8 things I “love” about picking up brass

Just like gun cleaning, picking up brass is an inevitable side effect of shooting–and both of these activities present a, shall I say complicated, perhaps even love/hate, relationship to us dedicated shooters.  Frankly, there’s not a lot I like about picking up brass–shoot, I don’t even reload.

So, okay, maybe love is the wrong word for the title (though note, that it is in quotes), but, I do know that I love shooting and the lifestyle that comes with it, so, with a wink, here are eight things I truly enjoy about picking up brass…

1.  Cleaning up while wearing heavy gear 


This goes back to my military and tactical response days.  Especially in the military, there are strange, sometimes very unreasonable and even tortuous requests.  One that sticks with me is when a senior NCO would not let anyone take off Kevlar helmets, heavy vests and all the “battle rattle” during training–at anytime.

Trying to bend over with all that gear on is less than comfortable, especially after a long day.  Go on–try it yourself.

2.  Holding a rifle and trying to keep the muzzle from hitting the dirt

When you are on the range with a rifle, you need to be careful not to muzzle yourself, muzzle your buddy or stick your barrel in the mud or dirt.  Laying the gun down and then picking up brass makes sense, but if you shoot long enough, it becomes pretty redundant.

Over the years, I’ve become a master over the years at picking up brass while safely holding my rifle.  As I recall, it wasn’t by choice either (see explanation to no. 1 above).

3.  Getting muzzled while others pick up brass

Not everyone went through basic training and no one likes to get muzzled, whether in a gun store or on the range.  Even though their firearms should be empty when they’re picking up brass, I don’t trust too many folks with gun safety I can’t see, especially at a public range where I don’t know anyone.

4.  Unexpectedly finding someone’s chew spit on the brass

This has got to be the most annoying/disgusting thing about picking up brass.  Dipping and chewing on the range is a no-no in my book–it’s a rule when I’m in charge of the range.  And so it follows that if you spit anywhere there could be brass, you’ll be the only one picking up all the brass.

Just swallow it.

5.  When I get to pick up brass and I didn’t even get to shoot


Been there.  Done that.  Who likes to pick up brass when they didn’t get to shoot?  ‘Nuff said.

6.  Dealing up with the weather

I’ve picked up brass in the cold and snow from Colorado to South Korea, Illinois to Utah.  Digging in the snow and ice, trying to find every last piece of brass, destroys your hands (and worse yet, sometimes gloves just won’t work, especially if the brass is really dug in).

On the flip side, I’ve also sweat buckets in the Texas humidity during July and August and in the hellish heat of Kuwait and Iraq in the summer.  Wearing a vest and heavy gear just adds to the agony of picking up brass.

7.  Kneeling in the gravel

Grass ranges are strange and pretty unusual.  After all, who wants to mow up brass?  (Though for the record, I have shot at some pretty cool grass ranges.)

I don’t really like cement ranges that much either.  Call me old, a sissy, or whatever makes you feel good about yourself but kneeling on the cement isn’t much fun for this guy anymore.

But the worst–the worst–is kneeling on the gravel (no, I don’t use knee pads).  I’m sure you’ve had gravel imprints on your knees too.  One word: Ouch.

8.  When I don’t have to do it

The one thing I truly love about picking up brass (though it is sometimes a weird sensation because of a lifetime of everything I mentioned above) is when I don’t have to do it.  That’s the best.

One of my favorite outdoor ranges of all time had the local Boy Scouts come out and pick up brass as part of their education/service.  Now you’re talkin’.

Of course, indoor static ranges don’t often make you pick up brass, but shooting static in lanes can get pretty dull in my mind.  The indoor ranges where you can move and shoot usually have brass rollers, which are pretty cool.  Brooms are okay.  I like grabbing a cardboard target backer and pushing the brass up in a pile.  Even better, I like not picking up brass at all.

Maybe someday, a genius will invent a brass magnet.  If that’s you, contact me. I will buy some stock in that company!

Cover image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Marcos T. Hernandez