Five Ways to Reuse Spent Cartridges

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — where there’s gunfire, there will be spent casings.

Okay, so not in all cases, but the vast majority of firearms leave you with an empty cartridge casing after the shot has been fired. And far too many of those casings (and especially shotshell wads) remain on the ground to sink into the soil as litter — sometimes even tilled into the crops we grow, harvest, sell, and eat.

While there are plenty of reasons you should pick up your spent casings (and wads) in the field or at the range, here are three compelling reasons to consider:

• We all have a responsibility to pick up and properly dispose of our waste — period.
• We don’t want anyone to know where we discovered successful hunting on public land or even at the club.
• We want to reuse the casings in some way.

When we think of reusing casings most people immediately jump to reloading. If you’ve got the time and attention to detail, it’s an outstanding option that will pay dividends in gun food and firearms knowledge.

Sell it! Every metal has its worth and spent brass casings are no exception. Ammunition manufacturers like Freedom Munitions (TTAG’s new ammo sponsor) have a brass credit program to help you reduce the cost of your ammo without having to reload it yourself.

Remember playing with belts of dummy rounds as a kid? These days it’s hard to find good ones, even online, so make your own! The supplies you’ll need are widely available: a primer punch, a box of FMJ bullets, a box of cartridge links, and a bullet press. Don’t forget to wash your brass after you punch the primers!

Shotshell celebration lights! What are we celebrating? Whatever the hell you want, you’ve got shotshell lights! Simply punch the primers on your shotshell hulls, then insert a LED holiday light and secure it inside. Battery-powered light strings will allow you to take your celebrating anywhere!

Hoard it. Okay, some call it collecting. Or at least I did when I was a kid — before “hoarding” was a way to get on TV, anyway. But seriously; fill every bag, box, and bin with as much as you can. Why? Because you never know when 10,000 dirty, rusty and corroded casings might net you something sweet in a random Armslist trade.

So, do you collect casings in the field and at the range? If so, what’s your driving force? What do you do with them once you have them in-hand?


  1. avatar Joe R. says:

    Mail them to me @:

    Joe R.
    P.O. Box . . .
    . . . , Oklahoma 74 _ _ _

    1. avatar Hank says:

      This is an interesting concept… for TTAG. Honestly I’d probably mail all my spent brass in to TTAG so they could reload it for reviews. If they’d do that kind of thing.

  2. avatar MyName says:

    Of course I collect them. The ones that are mine or of good quality in a caliber I use get reloaded, the others get recycled and the odd ones go into my “Name That Brass” collection. Fun at parties, quiz your friends, can they tell the difference between .303 british and 30-30 winchester at 10 meters.

    1. avatar MyName says:

      Oh, and lest I forget, small, thin, cylindrical pieces of brass can be useful as bushings and sleeves for all manner of repairs and hacks. For instance, the tubular magazine on my granddad’s .22 was cracking around the end where the little knurled knob fit into it’s notch on the end. That is now reinforced with a headless .45 ACP case and a little silver solder – even looks kinda cool.

      1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

        Steel cased 9×18 makes a decent hole punch for things like leather.

  3. avatar Cucamonga Jeff says:

    Made some into key chains. My wife loves her 7.62×39 on her car keys.

    1. avatar Brainman says:

      Just make sure she doesn’t drive through DC with that key chain.

  4. avatar Mr. savage says:

    I sell, trade, and reload my brass, and everyone else’s brass in the county. I sort it all, take what I need, and post the rest on armslist, usually end up trading, I’ve gotten everything from powders and primers, all the way up to a Remington 870 wingmaster magnum 12ga in perfect low use condition, I cringe when I see folks picking up their brass.

  5. avatar BLAMMO says:

    I don’t reload. Don’t have the patience or the temperament. But I gather up to my brass, sort it by caliber, bag if and eventually give it away to whomever wants it.

    1. avatar Mr. savage says:

      I’d pay shipping on free brass if you are giving it away!

      1. avatar BLAMMO says:

        Nah. That would still require some level of effort on my part.

  6. avatar alexander boshnack says:

    Awesome. Now I need a use for all these bottle caps…

    1. avatar Hank says:

      Easy. That’ll all turn into money one day soon….

  7. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Glue 9mm casings over those cheap plastic valve stem caps on your tires. It looks cool.
    (YMMV, I’m on my third set, they keep getting stolen)

    1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

      I see a home based business in your future.

