What is steel jacketed ammo?


July 15, 2003, 08:41 PM
I've been told they don't want us shooting steel jacketed ammo this summer because of the extra dry conditions and fears that it might spark a forest fire.

But what exactly is steel jacketed ammo? I've got a ton of Wolf HP 7.62x39mm that I want to shoot. It's the cheap stuff (1,000 rounds for $87 shipped from Cabelas). The box says "Steel Case", but I don't know if that's the same as steel jacketed because the bullet itself looks just like any other copper colored one.

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July 15, 2003, 09:00 PM
Steel-jacketed ammo is ammunition in which the bullet (not the case) has a steel covering; some manufacturers (usually military) use steel because it's cheaper than gilding metal (the copper alloy used on most jacketed ammo). If you've got a magnet and/or a hacksaw, it's usually fairly simple to tell if your ammo has a steel jacket. "Looks" alone can fool you, because they do make "copper-washed" steel-jacketed ammo, which just has a thin coppper coating on the steel jacket. If a magnet sticks to the point of the bullet, the bullet will either have a steel jacket or a steel core (or possibly both), and if you cut through the bullet with a hacksaw, you'll be able to see if there's anything besides lead in the core. HTH.

Mike Irwin
July 15, 2003, 09:42 PM
Most of the steel jacketed ammo you'll see these days is out of former commbloc nations, surplus that's being bled out. Most of it is gone, but you'll still see it around.

Sylvilagus Aquaticus
July 16, 2003, 12:19 AM
Mike's exactly right, as usual :D ; it seems to mostly emanate from the old Soviet Bloc. Meant to penetrate in extremis. I even had some old 50's vintage Czech 9mm steel jacketed stuff I picked up for the collector novelty of it. Gave it to a store owner friend of mine who added it to his display of unusual/rare items in his showcase. I wouldn't shoot steel jacketed stuff through my brother-in-law's gun, though (if he even had one, dagnabbit). Past conventional wisdom was that it ( the steel jacketed bullet) tended to erode the bore significantly over time. It most certainly would be corrosive ammo.

Maybe they were equating ( or most likely confusing) steel jacketed with tracer/spotter rounds in this case, but that would presume the authorities in question knew something.


Mike Irwin
July 16, 2003, 12:53 AM
Steel-jacketed ammo uses a very mild steel, but it is still harder on the bore than guilding metal. I wouldn't want to shoot much of it out of a gun that I really cared about.

As for penetration, I really don't think that to be the case with the steel jacketed ammo.

The steel cored ammo, yes, that's often designed as a light armor penetrator, but in those cases the bullet is normally jacketed with guilding metal.

I've still got part of a case of Soviet surplus steel cored 7.62x39 ammo around here. The jacket is definitely guilding metal.

What's REALLY neat about steel jacketed ammo, though, is how it throws sparks on indoor ranges that use beater plates...

Unfortunately, that's exactly the property that can lead to it causing fires if striking another hard material, such as a steel target or even a substantial rock.

July 16, 2003, 06:49 AM
You mentioned "steel case" on the box. Cases have been made of steel, brass, and aluminum. Steel cases are coated with laquer to prevent corrosion. Bullets also have been made of different jacket materials; gilding metal (copper with 5-10% zinc),aluminum or steel. The steel jacketed bullets are then coated with gilding metal. If they are made properly steel jacketed bullets like those made by Norma present no problems. I would be hesitent using military steel jacketed bullets. In either case , steel jacket or steel case can easily be determined with a magnet.

cracked butt
July 16, 2003, 10:37 AM
Cupro-nickel jackets w. hich were used before copper jackets should be magnetic also and they are silver in color which many misidentify as steel.

July 16, 2003, 10:42 AM
The bullet used in Wolf 7.62x39 ammo can be held with a magnet. I'd wager that it uses a copper-washed steel jacket.

July 16, 2003, 10:52 AM
quite a lot of Western military - and some commercial - ammo uses GMCS these days. A lot of Portuguese 7.62x51 turned up here for the national matches some years ago; they assured everybody that they had tested it and concluded that erosion was no greater than with GM bullets. It still ended up being rejected, for diffferent reasons.

July 16, 2003, 01:23 PM
I don't think that it's limited to former Com Bloc surplus. I bought a case of "GECO" brand 9x19 made in the past year by Dynamit Nobel/RWS at a recent gunshow. It was brass cased, boxer-primed, and manufacturer has a rep for high quality. Price was very reasonable, so I went for it.

Turns out that the bullet jacket is brass-washed mild steel. Discovered this after putting 300 of them through my beloved EAA CZ-75 clone when I noticed that the rifling lands looked a lot more "polished" than they had been.

I will now be taking a magnet to shows to check before I buy. The rest of this ammo will be relegated to use in an old Norinco Tokarev 9x19. As I only have $75 in that one, I don't really care if the bore gets worn-out.

July 16, 2003, 01:27 PM
Nearly all of the Russian made ammo currently available is steel casing (usually coated w/ green lacquer). The bullets themselves are lead core, mild steel jacket, w/ a copper wash over the mild steel. This is the same basic military configuration that has been used successfully since before WWII.

Check the headstamps. A lot of it is current production. No need to worry about it being corrosive. If you come across some old '60's vintage Chinese stuff (or '70's Yugoslavian), well that's a different story.

If you bought a pile of Wolf'ys you most likely have an AK clone or a Simonov that needs some excercise. Good for you. Don't fret the barrel wear. This is the ammo it was designed for. If you manage to wear it out. Go buy another one. :D

If the locals are concerned about fire starters, maybe you need to be shooting at a more defined locale. You know, defined shooting lane, nice big dirt berm for a backstop. Just a thought.

P.S. All of the Wolf products are made w/ the new improved airpocket projectiles (patterned after the 5.45 ak-74). When impacting a soft target the bullet turns sideways and the lead core flows to the side on deceleration causing the bullet to stay sideways. When impacting a hard target the core flows forward stabilizing the bullet for more penetration.

Alan Smithiee
July 16, 2003, 02:03 PM
the effects of dry conditions and steel jacketed ammo....


the area all around the range is farmland.. you get the idea if it had gotten away and gone wildfire.

July 16, 2003, 08:20 PM
Woodleigh solids are also steel-jacketed and "copper washed." They ARE designed to provide extreme penetration and they're TOUGH! This one was dug out of a sand pit. It penetrated somewhere between 4 and 6 feet (couldn't tell for sure). 410 grain, .416 solid fired from a .416 Rigby at ~2350 fps.




Mike Irwin
July 16, 2003, 10:58 PM
"They ARE designed to provide extreme penetration and they're TOUGH!"

Joe, I wasn't inferring that steel-jacketed ammo won't penetrate. I was saying that steel-jacketed military ammo isn't designed as an armor-piercing type ammo.

FMJ steel jacketed bullets will penetrate roughly the same distance as FMJ guilding metal jacketed bullets if the jacket holds togeter and the bullet doesn't rivet.

July 16, 2003, 11:04 PM

Understood and agreed. I was just pointing out that there are applications for steel-jacketed bullets outside of military use. I know Rigby was loading 'em around 1912, and these Woodleighs are sort of a modern recreation of those originals.


Correction: Rigby didn't actually load ammo, but they had ammo loaded for them with steel-jacketed solids for dangerous game use a very long time ago.

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