How to Recycle Brass Shells - Bringing New Life to Spent Ammo

Published on August 8th, 2023 by Brett Knighton

Image showcasing the brass shell casings.

Welcome to the world of recycling brass shells, where one man's missed target is another man's treasure.

If you find yourself with an abundance of spent ammunition, don't rush to discard them. These spent bullet casings can be recycled, and if you have a significant amount, you might be looking at a nice payday.

Keep reading to discover the importance and techniques of recycling brass shells effectively.

What is a Brass Shell Casing?

A brass shell casing is a container that holds all the necessary components for firing a bullet, including the projectile, gunpowder, and primer.

Brass, a durable alloy of copper and zinc, is the material of choice for most bullet casings. Its resistance to corrosion and wear and its ability to retain strength even when reshaped make it a favored material used in bullets for hunting, sports shooting, or military activities.

A bullet diagram showing the brass casing, gunpowder, and bullet.
Image from IHEA

Once a person fires a gun, the empty shell casings left behind can be collected and recycled to create new bullet casings, contributing to a cycle of sustainability within the ammunition industry.

Why Recycle Brass Shells?

Every day, countless brass shell casings find their way into the trash, contributing to the growing waste management problem we are seeing on a global scale.

But not all waste is created equal.

Brass shells are a valuable resource that can be recycled by anyone, anywhere. They can be reused repeatedly in various products, helping to reduce this waste and protect our planet.

Environmental Benefits

When you recycle scrap, it helps to reduce landfill waste and conserve our resources.

Instead of having to mine and refine the material needed for new brass products, recycling and reusing these brass shells reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

It's a win for the environment and prevents improperly disposed brass shells from polluting our landscapes and waterways with heavy metals.

It also helps safeguard wildlife and reduces the potential for these contaminants to enter the human food chain.

Economic Benefits for Individuals

Recycling brass and other metals isn't just good for the planet. It's also good for your wallet and worth the money.

As of 2023, the average scrap price for empty brass shell casings is $1.50 to $2.50 per pound. Scrap metal prices will fluctuate with the market and will be determined based on your location.

These prices prove that recycling your spent ammo can become profitable, especially for frequent shooters or range operators.

Understanding the Weight-to-Value Ratio

The chart below gives you a clearer picture of how much you can earn from recycling your empty brass casings. It tells you the weight of empty brass casings based on the caliber and indicates how many are required to total a pound.

Caliber Weight (grams/each) Casings per lb
380 Auto 3.181 142.6
9mm 3.999 113.4
38 Super 4.208 107.8
40 SW 4.506 100.7
38 Special 4.578 99.1
357 SIG 4.539 99.9
10mm 4.751 95.5
7.62 TT 4.903 92.5
300 Blackout 5.601 81.0
45 ACP 5.816 78.0
Data from Arm or Ally

By understanding these metrics, you can estimate the value of your collected casings based on current market prices.

Contribution to the Broader Economy

Besides individual profit, recycling brass shells also plays a pivotal role in economic sustainability by contributing to the broader economy. Many local scrap metal recycling facilities accept brass shells, turning your waste into a valuable commodity.

Recycling brass shells can be recycled into brass instruments.

Brass, a critical raw material used in various industries, is found in plumbing fixtures, electrical wiring, tools, gears, automotive parts, handles, railings, and even musical instruments. The recycling process of brass typically involves melting it down and repurposing it into new products.

In addition, ammunition companies are constantly making new brass casings for bullets. With the help of people like you, recycling your spent casings helps save these industries money by reducing the cost of producing new brass.

Safety Measures for Handling Bullets and Brass Shell Casings

When handling brass shells, it's necessary to ensure they are safe. Empty bullet casings are generally safe, but safety measures should always be observed, as mishandling them can pose significant risks.

Always confirm that the ammunition has been fired and is empty of gunpowder before collecting the casings. Unused ammunition contains gunpowder and is considered live ammunition, which can be dangerous if mishandled.

