Firearms Food for Thought: Steel-Cased Rounds, Yay or Nay?

brass22

It’s a fact of firearms life: shooting is expensive. Even if you minimize as much as possible, you still need ammunition. And it rarely comes cheap. The cost of ammunition – which has risen significantly just in my own shooting career – stops many gun owners from getting much trigger time in and leads no small number to turn steel-cased rounds. After all, buying steel-cased rather than brass is definitely less pricey, and you just want some time at the range, right?

This may seem like an obvious question. It must not be, though, because a large number of gun owners run their guns on steel-cased rounds. People asking about the best quality rounds – oh, but no brass cases, please – are in each and every gun group on social media and also fill online forums. Others share pictures of their gun-store ammo hauls, and in those images not a single brass case can be found.

It’s easy to say there are various factors to consider. A common argument for the use of steel-cased rounds is the issue of different guns with varying needs – and varying levels of durability and/or life expectance. If I could count the number of times I’ve heard a particular gun doesn’t need fancy ammo because it’s either just a plinking gun or “tougher than that”…but I digress.

So, how many of you guys use the aforementioned rounds? How many flat-out refuse to put a single round through your guns that isn’t brass-cased?



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • Aono

    Aside from nasty lacquers and other things that can simply be cleaned away, it’s not the case material that people have an issue with, it’s their strong correlation with copper washed steel JACKETS that is the issue. Tuohy’s LG test is the cost/benefit answer to that.

    • KestrelBike

      ^^^ this. Not to mention, many ranges (mostly indoor) have strict no-bimetal-jacket ammo rules, with the derpier ranges saying no non-brass-case ammo rules to catch everything (i.e. the hassle of sorting out brass they can salvage for $$ versus everything else, to FUDD thinking that non-brass-case = bimetal (this is not always the case)). Personally, I don’t bother with non-brass if it’s not going into my SAR2 (ak74 clone)

      • Anomanom

        This is my problem. It’s hard enough to find steel-free 7.62×39 and 7.62×54 that I can actually use at the indoor range.

        • KestrelBike

          check out Red Army Standard (you’ve prolly already heard about this). They make traditional bimetal-jacket, but also have lines where it’s pure copper & lead projectiles (I believe the cases might still be steel).

          For the 5.45*39 folks, Hornady makes copper/lead projectile bullets (they’re still steel case tho)

          • That is good ammo—-

          • iksnilol

            The Elite stuff is made in what’s basically my neighbourhood in my homeland. Modern 7.62×39 with M67 bullet. Good stuff.

          • Nashvone

            I’ve had no issue with RAS ammo in my AK. On the other hand, I won’t even think about putting it in my Mosin. I’ve had two cases get welded in the chamber. With the price and availability of brass case 7.62x54R being what it is, I don’t shoot that rifle as much any more.

        • Cmex

          7.62x54R? Try the Yugo M76 ball. SGAmmo has it every now and then.

      • The local indoor range banned steel cased ammo t their range. It was soley because they didn’t want to take the time to separate the brass from the steel cases.

        • KestrelBike

          Which is super lame. Somewhere there’s a cost analysis of the lost-business from turning guys away who’d rather use their steel-case, and having some low-level employee spend time sorting out the steel-case ammo with a magnet or something (heck, even by hand).

          Frankly I’m surprised the brass-purchasers wouldn’t just run everything past an industrial magnet regardless of what the source says, and should be able to accept all the bulk casings from ranges.

          • I couldn’t agree more and I’m sure they are losing money by banning steel cased ammo. Even on a busy day it wouldn’t cost that much to have someone sort the steel cases. It just doesn’t make any sense.

          • Aurek Besh

            I’m going to guess that those ranges may have an agreement with a scrap yard in place, where the yard pays higher for scrap brass that has a high purity. I used to work at a machine shop that had such an agreement, and the few times that the wrong scrap got mixed together, there was hell to pay.

        • Rasq’uire’laskar

          Give me sixty seconds and a decent magnet, and I could sort a whole day’s worth of casings. What’s their problem?

  • PeterK

    It does depend on the gun. I probably wouldn’t put bimetal jackets through my dad’s east german mak, but I have no problems doing it in my glock. the savings make up the new barrel price, if it comes to that. Which it probably won’t.

