April 30, 2017

Picking Up Brass Makes Us $10 an Hour

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was toward the top of my husband’s list of places to visit, when we moved here. At the BLM office, he found out where it is legal to target shoot within driving distance of our new home. We target shoot ourselves, so this didn’t surprise me. The surprise was his strategy of picking up brass there and then recycling it — for a profit of $10 an hour!

45 caliber and 9 mm and 22 brass shells in a handAll the BLM land where we can shoot around here is completely undeveloped. To save on gas, we go to each site only once a week. We bring hand sanitizer and a cooler with food and water. We bring a portable toilet to use inside our camper shell.

We also bring hearing protection so that our eardrums don’t blow out from the noise of other people target shooting while we are picking up brass. At first, I just used those cheap disposable styrofoam ear plugs they sell in sporting goods departments. Now, I have my own fancy black headset. I wish I had spent a little more and gotten one with a radio in it.

When we arrive at the BLM site, we first go around and see where people have positioned themselves and which way they are shooting. Etiquette says whoever got there first makes the rules, so we ask if they mind us picking up brass nearby. Almost nobody minds, but everyone thanks us for asking.


We each bring an empty 5 gallon paint bucket to put our brass in. Our buckets fill up quickly  because we also pick up aluminum cans and shot-up pieces of aluminum cans. We bring two 50 gallon trash cans to dumGI Joe Pants, Shirts, hats, boots and weapons found at shooting rangep our paint buckets into. We also bring needle nose pliers to help us pick up smaller 22 caliber brass.

New brass is fairly obvious on the ground, especially if the sun is out. Older brass gets black, and I used to mistake it for steel, which isn’t worth any money where we live. Shells that look copper are usually just rusted steel. We bring a magnet to test these. Some turn out to be brass, but not many.

Recycling goes by weight, so the bigger caliber brass brings in the most money. Where we live, brass recycles for $1.60 per pound. If we are pressed for time, then we just pick up 9 mm shells and bigger. If we have all day, then we pick up all the 22 caliber brass as well.

Where we live, the same recycling center that buys aluminum cans buys the brass shells. We asked if they would buy the brass feet off of plastic shotgun shells. They said they would if we could get all the plastic completely off. So far, we have tried pulling and burning, with no success.

I was surprised how much fun it is picking up brass. It reminds me of hunting for Easter eggs when I was a kid. You never know what you will find. We have found GI Joe clothes, picture frames in usable condition, full boxes of unused ammunition, whole clay pigeons, and unused shooting targets before. It is great exercise, too, but the best part is we make $10 an hour at it.

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