Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association
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  1. #1
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    Arrow Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass


    Conclusion: I’M A BELIEVER…here’s why.

    I recently acquired some brass at crazy/great prices through a local auction, and among treasure trove of a decedent’s estate (obviously a long-time reloader and hence a kindred spirit God rest his soul) was delighted to find among the bags of unfired but older brass that included 280 REM, .338 WIN, .375 WIN, and the venerable .45-70 TWO large bags of .416 Rigby NORMA brass.

    What is .416 Rigby?

    It’s a caliber introduced by John Rigby in 1911 (anybody know anything else that was introduced in 1911? ) and was a well-known “big game” cartridge usually chambered in a double rifle.

    These days, HORNADY brass in this caliber is usually listed online at $2.00 EACH while NORMA brass is usually a buck more at $3.00. Why so expensive? It takes a lot of brass to make this brass. And there’s no such thing as the economics of long production runs to meet what is essentially an underwhelming demand.

    Unless you own a rifle that shoots this caliber...

    Sadly, the heavily surface-spotted Rigby brass, even after tumbling for 3 hours in my standard mix of crushed walnut and corn cob media looked no better. I have no idea how this UNFIRED brass got this way, but it may have been stored for a decade or two in a weather-exposed barn (and acquired years of bird droppings), in a spring house - the kind where a river runs through it, in a seriously humid basement, or under a leaky sewer line. I just don’t know for sure…

    Here’s a picture of the brass AFTER the tumbling:

    New in box Norma brass 1.jpg

    I don’t own a steel pin tumbler, and know that using any ammonia-based product is a no-no. Even a 5% vinegar solution carries with it inherent risks. I didn’t have “Lemon Shine” soap available so I consulted my resident expert:

    “Honey! Do we have any Citric Acid powder or do I have to order some?”


    It took her about 45 seconds to find our stash of “Ball Citric Acid” purchased at Walmart by the canning supplies a few years ago and I was off to the kitchen sink. I think it Ben Franklin who said “Experience is a dear teacher and some will learn by no other.”

    Ball Citric Acid 1.jpg

    After my experience, here’s what I learned:

    Supplies:

    Two 1/2 gallon plastic ice-cream containers, 1 rounded tsp. of Ball Citric Acid, a pair of Nitrile gloves, 1 “0000” steel wool pad, a towel, a 9mm bristle brush, a stack of flannel patches about 1 ” each, and a handful of Q-tips.

    Instructions:

    1. Fill each container with with water. I used warm-hot water (half-full container) in one and cold water (filled to the top) in the other.

    2. Add 1 rounded tsp. of Ball Citric Acid (organic and safe for food products) to the warm water container and stir for about 20 seconds until dissolved.

    3. Put 15 pieces of brass in the acid solution for 5 minutes and then remove to the bottom of the sink. Be sure to cover the drain! Periodically stir the cases around with a chopstick. You don’t need more than five minutes in the citric acid bath and removing them from the solution prior to the next step prevents a natural inclination to over-do things.

    4. Using the “0000” steel wool, run it across all surfaces of the brass. Start at the base of the case, then the body, shoulder, and neck. Sorta like the reverse of what you do while taking a shower, but don't dawdle. Since this is large brass, I usually averaged 30 seconds per piece. Then toss in the container of cold water. Continue until all brass for this batch is completed.

    5. Rinse the brass in the cold water continer 3X by pouring out the old water and refreshing. Slosh it around in the container and after the third time, drain the container, dump the brass on the towel, and roll the brass in the towel.

    6. Pick up four pieces brass in your left hand (orient them all in the same direction), tag the primer pockets with a Q-Tip (one Q-Tip for two pieces of brass), and then using the 9mm bore brush, run a new patch down each piece of brass. If you lose a patch in the bottom of the case, an old-fashioned “nut” pick will resolve the dilemma . Set the brass aside and the Q-tips and patches too. FWIW, ALL the patches came out slightly damp, but CLEAN – for this was unfired brass.

    7. After completing 30 pieces of brass, set them on a small metal tray (newspaper and paper towel covering the bottom of the tray) and set it on a sunny part of the driveway. Also set the towel, used Q-Tips, and patches out there too – for they dried in about 30 minutes and I reused them. At the end of the cleaning process, I put all patches and Q-Tips back to reuse at a later date while cleaning firearms.

