Brass Casings Explained

Brass-cased cartridges are the most popular type of ammunition on the market today due to the durability, corrosion resistance and ease of reloading that brass casings are known for.  Introduced in 1846 by a French gunsmith, Benjamin Houllier, the first brass cased cartridge used a pinfire ignition system that was quickly improved upon.  By the 1900's the brass cased, centerfire cartridges such as the .44 Henry, .45 Colt and .45-70 had established their place in firearms history.

The cartridge case is absolutely critical in relation to the function of a weapon and how it performs ballistically with the coordination of primer, powder and bullet. Brass offers the perfect balance of strength and flexibility so it can expand under the pressure in the chamber but not lose its integrity.

Like any type of cartridge available, there are pros and cons with brass casings so let’s examine them.

Brass Casing Pros

Reusable-  Ask any target shooter or range owner why they prefer brass and the most common answer will be that they are reloadable. Retrieving and reloading the spent brass casings offsets the price of the cartridges and there are always fellow shooters or gun shops that are more than happy to take them off your hands. 

Brass Cartridge CaseWith the exception of a few specialty bullets, the brass case is normally the most expensive component in the reloading process. Some reloaders claim that good quality cases, loaded with light powder charges, can be used many times over before needing to be recycled.

Reliable – The strong yet flexible brass is less prone to give you a stuck case when compared to steel or aluminum-cased cartridges. There are numerous tests with very detailed results on popular forums and firearm sites that prove this to be true.  If you’re going to shoot thousands of rounds, brass is just more reliable. 

The reliability of brass is also enhanced by the softness of the metal itself in that it will show deformation when overpressured or worn out.  This allows the reloader to stop shooting and take corrective action before any damage occurs.  With harder cases, this deformation will not always happen, but rather the case will simply come apart, possibly damaging the firearm.

Brass Casing Cons

Price – The price of brass-cased cartridges will typically be a little higher than steel or aluminum-cased cartridges. If you’re only looking to plink cans in your backyard, you can save a little money sticking to other metals. You probably won’t notice if you’re just putting a box in your gun safe for home defense but it will be more noticable when buying in case quaitities.

Wear and Tear – Unfortunately, no manufacturer is perfect, and you can occasionally get a weak or misshapen brass case or cartridge. This is pretty rare so most people won’t need to worry about it but if you’re a reloader, you’ll really want to inspect your casings from a new supplier or unfamiliar source.

For reloaders, brass casings can be purchased in bulk and in various forms or simply gathered up as you spend time on the range or your preferred shooting location. It’s always a good idea to shake out your cases before you tumble and polish them so you can get to the fun part of reloading.

While the brass casings are a bit more expensive, the overall value when compared to the increase in cost makes them worth considering for your shooting needs.  The reloadability, reliability and resistance to corrosion make brass a great choice for your next ammo purchase.