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Aluminum and Steel vs. Brass Cartridge Cases

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by CalvinandHobbes, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. CalvinandHobbes

    CalvinandHobbes New Member

    Oct 19, 2008
    Dayton, OH
    Hi all, I'm pretty new to the forum and just purchased my first firearm: a Sig p-6/225.

    I've been to the range a few times with it and have been WOWed by the reliability and quality of the gun alongside my friends' other 9mms (couple of Kel-Tecs). Needless to say, having all this fun has run me through about a 1,000 rounds of Wal-Mart Winchester FMJ. (about $22 per 100 rounds after tax here). I've been looking online at a wide assortment of websites to see if I can get ammo in bulk and help my wallet out when I go to the range. It seems steel cased import ammo and aluminum Blazers are the cheapest things out there and I'm wondering if using steel casings or aluminum ones could pose any problems or perhaps damage my gun's feed/barrel/extractor.

    I know you that typically steel and aluminum casings are on-reloadable; that's not an issue for me at this point (I'll probably be looking for a reloader in a couple of years down the road). But could anyone with some more experience than I fill me in on any other drawbacks to shooting a $7 box of Wolf or $8 box of Blazer Aluminum vs. a $13 box of American Eagle?

    Thanks for your help!

    CalvinandHobbes is offline
  2. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    Lots of folks shoot Wolf with no complaints. Some say it is dirty.

    The Blazer aluminum cased ammo is fine in most guns, although occasionaly someone will say it won't run in their gun.
  3. jdorian

    jdorian New Member

    Dec 9, 2007
    Even so, if you have room to store the used brass, it will save you money in the long run. I have 5000+ once fired brass in boxes, some sorted, others not, but it will be there in case I need it. I never have left brass behind, not even .22 brass. I even pickup the aluminum and steel cases because I don't want anybody to have to clean up after me. Besides, I can take the non brass and sell it for scrap if I choose, it simply let it rust in buckets if I want and I'm not really out anything.
  4. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Elder

    Jul 30, 2006
    Johnson City, TN
    In 20+ years of shooting Blazer aluminum, I've only had problems with it in one gun, a CZ PCR that had several failures to extract/eject. In more limited shooting with Wolf 9mm I had no problems with it.

    As always, try a box or two and see how it functions in your handgun.
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
    If you have any plans to ever reload in the future, buy good brass case ammo now and save yourself the expense later on down the road.

    Empty brass is only going to cost more then then it does now.

  6. calaverasslim

    calaverasslim Participating Member

    Jul 20, 2005
    San Antonio de Bejar
    When my CZ was new, it wouldn't feed Wolf at all. Nothing I cud do would make it work. By the time I had about 500 rounds thru it and getting it broke in, I tried them again. Work like a champ.
  7. Zoogster

    Zoogster Senior Member

    Oct 27, 2006
    There is strong reasons brass has been the favored material used for casings.

    Brass for one is softer than steel. Your chamber extractor etc are made of steel (though a different alloy and treatment) and a material can wear itself down quicker than a softer material. (If you tried to cut steel with a brass saw you would not get very far. If you cut the same steel with a steel saw, evena soft steel saw you could progress much faster.)
    Coatings can be applied to the steel to reduce this increased risk of abrasion. They also can reduced oxidation (rust.) The laquer on some Wolf ammo is a good example.

    Aluminum while it might seem soft by itself forms aluminum oxide when oxidized (like exposed surfaces become) and aluminum oxide can be extremely abrassive to steel. In fact it is used intentional as an abrassive. You may hear to it refered to as corundum. A material used for numerous abrassive aplications, such as the grit on sandpaper. Aluminum oxide is harder than steel, so aluminum can be even worse than steel on your firearm if any of the aluminum is oxidized.

    Another reason is brass being softer is easier and cheaper to form. Softer materials result in less wear on the tooling to make them.

