Cleaning Brass With The Lyman Cyclone Rotary Tumbler
January 08, 2018
Managing the case-cleaning process requires considerably more work than common vibratory tumblers, but Lyman's new Cyclone Rotary Tumbler ($230, LymanProducts.com) takes cleaning to new levels. Using a liquid solution paired with steel pins, it scours aggressively and- if you follow instructions- leaves no part un-scrubbed, including primer pockets.
Instead of a vibrating bowl filled with walnut hull or corncob polishing media, the Cyclone features a powerful base topped by a jug-like tumbling container. While in use, the tumbler lies on its side and rolls briskly on dual, powered rods atop the base unit. To fill or empty, just lift the jug-like tumbler off and handle it like a massive, two-gallon wide-mouth jar.
According to Lyman's instructions, best efficiency is accomplished by first depriming dirty cases, then cleaning in one tumbling cycle. Undoubtedly that's correct. However, I don't have a universal depriming die. Since I wanted to test the Cyclone's effectiveness by cleaning a bunch of sooty .22 Nosler cases fired from a suppressed AR-15- and didn't want to run those dirty, gritty empties into my sizing die- I opted to follow Lyman's alternate process and use the Cyclone to rinse the cases before sizing/depriming and then give them a second cycle to clean and polish.
Lyman recommends filling the tumbler half-full for most effective cleaning, so after dumping about 80 .22 Nosler cases into the tumbler, I added dirty .300 BLK, 6.5 Creedmoor and .44 Mag. cases. After covering the cases with distilled water, I added an ounce of Lyman Turbo Sonic cleaning solution- half of the included packet- screwed the lid down, flipped it to check for leaks, and set it atop the base. The stainless "media" pins I saved for the second cycle.
A short 20 minutes later I had sparkly, soot- and grit-free cases. Carefully, I poured the solution and cases into the included sieve-like separating tray, catching the used cleaning solution in a bucket below. It remained clear and reusable. Unfortunately, I'd made a rookie mistake in mixing the cases, and I spent a half-hour tugging .22 Nosler and .300 BLK cases out of .44 Mag. cases.
Per Lyman's instructions, I laid out the cases to dry. Due to their relatively small case mouths, the .22 Nosler empties held considerable cleaning solution, even after an aggressive shaking in the sieve-like tray. Finally, I shook the cleaning solution out of the cases one by one, laid them on a towel, and heated them with a hair dryer.
To allow the tiny stainless steel media pins to scour the primer pockets and flash holes the cases had to be de-capped, so I misted them down with an aerosol-powered case lube and ran them through my sizing die. I was interested but not surprised to find the primer pockets still wet.
This time I cleaned the .22 Nosler cases alone and added the supplied five pounds of steel media pins to the mix. The Cyclone base has a timer. Recommended cycle time ranges from one to three hours depending on how full the tumbler is.
Instructions recommend against allowing the cases to sit in the solution after tumbling is complete in order to avoid potential discoloration. I wanted to see what would happen if someone failed to follow instructions, so I intentionally left the .22 Nosler cases in overnight after running a two-hour cycle. They were still bright and unstained the next morning.
However, there were only 80 or so cases in a substantial amount of solution. Had the tumbler been half full, I suspect some cases would have had contact with oxygen and may have oxidized a bit as they sat overnight.
While a bit of a process, separating the cases from the solution and stainless steel polishing pins proved easier than expected using the included Dual Sifter System. After pairing the two trays- coarse mesh atop to catch the cases, fine mesh below to catch the steel pins- simply pour the contents of the tumbler into them. You'll want the trays propped atop a bucket or, ideally, a small rubber tote with the tray handles hooked on the sides.
I was skeptical about the ability of the system to separate the pins from my cases. I shook out the trays on my driveway and ran clean water over them while agitating them for another minute or two.
Since .22 Nosler cases are fairly capacious inside and have relatively tiny mouths, I suspected a fair number of stainless steel polishing pins would remain in them. I shook each case upside down and tapped the mouth vigorously on a hard plastic surface. To my surprise, not a single pin remained inside the clean cases.
While drying the freshly cleaned and polished cases with a hair dryer, I examined them. I've tumbled a fair number of dirty cases in my life, but I've never seen them come so clean that they appeared brand new. I couldn't find a speck of fouling or residue anywhere, including in primer pockets, flash holes and deep inside.
Is the hassle worth it? I think it depends on the situation. If you're cleaning centerfire rifle cases with minimal soiling, a traditional tumbler is a lot less fuss, muss and time. However, for mass quantities of seriously dirty cases caked with soot from a suppressed semiauto and perhaps flung into mud or sand, the Cyclone scours more aggressively and dissolves stubborn fouling buildup more effectively.
Additionally, it cleans everywhere. Inside, outside, primer pocket, flash hole- all are left sparkly clean by the dual-action liquid solution and steel media pins.
Downsides? Candidly, dealing with the liquid solution and tiny steel pins are a pain. You don't want that solution spilling on the floor, and you have to be quick to mop it up if it does get away from you.
Additionally, the tiny steel pins are easily lost and quick to cause damage to wood floors and garbage disposals (don't rinse cleaned cases in the kitchen sink).
Drying cleaned brass is also a pain. Bottleneck cases have to be shook out one by one, and even after hit with a blow dryer, they need time to dry completely. All these processes take time, and I think this is the biggest downside to the Cyclone, but at least some of this extra time is common to any liquid-based cleaning system.
As for operating expense, it's not as high as you might suppose. You'll use about a half-gallon of distilled water per batch (50¢), plus one ounce of Turbo Sonic solution; a 30-ounce container runs about $30 including tax. Each cycle will cost you about $1.50, and at full capacity will clean 1,000 .223 cases.
Additionally, the Cyclone Rotary Tumbler features excellent construction, is well designed to make the arduous cleaning process as efficient and streamlined as possible, and should give years of service cheerfully cleaning the foulest cartridge cases you can produce.
If you're a serious reloader who builds a variety of different cartridges, including some of the more hard-to-clean types, you might just owe yourself one. It will effectively clean cases your traditional tumbler can't.