Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


Advertisement

  • SpudGun

    You’ve opened a can of worms here my friend – I know shooters who both love and loathe Wolf ammo and each side has put up convincing arguments to justify the merits and detractions of the brand.

    As a fully fledged gun snob, there is no way I’d put Wolf in my treasured collection, but in the interests of being open minded, I’d like to hear the thoughts of the pro-Wolf crowd.

    Last I heard, they were steel cased, corrosive and extremely dirty – but things might have changed and my opinions may have been forged from ignorance.

  • Spade

    Wolf isn’t corrosive. It IS steel cased and kinda dirty. I have heard that it is underpowered, but haven’t seen anybody test that in a while.

    I’ve run Wolf through my rifles (M4, MSAR, AR-180B) without problems. I’d be worried if a gun wouldn’t run it. I like my guns to be at least be able to at least cycle just about anything.

  • Spade

    Also, I guess I’ll have to take another look at Wolf. I bought a bunch of Remington green box on sale for general range messing about and was pretty dissapointed with it.

  • Cyrano4747

    Wolf isn’t corrosive. It hasn’t ever been to the best of my knowledge, although I suppose it’s possible that some corrosive surplus was sold under the Wolf brand right after the USSR fell apart.

    The thing to remember about Wolf is that it’s just a re-branding and importation organization. They don’t actually make any of their own ammo, they buy from the giant ammo factories in ex-soviet states and re-brand them for the American market. From what I recall the bulk of what we get out here comes from the Tula, Ulyansk, and Barnul factories, and some of their “premium” line (mostly the brass cased stuff for less common calibers) comes from the Prvi plant in Serbia. I know their .22LR Match was also re-branded SK Jagd ammo out of Germany, as well as some Finnish brand that’s owned by SAKO – really high quality stuff. Believe it or not, it IS possible to get some really high quality Wolf ammo.

    Now, as for the general question of cheap, eastern european ammo in general, the main issues that people report with wolf are:

    1) under-powered
    2) inconsistently loaded (leading to accuracy issues)
    3) it’s filthy
    4) steel casings (more on this in a moment)

    As for #1, broadly speaking this is true. The stuff is budget ammo and I wouldn’t count on it as, say, home defense ammunition. That said, it punches paper just as fine as a round loaded to max pressures and makes fine training ammo. Some people report troubles with it cycling ARs that are tuned to need more pressure to cycle properly, and a lot of that has to do with what diameter the gas port in your barrel is. If you have persistent cycling problems in your gun, just don’t use Wolf.

    As for #2, I know from experience that this was the case at least as recent as 4 or 5 years ago. Some people are reporting that they’ve gotten a lot better about it. This has more to do with however they’re measuring pouring their powder on an industrial scale in Tula and the other ex-soviet factories. Maybe they’ve upgraded their pour systems in the last few years. Honestly I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t use it for shooting a match with, but again, for training or plinking ammo it’s really not bad.

    #3 is pretty much true, although Wolf isn’t the only filthy ammo on the market. I’ve found UMC, for example, to get my AR about ten times dirtier than Wolf ever does – I might as well be running black powder through my gun. I suppose it just comes down to one’s philosophy as regards to cleaning. If you clean your gun after a range trip it’s not a big deal. If it was for a gun that I wasn’t going to be cleaning except every few thousand rounds, I probably would use something else. I can imagine if you were blowing through magazine after magazine on a RDIAS that your bolt would be really foul by the end of the day. One thing I will say is that the red sealant you find on a lot of the Wolf-branded .223 loves to crawl up between the extractor and bolt body on an AR can can cause problems if left to build up for too long. Again, probably not an issue over a single range trip, but you’ll probably want to clean your rifle afterwards.

