Does Steel Cased Ammo Cause More Gun Wear Than Brass Cased Ammo?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Saw-Bones, Aug 20, 2017.

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  1. Saw-Bones

    Saw-Bones Member

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    I saw an ad for Wolf brand 5.56/.223 ammo at $.21/round and I became interested because it seemed economical for practice ammo if I didn’t have time to reload.

    I mentioned this to some friends I shoot with and one of them said that the steel cased ammo is “hard” on the AR-15 parts they come in contact with. Anyone with facts or well founded opinions about this?
     
  2. JeeperCreeper

    JeeperCreeper Member

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    As far as steel cased ammo in a rifle (AK or AR), the biggest issue you'll run into is a sticky chamber. Many steel cased ammo uses a polymer type coating on the steel to create a type of dry lubricant, as steel cases cause much more friction than brass cases. When you fire the weapon, and it gets hot, that polymer lubricant coating can wear off and coat your chamber. Over many many many rounds, your chamber will get tighter and tighter from polymer build up. This will obviously cause jams: mostly failure to extract a stuck case.

    Now, I've had my AK74 get real grimey from thousands of steel cased ammo before a failure as I wasn't cleaning it... because AK. Once I scrubbed the chamber, it ran like a clock again.

    I shoot Steel out of my AR occasionally, never had the issue since I clean them every once in a while.

    As long as you clean them, they should shoot ok.

    On a side note, many say steel is harder on extractors, I have no proof of that. Also, TulAmmo I find to be extra extra dirty and under-powered which may cause other issues. I like Wolf steel ammo as it is only extra dirty (not extra extra dirty).
     
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  3. Saw-Bones

    Saw-Bones Member

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    @ JeeperCreeper - thanks for the reply, especially the insights about Wolf vs TulAmmo.

    I use Hoppe's #9 for my shotguns because if has an additive that dissolves the plastic residue deposited by the plastic shot shells. Do you think that this would help removing the polymer
    build up or is just routine cleaning enough?
     
  4. boom boom
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    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Some report the need for earlier extractor replacement as well.
    The folks at Lucky Gunner have done the experimental work for you. http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/

    Some brands of steel cased ammo has mild steel jacketing as well. Those are banned at a number of ranges so that might also affect you.
     
  5. Deus Machina

    Deus Machina Member

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    By pure definition, yes. In the short or even middling-term it's not enough to cause any problems.
    You're unlikely to notice any different unless you shoot many thousands of rounds. The coating on many brands tends to limit the extra wear except perhaps to parts that need replaced on occasion anyway.
     
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  6. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    The steel cases are not harder than the steel chamber in which they are fired.

    Now, if you were planning 10,000 through the weapon, particularly in a short time span--as in 30 or 40 days, then, yes there could be an issue. But, you'd need some sophisticated instruments to measure the difference from that many brass cases over that same span.
     
  7. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    I suspect it causes more wear on extractors that aren't designed to handle steel. Obviously AKs are designed for steel---just look at the extractors on one!
    I base my suspicions on the Blish Effect---the tendency of brass to "spring" back to form easier than steel and well proven in naval guns as well as the Thompsons.

    But I could be wrong!
    FWIW I only use shot shells with brass heads (AA, STS, GM) in my elderly shotgun.
     
  8. jdc1244

    jdc1244 Member

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    The problem with steel-cased ammo isn’t the case, it’s the bi-metal bullet.

    Wolf makes a steel-cased cartridge with a proper lead/copper FMJ bullet that doesn’t attract a magnet.
     
  9. ants

    ants Member

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    The "Lucky Gunner" link in Post #4 is very long, but you might want to read all the way through it.

    They performed a marathon test, firing 10,000 rounds rapidly. They shot until the guns were too hot to handle.
    They cooled them off and then did it again, firing more until they overheated. Then cooled them off and fired more.
    They saw measurable wear with all ammo. The steel cased ammo with bi-metal projectiles had the most wear.

    However, if you don't shoot 10,000 rounds rapidly until the gun is too hot to handle, your experience may vary.
     
  10. Good Ol' Boy

    Good Ol' Boy Member

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    I shoot 90% Tula .223 through my AR and have had no issues so far.

    I don't shoot 10k rounds in a few days though.

