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A common source of enjoyment in Russia and Ukraine: family outings to pick mushrooms. In the United States it’s not uncommon for families to head into the woods and hills to pick berries of various types. As a child growing up in the wilds of northern Wisconsin, I picked blueberries, raspberries, wild strawberries, blackberries, pin cherries and choke cherries. A friend sent me these pictures of a recent family outing . . .

In the spring, after the snow has melted, the local range offered opportunities for gathering brass that had accumulated over the winter. The children found picking brass to be much more fun than picking mushrooms or berries. You can see that their hands are full of .223, .40 S&W, and the occasional .45.

Springtime in Wisconsin is cool and pleasant. The mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies and ticks have not yet hatched/emerged to mar the outdoor experience. You can see the range berms in the background. It looks as though there are a few spots where the snow is not completely melted.  The little girls are wearing rubber boots, a good choice for a Wisconsin spring.

The final harvest reveals how the gun culture recycles valuable artifacts, saves energy, and has a good time while doing so.

The grandparents of the children live in Ukraine. One of the girls said she wished they could send the brass to grandma, so that they could defend themselves.

The father assured me that since the invasion of Ukraine, many former pacifists have decided that they should have weapons. But firearms are tightly controlled in the legal market. If you have money, they are available from the endemic organized crime figures.

The East Block-type ammo is mostly steel-cased and Berdan primed. It’s much harder to reload than the brass cases common in the United States. Reloading supplies are almost impossible to come by.

I suspect that brass picking is a uniquely American experience. More’s the pity.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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  1. The kids should probably be wearing rubber gloves. Potential exposure to lead is probably low but worth taking precautions. Especially for the very young when their systems are more susceptible to foreign matter contamination and the effects of same.

    • Everything they are picking up was probably jacketed, so the concern would be mostly around lead from the primer and powder which should be pretty low levels. As long as they thoroughly wash their hands they should be fine. That being said, a pair of latex gloves definitely won’t do any harm. Plus when they ask why it is a segway to talk with your kids about any number of subjects, including environmental impact, communicable disease transmission/importance of hand washing, etc.

      • I agree with everything you said, but “segway” is a two wheeled electric thing that mall cops and tourists ride. The word you want is spelled “segue”.

        I put on my gloves when I gather up my own brass after a session, but that’s more because it was just fired. Old brass lying around after winter snows are probably clean enough.

    • This is in the real world where snow has buried the range for several months and has had multiple rains thru the spring. No bama global warmin droughts etc.

      LEAD poisoning? Really? Nannyism never ends. The kids probably should have on Level A suits. Or should have not even been allow out of the communal nursery.

      • I wouldn’t be so sure that lead isn’t an issue. I haven’t tested casings to see the residual lead content, but lead poisoning is no joke. A friend of mine did chelation therapy to try to get rid of muscle spasms from a high amount of lead in his body, which he believes was caused by washing engine parts in leaded gas 30-40 years ago. Granted, he probably did this a lot, and a liquid is much more absorbed through the skin, but trust me, you don’t want lead in your body. It can cause all kinds of discomfort later in life. I’ll take the risk of being made fun of for washing my hands after cleaning my gun too, as there is a similar risk to absorbing small amounts over time as my friend who had his hands in leaded gasoline 100s of times. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

        • I wear gloves to clean my guns.
          Once, I removed my contact lenses after cleaning my firearms. I thought I’d washed my hands well enough. Ha. Burned like pepper spray. I get a good nitrile exam glove for 10 bucks a hundred pair. It’s worth it.

    • Go back to your moms basement you liberal. You probably make your kids use antibacterial everything 24/7 too

      • People who don’t want lead in their bodies are liberal? Okay. If kids can get lead poisoning from paint, which has a much lower concentration than a bullet, then washing their hands after picking up casings, and before putting food in their mouths, MIGHT just be a good idea too. Why wouldn’t you wash your hands before putting something in your mouth anyway? Germs are a completely different subject than poisons such as heavy metals, which accumulate in the body. Also, that was not a good analogy you made, comparing to people who use antibacterial soap too. It’s been proven to actually create bacterial resistance, so ordinary soap is much better anyway.

    • I do not know how I ever survived my childhood. Yes, handling spent brass is just such a danger! Think of the children….

    • I agree. If they were my little ones I wouldn’t have them picking up brass. But that’s me – to each their own.

      I will say that when I was 8 my parents free ranged me so much that I would frequently solder electrical gadgets with lead based solder complete with coughing vapors. I didn’t wash my hands because I wasn’t aware of the hazards. I turned out alright (sorta).

  2. I just wish the guys who shoot steel or aluminum cases or rimfire guns would pickup after themselves. The centerfire brass will get scavenged quickly enough.

    • I pick up aluminum others leave and toss it in with the other aluminum I accumulate to sell. I’ll take a handful of rusty steel to throw in the compost heap for conservation work, to keep the stuff iron-rich.

  3. I would imagine there is plenty of brass to p/u in the Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, etc., etc., etc.

    • “I would imagine there is plenty of brass to p/u in the Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, etc., etc., etc.”

      Metal on a battlefield is usually gathered up fairly quickly. Brass is worth good money.

      Usually at the danger of the scavengers. Booby-trapped, etc.

  4. The one indoor club range in NJ that I used to shoot at (no longer exists) had a couple of 5 gallon buckets for .22LR brass that was gathered and then sold for scrap price with the $ going to the local Boy Scouts. Most other brass got collected by the shooters themselves to reload.

    • Does it work on Glocks? 🙂

      I took a fishnet and replaced the netting with a mesh laundry bag. It’s voice-activated (I tell my wife to grab the net and catch my brass).

  5. I’d pick up my brass, but after a few hours of being stooped over, I’d spend the next few weeks in traction. Besides, I’d like to know if that character in Mad Max: Fury Road called “The Bullet Farmer” is really onto something.

  6. I own a reloading components business that specializes in selling once fired brass ( ). We work with brass on a daily basis so wearing latex gloves is definitely a requirement. If you’re handling large quantities of dirty range brass on a regular basis, lead poisoning is probably a valid concern. That said, my employees and I have never tested above normal levels for lead and we’re certainly in the “high risk” category. If we’re around it everyday, I’m sure the kids picking it up after rain, snow, etc. are fine. It is, however, a good habit to wash your hands after shooting and/or handling dirty brass.


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