A modern guide to guns and hunting

Hornady Lock-N-Load Magnum Sonic Cleaner

Clean Cases Fast and Thoroughly

As much as I enjoy handloading, there are steps that I find less than pleasant. One such step is case cleaning: the tumblers are necessarily dirty, removing the media from the cases (and vice versa) is tedious, and the noise from the tumbler prevents me from enjoying sports radio. Tumbling is also a relatively time-consuming process. Addressing all these problems and more is the Hornady Lock-N-Load Magnum Sonic Cleaner.

Ultrasonic cleaning is relatively new to case care, but has been around for decades in other areas, notably jewelry cleaning. The principle is to use ultrasonic frequency energy waves, conducted through the cleaning liquid, to break down and carry away surface debris from whatever you’re cleaning. The process is non-abrasive, gentle, quiet and quick: after several uses, I have yet to find any cases that needed more than 15 minutes to come out sparkling clean.

The Magnum is the newer, bigger brother to Hornady’s popular Sonic Cleaner, and features a few improvements besides increased capacity:

  • the metal housing is durable and compact
  • the digital controls offer flexibility and are easy to use
  • it does a complete clean, eliminating separate steps for the neck and primer pocket

One Step Cleaning

This last benefit deserves some attention. For the serious handloader, case care includes tumbling the case, removing the media, then taking separate steps to clean the inside of the neck and the primer pocket. All this takes time and hassle. The Magnum Sonic Cleaner reduces these efforts to dumping a load into the basket, pushing a few buttons, waiting a few minutes, then rinsing and drying the brass. This is a quantum improvement in convenience, and is also probably more thorough than what most of us can (or will take the time to) do. For many handloaders, the time savings alone will be worth the investment.

Easy to Operate

Hornady Lock-N-Load Magnum Sonic Cleaner Front Panel
As the picture above shows, the control/display panel of the Magnum Sonic Cleaner are large, clear and eminently easy to understand. The controls (represented in light blue) are momentary push buttons, and offer adjustable timing of cleaning time and solution temperature. Once you’ve used this, there will be no more need to refer to the single sheet of instructions.

Very Effective

Before I tested this unit, I had heard that other ultrasonic cleaners, while functional, produced less than highly aesthetic results, because they don’t polish the brass the way a tumbler does. For reasons that only I understand (and I’m not even sure I do), I care about how my handloads look, so this was a minor concern for me. I am happy to report, however, that the Magnum Sonic Cleaner left my cases sparkling bright. The results are as visually appealing as they are mechanically effective.

Recommended Usage

The use of the Magnum Sonic Cleaner does call for a slightly different procedure in the handloading sequence. When using a tumbler (something I don’t think I’ll be doing much anymore), my process was to:

  1. tumble the brass
  2. drop the brass into the case feeder
  3. set up the progressive press and go

(Note that this process didn’t include cleaning the necks or primer pockets; I guess I’m not that serious a handloader.)

With the Magnum Sonic Cleaner, though, you want to remove the spent primers before usage. This creates a bit of a catch-22, though: you don’t want to put dirty cases through your sizing/decapping die, and you don’t want to clean until you’ve removed the primer.

The solution to this was to purchase a Hornady universal decapping die. The handloading process is now:

  1. run the brass through the progressive press for decapping purposes only
  2. clean the brass in the Magnum Sonic Cleaner
  3. run the brass through the progressive a second time for sizing, priming, powder and bullet, and seating.

To some people, this extra step may seem like a hassle, but I can assure you, it’s much more than offset by the conveniences mentioned above that are afforded by the Magnum Sonic Cleaner. 20 caliber shooters should note, however, that the “universal” decapping die is intended for use only with .224 and larger calibers. (I plan to try to address this by making a thinner spindle for the die in the junior college machining class in which I’m currently enrolled.)


The Magnum Sonic Cleaner may not qualify as a handloading essential, but its clean, quiet and thorough operation makes it really nice. Besides faster cleaning, there’s no more tumbler dust in the workshop, the cases are cleaned inside and out, and I can hear my radio while it’s operating. If you do a significant amount of case cleaning, this is a product that deserves a close look.

Print Friendly

Leave a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.