Battlefield brass


February 25, 2009, 05:56 PM
I've never been in the military (tried, got denied because of a back injury) so I'm going to ask a dumb question; what happens to brass on a battlefield? I can't visualize troops policing their own brass after a firefight. A squad of Marines can expend a tremendous amount of ammo in a short time, so what happens to it? Does it just stay there, is there a collection contractor, or is it left for civilians to pick up and sell? I keep wondering if it is being carried away by the bushel to our enemies to be used for other purposes

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February 25, 2009, 06:01 PM
Good question.... I don't know as I am not a member of the Armed Forces. I assume it is a combination... if they are investigating a controversial gun battle, I bet they try to account for as much of the brass as possible. However, I can't imagine that all of the millions of casings our soldiers use are being collected.

As for them being reused against our soldiers, remember that most of our enemies are not using NATO calibers. They are mostly firing 7.62 x 39 and 7.62 x 54r for small arms.

I'll keep an eye on this thread for answers from folks that know what they are talking about.

February 25, 2009, 06:02 PM
Are you talking about in an actual combat situation? I spent several years in combat and never picked up any shell casings and we destroyed most captured weapons on the spot. Had enough problems staying alive to worry about used shell casing

February 25, 2009, 06:05 PM
folks are still digging up casings from the "Little Bighorn"

February 25, 2009, 06:07 PM
It is left where it falls.

After the battle and/or war is over, locals make a meager living policing it & anything else up for scrap metal.


Duke of Doubt
February 25, 2009, 06:09 PM
Take a trip to Verdun. That will tell you what happens to the leftover brass. And leftover unexploded ordnance. And leftover people parts. Nearly a century later, and it's still all over the place waiting for you to pick up. Now expand your vision to Stalingrad, Khe Sanh, Iwo Jima, Petersburg, and a thousand other major battlefields. They just found some more Americans in Hertgenwald. Heck, they just excavated another part of the Teutoberger Wald, which saw two Roman legions disappear in 9AD.

February 25, 2009, 06:41 PM
Lots of times it gets picked up by the local nationals and reused for all sorts of things, i.e. making trinkets and souveniors for sale to anyone who will buy. I've seen this firsthand in several countries I have been stationed in, from Honduras to the Balkans to Korea to Iraq. I remember in Bosnia, in the late '90s, seeing brass statues and such made of casings that were hammered out and brazed together still with caliber (alot of 9mm) markings on them. Artillery shells were polished and remade into umbrella stands for the home etc. In Korea, when we'd be out firing an aerial gunnery range, you could see locals under our aircraft trying to catch and collect as we fired.

Duke of Doubt
February 25, 2009, 06:45 PM
I remember hearing about a New Guinea jungle village where an auxiliary fuel tank which fell out of the sky sometime in 1943 was worshipped for years as a deity.

Then there were the Cargo Cults.

February 25, 2009, 06:48 PM
Trench Art


February 25, 2009, 07:02 PM
Apachedriver, you're not kidding! Back many, many moons ago, I was firing an AH-1G at Rodriquez Range at a high hover at night, using the XM -35 inboard cannon...somehow, noticed movement below....brass pickers had crawled out of their holes and were armed with bushel baskets, trying to "harvest" the 20mm brass before it even hit the ground! Sure enough, you could buy about anything, ashtrays, aviator wings, cyclic reproductions, all made of the brass we'd recently fired, at many of the shops in TDC, or in Yang-ju-gol!

February 25, 2009, 10:33 PM
The brass lays where it falls. I would think Vietnam could make a killing in the scrap brass business with all the rounds fired there.

February 25, 2009, 10:35 PM
I should have been clearer on the question of whether it could be used by enemies for other purposes, I guess. I didn't think it likely that it would come back as reloaded ammo. What I should have asked was whether it could come back in another form, such as being recast into another shape. Then again, I'm no metallurgist so I don't even know if that is possible with the material available. I suppose that if it is scavenged and resold in whatever form it is being turned into cash, which can be used against us. I just thought that with the demand for metals as high as it is then someone would want to salvage it.

Thanks for the answers. I had also wondered about things like drop tanks.

February 25, 2009, 11:44 PM
If your on foot it stays where it lands, if your one of the luck ones (Death before dismount!) who patrol the battlefield in Hummers :D the brass or cases from the crew served weapons or your small arms stay inside the vehicle until you get back to base to clean it out.......unless you cross a bridge, in which case you clean your truck out there. No I never did that, we were supposed to leave the country better than we found it :barf: not possible

February 26, 2009, 12:13 AM




These oil lamps were brought back from Iraq. They were made from spent brass picked up by Iraqi kids to sell to trinket makers.

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