    If anything I would say it's just a bit dirtier than most brass. Keep the gun clean and lubed and you should be fine.

    As far as wear on parts, get back to me in 5yrs+....
     
  11. JONWILL

    JONWILL Member

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    The cost savings in ammo more than makes up for the cost of an extractor, bolt or barrel you may need to replace. You are saving around $70 to $80 per thousand compared to brass ammo.

    All ammo wears on a firearm. I haven't noticed any more wear on mine. I use steel case unless the range requires brass.

    In 10k rounds you will save $700 to $800.
    You can buy an entire rifle for that
     
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  12. mjsdwash

    mjsdwash Member

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    it may be hard on the charging handle if you have to keep it open. Its probably not good for the stock/extension/lower if you have to slam it on the ground every five or so shots. I hear its better now, though I cant confirm. They list velocity in the M193 range, whereas the stuff I tried years ago was pushing around 26-2700. If they uped the pressure, maybe the chamber wont glue up. I would recommend trying 40 before you buy a case.
     
  13. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

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    Right, and on top of that, the 10K rounds fired the gun should still be working just fine. So you can end up with 2 working guns, one pristine, with the savings.
     
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  14. ontarget

    ontarget Member

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    I have only ever had any trouble with steel cases in a .223 bolt action. For some reason it would lock the thing up every shot. Probably just a very tight chamber but nevertheless I have stopped using steel in that rifle. Shoot the crap out of it in my AR with no problem.
     
  15. ants

    ants Member

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    Good point, clearly that would apply to certain steel cased ammo but not all.

    The Lucky Gunner test had 20 stuck cases in 20,000 rounds of Wolf and Brown Bear. That ain't bad.
    They had dozens of stuck cases with Tula right from the beginning. That would be bad.
    Like mjsdwash said, buy a couple boxes to try in your gun before you buy 10,000 rounds.
     
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  16. 444

    444 Member

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    This subject has come up countless times over the years but...........the short answer is yes. However, you probably will never know unless you shoot thousands of dollars worth of it to find out.

    FWIW: way back in the day, our local gunshows had Wolf ammo for $69 a case (1000 round case). I bought one pretty much every month. And this was the stuff with the coating on the case that everyone talks about; the old Wolf ammo. I put 7000 rounds of it through one gun over a period of several years and never noticed any ill effects from it at all. I didn't have any stoppages, I didn't have any broken parts...........nothing. I knew guys that would go to the show, buy a case of Wolf and shoot the whole case in one day. Over and over again. Most gun owners will NEVER put 7000 rounds through their AR in a lifetime, so I would say the steel case is not an issue and neither is the coating: If you have a good quality rifle to start with. Another FWIW: I once took a three day carbine class and I took Wolf ammo. The instructors were horrified and at every opportunity told me it was junk and I was ruining my rifle....................... I never had the slightest problem during the course. The afternoon of the last day, they had the "final exam" where we shot a course of fire from 200 yards to about 5 yards and I shot the high score for the class. Never the less, as I was walking to my car to leave, one of the instructors was tagging along behind me telling me to quit using that ammo.

    I still have several cases of it that I have had sitting here for years. I don't shoot it, not because I think it will damage my guns, but today I am really into precision accuracy and enjoy shooting at longish ranges. Wolf isn't up to that. But years ago, when I was taking classes and doing close range "tactical" stuff, I shot a ton of Wolf ammo and it worked great.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  17. Ignition Override

    Ignition Override Member

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    Be extra clear that this is only about chambers, extractors etc. A few comments were totally vague.

    This topic has Nothing to do with wear in the Bore (?), which is a different subject. Bimetal coatings on steel bullets and extra hot barrels are known to accelerate wear in the bore.
    Combining chat about chambers and barrels makes it very difficult for readers to distinguish which components are affected by which factors.
     
  18. mjsdwash

    mjsdwash Member

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    I had about 30 serious kick the bolt open jams with 2006ish wolf poly. Maybe a hundred lesser jams out of 1000. Same rifle has ran 14000 brass reloads without a single malfunction (except a failure to fully eject one round loaded 9% below minimum starting load, since I didn't want to just throw the powder in the trash when the can ran out).
     