    2. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      I bought some .44 mag brass for my valve stems just to see what it looked like on on my Ram, big tires, lifted. When I went out on the property I got off in a rut on the back 40 logging road and it ripped that stem right out, tire went flat immediately. So, no. Plus it looked redneck as hell.

  8. avatar Joe R. says:

    Processing U.S. Lead (Pb) ore into anything in the U.S., much less projectiles for small arms, is damn near impossible environmentally, and much to nearly all is sold to China (thank you again Ohole and Hillocrap [like their Uranium1 deal]) and purchased-back as processed raw material.

    I only type this here because soon, we’ll be digging out lead out of berms and backstops.

    1. avatar Hank says:

      Guess we’ll have to make them out of steel then.

  9. avatar strych9 says:

    I bag it, punch out the old primers, wash it and then it sits until I have enough to justify a run on ye olde reloading press.

    Once it’s no longer safe/useful for that it goes into buckets for recycle. They pay reasonably well for used brass if you take it to the right places.

  10. avatar Ralph says:

    “Casings are for sausages, cases are for ammunition.”

    — Jeff Cooper

  11. avatar EU says:

    10mm brass with glock smiles? Drop of few Harbor Freight rare earth magnets into the case, seat a bullet, and you have a real cool magnet for your fridge. It takes the sting away from discarding used-up 10mm brass.

  12. avatar TexTed says:

    People make jewelry, cufflinks, tie pins, all sorts of things out of old casings or shells. You can buy empty shotgun shells by the dozen on places like ebay or etsy.

  13. avatar Rokurota says:

    My kid picks them up at the range and brings them to school for show and tell.

    1. avatar DrDKW says:

      No feedback from his teachers?
      Must be one of those rare school administrations where they don’t freak out over a threatening pop-tart!


      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        My oldest child took ballistics gel with .22 LR bullets still in the gel to middle school for a science project — and got a “B” grade. No one from the school called us or freaked out.

        For reference the science project was about determining if a cartridge generates more muzzle velocity if you fire it from a handgun versus a long gun — and using penetration depth in ballistics gel as the indicator of velocity. The project might have even included a photo of my child shooting the ballistics gel.

        1. avatar A Brit in TX says:

          Nice project! However, if many hours of watching ballistics testing on ‘The Tube’ has taught me is that higher velocity can increase expansion thereby reducing penetration. However, this may not apply to non-expanding bullets.

          When I was at school, a similar experiment to determine muzzle energy of an air rifle (yes, we did this in the classroom in the UK) was to shoot it at a little cart with a blob of blue tack on it. The energy transferred was calculated from the distance the cart traveled along with its weight. Despite doing this behind a perspex screen, the teacher managed to hit one of the kids in the class when the pellet missed the little cart and ricocheted off something behind it. Fun times!!

  14. avatar 5spot says:

    A slightly sharpened .22 can by used as a circular cigar end cutter.

  15. avatar BigDaveinVT says:

    I police my brass. Usually pick up anything else that’s in good shape and a caliber I reload as well. Grendel brass is precious to me so I use a bullet catcher for that.

    My son made necklaces out of 5.56 and .308 cases. He wears one to school – under his shirt because they have rules against that kind of stuff.

  16. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

    When I compared freedom munitions brass tradein program, I found I got almost 25% more taking it to the local scrapyard. I take my .22 to scrap and hoard the rest in case reloading becomes cost effective in the future. I pick up my steel and throw that in with the other farm scrap.

    I reload shot shells twice then discard.

  17. avatar Pat says:

    20mm and up make decent shot glasses.

    105mm on up make decent beer steins.

  18. avatar Mustrum Ridcully says:

    The Alsmost mention of Caseless ammo in the artical reminded me that about 40 years Ago I was having an interesting chat with a Honcho at a major Conn. firearms giant (this was when Colt was still a healthy outfit) and we were discussing when the USA would be moving to a Caseless ammo in its MBR. He said even money 20 years I plumped for 25 but I would have bet strong that the world would have relegated Brass to the hobby market by now… The germans back in the 80s had made huge strides in careless tech yet here we are with brass still in use I reload in excess of 3,500 rounds a year on my Dillon in .45 long Colt for my SASS hobby. reloading in bulk is a doddle with about $1,500 in stuff from Dillon and of course the consumables.
    but I am frankly amazed that we do not have practical caseless ammo yet.

