How Gun Owners Can Be (and Make) Green: Raking up Brass at the Range

I know what you’re thinking. Green? You’ve probably already stopped reading.  No, I’m not going get up on a soapbox about people giving up venison and lead bullets for a life of tofu and copper jackets, but I do have a few tips on how gun owners and shooters can be environmentally conscious—and make a few bucks on the side.   I am not sure what your target range looks like, but I know my small local range looks pretty shiny in the midday sun with all the spent brass on the ground and it always has seemed just plain wrong to let perfectly good casings rust on the ground.

For those of us that reload, the one thing that makes it all work is the casing.  Once you’ve got your reloading bench set up with all your equipment, brass casings can easily represent your biggest cost per round.  Unlike bullets, you cannot cast or otherwise easily make them yourself and without a steady, affordable supply, your reloading efforts may soon fail to make financial sense.

Brass cases.

Luckily, a lot of us handloaders are not all that picky where our brass comes from as long as it is in good (i.e. safe) condition which is good news for any enterprising shooters/conservationalists, because it seems quite a few folks (especially those with semi automatic pistols) don’t mind letting their brass fly willy nilly, leaving plenty on the ground after they’ve left the range.

Raking in the Brass Green

Before you take any spent casings you personally didn’t shoot yourself, make sure you ask permission from all parties involved before you collect it.  If you’re on the firing line and your neighbor doesn’t seem to care about the future life of his spent brass, ask him or her if they mind if you take it.  Most likely they’ll say you can and asking will avoid any awkward misunderstandings that could arise. 

Picking up brass.

Realize though, that gathering brass in this manner is pretty small scale compared to the buckets you could be getting by raking up around the shooting area.  Before doing this however, I strongly advise if not command you to check with the powers that be at your local range.  This could be the range officer, the club president or council, just make sure you have gotten the nod from your ranges top brass before you start shoveling any of their spent brass. 

The reason is simple: some ranges already collect and convert spent casings left on their property into cash.  This money often goes towards improving the range or keeping their members annual dues at affordable rates, so cutting into these profits wouldn’t necessarily benefit you either.  Still, even ranges that do make an effort to recycle brass usually do not have the resources or manpower to collect, sort and cash in all of it.  If this is the case, talk with your ranges’ officers and see if they’ll allow you to step in and pick up the slack or fill some role in the ranges’ collection process.

A Day’s Work…

After spending a morning or so raking brass, I usually have enough casings to almost fill a five-gallon pail. The first thing I do is sort out the rimfire cases from the good stuff (i.e. any other casing).  I stick the good stuff in my tumbler for a while to clean it and then I go through these and sort out any cases that are cracked or otherwise defective. I clean the cases first before I sort out the cracked cases because a) you can better see flaws on a clean casing than on one that’s been lying on the ground for months and b) I don’t throw these bad casings away. I put them and any .22’s in a separate bucket bound for the local scrapyard.  At current scrap prices, a full pail gets me about $40.  That is a half a tank of gas in my part of the world.

Brass collection.

I know some of you are thinking that’s an awful lot to go through for some once fired brass. Well, as with live cartridges, the price of the brass is dependent on what caliber it is and you would be surprised what people just abandon at their local range. I once found ten .300 Weatherby Magnum cases just lying next to the bench. I got a buck a piece for those ten cases at a gun show. Once I found over fifty once fired .45 GAP casings that sold for another $10 bill.

I can tell you that one five-gallon pail netted me over $100 after tumbling and reselling and it was just from stuff I picked up off the ground—really nothing more than just a lot of .45 ACP, 9mm and .30-06.

With numbers like that, there is no doubt a hungry reloading market out there that is willing to buy the once fired stuff that other shooters so carelessly leave behind to clutter and clog our shooting facilities. All it takes is a bucket and your local range (though stay away from mine) to show Al Gore how gun owners do “green”.

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