Looking for the best AR-15 brass catchers? So are a number of other shooters. According to our research, at least 50 other people per month are asking Google the same question - which one is the best?
Most bloggers and shooters have responded by creating listicles of the best of the best, giving other shooters and buyers a few options to choose from. Some of these include hands-on reviews. Others don’t.
We’re going to go a slightly different route. We’re going to tell you why the best AR-15 brass catcher does not include Picatinny rail mounts. In fact, in our humble (yet experienced) opinion, the best brass catcher doesn’t include any rail mounts.
This is because the way we see it, the best brass catcher can’t possibly mount to a rail segment - and here’s why.
You Need Rail Space to Mount Attachments and Optics
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way. You need your rail space to attach other shooting accessories, right? Everything from scopes and red dots to offset, backup iron sights and vertical grips mount to rail space. Swivel sling mounts and bipods mount there, too.
Realistically, everything except muzzle devices mounts to rail space, some way or other, which means something very basic: if you use your rail space for a brass catcher, you can’t use it for something else.
Now, it’s not like your standard AR-15 with a quad Pic rail has a shortage of rail space, but you still need to budget accordingly, and in our estimation, a brass catcher is something that, while necessary, doesn’t necessarily improve the shooting experience itself.
Grips, rail covers, and optics, however, do improve the shooting experience. Save your rail space for them and figure out another way to tack on a brass catcher.
Rail Space Is Also Vital for Handling
Here’s something you might not think about every time you’re at the range but is true nonetheless. Available rail space affects handling, and in a big way.
On its surface, this is evident because many grips are rail-mounted add-ons. If you have a vert grip tacked onto the bottom of your quad rail, then you can see firsthand how available rail space affects handling.
But even without these attachments, this is not the only way it makes a difference.
What is - and is not - mounted to your rail affects how and where you can place your support hand, which in turn affects both balance and handling. If you clutter up the sides of your quad rail, there’s less purchase for your support hand.
Also, some shooters prefer to keep some space on their quad rail open so they can mount rail covers specifically for the purpose of providing a surer, more comfortable grip. Again, you can’t add these if you wasted all of the rest of your rail space on other accessories.
Rail-Mounted Shooting Accessories Obstruct Your Sight Picture and Can Hinder Target Acquisition
Now for another classic problem associated with rail-mounted brass traps, such as the myriad models with heat-resistant nylon mesh bags that have wire frames and hook and loop closures.
These models are large and bulky and generally obstruct the sight picture. Even the ones that mount to the side of a quad rail do so, but those that mount over the top of the receiver are even worse.
The “busier” your sight picture is, the harder it will be for you to acquire a target and the longer it will take for you to make follow-up shots.
Even if this was not the case (and it is) the more obstructions you have in and in the immediate vicinity of your sight picture, the more distracted you will be and the less situationally aware you can be.
All-in-all, attachments with thin silhouettes are superior because they don’t distract your senses or clutter your sight picture.
Rail Mounted Brass Catchers Can Jam: Hint, Not the Best AR-15 Brass Catcher
Another problem with rail-mounted brass catchers is that they have the unfortunate habit of jamming cartridges, which not only renders them temporarily useless but can also impact the basic functionality of the rifle’s action.
Some brass catchers - the ones with the wire frames - leave a little gap between the receiver/ejection port and the opening of the bag. Since rifles eject brass in a specific orientation - with respect to gas settings and whatnot - sometimes instead of spitting spent brass casings right into the bag, they shoot them right up into that little clearance between the shell catcher and the receiver.
This is not so problematic if it happens once or only every once in a while. However, sometimes the spent casing deflects back into the action and jams the BCG - a specific type of jam known as a stovepipe. This is problematic because it needs to be manually cleared before the rifle can be cycled again.
This occurrence, while rare, only typically happens with rail-mounted, wire-frame brass catchers. Some shooters have suggested rectifying the problem by bending the frame in such a way that clearance between it and the receiver is minimized, but our solution is better. Just use a brass catcher that doesn’t present that problem in the first place.
What Is the Best AR-15 Brass Catcher?
Now that we’ve punched a bunch of holes in the concept that rail-mounted brass catchers can conceivably constitute the “best” AR-15 brass catcher, we can serve up a high-quality alternative.
This is exactly how we developed the Brass Goat. It does not mount to your AR-15’s rail space and is without a doubt one of the most practical brass catchers on the market.
Instead of mounting to rail space, it mounts to mil-spec AR-15 lower receiver magwells. It’s easy to attach and detach and requires no tools.
Instead of being made of “heat resistant materials,” it is made from solid, molded ABS. It will not melt, catch fire, or jam. It also won’t tangle in gear, since it’s not made from “heat resistant mesh.”
In place of the zipper at the bottom, it’s compatible with a detachable hopper that holds up to 30 rounds of .223 and is actually easy to empty.
It has a low profile, keeping it out of your sight picture, and since it doesn’t block rail space, you can free yourself from all of the issues mentioned in this article.
It’s ideal for target shooting, competition, hunting, and more. Save yourself some trouble and save your rail space - get a Brass Goat. It actually makes a bid for being the best AR-15 brass catcher on the market.