Sunday, May 30, 2010

Steel Cased Ammo

There has been a lot of debate on gun forums relating to the use of steel-cased ammunition in both handguns and rifles. Many gun owners simply turn up their nose at any ammo that comes in a steel case. Steel cased ammo is usually not of American Manufacture (except for CCI, maybe some other manufacturer) and costs far less than comprable loads using brass casings.

I've read the opinions of various keyboard commandos on the internet saying that steel cased ammo will destroy the chamber of your modern firearm. Well i'd like to see a Makarov PM, P64, CZ52, CZ82, SKS, Tokarev, or AK47, that's fallen victim to being worn out because of the use of steel cased ammo. There aren't any. None.

Yes, steel cased ammo is made with steel. No, it will not wear out your chamber or barrel. if steel cased ammo were such a problem, why would countries all over the world use it in their military's ammunition supply through the 20th century and beyond? Here in the United States, we used steel cased ammo in limited production for both 30 Carbine and 45ACP.

There are still people on the internet saying that the use of steel cased ammo in their newly-manufactured firearms will destroy them. Well, if that were the case, then that would mean that their new, expensive firearms have a design flaw, that they're inferior because they can't digest this inexpensive and plentiful ammo as easily as surplus firearms.

I have a general rule of thumb involving steel-cased ammo: if its made in Russia, is steel cased, and has an animal either in the name or on the box, i'll buy it and shoot it. That goes for Golden Bear, Golden Tiger, Silver Bear, Brown Bear, Wolf, and Sapsan. Sure, most of the steel cased ammo floating around out there is berdan primed, and therefore all but unreloadable, that's OK for most shooters. Most shooters don't reload. A $9 box of Brown Bear 9mm ammo shoots just as well through my Ruger P95 as a $14 box of Winchester 9mm ammo. It does the same job, puts holes in targets. Why would i spend almost 50% more on the Winchester ammo? I'd rather shoot 50% more ammo on each range trip for the same amount of money.

People online have said that steel cased ammo will cause premature wear and failure of the extractor on autoloading handguns and rifles. That may be the case, but i've yet to see it happen first hand. I doubt there are many tests featuring two identical guns (one fed brass, the other fed steel) shooting until a failure occurs. Parts do break, but i don't think that can be attributed soeley to the use of steel-cased ammo. Even if i did have an extractor break after say... 2,000 rounds of steel cased ammo through my Ruger P95, the cost of the extractor (12.90 from Numrich), i would still be far ahead of the game, having paid:
  • $339.96 for 2,000rds of brown bear (84.99 per 500rds @ militaryshooters, times 4)
  • $459.40 for 2,000rds of Winchester (22.97 per 100rds @ walmart times 20)

folks, using steel cased ammo in this situation would save the shooter $119.44. Sure, some of that $119 savings would have to go towards postage of the brown bear ammo, $28.30 in fact. That still leaves the shooter with a savings of $91.14 over purchasing brass cased ammo. Maybe, just maybe i'd break an extractor. Then i'm out a whopping 12.90, still leaving me with $78.24 more than if i'd bought brass-cased ammo.

One could debate that if purchasing/shooting brass ammo, that the shooter could harvest and sell their once-fired brass, but i doubt that they could fetch $64 for their brass, not to mention the time consumed finding, sorting, storing, and selling their used brass.

Another gripe i've heard from those who won't shoot steel cased ammo is that its more dirty. That's fine with me. I clean my guns after shooting, each and every time, so a littl emore dirt doesn't make a bit of difference to me. To those who don't clean their guns (you know who you are!): neglect is abuse. Some steel cased ammo is coated with lacquer, giving the steel cases a green hue. A large buildup of the green lacquer can be the cause of sticky chambers, but that's really not an issue if you clean your gun on a regular basis, as you should. Newer offerings from Wolf ammo (probably the most popular steel cased ammunition provider) implement a polymer coating instead of lacquer to minimize the sticky chamber effect.


  1. Wow, you really worked this one out. I didn't even know about any of this, but I now agree with you totally.

  2. I really enjoyed your article. I just purchased a case of Tula steel cased polymer coated .40 S&W ammo and saved $$$$!! Why would you want to spend more money on brass casings when all your shooting is paper on the range. Now SD ammo, that is another story altogether....

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