If you want to avoid spending the back half of your day at the range picking up the brass casings, a brass catcher will come in handy.
Given how much time & money folks invest in their AR-15 – with rails, accessories and various upgrades, – something as simple as a brass catcher – that snags your casings before they hit the ground – will keep your casings clean and ensure you spend more of your time putting lead down-range than picking up cold brass.
After considering 15 different brass catchers and testing 8 of them on a series of different rifles—including an AR-15, 22LR, and SKS —we recommend the Caldwell Pic Rail Brass Catcher as the best brass catcher for most recreational shooters who like to collect and reload their casings.
If you prefer a non-attached brass trap or are looking for a budget option, we have provided recommendations for those as well.
Quick List: The 5 Best AR-15 Brass Catchers
Best Attached AR-15 Brass Catcher:
The rail-mounted Caldwell Pic Rail Brass Catcher is sturdy, secure, and light. Measuring 10 tall x 7 wide x 4 inches deep, and weighing just 4.8 ounces, it’s a perfect fit for a non-obtrusive brass catcher that’s easy to use, fits nicely over the ejecting port, and will hold up to 100 rounds of .223 casings.
Obviously your mileage may vary if you’re shooting a larger caliber, but in our tests, we found that considering you’re changing your mag well before hitting 100 rounds it’s easy to clear it out as you go.
Effective Mounting System
We’ve tested thousands of dollars of gear for our product guides, and of all the products we’ve put to the test, this Caldwell brass catcher is one of the few things I both bought for myself and have given as a gift to my shooting buddies.
Catching brass with the Caldwell
It has a nice mounting system that works with any picatinny, so if for some reason you don’t have a top-rail this won’t work for you – but for most AR owners, it’s a simple and effective accessory.
Mesh & Catch Bag Quality
One critical note – the heat resistant mesh is very durable, but over time the bottom of the mesh bag can wear though from the way the cartridges land nose down (the hottest part of the cartridge).
A slight mod makes it near perfect
While it’s unreasonable to expect anything to last forever, we found that the addition of a small piece of leather in the bottom prevented any visible wear, and will extend the life of the product considerably.
- 100 round capacity
- Empty without removing from the rifle with bottom zipper
- Standard picatinny rail mounting
- Fully adjustable to work with a variety of rails
- Rounds land in the bag nose down & can melt the bottom over time
Best Trap Brass Catcher:
If you’d prefer to avoid mounting anything to your rifle (but still want to use a catch) the Caldwell Brass Trap makes catching, clearing, and removing all your brass easier than every other trap catch we’ve seen.
The fact it’s a stand-alone catch means it’ll work for any firearm – rifles, pistols – you name it. Plus the mouth is huge at 19″ x 20” so it’ll catch anything you toss at it and it’s far easier to clean out than other traps.
The nylon mesh is sturdy and the internal frame helps it maintain a consistent shape. The unit can be tripod-mounted so you move it to fit wherever you’re shooting – standing, seated, or prone. We mounted it to a standard tripod mount and shot from a variety of angles and positions with no issues.
Best when secured down
With its large size but relatively lightweight we found that without a tripod the catch worked best with a sandbag or bungee cord to tie it down. Once you get it secure though, this thing isn’t going anywhere.
For those reasons and more, we think a quality brass catch that makes a very tedious task much easier is worth the premium price.
- Big & easy to use
- Holds an absurd amount of brass
- Tripod mount makes it super flexible
- Won’t interfere with your shooting style
- More expensive than other options
- Will need to be weighed down to keep in place if there’s any wind
- Plastic rods are flimsy
Best Budget Brass Catcher:
If your budget is tight, or the Caldwell Pic Rail Brass Catcher isn’t available, the GLORYFIRE Pic Rail Brass Catcher is easy to attach to your rifle, holds the same amount of cartridges (100 round capacity) and costs less than our top pick.
The GLORYFIRE is not a product you’ll find in stores – it’s a “made for Amazon” kind of thing – but it’s also a fairly capable brass catcher.
