In this article I thought I’d talk about a couple methods of drying brass off, some that I think are good, and some that I think are definitely bad. The most common method I hear for those that wet tumble their brass…is baking it in the oven. Then there’s also the fairly recent method, at least recent to me, of using a food dehydrator. I’m going to say this from the get go, there’s a lot of not good chemicals involved in firearms. I think putting your fired cases with carbon, and all kinds of other nasty stuff, anywhere near an appliance that you are going to use to prepare your food is a bad idea. Cancer is no fun, so let’s not expose ourselves to stuff that makes a fight with the big C any more likely than it already is. If you’re going to do any of what we discuss in the baking brass article, use old stuff you have no intention to use for food preparation, ok?
I’ve heard for quite some time of people using their oven to dry wet cases that come out of a wet tumbler like the Thumler. If you’re unfamiliar with wet tumbling or stainless media you can read our article on the subject. Wet brass kinda sucks, it can easily take overnight, or longer with water sitting in the cases, to thoroughly dry them. If you have a match, or a trip to the range with your buddies looming, this can slow you down in how quickly you get your ammo loaded. For a long time people have been baking brass in the oven. One of your first questions might be, won’t that damage the brass? The short answer is, no! Brass is very conductive and basically unaffected by heat below 450F or so. So baking it in the oven for a half hour or an hour at 150F or 200F isn’t going to destroy your brass. There’s some excellent information on the properties of brass and temperatures that affect it in this article over at 6mmBR.com!
I firmly believe you want to keep food away from firearms and their accessories. So we obviously can’t all afford the price or space of a second oven, right? So how can you go about baking your brass without contaminating your kitchen? My suggestion would be an old toaster oven with a temperature control on it. You can easily fill a pan up with some wet brass and some have multiple racks and trays for additional baking space. They tend to be a lot cheaper and small enough that it fits on your reloading bench or on a shelf in the garage. That reminds me of another safety tip, keep anything that heats up and emits heat away from your powder! Sounds dumb, but I’ll bet somebody’s remodeled a room in their house that way at some point.
The newer method I’ve seen for doing this is using a food dehydrator style oven. The same kind of deal you would use for making beef jerky! I’ll confess, I’m much better at reloading and precision shooting than I’ve ever been at making beef jerky. That said, we did buy a dehydrator a year or so ago. Gave it a couple tries, never really been that successful or got into making it ourselves. So this thing has been sitting around since. I’ve seen companies like Frankford Arsenal and Hornady using the same devices with their own branding for drying cases.
Having seen these used for this purpose, I figure, what the hell…why not? It’s an appliance we aren’t using and were thinking of discarding just to save room. What’s the harm, right? So I pulled this out of the cabinet under the counter and marched it up to the hobby room. I had just finished forming some 6x47L brass for my match rifle and had dumped it into the tumbler for cleaning and polishing. This was the perfect time to try out the new device for baking brass! One of the things I like about this is that I can easily fit 100 cases on each tray of the dehydrator. It’s designed to blow hot air down through the center, which hits the bottom and spreads out, then it rises through the vents on each tray. That’s how it dehydrates meat and food, but it’s also a great system for drying brass!
I’m sure you’re wondering how it works. I’m pretty pleased thus far. I did the first batch at 160F or so, the highest setting, for about a half hour. The brass was hot to the touch and I couldn’t find any moisture. While trimming I noticed a little forming on the inside of the shaving guard of the trimmer, though. So I’m thinking the next batch I do, I’ll leave them in there for an hour to be sure all the moisture has evaporated from the cases. Like all things it takes a few tries before you have baking brass down to a science. I do, however, love the time savings. I was able to clean, dry, and trim the brass all in the same afternoon. Historically, I’ve let it dry for a few days before attempting anything after the wet tumbling. I think it’s definitely a worthwhile investment if you wet tumble, and don’t feel like it has to say Hornady on it to be effective, buy one that’s cheap with at least two or three trays! Have a comment or suggestion? Drop it in the comments below!