    #4 is the big, huge, contentious issue because of all the claims that steel casings somehow damage chambers. I really don’t want to get into this because the two sides defend it with almost religious like zeal. The short version of my take on this is that I think it’s more or less a borderline myth. Even if fact that hte steel contracts less than the brass after firing causes increased drag when extracting the shell, your chamber should be MUCH harder than any casing material. Steel casings are made using some really soft, really crappy steel. I’ve also got a LOT of military surplus guns that were shot for untold thousands or tens of thousands of rounds in their service lives that show plenty of throat erosion, but no untoward chamber wear or erosion due to steel casings. What IS true, on the other hand, is that the extractor has to work harder to pull the casing out, which leads to increased wear on the extractor.

    The way I see it, extractors are extremely cheap parts, wear out no matter what you shoot through your guns, and are pretty much the single most “consumable” item for your gun besides ammo and cleaning supplies. With the exception of a very small few designs with hilariously over-built extractors and very controlled feed/ejection cycles (I’m thinking primarily of Mauser actions) just about every gun out there is going to break an extractor sooner or later. You should simply have a few spares, in much the same way you keep spare lightbulbs around the house. If shooting cheap steel cased ammo means your extractor only lasts half as long as an extractor babied with the finest of brass cased rounds, then all you’re out is a cheap part and in the mean time you’ve saved a LOT of money.

    In short: it’s great training and plinking ammo, not ideal for defense or hunting, and won’t hurt anything on your gun that’s not already destined to wear out sooner or later anyways (and you should just have some spares lying around).

  • Todd

    Looks good to me. The price is very attractive. A few cases of Wolf will offset the price of a new barreled upper. While the brass case stuff fire-forms to the chamber better I think fire-forming is more noticeable in bolt guns where higher accuracy is the goal. When doing carbine drills I am always happy with minute-of-paper-plate accuracy when running & gunning.

    I am an accuracy snob with my bolt guns because I can sit at the bench and try to shoot furry 5 holes but the AR is really not the platform for that kind of accuracy. When benching I can get the AR to shoot nice but rolling around like a ninja in the dirt the groups open up pretty wide so it doesn’t matter if the ammunition is .25 cents a round or .80 cents a round, as long as it fires.

    As far as the steel cased stuff eroding the barrel throat I look at it like this; the Wolf/Bears and Tula are made out of, for lack of a better description, soup can steel. The barrel is high quality hard steel. Don’t worry about it. Extractors are cheap and everyone should have a spare bolt or two laying around anyway. I say shoot Wolf with confidence and save the extra $$ for enhancements to your AR or, if you shoot a lot, another AR altogether.

  • Boner Stallone

    Commercially available Wolf ammo is non corrosive and has been for some time now.

  • drewogatory

    I run Wolf thru my plinker Mini’s all the time. Folks love shooting the Mini’s but I can’t stand to waste good brass so it works for me. Obviously, accuracy not an issue as I’m sure the cartridge is far more accurate than any 25 year old Mini. Feeds and extracts just fine, and those rifles haven”t seen more than a couple passes of a bore snake, a few squirts of lube and extractor scrape in 20+ years. I’d happily shoot it thru any Mil Spec AR as well. I even bought a case of their 6.5 Grendel (120 g MPT) and except for not having the best brass in the world I think it shoots pretty well, esp. in my carbine length upper.

  • projetile dysfunction

    I’ve been shooting Wolf, Brown Bear, and Tula as plinking ammo since 2003 and I’ve never found any with corrosive primers. They are steel cased but it’s mild steel, not much harder than brass and still not anywhere as hard as the extractor, bolt, and chamber of your gun. I’ve read many real-world case hardness tests between steel and brass cased ammo and brass usually has a Rockwell-B rating in the low 80s whereas steel is usually in the mid to high 90s. There is a difference but it’s not huge, and top of that the case coating can offer some extra degree of protection.

    The coating itself has also changed in the last few years, from lacquer to a thinner, more uniform polymer coating that won’t transfer to your chamber due to heat. It is dirtier than- and a bit underpowered when compared to- more expensive brass but it runs well in most of my semiauto guns.

  • Tom

    Wolf is still steel cased and dirty as all get out. But they have changed the primers to be non corrosive within the last two to three years.

  • Interesting.

