You’re a young child out shooting with your family on a warm sunny day. It’s been a fun day of shooting targets and exploding watermelons. As you prepare to pack up and leave, one of the adults says, “It’s time to pick up the brass.”¬† Back then, you might have thought they were simply being courteous by cleaning up after themselves. While that’s a good practice, many people also gather brass for reloading purposes. In this article, we are going to cover some of the things to look for when inspecting brass for re-use.

Cracks in the brass:

When you are inspecting brass begin by examining the base of the brass closely for signs of case head separation, which appears as cracks parallel to the base. This issue occurs when the brass thins out excessively at the head or base, typically from multiple reloads or being overstretched in a loose chamber.

Another common area for cracks to develop is on the shoulder or neck. I’ve encountered once-fired brass that either split at the neck or showed wrinkles in the shoulder.

Excessive Pressure:

Check the headstamp for signs like flat primers or ejector marks. These indicate potential over-pressuring of the round. If a round has been over-pressured, the primers may not seat properly during subsequent reloading. If you’re responsible for the load, consider reducing it slightly to avoid issues.

Dented Brass:

This can result from various factors such as failure to eject or extract, being stepped on or run over, or other ways brass can be deformed. Any alteration in the brass’s structure can lead to a spike in pressure during the next loading.


When dealing with corrosion, the first step is to run the brass through a tumbler to assess its condition. If the brass hasn’t become thinner and shows no signs of cracks, it should still be suitable for reloading. However, it’s crucial to proceed with caution and conduct a thorough inspection.

Case Make-Up:

Stick to brass and nickel-plated cases for reloading, as they are the most suitable materials. Avoid steel and aluminum cases, as they can pose challenges during reloading. Also, be cautious with brass-washed steel cases and Berdan-primed brass. Some pistol brass manufacturers include a step inside the case, which can lead to pressure spikes if loaded to the same specifications as brass without this feature.

The most important takeaway is to inspect your collected brass thoroughly. You don’t know how many times it has been reloaded or how hot the loads were. If you notice cracks, brass folded at the neck, bends, or any other signs of damage, discard it into the recycling bucket rather than the reloading bucket.