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Is it safe to Reload Once Fired Brass? Top 5 Guidelines for Reusing Brass Cases.

Safety of Reloading Once Fired Brass

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Safety of Reloading Once Fired Brass

Safety of Reloading Once Fired Brass?

Admit it, you know you want to. Your at your favorite range or shooting area and look down to a pile of spent brass from previous shooters. You think “ooh free brass, I could use that..”. We’ve all done it, and many would jump on the chance to collect as much free brass as possible. So when is it safe to use that brass and when is it best thrown into the recycle?

There are many things to consider when reloading once fired brass, all of which are important for the reliability of the ammunition and firearm, and more so for personal safety. With all the conflicting data out there, whose to know what is safe and what is not? I’ve spent some time considering some of the finer points I found in reloading manuals, magazines, online forums, and talking to others with experience in this regard and took the top 5 for this article. With these 5 points and some good research and personal responsibility on your part, you should be relatively safe. The biggest thing to remember is, never cut corners. Always pay attention. Never get distracted, and never get comfortable while handling components.

1. Always inspect your brass.

Usually there are signs of when brass is no good.  Many times however, there are none. Know what to look for and how to identify it. If you find cracks, dents, rippled primers, splits, or distortion of any kind, throw the brass into your  recycle bucket.

2. Know where your brass came from.

Did you find it at the local range or favorite shooting pit? If you pick it up, be careful, inspect it, clean it, and determine after close examination if it is a good idea. Err on the side of caution and only use found brass for light loads, and generally never reload high powered rifle brass if you are unsure of its origin, as it may not show signs of stress and could be dangerous.



3. Be Cautious and Load Light.

If the brass shows no signs of stress, its still always good to load light, especially for high pressure cartridges. This is not to say you have to be at the bottom of the recommended load data, but definitely don’t push the max. My once fired pistol brass gets reused many times, however only for light target loads unless I have confirmed where it came from and the manufacturing quality. Some brands make better brass than others. It’s always good to know who makes what and what the quality is. Is it never safe to reload once fired brass when you are skeptical of the quality.

Always Inspect Once Fired Brass

Always Inspect Once Fired Brass

4. Log the Life Span of the Case.

Collect, Sort, and Mark your brass. How many times do you plan on reloading the same cartridge? As I collect my once fired brass, I sort it, clean it in batches, and keep it separated by manufacturer. After this I mark the bottom of each cartridge with a sharpie marker to indicate how many times it has been fired. After it is fired and cleaned, it gets a new mark and put into a bin of the same case life. Once they reach a certain number of reloads, I toss them into the brass recycle. Case

5. Proper Case Prep Can’t Be Overstated.

Are you reloading rifle? On top of knowing where your brass came from, were you careful to log your load data and check for signs of over pressure? Rifle brass, far more than pistol, tends to stretch and contort more and must be properly trimmed, cleaned, deburred and checked for proper sizing before reloading. Skipping this step or cutting corners can be highly dangerous and result in serious malfunctions and lethal case pressures.

There are many other steps and things to look for regarding once fired brass. What are some of the other steps you use to maintain your brass and track its safety and reliability?

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7 Comments

  1. I haven’t reloaded, but wouldn’t mind doing so at some point in the future. I’ve read your review on the Winchester white box 9mm ammo, and was wondering if you have one, or plan to write one, on the different manufacturers, with some quality ratings? I wouldn’t know which manufacturers’ brass was best to consider for reloading without reading such an article/review, or doing research elsewhere.

  2. Great info.
    I use allot of once fired 45 ACP brass and always inspect it carefully although as one of the slower calibers its pretty forgiving. One thing that I always check is that small primer 45 did not make it in the batch as they really screw up my operation and can potentially be dangerous if an attempt to seat a large primer in one of these is made. I separate my head stamps after cleaning and load in groups of fifty and if I switch head stamp groups I check the first ten or so to verify seating depth and crimp as well as primer seating characteristics.

    • I follow a similar process, with all of my separated/cleaned/processed brass being sealed in Rubbermaid bins and labeled for later use. Nothing worse than that one case that sneaks in and screws up your process.

      A lot of my pistol loading is plinking/light load stuff in large quantity and separating head-stamps didn’t used to be as important to me until I got a bunch of MilSpec in the batch without noticing it and crushed a primer. Thankfully it didn’t go off. I’m very sensitive to the primer seating now and If everything is setup and aligned correctly, any resistance past a steady light pressure is usually a pretty good indicator to back off the handle.

  3. Brass cassings are better and cleanier then steel. And safer to shoot and more reliable. I have many different types of guns that shoot brass casings and love them all. The only gun that is rugged enough to consistently shoot steel cassings automatic and semiautomatic is the ak47.

    • I don’t really know if too many firearms that don’t shoot brass, at least modern firearms. That being said, there is definitely a lot of steel cased stuff that comes from the east and it is definitely a little rougher on the firearm. Although, I recently tested some Steel Case TulAmmo and was actually a little surprised at the results.

    • I have shot quite a bit of steel through many guns, but it is noticeably harder on the extractors and such. The AK47 was pretty much built around the idea of using cheap readily available ammo, so yes it does quite well with this sort of ammo. Guns like the AR-15 or M4 on the other hand tend to require a little more finesse at times and don’t seem to like the Steel Case stuff as much.

  4. As long as those brass cases are not completely worn out then they should be reused to save money. I can understand how people would want to get newer rounds. It is safe that way just have to check them before use.

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