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Mad Props II – AmmoCounters

“Life is like a box of ammo.” – Duke Nukem

IMG_0899 [1]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 [2] (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 [3]” 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 [4] are quite reasonable.

Styles and capacities are hugely varied. Revolvers [5] come in standard six-shooter capacity, but semi- and full-auto magazines [6] cover the gamut. (Sorry, but I can’t bring myself to call them ‘clips [7]’ 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 [8] 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 [9], the oddball nine-plus-shotgun LeMat [10] (yes, it’s real [11]), and the monster 50 round Tommy Gun [12] 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.

IMG_0901 [13]

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 [14] or Cabela’s [15]. (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!

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "Mad Props II – AmmoCounters"

#1 Comment By Scott Martin On November 16, 2010 @ 10:36 am

It seems like such a simple idea, but it does replace a paperwork headache with something that aids immersion. I hate counting arrows and bullets– but with something like that at the table, I’d dread it a lot less.

#2 Comment By BishopOfBattle On November 16, 2010 @ 11:53 am

That’s pretty cool, like Scott mentioned, I also dread keeping track of ammo counts in my games (especially as a GM tracking multiple baddies). “Counting shots” tends to be one of those tasks for our table that gets treated like monthly “rent”, daily meals, rations, etc. It really only comes up when it really matters and gets ignored most of the time.

Still, I’m not sure that I’d be able to convince myself to spring for something that specific. Though, the prices really are quite reasonable (less than half of what I expected them to cost).

I do see the immersive nature of it and do see the appeal of it as a counting method if that is something you do like to track. If I was going to try this out though, I’d be more inclined to save my own brass from shooting trips and keep them in a communal bucket. It doesn’t have the “sexy” factor of placing those rounds into stained, wooden magazines, but it would work.

#3 Comment By Roxysteve On November 16, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

It *is* an interesting idea. What would work better for me though would be if the markers (cartridges) were pushed down to indicate a fired round, and if they could then be all reset with some sort of catch (reloading the blocks would eventually get tedious in some of my more ballistically active games).

Even so, a very cool idea.

#4 Comment By John Arcadian On November 16, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

I saw a few of these in play at Con On The Cob. The feeling of ejecting the shells and littering the table with them is really kind of fun. I picked up two of these after seeing that.

#5 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On November 16, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

[16] – Maybe my players are really good, but my NPCs never seem to live long enough to reload… 😐

[17] – You could use it like a Cribbage board by using a different round as a ‘marker’ for how many rounds have been fired. A different caliber, a nickel plated round, or just a Sharpied round should work. (Of course, then you’d miss the ‘fun factor’ of piles of brass on the table.)

#6 Comment By XonImmortal On November 16, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

Wow. Just…


Great idea. Works much better than anything I ever came up with.

Hmmm. Now, how to do we makes something like this work for arrows, wand charges, and my trusty steam-driven railgun Alfonse?

#7 Comment By XonImmortal On November 16, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

Hmmm. Well with a little work, you could do that, and wire in a sound-chip with the “tink tink” sound, like the clip was actually ejecting the brass….

#8 Comment By Mad On November 16, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

I’ve been using an effective, but much less high-class, way of keeping track of my 4e Seeker’s arrows: As a WoD GM I have about 40 d10s in my dice bag. Whenever I fire an arrow, I put one of my d10s into a bowl.

Periodically I empty the bowl out, count out the dice, and remove that many arrows from my inventory. Cheap, but it works, and you can use anything (rocks, counters, etc).

#9 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On November 16, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

I forgot to add… I did not receive anything for this review. I bought the AmmoCounters above (and more) for full price.

BTW, the ammo box comes from Das Spiel Unker, too. Patrick bought it for my birthday (which was during CotC, and most of which I actually remember).

#10 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 16, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

[18] – Glad you like your birthday gift!

I bought about a $120 worth of these ammo counters myself, and I have been enjoying them tremendously in my games. They are just plain fun to use!

#11 Comment By Martin Ralya On November 16, 2010 @ 10:29 pm


#12 Comment By palin On November 17, 2010 @ 6:16 am

[19] – a player of mine used small feathers for arrows (I don’t know if they were actual feathers or proxies). Always used coloured-topped matches for wand charges (red for fireballs, blue for healing, and so on). For steamed railgun, which kind of bullet does it use? Leadballs?

#13 Comment By Roxysteve On November 17, 2010 @ 9:32 am

[20] – It’s all fun and games until someone steps on a dropped cartridge. Am I the only one who remembers the lesson Isaac Hayes learned the hard way in I’m Gonna Get You Sucka? 8o)

#14 Comment By Roxysteve On November 17, 2010 @ 9:36 am

[21] – No, that’s not what I meant. It isn’t the sound, but the prospect of an already crowded table littering up with brass cartridges that concerns me. I would like it if the cartridges were pressed down like the button of a ballpoint pen to indicate “fired” and then could all be popped up quickly for a “reload”.

I sorta envisioned my seven-player Delta Green/D20 crowd (Glock-17 fans one and all) trying to find the cartridges amongst the dice, pens, snacks and rulebooks after one of their more physical interventions in a cult ritual.

I still think it’s a cool idea with a capital coo.

#15 Comment By Roxysteve On November 17, 2010 @ 9:40 am

And in case it wasn’t clear: anything so elegantly simple that makes ammo counting fun is a winner in my book.

I *love* the Thompson 50-round drum.

#16 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 17, 2010 @ 10:35 am

[22] – I see your point, and it is possible that these ammo counters could be difficult to manage on a crowded table. Having used the ammo counters a few times now I can tell you that shells rolling all over the table hasn’t been an issue with a little bit of forethought. I have some copper cups and I give one to each player. They throw their brass into the cup when it is spent, and it produces a nice “clink!” sound. It has worked great so far, but YMMV depending on what you do at your table.

#17 Comment By lordsith On November 17, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

Thanks for the great review Kurt. I’m glad you enjoy my counters. It’s was especially nice to meet so many of the Gnomes at Con on the Cob after following your blog for so long. My only regret is that with my wife and I both having bad colds and laryngitis we couldn’t really enjoy the con or get to play any of your games. Hopefully next year.

You guys really helped (both in sales and having the chance to talk) Das Spielunker’s first sales convention a success.
Michael Reitz

#18 Comment By XonImmortal On November 17, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

[23] – Ammo?

I use magnetic steam for fuel, and discarded pieces of metal scrap, such as the fittings on the airship mast the cabin boy stripped in his enthusiasm to “help”.

I haven’t figured out a way to use the cabin boy as ammo yet.

#19 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On November 17, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

[24] – Thank you for making a great gaming prop. Our reviews are written as honestly as we can make them, and your AmmoCounters certainly earned their kudos.

[25] – We didn’t need those fittings, anyway… **Evil GM Grin**

#20 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 17, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

[24] – It was great meeting you too! I hope that I have sent some customers your way as I show gamers your counters at my FLGS!

#21 Comment By lordsith On October 27, 2011 @ 11:44 am

Kurt – It was good to see you again at this years Con on the Cob. Sorry I was out of 7 shot shotgun AmmoCounters. I just finished a batch of them for MACE, but if you would like me to hold some back for you let me know. [26]

#22 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 5, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

It’s a late addition, but we have been using nickel-plated .357 brass in my modern horror game to represent silver bullets. They fit perfectly, stand up higher (because they’re longer), and are a different color.

And yes, I got the 7 shot shotgun ACs from Das Spiel Unker. Because shotguns are awesome.