    I think the bigger issue for me is the steel cases. Brass is soft and compliant on the feed ramp. Steel, not so much. In a bolt action rifle or revolver, heck yeah.

  • Jim

    I don’t believe modern manufacture wolf is corrosive.

  • m4shooter

    Standard (i.e. not Match) Wolf, or any other bulk-type ammunition, should not be rated on accuracy. If you want true bench-rest accuracy, you would never be using these types of bulk/budget ammunition. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but if you are talking about hunting or self defense, the argument is not “Wolf vs. brass cased brands” — it is about which is the fastest or heaviest, most accurate bullet with superior proven reliable expansion or penetration characteristics. Bulk brands (such as Wolf) are for training — in which case you will likely be shooting from the standing position, or other non-traditional positions. In which case, any ammunition is going to be more accurate than just about any shooter.

  • zack991

    I refuse to use that nasty corrosive ammo, I had two broken extractors in my AR. I have had countless stuck cases as well. No fun when I have little time at he range as it is. It is not worth the headache and the chance of breaking my gear. Also if you use it many companys will void your warranty. Stag, CMMG, Olympic arms, and many more.

  • ArcMage

    Well, it’s not corrosive. It is steel-cased. It’s cleaner than PMC Bronze, but that’s not much of a datapoint.

    They’ve also switched from lacquered cases to a polymer coating, which is much less prone to melting into a hot chamber.

    Myself, I must have missed the really bad old days of terrible Wolf ammunition, I guess.

    As an unrepentant pragmatist, I’d like to know, SpudGun, do you hand-load instead, or is there a higher-tier commercial load you prefer?

  • Hey I know that picture!

    Probably because I am the one that was loading the magazines in his rifle to keep him from knowing what ammo was what.

    As for my AR, I run pretty much everything through it, The only ammo I’ve found that it doesn’t like is AE XM193, which it stovepiped repeatedly. That however, I think was an issue with some gunsmithing work I had done that knocked the FSB out of alignment with the gas port. I have yet to try it again, but right now I run mostly Brown or Silver Bear 62 gn HPs out of it and I havent had a single issue, even mixing mags with brass cased ammo, which I know can cause a lot of issues with the brass gluing itself to the chamber fouling.

    Like always, your mileage may vary, but I’ll be sticking to the cheap Russian stuff until I get me some presses to roll my own.

    For reference, I’m using a DEZ arms 16″ Pencil barrel, and a DD Bolt carrier on a C7 style upper over a Aero Precision lower and Pmags.

  • jdun1911

    Wolf ammo are not corrosive. Wolf ammo use steel case. They are as dirty as the as next brand of manufacture.

    If your firearms can’t run wolf, it not the ammo it’s your firearm.

  • Lance

    Nope Spud gun the Wolf ammo is still smelly and dirty. The case for or against the wolf .223 Rem and .308 Win comes to gun A mini-14 and a AK-101 shoot steel case wolf fine, AR-15s and SIG 556s wont. The problem with wolf in my opinion is that its underpowered compared to American .223 loads if wolf would ignore the fear of someone shooting a 5.56 in a 223 barrel they could make some good .223 loads.

    My idea for ammo and guns are: If its a American weapon buy American ammo UMC 55gr FMJ is just as cheap as wolf. If you have Soviet /Warsaw pact or Russian weapons use Russian ammo. They function together just fine when you use the same nationality per gun per ammo.

  • Matt

    I shoot mostly russian lacquered steel cased stuff from academy sports called “monarch”, in my AR. I think it’s just the same stuff rebranded. I don’t think it’s corrosive.

    Never had a single jam in the life if the rifle. But I’m sure that’s mostly due to it never having seen a non Pmag.

    Shoots straight enough for me. Never tested groups or anything. But it’s 5$ a box. Cheapest I can find local. Not particularly dirty.

  • Wolf ammo is not corrosive.

  • John C.

    A lot of people think that just the case is steel. However, I believe the actual bullet is also steel and and some people say that it hurts barrel life/ performance.

  • Jinglish

    Steel cased? Yes. Dirty? Oh yes. Corrosive? Most definitely not.

