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Building A Portable & Inexpensive Brass Catcher

The Problem

With the cost of reloading going up, it's a good idea to try to save your brass for repeated use.

Saving your brass is easy with a revolver... all you have to do is dump your shells into your bag at the range. But with an auto loader, it becomes more complicated.

In this article we will specifically address capturing AR-15 brass when shooting from a bench rest position.

Many firing ranges have a policy forbidding shooters from picking up brass off the ground... even your own brass... as it might lead to customers picking up more than their "fair share".

In addition, even if picking up your brass is allowed, it's not easy to locate your spent shells among the thousands of others lying all over the ground.

Designing a Solution

One solution can be a commercially available "net" that fits over your ejection port, but such contraptions may interfere with the ejection process, and they certainly do interfere with the appearance of your AR-15.

A better solution to this problem can be a portable box to catch your brass... a box not connected to your gun, but one that sits beside it on the shooting bench.

Click to enlarge thumbnails (opens in new window)

To arrive at the correct dimensions for the box design, there are several factors that must be considered.

First you must determine at what height your brass will eject, and at what distance you wish to place the box from the ejection port.

The angle of ejection (when viewed directly from above) is not important as the box can be repositioned to correct for the angle.

At The Range

Go to the range and set up your gun (on a bench rest) at the same height at which you shoot.

Make sure that the butt stock is at the proper height for your shoulder and that the hand guard (if it is resting on a forward support) is also at a proper height... and make sure the barrel is level with the ground.

Fashion a piece of cardboard so that it will stand upright. Set it on the bench, slightly behind and at an angle to the ejection port, and at an agreeable distance from your gun.

For my range test, I went ahead and built a prototype cardboard box, similar to the final box, and I set it up about 12-15 inches from the ejection port.

Fire a few shots and observe where the shells are hitting the cardboard. Move the cardboard around if you need to until the shells are hitting the cardboard. As previously stated, make sure you position the cardboard at an agreeable distance from your gun's ejection port, since your final box will need to be at approximately the same distance.

Note the height where the shells are hitting... that is the only measurement you will need to record at the range.

Building It

Now, back in your garage, it's time to build the box.

You will need about an 8 inch square opening for the shells to enter the box, and you will want your shells to enter the box right in the middle of this opening... that's why the ejection height measurement you made at the range is so important.

At the range I had to place my prototype on a 3 inch riser to make the shells enter through the center of the opening, which told me the center of the opening in my final box needed to be 3 inches higher.

You will also need a "lip" on the bottom front of the box to keep the shells from rolling out of the box after entering. The lip must be low enough not to interfere with the shells entering the box. (The upper edge of the lip will be at the bottom of the 8 inch opening).

Since the box will be made of wood, you will also need some type of device to prevent the shells from bouncing off the back wall of the box, and maybe even out of the box.

Click to enlarge thumbnails (opens in new window)

For this purpose I suspended an 8x10 inch "curtain" of thick leather from the ceiling of the box, about 2/3 of the way toward the rear of the box... this piece works well in absorbing the impact of the flying shells, allowing them to drop directly downward into the box, and preventing them from bouncing out of the box.

I also added a wooden piece (1/2 x 1/2 x 8 inches) across the bottom of the leather curtain, which adds a little weight to the curtain and increases its ability to absorb the impact of the flying shells without bouncing around too much.


The measurements for the wooden pieces (all hardwood pieces 1/2 inch thick), which I fitted together with glue and small nails, are as follows...

1 piece 9 x 13 (the back)

2 pieces 6 x 13 (the sides)

2 pieces 6½ x 9 (the top & bottom)

1 piece 5½ x 9 (the lip)

When fitted together these will make a brass catcher box with an 8 inch square opening, and outside dimensions of...

9" wide

14" high

7" deep (including the thickness of the lip), or...

6.5" deep (not including the thickness of the lip)

After I got the box assembled, I decided to glue in one more piece... a small wooden piece (1/2" x 1/2" x 8") across the underside of the top front, which provides a good finger grip when carrying the box around.


Your box might be of slightly different dimensions, as you may prefer a different shooting position (height off the bench) and your shells may eject higher or lower than mine.

The angle at which your shells leave your gun doesn't matter, as the box can be moved around on the bench until it sits at the proper angle to catch your shells.

Being made of wood, the box is slightly heavy, making it steadier in the wind than a flimsy box.

In actual use, after you position your brass catcher box properly, the shells will pop right into it without you even having to take notice... all you will hear is a "ping" as each shell hits the leather curtain and falls into the bottom of the box... ready to be processed for another reloading.

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