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Cleaning Bullets | How To Do It Correctly

This article will cover the various methods of cleaning tarnished bullets in greater detail. I’ll also be giving out tips on how to get the best results and tackling some FAQs later on, so be sure to read to the end. 

The best way to clean bullets at home is by using vinegar and salt solution. This method is easy, inexpensive, and effective for cleaning all kinds of cases. Other ways to do it involve using steel wool, aluminum or car polish, baking soda solution, and water-lemon juice mixture.

Now, let’s go into greater detail on the various methods:

Bullets in a Solution

1. Vinegar, Salt, and Water Solution

This effective solution is very simple to make: 

  1. Mix one cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of salt until the salt is dissolved. This will create an acidic solution that will eat away at the corrosion on your brass.
  2. Place the bullets you want to clean in the solution and let them soak for a minute. As they soak, stir them up to agitate the solution and speed up the cleaning process.
  3. After a minute, remove the bullets from the vinegar and salt solution and rinse them off with running water. This is an absolutely necessary step because if you leave the bullets in the acidic solution, the acid will start to eat away at the brass. After rinsing, dry the bullets off with a clean cloth or let them air dry.

This is the method I use because it’s effective and safe. You can use it on all types of bullets, including copper-plated ones. It is also pretty fast compared to other solutions.

2. Lemon Juice and Water

This is another effective and safe method that you can use to clean your brass bullets. You will need a lemon (or a product with citric acid), some water, and a clean cloth.

  1. First, mix some lemon juice and water in a bowl to create a cleaning solution. The amount of lemon juice you need depends on how fast you want results and how dirty your bullets are. The best part about this method is that you can use it to clean your cartridge cases and primers.
  2. Put the bullets in the bowl and let them soak for a while. The lemon juice will help break down the dirt, grease, and other residues on the surface of the bullets.
  3. Use a clean cloth to wipe down the bullets. But be sure to rinse them off with clean water afterward.

This is a great method to use if you want to clean your bullets quickly and don’t have any other cleaning supplies on hand. Plus, it’s natural and safe, so you don’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals.

I have used this method in the past, but it is considerably slower than the vinegar and salt solution. Also, its results are not as impressive as those of the vinegar solution.

3. Steel Wool

This is one of the quickest methods to clean your brass bullets. The caveat is that it’s also the most abrasive, meaning you risk damaging your shells. 

You will need some steel wool and a clean cloth. Once you have these at hand, all that’s left is to polish each bullet with steel wool until the tarnish starts to disappear.

After cleaning the bullet with steel wool, wipe it down with a clean cloth to remove steel and other metallic residues. Next, rinse it off with running water to get it sparkling clean.

It’s important to note that this is not a quick process; you will need to put some elbow grease into it. The upside is that you will not be handling any acids.

4. Baking Soda Solution

This gentle cleaning method is perfect for those worried about damaging their shells. You will need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • A clean cloth
  • An old toothbrush

With these supplies at hand, you can clean your bullets in the following steps:

  1.  Mix the baking soda and water in a bowl. Stir until the baking soda has dissolved. 
  2. Soak your brass bullets in the solution for about 10 minutes. This will loosen any dirt or debris that is stuck to them.
  3. After 10 minutes, take a soft cloth and wipe the bullets clean. You can also use an old toothbrush to help you get into any tight spots. 
  4. Rinse the pellets off with cold water. Dry the bullets off with a cloth.

5. Aluminum Polish

If you have a lot of brass bullets to clean, this might be the best method for you. You will need some aluminum polish and a clean cloth.

Start by applying some aluminum polish to the surface of the bullet. You can use your hands or a cloth: the point is to cover the entire surface. I have seen people use a drill to speed up this process, but I don’t recommend it as it can damage the bullet.

After applying the polish:

  1. Let the bullets sit for a few minutes to give the polish enough time to work its magic.
  2. Use a clean cloth to buff the bullets until they shine.
  3. Rinse them off with cold water
  4. Dry them off with a cloth.

This is the most time-consuming method, but it gives you great results. Plus, you can use aluminum polish to clean your cartridge cases and primers, too.

6. Car Polish

Using car polish is another effective method for cleaning brass bullets. All you need is some car polish and clean cloth.

Here’s how to go about the cleaning process:

  1. Apply the car polish to the surface of the bullet. You can use your hands or a cloth to cover the entire surface. This will help to loosen any dirt or grime.
  2. Use the cloth to wipe off the polish. Be sure to get rid of all the polish, and you should be left with a clean bullet.

This is another labor-intensive method, but it’s very effective.

Does Ammo Expire?

Ammo does not expire, but it can degrade over time if not stored correctly. The main cause of ammo degradation is moisture. Exposure to excessive moisture causes ammo to rust, rendering it useless. That’s why it’s so crucial to store your ammo in a cool, dry place.

You also don’t want to store your ammo in direct sunlight, as this can also cause it to degrade. So, the best place to store them is in a dark, dry place. If you live in a humid climate, consider using a dehumidifier to keep the humidity levels down.

Related How Long Does Ammo Last? (And How Tell if It’s Bad).

Is It Safe to Fire Old, but Clean Ammo?

It is safe to fire old, clean ammo as long as the cases are not corroded. Shooting corroded ammo can cause damage to your firearm and possibly pose safety hazards. You’ll also want to watch out for split case necks, as these usually signify unusable ammo.

If the ammo is old but clean, go ahead and fire away! Just make sure that you are using the correct ammunition for your firearm. This is especially important if you are working with an antique gun.

Old firearms are not built to handle the high pressures of modern ammo. So, using old ammo in an antique firearm could damage the weapon and even be dangerous.

How Much Ammo Should You Stockpile?

How much ammo you stockpile will depend on your budget, the size of your collection, and how much shooting you do. I would recommend having at least 50 rounds on hand. This will give you plenty of shooting time and keep you prepared for emergencies.

That said, you can never have too much ammo! So, if you have the space and the budget, go ahead and stock up. You’ll be glad you did if there is ever an emergency.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Bullets

Many things could go wrong when cleaning brass bullets for the first time. Here are some of the common rookie mistakes you want to avoid:

  1. Leaving abrasive cleaners on the bullets for too long. This can damage the bullet’s surface and cause discoloration in brass when the topcoat corrodes. The same can happen if you leave the bullets in the cleaning solution for too long.
  2. Not storing ammo properly after cleaning. This can cause rust and degradation over time. You want to keep your ammo in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.
  3. Not using the correct cleaning method – using the wrong technique can damage the bullet and even your firearm. Make sure you use a method that is appropriate for the amount of damage on your bullets. So, don’t use a vinegar and salt solution where scrubbing with steel wool can work.

If you are unsure about how to proceed, consult a professional.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning bullets can be a tedious process, but it’s important to do it correctly. There are several different methods that you can use, but my favorite is the vinegar and salt method. It’s fast and efficient, leaving your bullets shining like new.

Whether you agree with me on the “best” method or not, the most important thing is to make sure your bullets are clean before you load them into your gun. Your firearm will thank you for it.

For more, check out How to Safely Store a Gun for Home Defense | Best Practices.

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