  • Stella

    As already stated, Wolf is an importer/clearing house of ammo of Russian and Eastern European make. I have always avoided Wolf black box which, as far as I understand it, is Tula. This is the stuff that garners the most complaints (underpowered, inconsistent, bunk primers etc.). Wolf Military Classic is made at Ulyanovsk. Wolf Gold rifle and pistol ammo loaded at PPU of Serbia though I think the line’s rimfire is German. The X Bears are a product of Barnual.

    I have shot quite a bit of Brown Bear and Wolf MC 7.62×39 and have never had a problem. My AR has digested an considerable amount of Wolf Gold and PPU XM193 to happy result. I personally think the PPU ammo is the best deal around.

  • The assertions above that Wolf recently went to non-corrosive priming is simply not correct. This is a widespread myth based on the fact that people are confusing Russian military surplus with Wolf branded ammo. Wolf is simply not corrosive.

  • Matt

    John c.~ the bullets are copper jacketed. Reguardless of core material, it will never touch the barrel. He’ll the standard green tip US ammo is steel cored I think…?

  • SpudGun

    Thanks to everyone for clearing up the myth that Wolf is non-corrosive, I don’t use it, so was just going on second hand range ‘chatter’.

    @ArcMage – No, I don’t hand load unfortunately, I don’t have the time or the space to set up a press – plus I’m kinda lazy. 🙂

    I don’t know about a higher-tier ammo I prefer, but I have a tendency to use mainly Federal and Winchester for most of my shooting requirements (with the odd bulk buy of CCI for plinking goodness).

  • Hey. Nick here. That’s my research up there, and indeed Roadkill was the Beaker to my Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.

    Glad everyone liked my research. The hypothesis we were testing wasn’t whether Wolf was the best ammo to use for every situation, we were simply trying to disprove the myth that all Wolf ammo is horribly inconsistent. We did that by comparing a group of Wolf ammo to groups of other “better” ammunition types under as identical circumstances as we could muster up for a Saturday on the range. According to the results, the hypothesis was rejected (I forget the actual P-value, but it was good enough for me) meaning that Wolf was as accurate or better than the other brands we tested.

    Wolf is indeed steel cased, and leaves some nasty red gunk on the bolt face, but it was not corrosive. I run it regularly through the 1:9 upper I used for this test without a second thought, and I’ve never had a problem with it. Especially in these trying times cheap ammunition is becoming harder to find, but Wolf seems to be the best of the “low end” market in both price AND consistency. (No, I was not paid by Wolf or anyone else to do this test.)

    That said, when I do any serious shooting (3-gun, NRA High Power or IPSC) I always use handloads. No commercial ammunition should ever be trusted to perform anywhere near as consistently as a well-rolled series of handloads.

    I might re-do this test in the future; the skew on Wolf and Tula’s distributions is a little troubling, but by throwing a bunch more lead downrange the CLT should take care of that and normalize them. I’m confident, however, that the final results will be similar if not identical.

  • Peter

    I run wolf through my mak 90 all the time and the only problem I have is the primers not working but it only happens 1 or 2 times out. 50 rounds fired and I clean my ak every time I shoot a bunch of wolf and it’s dirty as hell but it doesn’t stop my ak and it’s cheap so it works for plinking and just shooting

  • Stella is right about Wolf’s rimfire ammo – it is manufactured for them by SK Jagd who are themselves owned by Lapua.

  • Caseless

    From personal experience, regardless of how under-powered or out-of-spec steel-cased Wolf ammo may be, none had ever failed to fire in my AK, SKS, or Makarov. So I suspect it’s a manufacturing tolerance thing when they start jamming high quality (match-grade) AR-15s or HK USPs.
    If Federal/Winchester started using steel case for their ammo, while Russian made Wolf ammo all use brass case, I think I will use the U.S. made steel cased ammo in my U.S./German designed guns.

  • jdun1911

    Wolf ammo is underpower which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you see it. If it out of spec, it will either won’t work or blow up in your face. So I doubt wolf ammo are out of spec.

