few small mail-order and online manufacturers to choose from.  Enter Frankford Arsenal with the Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler; a cost-effective, mainstream wet tumbler specifically designed for reloaders, and in stock at gun stores across North America.

Features

The unit itself comes in a kit with the tumbler, drum, and five pounds of stainless steel media; everything you’ll need to get started.  This tumbler has a ton of really nice features; one of the first things you’re likely to notice is the drum is made of plastic rather than metal.  Normally that’s a big turnoff for me as a consumer, but it makes a lot of sense here as we’re dealing with both mechanical abrasion, and water– both of which are an recipe for rust with metal drums.

The drum is also entirely lined with a thick, durable rubber.  This helps to reduce the noise, and keep the water sealed inside, which is particularly critical if you plan on running the unit indoors.  The shape has also been really well thought out, consisting of a hexagonal profile that ensures the brass doesn’t just roll around, but that it’s aggressively agitated.  These are features you won’t see with a lot of the rock tumbler conversions or home-made systems folks have turned to in the past.

Both ends of the drum can be removed and feature heavy duty, transparent caps with o-ring seals to keep the water where you want it– inside.  These can also be optionally swapped out with plastic screens for straining the water, and media during the rinsing stage.

The base is just as well built; with four heavy duty rubber rollers, and a large footprint to help keep it steady even when the drum is heavily loaded with brass and water.  The built-in timer is another really nice feature that probably seems like an obvious choice to include, but you’d be surprised how few tumblers do.  The power cable is suitably long, eliminating the need for an extension cord (which is a real pet peeve of mine with a lot of new equipment).

Now that we’ve reviewed the components and features, let’s take it for a test spin.

Process

To get started you will need:

  • Stainless steel media (5lbs included)
  • Dish Detergent
  • Citric Acid/’Lemi Shine’
  • Plastic Bucket
  • Media Transfer Magnet (not included)

We’ll get things started by filling the drum 3/4 with water.  With that done, we’ll load it up with brass; how much it holds will depend heavily on the caliber being cleaned, however according to Frankford Arsenal the Platinum Series can hold around 1,000 .223 casings.  I usually just load it to about 2/3 full, using a single caliber at a time to avoid smaller casings becoming lodged inside of larger ones.

With our brass loaded up, it’s time to talk additives.  A number of manufacturers produce ‘brass cleaning solution’, however in reality this is nothing more than common household dish detergent at a hefty markup.  Save your money and buy some at the local grocery store; a little goes a long way as we’ll only need a couple squirts per drum.  To this we’ll add a tablespoon of citric acid powder; once again, many folks will insist you need the ever-popular Lemi-Shine, however as with the detergent this is just over-priced citric acid.  A tablespoon will help to soften the water and break down alkaline-based deposits, as well as shine your brass up nicely.

Finally we’ll insert the lid, thread the cap on tightly and set the timer.  Generally speaking I go with two hours, as that seems to do a pretty solid job; the timer can be set as high as three, though I haven’t noticed much difference with the extra hour.

When the tumbler comes to a stop the brass is ready for the next stage of processing.  We’ll remove the cap and lid, emptying the contents into a large, brightly colored plastic bucket.  This makes it much easier to separate the brass from the media later.  For now though, it’s off to a sink or wash basin to dispose of the dirty water, and rinse off the remaining detergent.  It takes a bit of extra work, but it also helps prevent the brass from water-staining during the drying process.

Separation Anxiety

With the brass rinsed clean, it’s time to separate it from the stainless steel media.  This is without a doubt my least favorite part of the process, however it’s an essential task that cannot be avoided.  There are a number of different media separators available on the market, but to be perfectly honest I’ve been very disappointed with their performance overall.  I’ve yet to try one that could extract 100% of the pins from my brass any faster than I’m able to by just shaking the casings manually.  Basically, I just grab a handful of casings at a time, shake them out over the bucket, and toss them onto an old t-shirt to dry.  For those of you wondering why it’s so important to get every last piece of media out; they have a tendency to get stuck inside the casings, directly above the primer pocket.  That’s a problem as it happens to line up perfectly with the depriming pin on most reloading dies.  Even a single piece of media trapped in this manner can cause a depriming pin to bend, or break if you’re not careful.

Cleanup

With the separation complete, it’s cleanup time, which means transferring the media back to the drum.  As discussed earlier, I insist on using a brightly colored plastic bucket for this process for two reasons.  The first is that the pins show up extremely well against orange plastic, making it simple to see if any have been missed. The second is that I transfer the media using a Frankford Arsenal media transfer magnet (not included, but highly recommended), a powerful magnet which obviously doesn’t work too well with metal buckets.  The magnet makes quick work of the media, being mechanically operated and designed to fit the platinum series drum; three or four sweeps is all it takes.

Conclusion

While it’s definitely more work intensive than vibratory cleaning, it’s hard to argue with the results.  Frankford Arsenal’s Platinum Series tumbler does an incredible job; breathing new life into even the filthiest and most corroded brass.  Everything from the case mouth and internals to the primer pockets, and even the lettering on the headstamp looks factory-new.  Once you’ve seen the way brass looks after using this system, there’s just no going back.

 

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