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Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo

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This topic contains 12 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Max Velocity Max 4 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #1041
    Profile photo of Max Velocity
    Max
    Keymaster

    A detailed article comparing wear, reliability, and affordability of brass cased and steel cased ammo.

    http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/

    Conclusion from the article:
    Which Ammo To Buy

    If Federal Brass Cased Ammo Performed So Great, Why Bother Buying Steel Cased Ammo?

    The performance of the carbine firing Federal ammunition in this test was undoubtedly impressive. The firing of approximately 412 pounds of ammunition with very minimal maintenance in austere conditions without a single malfunction – not to mention remaining serviceable and combat accurate from the first shot to the last – could hardly be improved upon. To many who read this report, this is all the justification they need to purchase this type of ammo.
    It is hard to argue with a functionally flawless performance.

    To others, the increased cost of brass cased ammunition isn’t worth it – after all, the Wolf and Brown Bear ammo had very few malfunctions, all things considered. Plus, let’s be honest – in all likelihood, most people will never shoot 10,000 rounds through their AR-15. As a company we would be excited if they did, but the use these rifles saw was far beyond what is likely to be encountered in the real world. So, for many consumers, this test will be justification that buying steel cased ammunition is a sensible decision. In many cases, it is.

    Imported steel cased ammunition is a lot better than it is sometimes given credit for, especially considering the reduced price.

    Although ammunition prices are volatile, the prices of brass and steel remain similar to one another – that is, brass is generally more expensive. We created a chart comparing the cost over time of each type, including ammunition and spare parts replacement costs.

    The difference in price between brass and steel cased (more specifically, copper jacketed and bimetal jacketed) ammunition means that you’ll have plenty of savings with which to buy new barrels – even if you shoot so fast that you replace them every 4,000 rounds. For this chart, brass ammunition was calculated at $130 per thousand higher than steel and replacement barrels at $250 apiece.

    A chart detailing the cost of shooting brass vs. steel ammunition over 10,000 rounds.

    Chart indicating brass vs. steel cost comparison<p style=”text-align:center”>Copyright: LuckyGunner.com</p>
    The final decision is up to you, but now that you know some facts, you can make a better-informed decision.

    #1048
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    I know this has been a much quoted test.
    And while I agree w/ the final conclusion i belive the multiple mag dumps really exasperated the extra barrell wear of bi metal bullets vs brass.
    This is not how people really shoot int he US right now.

    Even though IMO he final conclusion is still correct (which is for whatever extra barrel wear you get form bi metal bullets you save tons more money with the cheaper ammo enough to buy several spare barrels) I believe the relationship to be even more favorable than the graph shows because they artificially weakend the barrells via lots of heat (magdumps).

    My philosphy has always been steel case for training and brass for SHTF…
    But lately some steel case has been coming out thats been good enough for SHTF ammo IMHO.

    I especially like the 62 gr without the penetrator (which I prefer since the penetrators introduce another accuracy robbing variable), zinc coated ammo with a small hollow point up front.
    This style is sold by MFS (german made), Colt Ammo (Barnaul ) and Silver Bear (also Barnaul)

    All of them are a bit hotter loaded than Tulammo, should get better effects on a most human targets than Tulammo 223 OR even M855 and are still 20% less than the cheapest brass cased Ammo.

    The only brass cased I buy these days are (outside of match grade for my DMR) are the “sleepers”….: PPU (both regular and match), Wolf Gold (Taiwan mil spec), and XTac M193 (SoKorean milspec)
    IMO those are real value leaders among the brass ammo.

    #1079
    Profile photo of Baldrick
    Baldrick
    Participant

    Second the wolf gold and PPU, even PMC does pretty well. I’m like you F I use steel for closer training and brass for SHTF. And brass for the DMR, but I handload my rounds for that as well.

    #1085
    Profile photo of Max Velocity
    Max
    Keymaster

    I shoot a lot of both steel and brass in my guns – rifle and pistol. It isn’t my preference to use steel fmj in an emergency, but if that is what I had available, I would feel plenty comfortable with it. I have found it to have equal reliability to brass.

    #1453
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    Ive never chronied Russian ammo , but I worry its underpowered.

    I believe the round needs to be moving at close 2500 fops in order to fragment. Even with NATO specs that limits carbines to 125 meters.

    Anyway , my old Bushmaster runs fine on Russian Steele cases , I train with it , but have some Lake City put away for future reference and a bunch of 55grn reloads.

