Public Outcry Leads Defense Department to Reverse Spent Ammo Directive

Ryan Byrnes | April 23, 2009 | 8:27pm EDT
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( - The U.S. Department of Defense has reversed a directive that would have prohibited U.S. ammunition retailers from purchasing used brass shell casings from the government -- and at least one ammo maker credits public outcry for the change of heart.

“It just restores my faith that the system works,” Curtis Shipley, owner of Georgia Arms, told “If enough people are motivated and say ‘Hey, that is wrong,’ the system does still work.”
Shipley said thousands of calls, letters and e-mails went to the DOD and to lawmakers to protest the now-rescinded order, which would have made the brass available only as useless scrap metal to be sold to China and other countries. 

Shipley said his company, one of the country’s top retailers of .223-calibre ammunition, normally buys 30,000 pounds of spent brass at a time from the Defense Department. Georgia Arms then turns the brass into ammo and resells it to law enforcement agencies, gun shops and other retail outlets.
But Shipley’s company was jeopardized when he received a letter March 12 from the Defense Department telling him that it would no longer be selling the spent shell casings and would instead only be selling scrap metal, which is virtually useless to ammunition sellers.
The letter to Shipley and other ammo makers explained that DOD would begin to destroy and shred the brass, diminishing it to scrap metal and rendering it useless to ammunition makers.
“Effective immediately DOD Surplus, LLC, will be implementing new requirements for mutilation of fired shell casings,” the letter said. “The new DRMS (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service) requirement calls for DOD Surplus personnel to witness the mutilation of the property.
The directive would have reclassified spent shell casings as sensitive material – material that is mutilated before being distributed to prevent reverse engineering.
“Mutilation means that the property will be destroyed to the extent that prevents its reuse or reconstruction,” the letter continued. “DOD Surplus personnel will determine when property has been sufficiently mutilated to meet the requirements of the Government.”

The mutilated material would have been sold to other countries such as China at a cost lower than what the DOD paid for it to be shredded.
Shipley said the reclassification was a surprising move on the government’s part.

 “The distressing part of it was that the government was going to lose money,” Shipley said. “They were going to lose $2 a pound and accomplish nothing.”

Spent shell casings usually sell for between $2.30 and $2.50 per pound, allowing the government to recoup a good amount of their ammunition expense budget. However, once the brass is mutilated, it has no added value and a product that was worth about $2.50 becomes worth only about 50 cents, Shipley said. 

“We felt like it was just an option to bring in ammunition control rather than gun control,” Shipley told

The directive was reversed March 17.
“The primary focus of the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) mission is to protect national security by ensuring property is properly identified for reutilization and disposition and not released for public sale when to do so would jeopardize national security,” the Defense Logistics Agency said in a statement issued March 20.
“Upon review, the Defense Logistics Agency has determined the cartridge cases could be appropriately placed in a category of government property allowing for their release for sale.”
The ammunitions directive would have caused Shipley to lay off nearly half of Georgia Arms’ 60 workers, Shipley said.
The Defense Department did not provide comment for this story before publication.
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