ATC Spent Brass Sorter

Gary M. Grimm, P.E., General Engineer, Test Officer
Daniel V. Terek, General Engineer, Chief, Ammunition Operations Division
Ammunition Operations Division, Firepower Directorate


Down-draft table at head end of SBS system

ATC fires approximately 2 million rounds of small arms ammunition per year.

Using the Spent Brass Sorter, ATC can sort and process casings faster and more efficiently than in the past.

Small arms testing at Aberdeen Test Center results in large volumes of spent brass of various calibers. Until now, this spent brass was sorted and processed by hand, and then packed for turn-in to the Ammunition Supply Point (ASP), where it was sorted and inspected, again by hand.

Despite the best efforts of ATC and ASP personnel to keep up with the volume of spent brass, sorting by hand was laborious, time consuming, and inefficient, requiring many personnel hours. It often created a bottleneck and an impediment to the turn-in of spent brass. The process needed to be streamlined to minimize time and cost.

Accordingly, Ammunition Operations Division worked with the Ammunition Peculiar Equipment (APE) Office in Rock Island to obtain the APE 1412 Spent Brass Sorter (SBS) to enhance ongoing small arms ammunition processing.

The SBS is an automated system for rapidly removing live rounds from spent brass while sorting cases by size. It can separate cases by material type (brass, nickel, steel and copper-clad steel) and by color. The SBS is designed to work with cases ranging in size from 9mm to .50-caliber.

The DOD Explosive Safety Board has approved the SBS as an acceptable method for verifying that spent cases are inert. After the operator loads cases in bulk on the down-draft table, the system feeds the cases into the sorter one at a time, at a high rate (exceeding 10,000 cases per hour). The SBS uses machine vision to visually inspect each case to verify that there is no projectile and that the primer is struck.

ATC’s diverse test mission generates a tremendous amount of small arms brass. With this new capability, ATC is able to sort spent brass more efficiently. Because the SBS can distinguish and sort multiple calibers simultaneously, the laborious process of hand sorting is no longer needed, which saves time and, ultimately, minimizes customer cost.