July 20 2021 – Kara Schott
The hottest AR-15 accessories are probably high-end optics, advanced, highly adjustable trigger groups, laser sights, pistol grips, bipods, muzzle brakes, and the like. They are exciting, noticeably affect the shooting experience (and typically for the better) and when added to a rifle as furniture really make the whole package “pop.” Rarely will a brass catcher top the list of essential shooting accessories; sometimes they aren’t even included.
But “cool factor” is not the only way to assess the value of AR-15 accessories. Sometimes you need to crown the lower guys on the totem pole simply because of the vast difference they can make in the shooting experience, no matter how simple or run-of-the-mill they appear.
How a Brass Catcher Works
Most brass catchers are pretty simple in their operation. Our brass goat, for example, looks very different from other catchers that use mesh bags, but they work basically by the same principle.
They mount to your sporting rifle, often to a section of the rail or the handguard (in the case of the Brass Goat, it quickly attaches to a lower receiver’s Magwell) and cover the ejection port so that they can wrangle in those hot shells that your action coughs up.
Mesh bag models typically have a wireframe that holds them rigid and can be swung over the ejection port to cover it. They also usually have a convenient zipper at the bottom of the mesh bag so that captured brass can be easily emptied. The Brass Goat is compatible with a removable hopper that facilitates emptying.
It’s just about that simple - but despite their ho-hum appearance and basic, straightforward operation, they are highly valuable accessories. That is, when they are designed properly and don’t present more issues than they solve.
In order to make a better brass catcher that really was an essential shooting accessory, we had to go above and beyond to address the ills currently facing owners of such mesh-bag-brass catchers.
Problems Associated with Brass Catchers
While a brass catcher can be a vital component of any shooter’s range gear, not just any shell catcher will do the trick. There are some problems associated with traditional models that we aimed to solve when we developed the Brass Goat, and the list that follows only discloses some of them.
- Catching fire or melting
Many brass catchers are made from nylon mesh bags. They can fold up and out of the way when not needed, which is convenient, and they promise to be heat resistant, but the fact of the matter is that hot brass is hot. It’s hot enough that sometimes it can melt these mesh bags and at other times it can actually result in a fire. Both of these scenarios constitute catastrophic failure of your equipment and will require, at minimum, replacement. In worst-case scenarios, they can necessitate significant maintenance on your rifle.
- Jamming, not holding enough ammo
Besides the fact that brass catchers have been known to catch fire or to melt, some of them may also jam. The fact of the matter is that some mesh bags may be capacious but are not designed so as to facilitate the capturing of brass, which can result in them jamming or holding less then they should, especially when the shells cascade in at all angles which are not at all optimized for capacity.
- Hanging up on branches, thorns and brush
If you hunt with your sporting rifle, and many people do, then you know firsthand what you can get yourself into out there, especially in adverse conditions or at night - or both. When you take your sporter into the field in pursuit of potentially dangerous game, you’ll be diving headlong into the thickest, most unforgiving brush and brambles that nature can serve. It can catch boot laces, zipper pulls, seams, and more - and you bet it can catch a mesh bag mounted to the outside of your rifle.
Naturally, this is an issue we had to rectify in the development of our Brass Goat, and we did. Its solid ABS resin construction is effectively impervious to thorns and brush, and it will glide through them with ease. You’re still on your own with your boot laces and zippers, though.
- Confounding your sight picture
The nature of some brass catchers is to get in the way of your sight picture. That’s an evil you can probably shoulder during your range therapy time, but at any other time, it’s really not an acceptable inconvenience. While you’re hunting, it’s unethical, and when you’re competing, it will cost you time and will adversely affect your score.
Our Brass Goat mounts to lower receiver magwells without the need for tools, and has a very slim profile. Consequently, it will not impair your sight picture whatsoever, lying well beneath it and out of the way to the side.
- Cluttering up your rail or handguard space
Since some brass catchers mount to your Picatinny rail or to a section of your handguard, they inherently clutter up your rail space. The thing is, you need your Pic rail to mount side saddles, lights and optics, and a brass catcher taking up room is sort of a nonstarter. There’s just not need to mount it there when you can mount it somewhere else and preserve the space for more useful accessories.
The Brass Goat keeps both your rail and handguard entirely clear, mounting instead to the lower receiver magwell. Decorate your AR-15 with whatever lights, bipods, and optics you want - the Brass Goat won’t get in the way.
How a Brass Catcher Can Improve Your Shooting Experience
Whether you choose a brass catcher with a mesh bag or a model that is better designed for superior performance, like our Brass Goat, you can expect a brass catcher to provide you with the following benefits of capturing ejected brass, rather than discourteously leaving it wherever it might fall.
