You’re a young child out shooting with your family on a warm sunny day. It has been a fun day of shooting targets and exploding watermelons. As you get ready to pack up and leave one of the adults says. “It’s time to pick up the brass.

At that time, you might have thought they were just being courteous by cleaning up after themselves. While that is a good practice, a lot of people also pick brass up to reload. In this article, we are going to cover some of the things to look for when you pick up brass for re-use.

Cracks in the brass:

Look closely at the base of the brass for signs of case head separation in the form of cracks parallel to the base. Which is caused when the brass becomes too thin at the head or base of the brass. Generally caused when the case has been re-loaded numerous times or overstretched in a loose chamber.

Another commonplace for cracks to form is on the shoulder or neck. I have picked up once-fired brass that has split on the neck or has a wrinkle in the shoulder.

Excessive Pressure:

Look at the headstamp, is the primer flat, are there ejector marks? These are signs that a round has been over-pressured. The primers may not stay in the next time you load if it has been. And if it is your load you may want to back it off a little.

Dented Brass:

This can be caused by a lot of things a failure to eject or extract, being stepped on or ran over, or the various other ways a piece of brass can be deformed. A change in the structure of the brass can cause pressure to spike the next time it is loaded.


As far as corrosion goes you first need to run it through a tumbler to see how bad it is. If the brass has not gotten thinner and shows no signs of cracks you should be able to reload it. Just be very careful and check it thoroughly.

Case Make-Up:

Brass and nickel-plated cases are the main materials you want to reload with. Steer clear of Steel and aluminum cases as they can be difficult to work with. And be mindful of brass washed steel cases and berdan primed brass. There are few pistol brass manufactures that put a step inside the case, these can also cause pressure spikes if loaded to the same specifications as other brass that do not.

The biggest thing to take away is to inspect your picked-up brass carefully. You have no idea how many times it was reloaded or how hot of a load they were making. If you see cracks, brass that is folded at the neck, bent, or just looks messed up. Put it in the recycle bucket and not the reload bucket.