  19. Saw-Bones

    Saw-Bones Member

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    Lots of information here and it all looks very credible and I especially liked the personal experiences and suggestions that were provided.

    I learned quite a bit about this type of ammo from all of you and since I won’t be using a significant amount it doesn’t appear that I have anything to worry about.

    I appreciate the time all of you took to respond. Thanks very much….. Doc
     
  20. Ks5shooter
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    Ks5shooter Contributing Member

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    Shoot it....the AR is a very easily fixed firearm,if such breaks down.:thumbup::thumbup:
     
  21. Jim NE

    Jim NE Member

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    Generally speaking, yes.
     
  22. Creaky_Old_Cop

    Creaky_Old_Cop Member

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    In many, many thousands of rounds (into the tens of thousands) of TulAmmo through two specific ARs in my safe, I can say without equivocation or lack of specificity that NO...the TulAmmo did not cause any more, or any less wear than brass factory, or my own reloads.

    This is Lucretia Borgia...my "Perfect AR15" built to be ultra light, ultra fast handling, and to make the alleged legend of the AK47s reliability into a myth. Lucretia digested 15,000 rounds of TulAmmo and Wolf, and some Czech Spam Can 5.56 over the course of a year and in more than a few 3-Gun matches and she never hiccupped.

    My "cleaning regimen" consisted of a good spray down with brake parts cleaner every few thousand rounds and a ****** of "awl".
    Lucretia 3.jpg
    320359_419637344768302_1480473609_n.jpg
    This is my Ruger SR556 Piston Rifle (First Run) and it ate TulAmmo and Wolf with similar results as those I experienced with my beloved Lucretia. That the piston guns run cooler, the laquer in the chamber is not really an issue.
    694_485837658148270_571399720_n.jpg
    45049_445942462137790_1276282976_n.jpg
    This is my AK74....which melted after a 500 round range session.
    AK74 3.jpg
    On the table is my "other piston gun"....a SIG516, Gen 1. It is just as sassy as Lucretia and the Ruger. It eats everything you stick in it.
    61843_446295635435806_836045061_n - Copy.jpg
    Finally...my POF entry gun, SBR/CAN/NFA Happy Switch...it will eat steel ammo as long as the can is NOT in use.
    POF 2.jpg
    I have some experience with the AR...here is the deal...if built right, then steel cased ammo is not an issue. MilSpec chambers and common sense will keep them a-runnin.

    Anxiety will only cause impotence.
     
  23. grampajack

    grampajack AR Junkie

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    I've never had any problems with steel, save for the fact you can't shoot it in indoor ranges. It will wear your barrel slightly faster. The cases and jackets are about 10% harder than brass and copper, so there's no way around that. But the increased wear is minimal, and the cost savings will more than make up for the increased barrel wear. Presumably there's slightly more wear on the extractor, but barrel length plays a role in that as well. Again, it's not enough to justify the cost of brass and copper for training purposes, unless of course you reload and consider that time spent as entertainment. As far as being dirty, I haven't found that myself, but I'm one of those odd ducks that cleans his ARs every once in a while.

    Gunshop experts who warn about the evils of steel ammo just don't have a flippin' clue what they're talking about. Steel ain't gonna hurt the average AR, or even the average premium AR. The only scenario I can think of where it wouldn't be practical is if you've got a competition setup, or a really nice bench/varmint upper. Since a setup like that might only give you 5k rounds, it would be kind of dumb to shoot steel ammo with it, or any non match grade ammo for that matter. But if we're talking the average AR or something along those lines, it's absolutely nothing to worry about.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2017
  24. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    I'll shoot steel cased ammo in guns design-development-tested with steel case ammo, like my Yugo M70AB2 because that's their natural diet.
    I look at the extractors of my M1 Carbine and my son's AR M4gery, original actions designed, developed and tested with brass case ammo before general issue, and I feel use of steel case ammo is less than optimal.
    Could be prejudiced because I have had problems with steel cased .30 Carbine.
     
  25. Col. Harrumph

    Col. Harrumph Member

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    I think the various coatings on steel-cased ammo are there to inhibit rust. I opened a sardine can of Chinese 7.62x39 some years ago and the steel cases had all been plated with what looked copper. (Worked fine in a Norinco SKS.)
     
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