This is the third part of a series on reloading ammunition: Reload your own | Getting started | Polishing the brass | Depriming | Dropping gunpowder | Pressing the bullet

Polishing the brass is my favorite step in reloading. Since I have not bought any new ammo in years, my brass casings come from range pickups and reusing my own. These are tarnished, dirty and sooty, but they will clean up into treasure.

Many ranges will not permit you to harvest any brass except your own. The reason for this is that some folks sell brass back to metal dealers as another stream of income. I belong to a private range where we are encouraged to collect brass. The only problem is getting to the range during the right times and days of the week to beat the other reloaders.

If you can't collect enough brass from the range, other possibilities include buying used brass online or at ranges, or having friends save brass for you (eventually they get the idea that they should also be reloading).

No matter where you get your brass, it accumulates quickly. You end up with a cache of tarnished and dirty metal that will polish into heaps of gold (or at least it will seem as valuable as gold to you). New cases for pistols sell for about 9 cents per round, so reusing these are a significant savings.

There are two schools of thought when cleaning brass. Some prefer depriming the case (punching out the used primer with a depriming die) before cleaning, others like to clean the brass first.

In the old days, people washed and cleaned brass by hand, but now we have tools to make this process more efficient. These are vibratory and rotary tumblers.

Vibratory tumblers shake the cases in media (such as walnut or corncob grains), which wear the dirt off the cases. This process can take two to four hours. Rotary tumblers, as the name implies, rotate the casings in a drum, usually with tiny stainless-steel pins in a liquid bath. Of the two methods, rotary does a better job, but it's also more expensive.

A secret to getting gleaming brass is to put a capful of car polish in your media. As the tumbler wears the dirt off/out of the case, the polish gives an extra glow to the cleaned cases.

During this stage of reloading, it is important to review each case for splits, overpressure indications and blemishes. Once the bad ones have been removed, sort the cleaned cases by caliber. Some people also sort their brass by head stamps to keep the same brands together.

Next article we will look at depriming.