    Wolf rimfire is one of the best inexpensive (compare to other top brand) target .22lr ammo.

  • Redchrome

    I’ve seen a bunch of people shoot Wolf ammo at Appleseed shoots, where they go through 500+ (reasonably rapid-fire) rounds in a day. It’s accurate enough for casual purposes.

    It works fine in 5.56s and 7.62x51s as long as the chamber is cut to pretty loose tolerances, and the chamber is clean. Once the chamber starts getting really dirty, (somewhere around 500 rounds based on anecdotal evidence) extraction becomes much harder. If it was just that it broke extractors occasionally, that would be less of a problem than what I actually see; which is having to get the cleaning rod and mallet out every few rounds to knock the case out of the chamber.

    I’m sure that if you gave the chamber of your AR a super-duper double-secret sauce coating, and got the gas system working just right, you can get pretty good reliability with 5.56 ammo.

    Out of a bolt gun or other manually-operated action; no problem. Just work the bolt a bit harder (you should be working it pretty hard to begin with, it’s stronger than you are).

    7.62×39 and 5.45×39 have more heavily tapered cases that feed and extract more easily, even with dirty chambers. That’s one substantial reason why the AK series is far more reliable than the AR. I never run anything but steel-cased ammo in my AK and SKS, don’t really scrub the chambers, and have *never* had a problem with feeding and extraction that I couldn’t trace to a magazine.

    As for the original point of the article, which was accuracy… most people can’t shoot as well as their rifle and ammunition anyway. Go to an Appleseed shoot and learn how to shoot better. (You will find that an AR is indeed a “rifleman’s rifle” and an AK really sucks to learn to shoot well — but I’d sooner fix the ergonomics on an AK than try to fix the reliability of an AR).

  • Marsh

    Nutnfancy is right again!

  • MeAgain

    I don’t shoot a lot of Wolf but I’ll give it another try. I shoot a lot of Brown Bear 55gr and get pretty decent accuracy from it. It’s definately better than Remington, UMC, XM193, Tula, Silver Bear and American Eagle Tactical XM193. Even my wife and daughter can tell the difference between Brown Bear and the rest of the ammo we test at the range. Those green boxes disappear quick when they head off to the bench.
    I use all of that cheap Russian stuff and throw in some brass cased American ammo for fun but I can’t find anything for under $15 per box that’s worth the money. I haven’t had any problems with extraction or parts failing (I do keep a spare extractor and broken cartridge extractor in every grip though).
    I will say that Tula seems to be absolute crap for accuracy even though I’m a pretty casual shooter and don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest sniper. Tula is cheap enough however to put away a decent amount for when the next ammo drought occurs and prices double or tripple.

  • HeadHunter

    Just remember that the russian ammo is loaded to around 52000 psi and it’s not 5.56 loaded at 62000 psi. as for the stuck cases,polish the chamber and that will help. As far as short stroking , change the buffer spring to a lighter compression rate and you can shoot the under powered ammo all day, just remember to change the buffer spring back when you shoot the 62000 psi 5.56 ammo. I would set up one gun for just plinking and another for moa shooting. HeadHunter said that and hope it helps.

  • Mike

    Wolf and Tula are the same ammo or at least made in the same factory. I just purchased some of the Tula and it all goes bang but it dosn’t hold a tight group , in fact it had a spread of 6 inchs at 75 yards ,then I swabbed the gun and shot some 1980s IMI M193 and it held a group at 1/2 to 3/4 inch’s at 75 yards, now thats a big difference . The gun is a NEF Handi rifle with a bull barrel and a 1 in 12 twist , maybe the gun dos’nt like the Tula/Wolf and maybe the ammo would shoot better in a tighter twist barrel . I’ll try some in my friends AR. The ammo did’nt seem that much dirtier that the mil surplus but then again I was shooting a single shot rifle and over a day of shooting it only gets fed about a hundred rounds or so. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps….

  • What a great comparison and way to test these out. I’m going to have to give Wolfe a try. Thanks for the post.