Cover Your Brass

By Bill Wade

In the January issue, I discussed the importance of record keeping and some methods of doing so. This month I want to expand on one particular area of records that is a perplexing side of the chore.

Keeping track of brass.

It is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Having tried different boxes, labels and memory, I have decided that neither of these are accurate enough to suit me.

Lets start by looking at a single piece of brass you found laying on your bench. Where did it come from? How many times has it been used? Was it neck sized last time or full length? Maybe it came out of your pocket after you scored on a coyote last weekend or maybe you picked it up at the range. No matter how it got there, now you have to deal with it.

Though tempted to toss it just to keep from screwing up records and consistency, the price of brass encourages me to be patient and figure it out.

Today, it is very simple, I turn the case around, look at the head and see what color it has on it, look at the correct Lot for a Batch that is missing a case. It is almost too simple and I wonder why I have not been doing this for years.

So far I am only doing this on one caliber, but since I got the new 220 Swift, that is all I have played with. Starting with a fresh caliber and no brass, I was determined to do my best at keeping track of the brass for this new rifle.

After contemplating my options, I came up with a scheme that actually works and works very well.

I purchase 100 pieces of brass and immediately, mark the case head with a colored permanent marker from a set I purchased at a hobby store. The set contains red, blue, green and black.

Then I go to my computer and enter all the information about this new brass into a database. But it could be as simple as writing it down in a notebook.

Usually, I load 20 cases at a time, so a "Batch" is 20 pieces. This means 5 records for a package of 100 pieces of brass.

The following fields are available for each record:
Batch # (computer generated)
Lot # (I assign)
Batch Quantity
Date of Purchase
Color Code
and check boxes for:
Neck Turned
Flash hole Debur
Pocket Uniformed
and a field for Comments

Most of the fields are self-explanatory but a couple require explanation.

Batch #, is a number that will be specific for that Batch of 20 pieces of brass, and it never changes for the Batch.

Lot #, I assign because I want a descriptive way of telling me where the brass came from, but it has to be short and simple.
For example: A bag of 100 pieces of Remington brass, would have a code like this; BBR100 That is Bulk Brass, Remington, 100 pieces. So I should expect to find 5 records that contain BBR100.

I pick a color that has not been used or not used on this brand but there are a zillion ways this could be handled.

The resulting records for a bag of 100 pieces of brass then, would look something like this. <
Batch# Lot# Qty Brand Caliber Date Vendor Price Color
118 BBR100 20 RP 220 2/99 Fred's 21 Green
119 BBR100 20 RP 220 2/99 Fred's 21 Green
120 BBR100 20 RP 220 2/99 Fred's 21 Green
121 BBR100 20 RP 220 2/99 Fred's 21 Green
122 BBR100 20 RP 220 2/99 Fred's 21 Green

If you happen to use a single box of Winchester factory ammo, it would simply be a Lot # like FAW20A, Factory Ammo, Winchester, 20 pieces, where the extension of A is the first box.

You can and probably should add the manufacturer's lot number to records if it is available.

Now, when I load a Batch of brass, I simply reference the Batch # and I am set.

The actual case status information is kept with the load record. If I neck size this Batch and load it up, when I find the piece of brass laying on my bench, I simply look at my load data to find out when it was loaded last and I know which Batch it belongs in and its case status.

It sounds more complicated than it really is and you may come up with a system that works better for you, but I have found this to be fantastic for keeping my brass in order.

I can generate a report that tells me everything that has happened to this Batch of brass, by date.

Interestingly, I have found that with the 220 Swift, I can neck size 4 times before needing to full length size. Granted, the loads I am still playing with are not "Hot" but I am still in the process of working up to a "Pet Load" for this cartridge/gun combo.

The tumbler is the only thing that has an ill effect on the marking and black seems to disappear faster than the other colors. The way I solve this is only put a specific color in the tumbler and simply re-mark once they are out of the tumbler.

These markers also work great on the side of the case unless you tumble or FL size, then it is gone.

Bill Wade

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Last Modified: January 3, 2012