By Eric Conn
Whether you’re looking for an enjoyable way to pass the time in between range sessions or seeking a cost-effective method for increasing the volume of your shooting, reloading presents shooting enthusiasts with a viable solution. Not only does reloading help reduce the cost per round of the ammunition you shoot, it also gives shooters a way to fine tune loads for specific firearms and purposes, from plinking to long-range steel banging.
But perhaps you’ve been under the impression that getting into the reloading game requires an enormous amount of cash up front to purchase all the components you’ll need to adequately get the job done. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Manufacturers like Berry’s produce high-quality reloading components and equipment that’s well within the budget of most shooters.
While many folks think of reloading primarily as the act of filling a case with powder and seating both primer and bullet, the process begins before that with your brass. Assuming that you collected your spent brass from the range, the first and most important step is making sure it’s been sorted and properly cleaned before you begin the many steps of the reloading process. While it may not seem like much, any reloader can tell you a host of war stories about the good old days of hand sorting used brass and the supreme value of equipment that can make the job simpler and more efficient.
Once you’ve got your brass collected, you’ll need a few key pieces of equipment and supplies to begin the cleaning process. First, you’ll need a brass sorter/media separator to remove the cleaning media from the brass. Second, you'll need some form of cleaning media (generally corn cob, walnut shell, or steel pins), a good polish, and a brass tumbler to do the cleaning.
For this review, I used Berry’s QD-500 Vibratory Tumbler, which features a super-handy quick-detach system so you can remove the bowl and empty its contents directly into separator. This helps keep spills and giant messes to a minimum. Likewise, a large-capacity, smooth bowl helps turn and move the brass around for a thorough cleaning, while a clear domed lid allows you to monitor the progress of the process. A simple on/off switch on the power cord activates the motor, which comes with a 3-year warranty. Berry’s also offers the QD-500 with a second bowl, something I recommend especially for shooters who regularly process various batches of brass, from handgun to rifle caliber. For just $79.99 you can own the vibrating tumbler and an extra bowl, which is quite the value.
To put the QD-500 to the test, I cleaned several batches of brass, including 7mm Rem. Mag. and 6.5 Creedmoor. The great feature of the QD-500 is that it’s got a pretty hefty capacity, fully capable of cleaning roughly 250 pieces of brass in 7mm Rem. Mag. and up to 1,000 pieces in 9mm handgun brass. I also utilized Berry’s Corn Media, which comes in either 6- or 20-pound quantities and is a fine 14/20 grit that brings brass to a bright, shiny finish. I’ve had good luck with the corn media when paired with once-fired and more heavily used brass, and it’s usually good for multiple cleanings.
Once the tumbler bowl is 2/3 full of media and brass, add a few caps full of Berry’s Brass Bright Polish to help with the cleaning process. I used to skip this process, but I’ve come to find it helps quite a bit and is a fairly inexpensive ($8.99 for 8 ounces) way to get a high shine. Conveniently, Brass Bright Polish comes in multiple sizes, including an 8- or 32-ounce bottle that lasts a long time depending on how much brass you’re cleaning. The polish is ammonia-free and does a superb job of bringing the shine back to once worn-looking brass.
Once it’s running, a good cleaning takes roughly and hour, while a thorough polishing takes a couple of hours. Once the tumbling is finished, it’s time to move the contents of the tumbler over to the brass sorter/media separator. Thanks to Berry’s quick-detach system, you can simply detach the bowl and empty the contents into the black separator basket with minimal spillage. Set the separator openings to the smallest setting, close the lid and once everything is locked down, it’s time to turn the crank. Simple and easy, the result is freshly cleaned brass with media in the bottom of the container.
Berry’s Pro Rotary Brass Sorter/Media Separator is loaded with features that made it easy to use. The large capacity sorter, which is capable of handling diameters from .327 to .592, quickly and easily sorts different calibers of brass. The openings can be adjusted for calibers, so that only certain sizes of brass pass through while you operate the hand crank and process can be repeated until all your brass is separated, saving time and reducing clutter.
Loaded with value, Berry’s brass cleaning supplies are effective and cost efficient, things every reloader can appreciate. The QD-500 Brass Tumbler ($79.99) allows you to switch containers, limit messes, and has a large capacity for heavy duty reloading. The motor is reliable and backed by a 3-year warranty, while all other parts come with a lifetime warranty. Likewise, from cleaning media to polish, Berry’s delivers premium quality cleaners at minimal prices. Finally, the Pro Rotary Brass Sorter/Media Separator pulls double duty at an incredible value ($49.99), helping you sort brass and remove cleaning media from brass when the process is complete. It’s hard to imagine a better value for your reloading and cleaning needs.