    Yet another reason is brass can expand and contract well without losing its structural integrity. A significant consideration (especialy for reloaders that re-use it.) This allows the brass to expand in the chamber, sealing it to escpaing gas. This great seal means slightly different internal dimensioned chambers are all equaly sealed firing the caliber. It is then soft enough that after providing that seal the extractor can pull it out, and any slight deformations required provide little resistance. Steel in the same situation both does not expand to seal the chamber well, and if it does change shape it can provide significantly more resistance to the extractor pulling it out. That means more wear on both the chamber and the extractor, by an even harder material.
    Aluminum loses a lot of is structural integrity when it expands.
    In addition, a less sealed chamber allows more of the gas into various directions. That gas itself can cause increased wear (think how the gas can cut the metal near the gap jumped in revolvers) since it is not all forced down the barrel behind the projectile.

    Now many jump in and judge it based on how well it works, not abrasion, wear and tear, lifespan of the parts, re-usability of the cartridges etc. They say "it works fine in my gun" and that is their bottom line.
    You can't argue with that. It works for them.
    It will get the job done.

    Notice some mention how steel casings did not originaly work, but later worked fine. As the tolerances of thier firearm changed, and small 'imperfections' were worn away, the much less forgiving steel began to work better. Thier chamber is now slightly larger than the steel cartridge, and since the steel rarely is resized on firing to seal the chamber, it remains smaller than thier chamber and is then extracted. It 'works'.

    Brass is best. Steel will work.
    If you really like your firearm, use brass. If it is simply a tool that you will use and then replace when necessary, and more quickly changing tolerances are not a huge concern, steel will work fine.
  8. greyling22

    greyling22 Senior Member

    Aug 6, 2007
    East Texas
    buy cheap, shoot a lot. have fun. if you have a problem, replace the part. they're not that expensive.
  9. NoirFan

    NoirFan Member

    Jul 25, 2006
    CalvinandHobbes, you don't have to reload to make use of your brass. Look at this: www.mastercast.net. You can send them your brass and they will sell you high-quality reloaded rounds at a steep discount. I just bought .38 special wadcutters for $9 a box, including shipping. For this reason I suggest you pay the extra for brass cased ammo.
  10. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Elder

    Jun 5, 2006
    In a part of Utah that resembles Tattooine.
    I haven't used enough blazer to really know about any long-term effects, but it worked fine in a few different guns.

    I have a very simple rule for Wolf. Use Russian ammo ONLY in Russian guns. SKS, Makarov, AK, Nagant, no problem. Other guns might have mixed results, I won't find out.
  11. Elbeeo

    Elbeeo New Member

    Oct 14, 2008
    The only real problem I have ever had with my Springfield GI was with Magtech Aluminum cased ammo.

    Something must have been out of spec with the casing itself because the gun managed to load two rounds into the chamber at once. The first bullet and casing actually went past the chamber and were in the barrel itself. The second bullet actually pushed it forward and the gun jammed with the bullets touching each other but out of the mag.

    It was my first time taking the pistol out to the range and it was my first pistol, but I was experienced enough shooting to know what happened and clear the jam. It required some shaking to get the one in the barrel out, but something was definitely up with that casing.

    No such problems since with any other ammo (exatly 3,450 round down the pipe since then), though I have never bought any aluminum cased ammo since (mostly because it isn't any/much cheaper compared to WWB or Blazer Brass).
  12. jagugator

    jagugator New Member

    May 1, 2008
    Virginia Beach

    Welcome to The Highroad!

    Not sure what part of the country you are in but Dick's Sporting Goods just put Remington 9mm on sale for 7.98 a box if you buy it by the case.

    Also if you start to save your brass, there are a bunch of people on here who are usually looking to purchase it, if you should decide not to use it yourself.

  13. CalvinandHobbes

    CalvinandHobbes New Member

    Oct 19, 2008
    Dayton, OH

    Well thanks for all the comments and replies all. Appreciate the welcome to the forum as well.