Here's a simple guide to help you identify and handle casings safely:

  1. Bullet Presence: A quick glance will tell you if there's a bullet in the casing. If it's missing, you're likely looking at an empty case. However, this doesn't mean it's entirely safe.
  2. Check the Primer: The primer is a small, sensitive component at the base of the cartridge. If it's missing, the cartridge can't fire off in its current state. But be wary; even without a primer, residual gunpowder inside can ignite if exposed to heat or flame.
  3. Inspect the Primer for Dimples or Marks: Sometimes, a bullet doesn't fire when it should due to a faulty primer or a light strike that failed to ignite it. If this happens, you'll notice a dimple or mark on the primer.
  4. Spent shells: After bullets are fired, the spent shells are typically deformed or show a visible firing pin mark, distinguishing them from live ammunition that is shiny and unmarked.

Handle any live ammunition with care to avoid accidental discharge.

Even when empty, you should handle spent shells carefully, as they may have sharp edges or residual gunpowder residue.

Store your collected brass shells in a dry, cool place away from combustible materials. Gunpowder is highly flammable and could start a fire if any unspent shells are present and accidentally ignited.

Safety should always be your top priority when dealing with any ammo. Following these guidelines ensures that your recycling efforts are both safe and effective.

How to Recycle Brass Shell Casings

Recycling brass shell casings involves several key steps: collection, sorting, cleaning and preparing, finding locations that accept brass shells, and safely transporting them to the facility.

Brass shell casings ready to be recycled.

Collection and Sorting

To start, collect the spent brass casings. Once collected, sort them from other types of scrap ammunition metals, such as steel or aluminum.

You can distinguish brass casings from other metals with a simple magnet. Brass is not magnetic, so any cases the magnet attracts are not brass, and you should set them aside.

Preparing Your Brass Shells for Recycling

Before your brass shells can be processed, you must clean and deprime them properly.

  • Cleaning: You can clean the brass shells using a brass brush. This helps to remove any residual dirt, gunpowder, or other debris that may be present on the case.
  • Depriming: The next step is to deprime the shells by removing the spent primer from the base. You can accomplish this using a depriming tool or a reloading press.
  • Shotgun Shells: While most casings are primarily composed of brass, shotgun shells often have a brass base combined with a plastic hull. You must separate the plastic hull from the brass base before turning it into a scrap yard. Carefully cut around the bottom with a utility knife, ensuring you don't damage the brass. Once separated, the brass base can be cleaned and deprimed like other casings.

Locating a Place to Take Your Scrap Brass Shells for Safe Recycling

After you've collected and prepared your brass shells for recycling, the next step is finding a suitable place to take them. Here are some common places where you can take your brass shell casings to be recycled safely:

  1. Metal Recycling Facilities
  2. Scrap Yards
  3. Shooting Ranges
  4. Gun Shops
  5. Local Police Stations

Understanding The Facility's Capabilities

Some facilities won't have the equipment or licenses to handle ammunition disposal. One way to assess a center's capabilities and credibility is through certifications from reputable environmental or industry authorities.

These certifications are often displayed on their website and may mention ammunition recycling. They also verify the center's credibility and confirm their adherence to safety and environmental standards.

Legalities and Regulations

Recycling scrap ammo is generally legal, but regulations can vary based on location, type, and quantity of ammunition. Collecting and transporting spent ammunition may require permits in certain areas. To stay compliant, you should consult your local law enforcement agency for guidance on the regulations in your location.

A practical and convenient way to start your search is by searching online. Online search engines like Google can quickly generate a list of local metal recycling facilities.

Search for terms like "brass shell recycling" or "bullet casing recycling facilities" along with your location. The results will typically provide you with a list of potential facilities in your area.

Some websites or apps focus specifically on recycling resources such as Earth911.

They maintain databases of recycling centers globally, which can be filtered based on the material you want to recycle – brass, in this case. Their website helps you pinpoint locations near you that may recycle brass casings.

Reach Out to Local Establishments

If online searches fall short, there are other avenues to explore. Consider reaching out to local shooting ranges or gun shops.

