What is Once Fired Brass and Range Brass?

If you fire a lot of rounds for practice, competition, or want to reload your own custom ammunition for accuracy, chances are that you will end up buying used brass because it is typically more cost-effective. However, purchasing brass is complicated by several commonly used terminologies. With an understanding of each term, you can make the best decisions for your reloading bench.

Generally, used brass can be categorized into one of three categories: range brass, once-fired brass, and bulk brass. Each of these categories have their own unique characteristics, but none have specific definitions, so you may find that they overlap. It is important to determine how your supplier refers to them in order to select the right brass for your reloading needs.

Once-fired brass is not always “once-fired”.

Though the common industry term for used brass is “once-fired brass,” the reality is that a case may actually have been fired multiple times.

So what’s your best bet when it comes to getting once-fired brass? If you really want to reload truly once-fired brass, get it from a range that never uses reloads. These ranges will most likely be a military or LEO range. However, take special care when getting your brass from military ranges as it could have crimped primer pockets or be made of heavier brass to meet military specifications.

Range Brass is recovered from a shooting range.

If you are new to the reloading bench, you may have heard the term range brass. This brass is generated from shooting ranges and quality may vary depending on the range – especially indoor versus outdoor ranges. It is typically unsorted, not cleaned, and sold by ranges in 5 gallon buckets.

Bulk Brass is sold in large boxes, drums or pallets.

Bulk brass is similar to range brass, but less expensive and sold in larger quantities by companies that have bought and consolidated multiple range brass parcels. The shells will likely be mixed head stamps, dirty, and some cases will be damaged beyond use.

Buying the brass is only the first step to reloading your own ammunition. After the brass is purchased, it will need to be inspected/sorted, cleaned, de-primed, swaged, resized, and trimmed (depending on caliber). Loading the same load data into different manufacturers’ cases may result in slightly different performance and accuracy. If you are trying to load for the most precise ammunition, it is important to use brass of the same head stamp. This is due to the fact that cases are manufactured to what is called SAAMI Specifications. SAAMI spec is not a specific size or pressure requirement, but merely an acceptable range.

We will go into further detail of each of these steps in future articles, but in the meantime, you can find more information on cleaning your brass casings at the links below.