    1. avatar ironicatbest says:

      I believe it was Remington that tried a case less cartridge also, if my memory is correct it fired with electronic ignition. It was supposed to be the bee”s knee’s. Never heard what happened with it. Slightly concerned about no lead smelting plants in the U.S. makes it to easy to ban stuff. One sanction away from lead bullets. I ipick up brass for reloading. Think I ll make a necklace, that’d look cool.

      1. avatar Ed Schrade says:

        I understand that all vehicle batteries are being made in Mexico and other countries because of our emperors war on lead. Seems like a national security problem if all these countries were to cease to trade with us.

    2. avatar CarlosT says:

      From what I understand, a big obstacle for caseless ammo is that the case acts as a heat sink, and ejecting it therefore removes a lot of heat from the action very effectively. With no case, the gun needs another way to get rid of that heat, and there haven’t been many good developments along that path.

  19. avatar Gralnok says:

    I make Christmas lights with the red and green shotgun shells. Very tedious, but fun when company comes over during the holidays.

    As for other shells… Well, .22lr can be cleaned out then used as crimp-on wire connectors for large gauge wire splicing. I made a hippy-style bead curtain out of my friend’s 9mm shells, and my .40 brass I hoard/stockpile so I can recycle it or turn it in for reloading whenever I need extra money or extra .22lr ammo.
    Or I just randomly throw it at my friend when I feel like being a pest. =P

  20. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

    I was at the range today and did a little brass hounding when I was done. Who in hell leaves nickel plated .308 lying on the ground?

  21. avatar DCJ says:

    Did anyone see the movie “The Seige of Jadotsville”? Now there was a good use of brass cases…

    1. avatar whoopie says:

      Ha! Yeah. If you have a 2″ (or larger) black powder cannon, a baggie full of 9mm cases makes good grape shot. Fill them with cement or lead for even more ‘effect’.

  22. avatar Johnny108 says:

    When I shoot ball ammo, I gather it up into a sandwich bag (Wife and I bring a cooler with sodas and sandwiches to the range- I use the empty bag- while we eat- other shooters get a confused look- we can do that?), and leave it on the bench.
    When we go back the next day or so- it’s gone.
    We’ve had “brass hounds” sit and watch us shoot for 4 hours at a time. Mostly staring at my wife’s ass (she doesn’t mind being a “gun bunny”), and then going nuts with a rake to pick up our 9mm and 5.56mm brass.
    I keep my 30.06 and .308 brass, in the hopes of one day getting a good, reliable hand load for my rifles.
    .22lr brass is collected up, along with 7.62×39. The .22 is given to a metal working step-brother’s son, to work into brass art (Japanese style arrowheads). The 7.62×39 is cleaned, and carefully/randomly placed in luggage for the return trip to Germany, where it is made (with FMJ bullets) into jewelry by me for “hardcore” Europeans who have never so much as touched an AK-47, but want to look like they have. (30Euro for empty steel cased FMJ 7.62×39 that they can put on a chain? Damn near covers the cost of the ammo I shoot when I come home!)

  23. avatar Kenneth says:

    If you leave your brass just laying around at the range, BLESS YOU!
    I, and many others like me, will gladly police it up for you. I reload most common calibers, uncommon ones are really valuable, and if they happen to be a somewhat common caliber I don’t reload(.357 SIG springs to mind), I can always sell them to someone else.
    And when the brass gets reloaded to the end of its life, I melt it down and make lots of other pretty things…

  24. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    I take the spent 3 1/2″ 12 ga. turkey hunting shells and put turkey beards in there. I run high-test fishing line through the primer hole, tie it to the meat end of the beard, wrap leather strips or hemp below the brass, and hang ’em up. I have a piece of barn wood with several hanging from it, and I have one hanging from my mirror, too. Not quite as redneck as .44 brass on my valve stems. Because I say so.

  25. avatar JebTN says:

    I do have a string of shotgun lights that my wife made into a Christmas wreath. Most of my uses don’t use enough to make a dent in my hoard but here goes.

    .50 Cal shell cases make a good tool to empty moon clips. I use a few smaller cases to slide over nails and screws that I hang things on when the hanger shows. I even have a few air guns hanging on shell casing in my shop. My son says to keep them for him when he gets around to setting up to reload.

  26. avatar Longhaired Redneck says:

    I have a friend who makes .224 bullets using expended .22lr cases as jackets. It seems terribly time-consuming to me but he enjoys the challenge. Oh yeah, he’s retired…

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