Easy to attach, if somewhat inconsistent quality
It’ll attach via the provided mount & allen wrenches and offers a zippered bottom for easy emptying – plus it keeps you from flipping brass at your neighbor on the range.
It’s also light enough not to interfere with shooting position or optics and the mesh is high quality – it showed no signs of melting in our 100+ round fire tests.
The picatinny mount worked well in our test unit but there have been reports of the mount not being milled to spec, which can cause it to be canted when mounted. QA can also be an issue, but absent that the product works as intended.
- Attaches easily
- Mesh is durable
- Picatinny mount can have inconsistent milling
- QA can be an issue
Best Brass Retriever:
If you really don’t like the idea of attaching a catcher to your rifle, or would prefer to simply clean up once your day at the range is done (but still don’t want bend over and pick up your brass by hand) the Caldwell Brass Retriever is sturdy, light, nimble, easy to assemble, and a superb performer for picking up spent casings & saving your back.
It did a better job of picking up .223 & 5.56 casings than any other retriever in our test—and did so on cement, light gravel, and packed dirt reasonably well. Its long handle and metal opener tool mean you stand upright when cleaning up then quickly drop the casings into a bucket to haul home.
Easy on the back
This really reduces back strain, and its collapsible handle makes it small enough to fit into a range bag.
The design is dead simple – you extend the handle and basically mop up the casings by rolling over them with the wire head.
There’s a learning curve
You can’t overdo it though – after it has picked up about 20 casings they will start falling out of the head if you keep pushing it around. You learn when it’s “full” (even if it doesn’t actually fill the head) and can drop them into a bucket with the opener tool.
It’s also not omnidirectional – you’ve got to orient the head the right way to consistently pick up the casings (or it’ll just glide over top of them.) It will work really well at indoor ranges with smooth floors.
Outdoors your mileage may vary, and it will pick up rocks and other items in addition to the casings you actually want. That said, it’s a solid tool and does a great job if you use it within its design constraints.
- Saves your back
- Light weight
- Packs up small
- Adjustable handle
- Learning curve
- Will drop casings if not emptied consistently
Runner-up Attached Brass Catcher:
Another solid attachable brass catcher option is the TacStar Industries Brass Catcher, available on Amazon.
It’s about the same size and price as our top pick, and offers most of the features you want in a brass catcher. The actual catch is sturdy and well-built, and the material (while not see-through like mesh options) is very durable. It’s impermeable to hot brass casings and stiff enough that it doesn’t need a wire frame.
Survived our speed run with flying colors
We did a speed run – firing off 30 rounds in rapid succession. The spent brass was too hot to touch, but the catcher showed zero wear even when it was half full of red hot casings. Really impressive.
It mounts with a standard picatinny to any flat top AR, so if you have the rail space this should mount without issue.
Less mounting flexibility
One note on the mount though – while the Caldwell mount slides all the way across the opening – the Tacstar mount can only slide half way across – from the front rearward to about the middle of the unit.
This means your picatinny bracket needs to be placed forward of the catcher’s center point – you can’t put the mounting bracket further back on the rail.
While not a massive design flaw, this could create an issue for anyone short on forward rail slots or with a scope mount that’s using that space.
No zipper, but still easy to empty
There’s no zipper bottom like other units, so the bag needs to be removed to empty, but it slides off the mount smoothly. You can also unsnap the bag from the top bracket to give it a thorough cleaning when it seems prudent.
The picatinny bracket isn’t premium material – so don’t over tighten the screws or the threads may strip. There’s also no option to buy a standalone bracket, so if you overdo it on the bracket you’ll need to replace the entire unit.
- Flush mounts to standard Picatinny
- Durable catch bag won’t melt
- Needs to be removed to be emptied
- Limited mounting options
Each of these brass catchers offers different strengths and use cases but our top pick is the Caldwell Pic Rail Brass Catcher as it’s incredibly effective, easy-to-use, and met the criteria for any brass catcher we’d recommend:
- Easy to mount
- Lightweight & lots of capacity
There are quite a few options out in this category, but we hope this article steers you in the right direction. If you have any questions or feedback please drop us a line.