These establishments deal with ammunition regularly and often connect with recycling centers accepting brass shells. They could provide valuable guidance or even assist in recycling your spent casings.

Also, consider consulting your local police stations

Law enforcement agencies often have protocols for safely disposing of or recycling ammunition. They can advise you on where to recycle brass shells or accept them for disposal.

Confirming You Can Recycle Scrap Ammo

Once you've identified a potential recycling center, ensure they accept scrap ammo. Due to the specific nature of ammunition recycling and varying policies across centers, you should call or email ahead for confirmation.

Explicitly ask if they accept spent ammo casings for recycling.

This step saves you a potentially wasted trip and ensures you adhere to the center's guidelines and local laws.

Organizing and Transporting your Casings for Recycling

Once you've cleaned your casings and identified a recycling center, the next step is to organize and transport them securely.

Store them in solid boxes or buckets with tight-fitting lids to prevent spillage. If you only have a few, you can use strong zip-lock bags.

Label them clearly, like "Brass Shells for Recycling". If you've sorted them by type, use labels like "9mm Shells" or "Shotgun Bases" for easy and efficient processing.

Additionally, be prepared with documentation. Some centers might request details on the weight or quantity you recycle.

Creative Ways to Repurpose Brass Shells

While ammunition companies use the brass for new bullets, you can also repurpose your brass shell casings creatively. Individuals often use them to make unique jewelry, such as earrings, cufflinks, or pendant necklaces. You can use them to craft decorative items like candle holders, table centerpieces, or even wind chimes that add a rustic touch to your garden.

For art enthusiasts, you can use them to create mixed-media art projects, sculptures, or detailed mosaics. These creative ideas provide a new purpose for your brass shells and give a unique touch to your creations.

These individual projects showcase the versatility of brass and serve as an inspiration for sustainable practices on a smaller scale.

Brass being reused as planting pots for a modern home look.

With new innovative technology, recycled brass shells can even serve as raw material for 3D printing, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for their use.

On a larger scale, industries melt down brass and use it in various manufacturing processes, further expanding the range of new products that can come from your recycled brass shells.

From plumbing fixtures to automotive parts, recycling your brass shells contributes to and promotes a circular economy and emphasizes the economic value of recycling.


Recycling brass shells is more than just an eco-friendly gesture; it's a step towards a sustainable future and a potential source of income. Understanding the importance of recycling these shells and implementing the process can significantly enhance economic and environmental sustainability.

So, the next time you come across spent brass casings, remember their value and consider recycling them.


1. What are the dangers of not properly disposing of brass shells?

Improper disposal of brass shells can pose significant environmental and health risks. When brass shells are not disposed of correctly, they can contaminate soil and water with heavy metals, posing a risk to wildlife and potentially entering the human food chain. Additionally, improperly discarded shells can pose a physical hazard, causing injury to people or animals.

2. Can all types of ammunition be recycled?

Yes, most types of ammunition, including brass shells, can be recycled. However, the recycling process may vary depending on the type of ammunition. It's always best to check with your local recycling facility or a specialized ammunition recycling center to ensure proper procedures are followed.

3. How much can you earn from recycling brass shells?

The amount you can earn from recycling brass shells varies based on several factors, including the current market price for brass, the weight of the shells, and the recycling facility's rates.

As of 2023, the average price for empty brass shell casings at recycling facilities is between $1.50 and $2.50 per pound. These prices will fluctuate with the market and are determined by your location.

4. Is there any special equipment or preparations needed for recycling brass shells?

Before recycling brass shells, they must be properly cleaned and deprimed. This can be done using a shell sorter and a depriming tool. It's also important to ensure that all live ammunition has been safely removed before beginning the recycling process. Always follow safety guidelines when you handle ammunition.

5. Can brass shells be recycled?

Yes, brass shells can be recycled. Not only does recycling brass shells contribute to environmental conservation by reducing landfill waste and carbon emissions, but it also offers economic benefits as these shells can be sold at recycling centers for a reasonable price.