Thesoldiersproject is supported by its audience. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

What to Do With Shell Casings From Military Funeral?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what to do with shell casings from military funeral

Holding a military funeral is one of the most solemn ceremonies, especially when the Three Rifle Volley is performed. After the shots are fired, what to do with shell casings from a military funeral? Can you pick them up and make something more functional or leave them as be?

There are many ways to transform an empty shell into something meaningful and useful. You can display it inside a shadow box as a memento or turn it into jewelry. Other ways include sending the shell casings to a charitable organization, museum, or scrap yard for proper recycling.

Learn the many ways to handle and transform shell casings from a military funeral.

Traditional Methods of Handling Shell Casings

Normally, the shell casings are returned to the family in honor of their fallen loved one. The family can keep the brass shells as a memento or display to remember the service and valor of their relative in the military.

1. Retaining shell casings as mementos


The empty shell casings’ meaning runs deep for families who want to commemorate their fallen service member. As a result, memorializing shell casings is common after a military funeral. The casings are usually kept inside a shadow box as a display on a shelf or cabinet.

Another way of retaining the shell casing as a memento is engraving a special text on it for a touch of personalization. Typically, the name and rank of the fallen service member are engraved after polishing the brass shell. If you want to carry the memento of your loved one always, you can drill a hole in the empty brass shell to make a keychain.

2. Returning shell casings to the family


Following the funeral, the organization to which the fallen military personnel belongs gives the empty bullet casings to the immediate family. The number of returned shell casings can be one, three, or more, depending on the burial ceremony.

To show the country’s gratitude towards the great sacrifice of the deceased service member, the casings can be returned to the family inside a folded flag.

However, some traditionalists find it a bit awkward to open a piece of the flag just to retrieve the bullet casings. For a more practical way of returning the shell casings to the family, they’re presented separately from the flag or stored inside a bag or a memorial shell casing display box.

Alternative Uses for Shell Casings

If you don’t want to be old-fashioned, you can upgrade the empty shell casings into more beautiful artwork. You can also donate the spent shell casings to organizations for a more fulfilling action.

1. Artistic and creative purposes


A better way to reuse the shell casings is to turn them into fridge magnets. Since shell casings made of brass aren’t generally magnetic, it’s necessary to insert a magnet inside the empty shell. You can also use the pointed part of the casing into a cigar punch or cut a slit to make a paper money clip.

To make use of your artistic juice, consider transforming the casings into a unique piece of jewelry. Drill a hole into the brass shell casing to make it into a necklace pendant. Integrate some beautiful gems into the back of the casing to make earrings or bracelets.

2. Charitable contributions


If you want something more worthwhile, consider donating the shell casings fired in the military funeral to non-profit organizations. A veterans’ organization makes use of the empty brass shell casings for a collective memorial of fallen military personnel. Gun ranges also accept this type of donation to reuse for training purposes.

You can also donate these casings to entrepreneurs who turn them into patriotic items like bracelets and keyrings. Consumers patronize these products to partake in a bit of war history in their lives. For example, PIBAN sells products made from used shell casings to support Ukraine.

Environmentally Friendly Approaches

If you decide not to display or donate the shell casings from the military funeral, you can recycle them at your own will. Brass shell casings might harm the environment, so proper disposal should be observed.

Recycling is an excellent option to dispose of spent brass shell casings properly. Look for your nearest scrap metal recycling center and ask them if they accept brass. If they do, prepare the casings for recycling, starting with removing any gunpowder residue and any debris to make the recycling process safer.

Your local police station may also accept this type of spent ammo. When the police decide to take them, they’ll usually send some men to pick the casings. This is the best option if you don’t know how to handle ammo, particularly how to clean it.

Another potential option for upcycling these casings is at your local gun range, where they use the empty casings for educational and training purposes.

Educational and Historical Purposes

It would be more meaningful if the shell casings were displayed in a museum or memorial for everyone to see, especially if the fallen soldier is a highly recognized one.

1. Donating shell casings to museums


One way to extend the legacy of your deceased family member is to display their honor in a museum. You can donate the shell casings left from the military funeral to your local museum. Seek approval from a reliable curator before you send the casings to the museum that you’ve selected.

For example, the National WWII Museum accepts any donated items reminding of the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers in the second world war. You might need to include a background story about the casings to allow the museum to organize the collections.

Also, the National Army Museum collects shell casings from soldiers in WWI to transform them into magnificent pieces of trench art.

2. Establishing a memorial or monument


You can also leave the shell casings at veteran memorials like the one in Washington, DC. The memorial collects these items to remember the sacrifices of soldiers and their families during the Vietnam War.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Three Rifle Volley definition and meaning?

A 3 volley salute is a ceremonial act where three shots are fired into the air during a military funeral. The rifle party may consist of three to seven people standing at least 50 feet away from the casket. Since the party uses blank cartridges, they manually cycle the rifle after each shot.

Compared to a 21-gun salute, the three-rifle volley uses rifles instead of artillery pieces. More specifically, the volley uses M1 or M14 rifles to give a more traditional look.

Who is eligible or not eligible for the Three Rifle Volley?

Those entitled to a 3 shell casings military funeral are armed forces who die during active duty, honorably discharged veterans, and former/current members of the uniformed services.

Service members aren’t eligible for this ceremony if they committed a crime, were dishonorably discharged, and aren’t a member of a military service.

How to collect shell casings?

Once you’re sure that the area is without any live ammunition, put on gloves and eye protection. Then, you can handpick the fallen shell casings. To quickly locate the shell casings, look around the firing line first.

What is the significance of three shell casings at a military funeral?

After the three-rifle volley, the Honor Guard collects the empty casings and presents them to the next of kin. The three spent cartridges are placed inside a folded flag, each representing duty, honor, and sacrifice.


By now, I hope you know what to do with shell casings from a military funeral. Leaving them in the ground is wasteful and harmful because the metal components might endanger the environment. What better way than to give more purpose to the bare shell casings?

Let us know your thoughts about this article in the comment section below. If you like to spread this wonderful information, share the link with your friends.

5/5 - (2 votes)