Epic Torture Test: 40,000 Rounds and Four AR-15s

Shooters have been debating the cost/benefit of shooting steel-cased/bimetal-jacked ammunition verses traditional (and more expensive) brass cased and copper jacketed ammunition. My good friend Andrew Tuohy has conducted an epic torture test to see how the more expensive brass-cased ammunition compares with cheaper steel-cased ammunition. It turns out that brass cased ammunition is a lot better, more than I thought it was, but over 10,000 even with two barrel changes the steel still works out to be ~15% cheaper. His summery is in the video below, but you should read his entire exhaustive writeup, including barrel cut-away photos.

Read the complete text here.

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.


  • Reverend Clint

    I pretty much only shoot steel case out of my AR’s, especially my 7.62 AR. Only time I had a problem with .223 steel case was a bad gas block and my 7.62 would fail to fire until I replaced the firing pin with a dedicated 7.62×39 pin.

  • Paul

    Good work by Andrew…..always great to see some real, exhaustive testing.

    I have never put a single steel cased round in any of my black rifles. Frankly, I never saw the logic of buying a high quality gun and then running low quality ammo through it. I look at my weapons as defensive tools, not hobby guns, and I wouldn’t risk compromising their functionality or reliability to save a few bucks.


    • matt

      Actually, the moral of the story is that even though the Russian ammunition can destroy a barrel in 6000 rounds, the cost savings mean that you can replace the barrel every 4000 rounds and still come out ahead.

      I will continue shooting Wolf.

      • F

        And when you consider than the gratuitous magdumps which you would never see accelerate any wear , plugging in more realtic barrel wear numbers by say tripling or at least doubling the ammo count before the barrels are shot out the Steel comes out ahead in an even bigger margin.

  • James

    Running a Galil, I shoot a lot of steel. No sense in wasting good brass. If you shoot a Galil you know what I mean… If I can even find the damn shells they look like someone took a wrench to them so Wolf it is for me. Unfortunately, with the absolute insanity of the gun/ammo buying public in the US right now even Wolf is getting hard to find. Lake City is over a dollar a round now! *sigh* Guess it’s back to handloading .38s and 30-30 for a while. I feel like an old man when I think back to the “good old days” when a case of Wolf was like $80 and my brother and I used to blast through 500+ rounds like it was nothing.

  • bbmg

    The ammunition fired by the A-10’s fearsome GAU-8/A 30mm gatling features nylon driving bands in order to reduce barrel wear:


    It would seem that this concept would be easily and cheaply applied to smaller bore ammunition, though as pointed out a barrel change is more economical.

  • Philip James

    Why should anyone ever need to fire 10,000 rounds?

    • atm

      Many of my handguns and .22s have more than 10,000 rounds thru them. I practice, target shoot, and/or plink weekly.

      • atm

        And if I could afford the ammo, my M4 clone would have over 10,000 rounds thru it.

    • Ben Enjerry

      The internet forum operators who await the hallowed SHTF situation insist on this as a standard. As a parent, I know that $3,800 is the cost of a meal plan at a private college for a year. Reality has a way of tempering fantasy.

  • Ian

    So despite the way this is presented, the case has very little to do with this study. If there were steel cased rounds with softer bullets the comparison would be quite moot. The title should have reflected comparing different ammunition brands, not the material that the casing is made from.

  • gunslinger

    i’ve always heard the debate before…glad to see some additional info….can’t wait to read

  • Mike Knox

    I could only imagine pierce morgan’s face if he saw this video..

  • J

    I would like to see a similar torture test on some ak’s to see how they wear compared to an AR. Have both and love em. Would be interesting to see though.

  • Ben Enjerry

    Nothing says brains like standing out in the dessert during a lightning storm holding a metal firearm.

  • ManOverboard

    Not to pig out, but it’d be nice to see malfunctions included in these graphics too.

    • Derrick Culligan

      If you see the entire article the malfunctions are discussed and may be in a graphic as well. I read it a while ago so I don’t remember exactly.

      • ManOverboard

        I checked the original article, and wow – great detail on the malfunctions. Thanks Derrick.

  • F

    the firing with so many mag dumps exacerbates the otherwise slight extra barrel wear from the bimetal.