“Life is like a box of ammo.” – Duke Nukem
At Con on the Cob (about which much more later), I ran across one of the cooler props I’ve seen in the last year (including Gen Con). These are the AmmoCounters from Das Spiel Unker  (a German pun for ‘The Basement Gamer’).
Some background: In addition to RPGs (and parentheses), I am a fan of firearms. I reload my own ammunition, shot competitive pistol events, and still have the .22 rifle I got for my 10th birthday. To me, there’s something very visceral about the sound and feel of brass cartridge cases.
So when fellow Gnome Patrick Benson called me over to another table in the “Mother of All Marketplaces ” to show me these beauties, I was speechless (but only temporarily, of course).
Handcrafted from locally-grown hardwoods, with a hand-rubbed finish, these props are both beautiful and functional. And the prices  are quite reasonable.
Styles and capacities are hugely varied. Revolvers  come in standard six-shooter capacity, but semi- and full-auto magazines  cover the gamut. (Sorry, but I can’t bring myself to call them ‘clips ’ like the site does.) Single-width magazines are available in 5, 6, 7, and 8 round capacities. Staggered magazines come with 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13 rounds. Double-width magazines are available in 15, 17, 20, 30, and 32 round versions. Shotguns  come in the cute little double-barrel version, as well as 4, 5, 6, and 7 shot street-sweeper models, and even a 5 shot revolver and a brutal 12 shot Gatling model. A twelve-shot revolver/rifle , the oddball nine-plus-shotgun LeMat  (yes, it’s real ), and the monster 50 round Tommy Gun  drum magazine round out the selection. All of these represent real-world magazine capacities.
Some of the models from my collection, and the weapons they may represent. Left to right, 8 round single-stack (Colt 1911), 6 round revolver (S&W .357 Mag), 17 round double-stack (Glock 17), 30 round double-stack (M16), and double-barrel shotgun.
As you can see above, AmmoCounters come filled with unfired and unprimed .38 Super brass, except for the shotgun models, which use the brass portion of a once-fired 12 gauge shell (high-brass, for those in the know). I haven’t tried it yet, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to use .38 Special or even .357 Magnum brass for the revolvers. Extra brass is available from online stores like Midway  or Cabela’s . (There are no restrictions on the shipping of brass, although it may raise a few eyebrows.)
To use the counters, just pull out the brass as your character shoots, and reload as necessary. As Patrick, Phil, and I discussed when using these in (of course) a zombie game, a communal catchbasin would be handy. As the brass is dropped into the ‘discard bowl’, the distinctive ‘tink-tink’ will definitely add to the immersion factor.
For a game like Deadlands, a small spitoon would be perfect to catch the brass as shots are fired. More modern games might use a cut-down artillery shell or a small ammo box, but the effect is the same: Dropping one shell is taking a shot, and a few shells is a quick burst, but the spincter-clenching brass rain of a full-auto magazine emptying will really get your attention.
Have you used AmmoCounters, or anything similar? Got a question or comment? Sound off and let us know!