    I just bought a thousand rounds of aluminum blazers.... we'll see how they work. I like the idea of saving the brass now b/c I'll probably go ahead reload SOMETIME down the road. Really, very good advice.

    Appreciate the anecdotal evidence and help ya'll! Until I buy a Cz I doubt I'll purchase any steel.

    Again thanks, I'm looking forward to getting some more experience under my belt (and an IWB holster under my belt too) and commenting and posting some more!

    have a good weekend.


    -Headed to Dick's for some ammo.
  14. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Participating Member

    Jul 1, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Hmm. I am thinking of trying out Wolf in 40S&W. If you check out pricing, there is a huge difference. Look on Widener's, you can get 1000 of Wolf 40S&W for $120 less than Blazer Brass. If you buy a nice used S&W 4006 and shoot 3 cases, you've already paid for another pistol. And chances are S&W would handle a broken extractor for you. And you could always replace the barrel if you shot it out or ruined the chamber.

    Any estimates on how much additional chamber wear could even occur (as opposed to damage from cleaning after so many trips to the range to shoot a couple thousand rounds) Or would the slide crack first after 20 or 30k?

    I may gett a few boxes and try it out.
  15. GunLvrNLearner

    GunLvrNLearner Active Member

    Aug 14, 2008
    At the Walmart here Blazer Brass is the cheapest even less than Winchester
  16. brentn

    brentn Active Member

    May 17, 2007

    Would steel casings be less accurate than brass casings if the powder is the same type/weight and the bullets were of the exact same weight/type/brand?

    I only ask this assuming that brass seals a chamber better than steel, allowing less gas to escape throwing off the bullet. Or do they both seal the same? Or.. Do they both seal differently but it has no affect on accuracy?
  17. cliffy

    cliffy member

    Aug 11, 2008
    Southwestern Michigan
    Think Brass

    Brass reloads; steel rusts; aluminum may not reload so well. Nickeled brass has its pros and cons, will Obama will fight to discard all of it. cliffy
  18. Kind of Blued

    Kind of Blued Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Rocky Mountains
    Holy Carp! Do you live in Hawaii?

    Last time I checked, both WWB and Blazer Brass 9mm were under $10/100 at Wal-Mart.
  19. tetris

    tetris New Member

    Oct 30, 2008
    Never had a problem with aluminum Blazer in my semi-auto handguns. Never had a problem with steel cased Wolf in my AR-15 (that I could actually definitively blame on the ammo).

    If you look at the rockwell hardness data online, you will see that aluminum is typically a little softer than brass (B66 vs. B80), so I wouldn't be concerned about using that. Steel can range between B60 and B120. I assume steel cartridges are engineered to use soft steel with a hardness similar to that of brass. Many people hear "Steel" and think of hardened tool steel. That isn't the case. I don't think you can say steel cartridges are bad without knowing the material properties of the steel being used.

    The main advantage to brass is that it is very plastic/elastic. It can take a great deal of pressure, expand, and return to the original size. This makes it great for reloading and safety. The main problems that had to be overcome to allow for steel cases is (1) rusting and (2) plasticity. These two issues seem to have been largely solved, today. I wouldn't use them for self-defense, but for target shooting, you're probably OK.

    I never saw blazer for $10/100 at Wal-Mart or anywhere else in the recent past. I think you mean $10/50. $22/100 is a little high, but that's closer to reality.

    I have to disagree with you on this one. The commodities bubble is bursting as we speak, just like gas and housing. If you look at the Dow Jones Non-ferrous metals index, it has plummeted from 750 to 150. Combined with the price of oil being almost 1/3 as much, I expect the price of ammo to drop (possibly significantly) in the not too distant future.
  20. possum

    possum Mentor

    Oct 12, 2005
    Concord, N.C.
    yep brass is reloadable, steel i s cheap and i have used alot of that, and aluminum is ok, non reloadable but "softer" than stell cases.

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