How to Recycle Spent Ammo

Spending a few hours in the firing range will definitely burn through a lot of ammunition; the bullets you fired will result in a ton of empty shells and casings. And while most of us think that spent ammo is disposed of to be unused forever, they actually have the potential to be recycled or reused.


Recyclable items give us the benefit of a healthier environment while earning at the same time. And since brass, lead, and even plastic shotgun shells are recyclable, why not go for the better route and reuse them? It also helps that the business of scrap metal is becoming bigger by the moment, as various “junk” materials can still be reused without their metallic properties degraded.

With brass, scraps of the alloy are used in order to obtain pure brass because making brass from new zinc and copper is seen as impractical and uneconomical. And since the alloy is available in all sorts of colors, it is one of the most in-demand scrap metals that’s reused for furnishings.

Gun enthusiasts will also be glad to know that brass scrap is actually quite expensive, and scrap dealers are willing to pay big for them to use them in ornaments, letter boxes, piping, locks, taps, and a whole lot more.


Reloading is a common way for reusing old casings and is a very practical move for every gun owner. The process involves taking the old brass casing or shell and transform it into a brand new bullet. It’s a lengthy process that requires brass checking for dents or defects, as well as cleaning the shell to remove any powder residue or dirt.

Typically, a shell loader is used to determine the specifications of the bullet before it was fired. The old primer must also be removed, all the while making sure that the casing has the correct dimensions. Once done, your recycled casing can be filled with a new primer.

Reloading is not only cost-effective, but it’s also a fun activity that most gun owners get to enjoy their downtime. Additionally, it reduces waste, which is good for the environment.


In the United States, the price per pound of clean and bright brass is almost the same as that of scrap copper, making it a lucrative activity if you have some brass scrap to spare. The good news is, there are a lot of places that accept brass shell for recycling, which can get you at least $1.32 per pound of brass/iron radiators and $1.78 per pound of mixed red clean brass.

All types of brass can be scrapped, but remember that only the clean ones will make the whole thing worth it. Dirty brass costs 50 percent less, so you better make them useful.

And remember reloading? Apart from junk shops, reloaders will give you good money for brass shells. This will give them an opportunity to make new bullets, as well as save money so they won’t have to buy new ones. Think used brass is still junk?

Get Crafty

For the artistically inclined, casings and shells can be transformed into works of art. In fact, a simple Google search will show you lots of creations, and most of them are being sold in art pages and platforms. Below are some of the internet’s favorite crafts:
Bullet cufflinks: The base of the casing make spiffy-looking cufflinks. What they do is trim the rest of the shell to leave out the base and attach a cufflink blank. Simple but innovative.
Mini candles: Empty and clean shotgun shells can be filled with wax. Top it with a wick and voila! You got yourself some tiny candles for decoration.
Beer coasters: There’s an idea on Pinterest that makes use of shotgun shells as coasters. The top, of course, is made of an absorbent material, but at the bottom is a framed casing with shotgun bases attached to it. It’s a perfect coaster for the gun lover.
Fairy lights: If you’re bored of your old fairy lights, take them out and replace the bulbs with shotgun shells. With a pair of pliers, your lights will be as good as new.
Keychains: Of course! Casings and shells would make wonderful keychains, and they’re easy to make too. Any design will do, as long as you attach the holder on top and make sure it’s sturdy enough to hold a bunch of keys.
Boutonnières: They actually pretty cute to look at, and very unique too. You can paint the shells to emphasize them, or leave them to their natural color and simply attach a bloom to complete the look.
Rings: So you wanna be cool and tough, eh? Here’s a piece of jewelry that makes use of the ever handy bullet base. Cut out the rest of the shell and leave the base to serve as your “rock.”

To clean up on ammunition doesn’t mean you should totally discard it and leave them to rot, not that they will, but you get my point? They can still be put to good use albeit already used. There’s no room for laziness here, so pick up used ammo, or help your local firing range do so.

Recycle, reuse, and save. It ain’t much of a chore, is it?

Joe Humphries is a contributing writer and media specialist for Diamond K Brass. He regularly produces content for a variety of firearm and survivalist blogs, with an emphasis on DIY ammunition reload projects.


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