How to Evaluate Spent Casings

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Here at Powder Valley, we know that evaluating spent casings is one of the most important reloading basics for newcomers to learn. Otherwise, you put yourself at risk of a damaged firearm, a serious personal injury, or even worse.

With that in mind, here are seven warning signs to look for when inspecting used brass:

  1. Split casings
  2. Corrosion
  3. Dents
  4. Ejector marks
  5. Bulges
  6. Separation rings
  7. Two primer holes rather than one

Let’s take a look at each of these red flags.

Split Casings

This is one of the most common problems reloaders run across. It can have many causes, from improper crimping to simple overuse.

An occasional split case is to be expected. However, if the problem recurs on a regular basis, then you may have dirt or other contaminants in your reloading die. Give the equipment a thorough cleaning and see if that resolves the issue.


Corrosion on brass casings can take one of two forms:

  1. A tannish-colored oxide coating – this is a cosmetic issue caused by exposure to moist air. Proper cleaning should remove the discoloration.
  2. Whitish-green spots similar to mold or mildew – this is caused by acidic compounds like those found in leather ammo belts.It usually indicates that structural damage has occurred, so you should avoid using any casing that has this type of corrosion.


Dented casings can have many causes, from a defect in the firearm itself to the case being stepped on after it’s ejected. No matter what led to the problem, it’s always best to avoid using the damaged cartridge. Otherwise, internal pressures can cause it to fail when the weapon is fired.

Ejector Marks

These are tiny lines or indentations along the base of the casing.

A case with ejector marks is at high risk of primer failure, so it’s best to recycle the brass rather than reload it.


Bulges in the casing body indicate that the brass is weak and brittle, a problem caused by excessive ignition pressures. Never reuse cases that have this problem.

Separation Rings

Sometimes you may notice a shiny ring around the circumference of the casing. This is a sign that the case is on the verge of failure and should be discarded. You should also check the weapon’s headspace and adjust it if necessary.

Two Flash Holes Rather Than One

Two flash holes indicate that you’re dealing with Berdan-primed ammo, a design often found in military surplus ammunition. Berdan cartridges have an integrated anvil, as opposed to standard Boxer ammunition, where the anvil is built into the primer itself.

Berdan casings are very difficult to reload unless you have specialized tools and training. Most reloaders find that the effort and expense outweigh the potential benefits.

Choose Powder Valley for All of Your Reloading Supplies

Here at Powder Valley, we carry a giant selection of ammo reloading supplies from all leading manufacturers, including presses, dies, and reloading primers. Whether you’re a newcomer to the hobby or a seasoned veteran, you’ll find everything you need in our one-stop online megastore for ammunition.

Browse our expansive inventory and place your order today. Remember, we can help you to shoot more and pay less than before!