There are plenty of problems associated with those mesh bag bullet shell catchers commonly available on the market today.
You know, the ones with the heat-resistant nylon mesh bags that have a hook and loop closure, a zipper at the bottom of the bag, and a wire frame to hold them rigid over the ejection port.
Those ones - they clutter up your rail space, are actually difficult to empty (despite claims to the contrary), and can melt and catch fire. They’re also difficult to clean and can obstruct your sight picture.
But let’s get off the soapbox for a moment. There’s another problem with these sorts of mesh bag brass catchers that shooters have been relatively quick to observe.
Sometimes they jam, which is, like, a big problem for a brass catcher. A brass catcher that jams isn’t a very good brass catcher.
Fortunately, we have two practical solutions, and one of them can even enable you to keep your precious mesh AR-15 brass catcher if you so choose.
Fixing the Wire Frame
To fix a mesh bag bullet shell catcher that jams, we first need to understand what causes rifles to jam; then we need to understand the orientation of how shells are ejected; then we need to understand how brass catchers themselves can cause jams.
Rifles jam for several reasons. Sometimes rifles jam because of extractor problems that fail to remove a spent shell before attempting to load another.
Sometimes rifles jam because of ejector problems that allow the empty cartridge to be removed, but don’t eject it; this causes the empty shell to deflect back forward into the action, jamming the bolt shut against it.
This is known as a stovepipe jam and while rare in AR-style platforms, it can still occur. Stovepipe jams can be cleared manually and when the issue is an ejector or ejector spring, the solution is to clean the rifle and replace these parts.
Now, it’s also important to realize that even a smooth-feeding, reliable rifle can be encouraged to jam when something gets in the way of the ejection port.
To understand this fully, we need to take a look at how AR-15 rifles eject cartridges. The angle at which the cartridge leaves the ejection port is dependent on a few factors.
A properly gassed, properly tuned rifle with a clean action should eject cartridges about perfectly at 3:00, at a rifle angle, away from the ejection port. A little bit behind 3:00 is acceptable, too.
Rifles that eject cartridges forward are overgassed and the gas system should be tuned down to cycle the action under less pressure. Not only can this cause jams, but it can also wear out the gas rings prematurely.
If the rifle ejects cartridges too far to the rear, behind the 4:00 position, the rifle is short stroking and may have a gas leak. This can also cause jams.
Now, it’s also important to note that cartridges eject in two planes - the horizontal and the vertical plane. Cartridges ideally should eject away from the rifle at a slightly upward angle - not flat away.
Here’s where the problem arises with mesh bag brass catchers. If the ejection port is not properly covered, the cartridges can squeak by or around it, hitting the frame and then falling to the ground instead of falling into the bag.
That’s not a jam, but it does prevent the cartridges from being captured.
Sometimes, there is just a little bit too much clearance between the top of the wire frame that covers the ejection port, and the open action. Occasionally, the action will spit out rounds that get wedged between the bullet shell catcher and the rifle’s receiver or the action.
When that happens, you’re asking for a jam. If it occludes the ejection port, you have one. This temporarily cripples the action of the rifle and requires the action to be cleared.
It’s not much use if you have to clear it between every couple shots, either.
So, instead of clearing jams when and as they occur, some savvy shooters solve the problem at the source. Often, what they report is simply that they have to remove the brass catcher from the rifle and bend the wire frame into a more amenable shape.
If the case is that there is too much clearance between the top of the wire frame and the ejection port, bending the frame in the direction of the receiver so the ejection port is more fully covered will solve the issue.
For some shooters, that’s the only adjustment that’s needed in order to improve the functionality of mesh bag bullet shell catchers and render them serviceable.
But what if you want to say goodbye to jams (and all of the other problems associated with mesh bag brass catchers) once and for all?
Well, that’s where the Brass Goat comes into sharp focus.
Using a Bullet Shell Catcher That Does Not Jam in the First Place
If you really want to solve jams at the root, you don’t go bending your wire frame over the receiver. What you do is leave the inferior model in the past and embrace the future of brass-catching technology.
The Brass Goat has no mesh bag. It has no wire frame. It is made from rigid, molded ABS resin, and mounts to the magwell of your mil-spec lower receiver. It does not need to be tuned.
Technically, it would be more proper to call the Brass Goat itself a deflector rather than a bullet shell catcher. It becomes a catcher when paired with the detachable hopper.
But that isn’t the point. This deflector does not jam when paired with cartridges with which it is compatible. There is no bag to get tangled, and the manner in which it covers the ejection port makes it effectively impossible for brass to become wedged in it in an inappropriate manner.
So, the choice is yours. Fix your mesh bag brass catcher (you can make it work better, that is true) or give up on those nonsense brass catchers forever and get a model like the Brass Goat that will free you from jams.