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Ammo Reloading

Kitty Litter in Tumbler?

by Scott E. Mayer   |  May 24th, 2011 23

Q: I’m retired and on a fixed income. I handload not only because I like to, but also for the economy of it. To that end, I’m always looking for less expensive ways to do things. One I’m considering is using kitty litter as the media in my brass tumbler instead of walnut hulls or corncob media. I can get a 25 pound bag of litter for $2, while corncob media is about a buck a pound. Have you ever used kitty litter in a tumbler, and if so, how did it work? — Norman L.

A: Your question is asked so much that the other day I went ahead and gave kitty litter a try in my Frankford Arsenal vibratory tumbler. The question arises always as a matter of economy, so I used the cheapest clay kitty litter I could find. I can now say without reservation to never use kitty litter to tumble cases—-it was a disaster. Kitty litter is very abrasive and left the brass with a dull, worn-away appearance. Further, the litter grinds against itself, creating a clay dust that is so fine that is leaks out of the tumbler while it’s running and gets all over your loading room. The dust also easily goes airborne and is breathed in which may be hazardous. Spend the extra couple of bucks on the proper media. Media doesn’t wear out, but does become loaded. You can revitalize media some by adding ammonia-free brass polish to it. Also, as your media gets loaded and you change it, keep it. Use the old, dirty media as a first step on very dirty cases.–sem

  • Mark

    You might try some of what is sold at large, "Big Box" pet stores as lizard or amphibian litter. It is actually crushed walnut hulls! (Check first, though, because you don't know what some marketer might to call amphibian litter.)

  • smayer

    That's a great idea. Thanks!

  • Will Irelan

    Big bag of walnut shell blasting medium at Home depot , Lowes , or Menards is cheap.

  • Mike Hale

    If you happen to live close to oil field drilling operations, any "Drilling Fluids" warehouse carries walnut hulls in several different sizes (fine to coarse). It's been a long time, but if I remember the walnut comes comes in 50# bags. That's enough for a very long time…. (You can find listings for these companies in your local phone books). It's usually very inexpensive….

  • patrick

    try using cheap rice uncooked dry cheap rice

  • Vince Warde


    Be careful to buy the lizard stuff – these stores also sell crushed walnut hulls for bedding other animals – but the granules are larger and get stuck in flash holes. It does work, but you have to puch it out after polishing. The finer (and more expensive) Lizard stuff just falls out.

  • Also on a fixed inco

    Aren't we all basically on a fixed income? I don't know anyone that can adjust their salary or give themselves a raise on a whim. I'm tired of that term.

    • smayer

      When I was in commissioned sales, there was no top end to what I could make. I could give myself a raise in those years when I wanted to buy a new car or pad up the college funds for my kids. Other years I could slack off and spend more time with my family.

    • Charlie Edwards

      You must have missed the point, when I was working I was with the same company for 26 yr and every year I got an increase. The last 10 or so years it was 1-3% at best and the last couple was closer to 1-2%.

      My mother was on her SS and the last 5 or so years it stayed at 0%-changed "Thats called fixed" mine changed only 1% or so "but thats not fixed".

      So "basically" we are not all on a fixed income and with any luck you will live long enough to see the differance and enjoy paying 1.49 on a loaf of bread because the softner one next to it is 1.89.

  • McKenney

    I don't shoot in quantity, so use Scotch Brite pads to clean cases. I am a slow reloader and a slow shooter, but don't come breaking in my door, as I am not THAT slow, ha,ha!

    I,m tired of being on Social Security and a government retired income with no Cost of Living Adjustment for the last TWO years. …and that IS fixed income. Who has been in power for the last two years? Who has bailed out Wall Street, the Banking Industry, the Car Industries, and has 40, non-vetted by Congress, Czars, to advise him? Lets not forget two Supreme Court 'lefty" Judges appointed for life. While we 'cake eaters' live on FIXED INCOME. Tired and retired.

    • Joe D

      Be careful~ you keep talking like that and you'll have a bunch of dudes in dark suits and sunshades pull up in a black limo to question you. Ha HA

      I share your feelings though~ quite a crowd we let infest our capital!

    • http://Mo33rd Keith

      Gee, how right you are on this President.

      Don't try the Kitty Litter, it is just clay that turns to dust. Good luck in your retirement, and good shooting.

  • JimBob

    I always liked the commercial corncob, but it's a hassle to get locally, and shipping costs effectively double the price. I solved this by going to my local feed/plant store, and bought a bag of ground corn cob, used as bedding for some sort of critter, and it works fine. It is a little larger granulation, but inspecting flash holes is part of my drill anyway, so it's no big deal.

  • Joe D

    I've been useing the walnut shell pet litter from pet stores/ big box for years now. I use a Lee univ deprimer 1st, then clean, then I go thru the sizing and other steps. The die punches out any walnut from the P/ holes and I then inspect.

    As a further money saver~ When you clean brass cut up a couple used bounce sheets and throw them into the vibrator. It picks up a lot of dirt which is then thrown away.

    Then~ when the media is eventually too dirty~ use a fine mesh window screen to hold it and rinse it with a hose, sun-dry, for a couple days and ~ BINGO reuse it !!!

  • Schcotty

    For low volume reloaders who want clean, shiny cases use Nevr-Dull Magic Wadding Polish. It comes in a blue tin and works wonders! When I first started loading for my 30/06 in the 80's I used it often with wonderful results. It won't harm the brass and polishes it up nicely. Budget and low-volume reloaders can clean up well and quickly with a Lee Zip Trim with universal chuck, or a motorized way of turning the cases, and this stuff.

  • Fabrizio Brioschi

    Here in Italy a lot of reloaders use with satisfaction and no problems hamster litter, adding 2 spoons of home brass cleaner! Very cheap and effective!

  • Gerard

    Jim Bob, I also use ground corn cob from a feed store. $7.50 for 25lbs. It is a little larger but saves plenty. My mix is 50% corn cob & 50% rice. Extremely cheap and does a great job.

  • Bill Norris

    JimBob thanx for getting this back on track. Fabrio, be sure you home brass cleaner has no ammonia in it or your brass will become brittle after a while and fail. I'm gonna try rice, just to see how it does.

  • william

    cleaning used is easy just get a pair of panty hose fill up and tie rinse in tub or sink let dry maybe wash with little bit soap first. also vingar works real good as brass cleaner

  • Wild bill

    For a liquid cleaner/ pre cleaner, white vinager and water 50/50 mix with dawn dish soap and a little lemon juice will remove tarnish powder residue and clean inside out the cases and primer pockets as well as any of the sonic cleaners or similar liquid cleaners in about 1-5 minutes in a peice of fiberglass window screen and agitated in a plastic bucket or container. If you have a tumbler then tumble them to a bright shinny finish. I like the tuff nutt walnut shells best , when it starts to loose its efectiveness simply remove about a cup full and replace it with the same amount of fresh shells it will polish about 10,000 cases this way per container of shells.

  • Miloe

    Has anyone tried using fine sand as a cleaning media?

  • Guest

    A writer, who can’t read,,Priceless!!! Yes I have used Corn Cobb Liter in the tumbler and it works,, Just watch the size,, try and find medium, the fine is a pain

  • holey.socks

    Use Corn Cobb Litter.. works Great!!

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