Ultrasonic Case Cleaning: First Step of Reloading Cartridges with Colonel Smoothbore
By OutdoorAly

Posted: January 12, 2014

In my New Year’s preview, I hoped to offer more diversity with my weekly posts. The theme last week was cleaning guns; this week lets continue with the cleaning idea.

One of the not so fun aspects of metallic cartridge reloading is cleaning brass cartridges. In the past one needed to have either a tumbler or vibrating cleaning machine with some kind of media (ground corn cob, or walnut, or similar material) to clean or polish brass. One could also use a brass cleaner and a rag. The cases had to be treated in the tumblers and vibrators for hours on end. The insides of the cleaned cases were for the most part untouched and reloaders had to make sure that there were no traces of the material left inside the cases or primer pockets. In addition, case necks and primer pockets had to manually be cleaned with the appropriate brushes.


Hornady Ultrasonic cleaner

Rejoice reloaders, those days are over. Several companies now offer Ultrasonic case cleaning machines. I started using a Hornady Ultrasonic case cleaner last year and after cleaning approximately 4500 pistol and rifle cartridges I can say I will never use nor need a tumbler or vibrator again.


I have the smallest cleaner that Hornady produces. I mix up a batch of One Shot case cleaner, add about 200 .45 ACP cartridges, set the cleaner to operate between 4 to 6 minutes, hit start, and in no time I have cases that are bright and shiny both outside and inside. I rinse the brass with clean warm water to remove any of the cleaning solution residue, then I use a heat gun to dry the cases. They are then ready to reload. If you wish, you can just let them dry over a time. A note of caution; straight-walled cartridges dry much more quickly than bottle neck cases, so be sure the bottlenecks are dry inside.

I usually decap my cases before cleaning, this opens the primer pockets for cleaning and aids in drying the insides of the brass. I have found the inexpensive Lee Decapping Die to be one of the best; Lee’s decapping pins are nearly indestructible.


There are several manufacturers that offer these great cleaning devices including Hornady, Lyman, and RCBS. Street prices begin around $ 70.00 for the small cleaners and go up to about $600.00 for a cleaner that will hold an AR-15 upper or thousands of brass cases. My experience leads me to believe that a quart of cleaner concentrate will clean about 10,000 cases; cost is roughly $20/ quart, although I recently bought both the brass and the gun parts solutions on sale for 12 bucks each.


I urge reloaders to try one of the new versatile ultrasonic cleaners; they are faster and much more efficient than the old tumblers and vibrators. You’ll never go back to the old ways.

And with reloading in mind, I have several spots available in a Metallic Reloading course that starts on February 4th at the Lifelong Learning Center in Missoula. If you are interested, go to: www.thelifelonglearningcenter.com and enter the course code: S-MISC01.1.

Be safe and good shooting.

Colonel Smoothbore


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