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Reloading Brass Prep 101

Anyone who’s reloading needs to think about reloading brass prep. It’s kind of like prepping your car before a paint job- if you don’t take the time to prep right, you will not get the desired result. The first step is getting your hands on some reloading brass. Unless you’re reloading brand new factory brass, you’ll then need to prep the brass. This post will give you a 411 on that process.

Let’s get this sorted out…
One of the first things you’ll need to consider for reloading brass prep is inspecting and sorting your brass. If you have a bag of once-fired 9mm brass, this might include sorting through the bag to remove the 380 shells that got placed in by mistake, as they will get jammed up in your dies. You’ll also want to separate nickel plated brass from bare brass while inspecting the cases for any damage. Then, if you’re picky (or loading for competition,) you may also sort the reloading brass by headstamp.

Make sure it’s Clean
In order to ensure that you don’t scratch your dies, and to avoid a mess, you’ll need to start by cleaning the brass. There are several ways to get this job done including vibrating tumblers (shakers), wet tumblers, and ultrasonic cleaners to name a few. Read about some of our cleaning tips here. When you’re done with this step, your brass will be ready for lube.

The Lube Job
Case lube for pistol loads is required if you are not using a carbide sizer die. But what about case lube when you are using carbide sizing dies? I tend to use case lube on all pistol loads. Light film lube (like Hornady One-Shot) does not require much effort or post-loading cleanup, and it does make the press operate more smoothly. A smooth press is a happy press, and it allows the operator to “feel” when something goes wrong more easily.

Like most reloading tasks, reloading brass prep is a personal thing. What one shooter finds important will not necessarily be important to another shooter. Enjoying brass prep is all about workflow for me. Here are some tips that will help you be an efficient brass prepper:
1. Bag up your brass at the range and label it. This will help you decipher what is what when you get home.
2. Tumble brass in separate lots if needed. I have a bulk quantity of Starline 357 Magnum brass, and a bulk quantity of mixed headstamp 357 magnum brass. I keep these bagged separately and tumble them in separate lots to avoid the need for sorting after the cleaning process. This saves me time.
3. When sorting/inspecting, make yourself comfortable. This can either be by sorting on the couch or in your garage enjoying some alone time. However you do it, be sure there are minimal distractions around.
4. Store your brass in clearly labeled bins that stack. Partially transparent bins can be helpful so that you can see how much brass is in each bin. It’s like a quick-glance visual inventory system. If you have special notes for a bin of brass, write it on a piece of paper and place it on top of the brass (lubed, trimmed, etc).
5. Stage your reloading brass prep. This will save you a ton of time while allowing you to work on one stage at a time.
How about you? Do you have tips or techniques to share? Feel free to drop a comment below and share some of your own tips!