    8. Repeat this process until you’ve cleaned all your brass and ascertain that you have removed all moisture during the drying process. I know that some folks who take moisture removal seriously use a food dehydrator or low temp in an oven, but the "missus" would go ballistic if I mixed brass with food cooking appliances. She's probably right...

    9. In order to avoid this from re-occurring a couple of decades from now for anyone who has the good fortune to have the winning bid when my sh!t goes to auction, I vaccu-sealed the .416 Rigby brass in lots of ten and stored in an air-tight 50 cal ammo can.

    Here is what five minutes in Ball Citric Acid and “0000” steel wool did to these heavily tarnished cartridges – they look brand-spanking new.

    5 min CA + 0000 steel wool 1.jpg

    YEAH, I'M A BELIEVER....


    Last edited by bamboomaster; April 22nd, 2018 at 01:42 PM.
    - bamboomaster

  2. #2
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    Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    Glad to see it worked, but why are you changing the size of the font so as to make it almost unreadable? I was not aware that the forum was lacking space.
    Illegitimus non carborundum est

  3. #3
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    May 2006
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    (Lancaster County)
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    Now that you tested it, buy Citric Acid in bulk, instead of those expensive little jars: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...ds=citric+acid
    Rules are written in the stone,
    Break the rules and you get no bones,
    all you get is ridicule, laughter,
    and a trip to the house of pain.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    Quote Originally Posted by gghbi View Post
    Glad to see it worked, but why are you changing the size of the font so as to make it almost unreadable? I was not aware that the forum was lacking space.
    Fixed it for you!
    - bamboomaster

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    Quote Originally Posted by streaker69 View Post
    Now that you tested it, buy Citric Acid in bulk, instead of those expensive little jars: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...ds=citric+acid
    We already had the jar a long time ago - but I'll give the missus a "hint" for my fifty pound b-day present....
    - bamboomaster

  6. #6
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    Oct 2009
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    Ambridge, Pennsylvania
    (Beaver County)
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    Been using citric acid for years in wet stainless media tumbling. Was buying Lemi-Shine from Wally World. 1 9mm casing per gallon of water.

    Yep. Works great.
    www.Steelvalleycasting.com is your new home for coated bullets and custom ammo.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    Piney twp, Pennsylvania
    (Clarion County)
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    th.jpg
    Good job. The passivate effect from the citric acid will also aid in storage.
    It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Tioga County, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    I wouldn't over use it, but I add it in with my solution to the Frankford Arsenal tumbler with steel pins and it brings brass back to near new or new.

  9. #9
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    Dec 2009
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    Nashville, Tennessee
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    I have loaded this way..for .38 .357 and .45 similar for 9mm, and a few "lite loads" w cast bullets, in .45 Auto-Rim as a trial for an old Webley. FOR YEARS:*

    Vibrate fired cases 200 at a time, then resize and de-prime each using the*first stage*of my ole reliable Dillon 550B.

    Examine each case, and clean the primer pockets w a small blade or brush [or mini-screwdriver]...swadge those wh look "small" w my Dillon swadger.

    Soak 200 cases in Dawn/water for 2-3 days...

    rinse and soak 200 cases in Coke a Cola or white vinegar ....for 6-8 hrs or so. Can reuse the soak solution on several batches
    take the 200 CLEAN resized cases and rinse them AND LAY THEM OUT TO DRY FOR 48 HRS ON A TOWEL

    I then hand prime each case by sliding a primer in by hand, THEN sliding in a clean case and priming. Then I look at and feel each primer to see if it is seated..feeing is easy btw

    take the batch of new-looking, primed cases and run them thru the 2nd ,3rd and 4th stages of the 550..I LOOK at EACH DROP OF POWDER and hand set each projectile. I been using Unique for years.*

    been doing it this way for 20 years..my ammo looks like factory new and I do not worry about double charges or squibbs.

    I am retired X 3 years now, so I do have even more time..but you'd be surprised how much ammo you can load if you keep several batches of 200 cases going at different stages!! :-) I have never tried citric acid, but my technique works for me.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Yutopia, Pennsylvania
    (Westmoreland County)
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    Default Re: Citric Acid for Heavily-Tarnished Brass

    I use vinegar myself, a light concentration, along with generic dishwashing detergent. Citric acid works well but it's expensive and I think it stains the brass more than vinegar.

    I triple rinse in filtered water, letting the brass soak for a few minutes in a large amount of standing filtered water.

    I pat dry, then air dry, then tumble in a medium without an abrasive. I'm trying to spare wear and tear on the dies.

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