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.
For Dirty Brass:
WARNING – This product
can expose you to chemicals including lead and lead compounds, which are known
to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other
reproductive harm. For more information
go to www. P65Warnings.ca.gov
to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), chronic
exposure to lead in adults is associated with impaired kidney function, high
blood pressure, nervous system and neurobehavioral effects, cognitive
dysfunction later in life, and subtle cognitive effects attributed to prenatal
exposure. Pregnant women need to be
especially concerned with reducing blood lead levels since this can have
serious impact on the developing fetus.
effects of exposure to lead include adverse effects on cognitive functions, adverse
effects on sperm/semen quality and delayed conception, cognitive aging,
deficits in visuomotor dexterity, lower reaction times, and attention
deficit. At higher blood lead levels, symptoms
can include headache, fatigue, sleep disturbance, joint pain, myalgia,
anorexia, and constipation, acute effects such as convulsions, coma, and in
some cases, death, to more chronic conditions such as anemia, peripheral
neuropathy, interstitial kidney fibrosis, and severe abdominal cramping.
appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of exposure, including but not
limited to the following: Do Not Eat, Drink or Smoke When Handling. Do Not Remove Dust By Blowing or Shaking.
Dispose of Lead Contaminated Wash Water in Accordance with Applicable Local,
State, or Federal Regulations. Use
proper hygiene and take precautions not to transfer lead dust from shell
casings via your skin, hair, clothes or shoes to other surfaces or other people.
additional information regarding lead exposure and precautions, see the