Do militaries reload small arms cases?


The heading says it all - does any military bother to collect up rifle/MG brass and reload it?

And if they do, are steel cases ever reloaded?


There are a number of examples of fired cases being reused for blanks, dummies, and practice/gallery loads, but I have never heard of combat ammo being loaded into fired cases. Various insurgent and guerrilla groups have reloaded combat ammo, however.


Jon’s point about insurgent groups reloading ammunition is interesting. Probably the best example of this was the Spanish Civil War. I have a couple of dozen 7.9 x 57 ball rounds that were reloaded in Spain - easy to tell, wrong bullets for the headstamps and tell-tale case markings (extractor marks, ejector marks, etc.). I don’t know if both sides did it. If only one did it, I would assume it was Franco’s side, although they were pretty well supplied by Germany and others. If both sides did it, then I guess we would have to say that it wasn’t just insurgents. Franco formed a government during the civil war so I don’t know if you can call them just “insurgents?” I suppose so. Was the Army of the Confederate States of America just “insurgents.” Not challenging anyone - a genuine question for which I guess any answer would be a matter of personal opinion, depending on your viewpoint.

The Philippines has (had?) a reloading plant, and reloaded .45 Auto, and perhaps other rounds. I have a .45 box from the AFPSC Reloading plant, along with the round, which is ball, but with a lead bullet. While it is lethal ammunition, I would assume that the lead bullets were meant only for practice firing.

Anyone else know of any other example of lethal ammunition (not blanks, dummies or short-range gallery loads) being reloaded in countries?

  • Back in Romania during the military service [Alpine Troops - 16 months] in mid-1970s, all the spent 7.62X25, 7.62X39, 7.62X54R, 12.7X108, 14.5X114 shell cases [brass or steel] had to be picked-up from the military range and collected but NO ammo plant was reloading them. During military maneuvers in mountains or remote areas, nobody had time to recuperate the spent shell cases fired by the small arms. Liviu 03/11/07


Chris Punnett’s book on the .30-06 mentions Ball and AP being reloaded by Communist China and Colombia reloaded ball as well. I think there might be more examples like this in the book but I don’t have the time to look it up tonight. In addition to the above, and as has been mentioned, many countries have reloaded fired cases into blanks, dummy and gallery loads. I used to have a 7.62x39mm Helmet Test cartridge made in Finland that used a reloaded fired case. And Finnish blanks using fired cases are well known. The Germans reloaded many millions of fired steel 7,9 Mauser cases into blanks during WWII. My addition to this question would be: Is this a current practice anywhere or has it fallen from favor with time?



They are common finds 6.5x54r, 6.5x55 swedish, 8mm krag, ball rounds with one or more reloading marks in the headstamp. Jan

  • I have two 7.92X57 rounds with brass cases and wooden bullets. Both headstamps have a very small circle mark which I’m sure it shows a reload. One of these 7.92X57 rounds is German [headstamped: “P151 S* 8 34”] and the other is Czech [segmented headstamp: “19 SB 38 V”]. A fired 7.92mm wooden bullet will break-up after leaving the muzzle. Liviu 03/11/07


The primary Chinese Warlord faction in the 1920s had a “Mobile Arsenal” which was to travel with the army and reload ammunition according to one source. I assume that meant reloading 7.92mm Mauser (or M88 Mauser) since these were the principle calibers used by this group that also controlled most of the the major arsenals at that time, at least off and on.


Thanks very much for all of your comments, gentlemen, most helpful.


Liviu, your plain wood-bullet blanks with mixed headstamps and an added “O” on the headstamp are Danish. I went through about 8,000 of these and found around 500 headstamps, including, of course, lot numbers. The two most interesting were a “ch” code (FN) in brass case - it is the only one I have - and one that had no headstamp, so that the only entry on the headstamp is the “O.”

Regarding reloading of military rounds, I hadn’t even thought of the fact that his has been done for many years - the U.S. Army used to provide .45-70 reloading tools to frontier stations, as I recall (not personal recollection - I ain’t THAT old - just recollection of what i have read).


Yes, the US did the .45-70 and .30-06 Gallery Practice shells. I have a 5.56x45 in my collection which is purportedly from an unknown US arsenal trial of reloading ball ammo - the primer is staked in a triangular pattern with triangular stakes. I apologize for the really ugly image - it was one of the first I made several years ago and the specimen is now packed away.

  • @ John Moss: Danish 7.92X57 reloaded rounds with wooden bullets??? I had no idea. Thanks for the info. I assumed these rounds had been loaded by the same country that manufactured them. Liviu 03/12/07


Not sure if this is useful, but on military exercises (US Army) we are required to police up all brass - even fired blanks. A bit of a pain after a long FTX. I once asked why we picked up the blanks and was told that they send them off to be reloaded - not sure what they do with the fired live ammo. I cannot confirm that however - I’ve come to learn that while NCOs are gods, they don’t always know everything. We even do personal “brass checks” where we go through every piece of kit to make sure we a case didn’t accidentally find its way into some nook or cranny. suprising where they will turn up actually - sleeping bags, canteens, helmets… underwear…


All of the brass I ever policed-up ended up in big garbage dumpsters to be sold for scrap. It’s funny how old rumors or stories persist in the military. Back in my service days, we still cleaned our rifles for three days in a row after firing, even though we were not shooting corrosive primed ammunition! Old habits die hard.