    #1456
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    You are right most russian ammo is a bit underpowered.
    part of the thinks they never put in more powder than what they use for the 50 gr standard AK74 ammo.

    The primary example of this is Tulammo which shortcycles in some rifles.
    Most of the Barnaul made ammo seems to be loaded hotter as does the Wolf military classic and the wolf black box.

    The silver bear is nice though.. seems to chrono ok according to what I found ..

    (never chronoed myself)

    The silver bear 62 gr w/ the hollow point ammo is good enough for me as a real use ammo (even though I would prefer, federal, XTAC and such of course)

    #1476
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    Another point about steel cases is carbon fouling the chamber.
    I’ve found that if I shoot steel case and then brass I get failures to extract , if I shoot brass first , then steel – I don’t.

    There was/is a concern about lacquer on the case turning into hot glue , so to speak , but I’m pretty sure that was corrected years ago.

    I have heard it explained that since steel doesn’t expand as fast as brass does , allowing nasty stuff to build up in the chamber.

    #1488
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    Another point about steel cases is carbon fouling the chamber.
    I’ve found that if I shoot steel case and then brass I get failures to extract , if I shoot brass first , then steel – I don’t.

    There was/is a concern about lacquer on the case turning into hot glue , so to speak , but I’m pretty sure that was corrected years ago.

    I have heard it explained that since steel doesn’t expand as fast as brass does , allowing nasty stuff to build up in the chamber.

    Very true.
    Using piston rifles allevaites 90% of this issue, they are more expensive to buy but u can run steel w/o the excessive fouling issues inherent in cheap ammo.

    The brass before steel rule sitll applies tho even w/ piston guns..
    And i usually take care to clean the chamber first if I switch from steel to brass.

    (However on those times I mixed it all up back and forth, I was lucky enough not to have any issues)

    #2756
    Profile photo of Max Velocity
    Max
    Keymaster

    For those who missed it…while at a CRCD class one of the ARs I brought developed problems. First is started catching ejected brass in the upper part of the receiver while trying to load the next round. After changing magazines it worked better but after a few rounds started up again. Max took a look and told me to “oil the shit of it” which I did but on the next run I switched to steel case ammo and had a failure to extract. After barrowing a rod and jamming down on the table a few times it broke lose and thank goodness I brought a second rifle.

    The reason I had to barrow a cleaning rod is because I ran across this really small and neat cleaning kit with a flexible rod. Bad idea.

    So while I will practice with cheaper steel ammo I certainly intend to run brass in a more stressful I environment.

    #2759
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    A2 trapdoor buttstock with a .mil cleaningg kit ( solid rod ).

    Any chance your bolt/extractor was reversed/180’d the wrong way ?

    #2819
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    Just did almost 300 rds of fast fire in the role of fire support for the Class that ended today.

    (I hadnt shot in almost 10 days so i went a little crazy)

    being that this was a CHF NiCorr barrel from LWRC I wasnt too worried about the barrel and most of those rounds were magdumps.
    ut)

    80% were steel case.
    Mostly Wolf military classic and Silver bear/Colt
    One mag was Wolf PP (= Tula)
    2 Mags were brass (Federal)

    No malfunctions* with this strenuous firing order despite the mixing of brass and steel

    * Well one malfunction no fault of rifle/ammo combo.. when charging my rifle in the prone (almost) inside a bush, I inadvertently rode the CH a bit and caused a misfeed.

    #3307
    Profile photo of Matthew
    Matthew
    Participant

    I’ve been running tula for about 6,000 rounds now, and have had only one issue with it. That was one of the rims was a tad rusted, and it got ripped off by the extractor. Rust will damage steel cases. I keep brass for storage long term, and keep about 2,000 rounds of steel case circulating through training events and for “school house” rifles. The house rifles have about 3,000 rounds of steel through them with no problems yet, despite a level of maintenance that could best be described as benign neglect.

    Doing math to sign in is the one thing keeping me from wasting my life on this forum. Back to PT!

    #3314
    Profile photo of Max Velocity
    Max
    Keymaster

    Speaking in terms of needing to reload away from home, a small Lee Loader Classic and some components stashed away in the ruck could be the difference of making it home or not. With steel cased, you can’t reload even with carbide dies. I didn’t believe it myself until a gunsmith showed the damage the case does to the die quick fast and in a hurry. So, for me, I’ll stick to brass and reload kit will go in my ruck.

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