- Courtesy to your neighbors at the range
One of the most important value-adds provided by a brass catcher is that it is instrumental in preventing hot brass from landing all around your shooting area at the range - which, by the way, you might be sharing with neighbors on any given day.
Perhaps you recall that brass is occasionally hot enough to cause a mesh bag to catch fire. You can imagine what that will do to exposed human skin. When a hot shell flies down someone’s shirt or lands in a pocket (which has been known to happen) the results are unpleasant. Using a brass catcher is just part and parcel of being a thoughtful range neighbor. Keep hot brass out of your neighbor’s lane, keep everyone happy.
- Keeping range and competition compliant
There are other benefits to the practical implementation of a brass catcher in addition to courtesy. Perhaps you’re in the habit of having your bench all to yourself. Good for you; there are no neighbors to suffer the insolent rain of hot brass. However, if that range has a brass catcher policy, you might need to use one anyway.
Also, some competitions may require you to use a shell catcher to cut down on waste and minimize maintenance fees. If that’s the case, you won’t be able to compete or partake anyway, so it becomes a matter of necessity. Just get the best one you can and don’t cut corners.
- By saving your back and your time
You might also choose to invest in a brass catcher (they are affordable, at any rate) simply to save your back, time, and efforts at the range. Any shells you leave around your shooting area will need to be cleaned up by someone at some point, and most often that someone is you, and that point is when you have finished for the day.
After all, you might already have a speedloader in your range bag, to save you from the laborious annoyance of packing shells into your mags by hand. If you care enough to solve that issue, care enough to solve the issue of waddling around the bench stooping down to grab brass.
- By helping you fight the current ammo shortage
If you didn’t notice (although we’re confident that you have) we are in the midst of a global ammo shortage, and it’s hitting us here at home pretty hard. Manufacturers have strict requirements to meet for standard and quality control and only limited ability to produce. Consumers are outstripping their production of ammo literally as fast as they can make it.
The results have honestly been pretty dramatic. Ammo prices have skyrocketed, and worse, it’s just downright near impossible to find some cartridges. Saving your brass can help free you from the impacts of this shortage - as long as you can find powder, primer and bullets.
- By fueling your handloading hobby
If you really get into shooting and take a personal interest in the sport, you may at some point take up handloading. It’s not so much a measure to save you money as it is a way for you to get into the precise performance of the loads you shoot. You can create loads specifically for given scenarios, like long-range shooting or hunting.
If you do, there’s literally no reason whatsoever to waste your brass. Each shell is a golden opportunity to create a new load that performs better at the range or in the field. Unless, of course, you’d rather be wasteful with your current brass and spend extra money to buy it fresh.
- By staying out of your sight picture
A brass catcher that stays out of your sight picture is also valuable in ways you probably don’t need us to clarify. Anything that gets in the way or serves a hindrance is an impediment to your performance, to accuracy and potentially even to safety. The Brass Goat’s low profile and slim lines will remain out of your way, every time.
- By freeing up some of your rail space
Brass catchers that mount to your rail or handguard take up valuable real estate that could otherwise be reserved for mounting more useful accessories like lasers, lights, saddles, sling mounts, optics, and much more.
The right shell catcher - like the Brass Goat - will effectively capture all your spent brass while keeping your coveted rail space clear.
- By helping you follow the “leave no trace” principle
Perhaps you are an outdoorsman or woman who follows the principle of leaving no trace, which means leaving the outdoors in the condition in which you found them. Fishermen that leave lures, weights and spent mono, and hunters that leave shells and wads, do not follow this maxim. The idea is to take whatever you brought in with you back out with you as well.
Good luck finding your spent brass if you hunt with an autoloader and don’t use a shell catcher. Your ejectors will send shells into places you’ll likely never be able to recover. It’s hard enough finding brightly colored 20 gauge and 12 gauge shells that autoloading shotguns spit out. A sporting rifle can throw shells into brush that will absolutely swallow them up.
- By allowing you to move more covertly through the field
One more thing a brass catcher can offer you is the ability to move about discreetly and with greater facility. Since the Brass Goat features molded ABS resin construction, there is no mesh weave, and no harsh corners, for thorns, brush, twigs, and branches to grab. Even in dense country, you can move about with relative ease, in silence, and without having to extricate yourself every few steps.
Keep in Touch with Us
Do you still have questions about how the design of a brass catcher can be improved to provide better functionality, how our Brass Goat does that, or why it’s worthwhile to use one? Feel free to contact us and we’ll be glad to field your questions.
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