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recovered brass from gravel pit shooting?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by pyromancer, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. pyromancer

    pyromancer Portland Freelance Graphic Designer Bronze Supporter

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    I'm new to reloading, but have always cleaned up my brass from a shooting area when I have used it. I even clean up any that others have left behind, because of this I get a lot of brass that has been sitting outside for who knows how long. A lot of this brass has surface discoloration usually a black to dark brown splotchy appearance, maybe cloudy is a better description. I started out with a small ultrasonic unit and while it would clean the brass great I would still have this discoloration only now extra shinny. I have since got a tumbler and have been tumbling for 4-6 hours, while it takes off a lot of this there is still some discoloration after tumbling. Is this brass safe to use? I don't see any pitting, and if I examine the inside of cases it doesn't seem that the discoloration goes all the way threw.

    I've tried goggling this and looking on other websites but there isn't a lot of pictures of what is OK and what isn't. Some places say this is bad because its leaching of zink or copper, some places say not to worry and its discoloration. Again with no pictures to let me know which is which.

    As of right now I have been sorting it into a maybe use pile with stuff that is coming out with only a little of the splotchieness left and a don't use pile consisting of very shiny cloudy brass. I know this will be easier with pictures so I will try to get some up this weekend.
     
  2. chainsaw

    chainsaw East side of Or. Active Member

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    I've used lots of "gravel pit" brass,never any problems with it.Make sure you carefully inspect each case though,sometimes I will pick up brass that has been split by reloading too many times.
    A peice of steel wool and some elbow grease will polish those "clouds" away.
     
  3. The Quiet Man

    The Quiet Man rural Washington County, Oregon Active Member

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    When I first started loading my own, most of my brass was gravel pit pickups. Some had spent a snowy Minnesota winter where it had fallen but I never had any problems with it. Discoloration is not an issue. Like Chainsaw said, check it for splits and general structural integrity... and then clean it up as you would any other casing. Also make sure it's boxer primed before you run it into your die and break off a decapping pin on a Berdan primed casing. (I learned rifle cartridge reloading on the 8 mm, and had picked up some European Milsurp brass one time.) That is how I learned to always have extra pins on hand :)
     
  4. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    I've been using pick up brass for 26 years. I have enough now so that I'm picky as to what I'll spend time picking up. You can have the rest C];0)
     
  5. herdingcats

    herdingcats Des Moines, WA Member

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    Hey pyromancer... from the posts I'm seeing, it looks like my response is going to be in the minority.

    What you're seeing is a form of rust. Since it is on brass, it looks different than the rust you're accustomed to with steel and iron. The bottom line is that this brass has been oxidized out in the weather, and the metal has begun to break down. Answering your primary question of "is it safe to shoot?" I would answer by saying it depends on how much risk you like to take to save a little money. Here's an analogous example that should help you with what I mean here. The brass in "necked" rifle cases get worked more than straight walled cases. Long story short, they grow when they are put through the resizing process. The brass that gets trimmed at the case mouth is coming from the bottom of the case. If you measure the case wall thickness at the bottom of a necked case after it has been reloaded, say, 5 times, you'll see that the thickness is much thinner at the bottom of the case than at the top. It is this streching that causes the case to ultimatly fail and finally you'll get case head separation where the bottom of the case splits either when being fired or when being ejected. As you can imagine, you would not want to fire a case that is splitting at the case head.

    OK, so what does that have to do with corrosion? Well, that corrosion is also thinning the wall of the case. The longer that case has been corroding, the thinner the case wall has become until there's no support left. The question for you is, do you feel comfortable firing cases with thinner case walls? What is the risk? The risk is that the case splits during live fire. Couldn't any case, if reloaded enough times, also do the same thing? Yes, so corrosion is a contributing factor to decreasing the useful life of a case. This is likly less of a concern for standard caliber pistol brass (i.e. 9mm, 40 and 45), and more of an issue for rifle brass.

    Here's my parting thought on the matter. I find so much spent brass when I go to the range, I don't need to pick up the corroded brass. Just leave it. If you want to clean it, go ahead and throw it away.
     
  6. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I agree with the rest of the posters here. I've used a fair amount of "pick ups" for both handgun and rifle calibers. Mostly .45 ACP, 38/357 and 30-06. The discoloration isn't pretty, but I've never had a problem with it. It's one of the reasons "popular" calibers are good to have.
    I've also picked up a bunch of 9mm and 40 S&W. If I don't do anything with it, it can always go into the scrap brass bucket. It's worth enough to bother picking it up. Next time I go, I plan on picking up the .22s that I find also. There was a few pounds last time that I didn't even think about until I was on the way home. Enough scrap brass will help cover the fuel to go shooting!:thumbup:
     
  7. pyromancer

    pyromancer Portland Freelance Graphic Designer Bronze Supporter

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    I pick it all up if I am going to use it or not. .22s I leave most of the time unless they are in a small area just because they are a pain in the @$$ to pick up. I do this more because I like to leave an area I am shooting in nicer then how I found it. I only wish everyone would do the same.

    herdingcats, all of it seems to be on the surface, I realize its a form of oxidization, but there is a difference between surface oxidization and oxidization that permeates a metal. I studied mechanical engineering for a bit in college until I decided it wasn't the path for me. I however do not know enough about the oxidation of brass. also wall thickness would not change just strength of the metal after oxidization.
     
  8. Fumes

    Fumes Wa. Active Member

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    Whats the worst that could happen? You pick up someone elses garbage, throw it in a 5 gallon bucket, recycle it and buy a few boxes of new rounds because someone was a lazy litter bug.
     
  9. pyromancer

    pyromancer Portland Freelance Graphic Designer Bronze Supporter

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    So I haven't had time to take pictures... I know I suck... But I did have time at work to look for image examples of what I mean.

    3061887779_ce647717de.jpg

    This is an example of typical gravel pit stuff I pick up.

    DSCN7381.JPG

    This is on the more good end of the spectrum, green is from the camera. After sorting out the dented and cracked stuff its going to come out of the tumbler looking almost new.

    stm08range.jpg

    This is bad end of the spectrum. Most of that is going to clean off but after tumbling the brass will look like something in the first picture even after 6-8 hours.
     
  10. HollisOR

    HollisOR Rural OR, South of Dallas Active Member

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    It seems to me, brass found at shooting areas are from people who do not reload. That probably means the bulk of it is once fired. As it was mention, inspection is key. Inspection helps to save the depriming pin, the occasional Berdan primed case will take out your depriming pin (on some sizing dies). A tumbler with good media and polisher, then add some time and most brass will come out looking new.

    On used brass that has apparently been fired more than once, inspection is necessary, also check case length. If you crimp, case length is important to insure the same amount of crimp on each round.

    I have found some pretty expensive brass that a shooter had discarded, such as .375 H&H Mag. Also some mistakes, like shooting a .44 Mag in a Ruger Black Hawk in .45 Colt.

    Also old brass and Berdan brass (if you don't reload Berdan) can be sold as scrap. Other can be sold to reloaders or brass buyers who sell to reloaders.
     
  11. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    The small mouth dents can easily be fixed with an old ball point pen or a piece of smaller diameter metal dowel, before you run it into the sizing die

    Another advantage of pick up is you're helping our image and God knows we could use that with some of the slobs and their refuse they leave. The only things I will sometimes leave are still good to shoot bowling pins because I know they will be shot to pieces by happy shooters within a week
     
  12. pyromancer

    pyromancer Portland Freelance Graphic Designer Bronze Supporter

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    I always make sure to check carefully before reloading, and I've always figured, like you, that its going to be once fired. I'm just concerned that it seems like even after 6-8 hours of tumbling some of it still seems a little blackened, as I tried to illustrate with the pictures. Seems to be from people here that that is fine, but there is a lot of mixed info out there on the internet about this.
     
  13. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    Just toss the still bad looking stuff into the scrap bucket and you're GTG
     
  14. HollisOR

    HollisOR Rural OR, South of Dallas Active Member

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    Good advice, After a while a person probably has amble brass, when in doubt, recycle.

    Another side note, this is great winter work, when the weather tells you to stay indoors.
     
  15. turq

    turq Molino,oregon Member

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    I don't trust the range brass as I do not want to get some Glock 'bulged' brass. It's just too stretched for my tastes. You can roll the case across a smooth surface[glass] to see if it rolls evenly.
    I did see a die for sale some where that was 'marketed' specifically to remove the 'bulge'. ???
     
  16. herdingcats

    herdingcats Des Moines, WA Member

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    Yes, these are full length sizing dies. However, they don't work completely with a progressive press. So using this type of die is tedious since it needs to be done in a single stage press.