    Cheapest ammo is steel ammo, so if I want cheap ammo that’s what I look at.

  • Ivan Ivanosky

    Nyet, Ammo Is Fine.

    • Major Tom

      This. As long as it fires, any type of case is a good case to use.

    • Cmex

      Нет, патрон безпроблемный.

  • G B

    Didn’t Andrew Tuohy already answer this? I think in most cases (at least those involving common AR parts) shooting steel was more economical even with having to replace parts sooner.

    • Maybe I don’t have the time to read all of the other blogs post.

      • G B

        Sorry, didn’t mean to offend. I just thought the 40,000 round test was pretty big news when it happened. Also the picture used in this blog post is from the Lucky Gunner test so there’s that.

        • Gregory Markle

          You could also type “steel case ammo test” into Google and click the first link in the list…but that would just answer your question and wouldn’t be good click bait.

      • Joshua Knott

        hey why pend the comments? Just curious Its like giving someone the title hall monitor, no offense seriously, but I like to see adult children argue….

    • politicsbyothermeans

      Are we expecting brass case manufacturers to sue him?

  • Jack Morris

    As a reloader, I selfishly hate it when my friends bring still case ammo to the range.

    • Dave Parks

      Same here. Honestly, if you’re finding the cost of ammo is keeping you down, invest in a solid reloading setup. You save 50%-60% on ammo, and you can put together an insanely nice setup for $1500 (Hornady Ammo Plant and a steel pin wet tumbler setup, lee trimmer, frankford arsenal scale and calipers).
      Do the math, even if all you shoot is bottom of the barrel steel cased .223, you save $.15 a round, and if you’ve got any reloading skill at all your loads will be much more consistent and cleaner than what you’d otherwise be shooting, meaning you’re going to enjoy shooting a lot more. If you shoot 100 rounds a week, you’re breaking even in a couple years.
      Plus, as tedious as it sounds to non-reloaders, reloading is actually pretty fun with the right setup.

      • Jack Morris

        Bingo. Couldn’t agree more. Only problem is if my friends started to reload; I wouldn’t get free brass :p

      • Derp

        You’re leaving out the value of your time.

        • Dave Parks

          I value my free time at $60 an hour for things I don’t enjoy doing. With a good setup and some practice, it’s really not hard to exceed that threshold, but I enjoy reloading, so I don’t really count it as a loss 🙂

          • Redfoot

            I second that. When I step up to a larger caliber, I will reload solely for accuracy benefit and low round count. But for 5.56, I cannot beat Magtech at 1,000 for $350 shipped to my door (brass case, sorry).

      • All the Raindrops

        How are you going to save 15c per round over steel case when steel case can be had for 22cpr?

        • Dave Parks

          I didn’t see any for 22cpr, but I didn’t look very hard. I was seeing about 26cpr for 1000 rounds of Tula, but fair point. So call it a savings of $.10 per round and you break even in 3 years.
          Also, very few of us shoot only cheap steel cased .223. In my case, I shoot 9mm, .45, .223, and match grade .308. I shoot *way* less than 100 rounds a week. I put together my dream reloading setup a couple years ago, and once I load the components I’ve got on hand, I’ll break even.

    • iksnilol

      You can reload steel cases, don’t know about still cases though.

      • Anomanom

        Of course you can reload a still case. You can only get so much drink out of one load of corn mash or whatever your loading with. I do, however, recommend giving it a good wash before reloading.

      • Ryobiwankenobi

        I have a friend who reloads steel case 45acp. He mostly uses them for shooting in matches when he knows that he won’t be able to collect range brass afterwards.

        • iksnilol

          that’s pretty smart, + you can pick them up with a magnet 🙂

  • Mike

    Is it a bullet? If so, it’s good to me. Whether it’s steel or brass, I’m about performance over economy. If a brass case 55gr .223 blitzkrieg runs through better than a steel case Tula, you bet I’ll have myself some brass. And vice versa if the other side runs better through my rifle.

  • ARCNA442

    What is the point of these articles?

    I saw the title and clicked on it hoping to read the sort of actual information that is provided by the other writers of The Firearm Blog only to find yet another non-article intended solely for page views.

    • Derp

      This is another weak attempt at trying to get the readers to generate the content.

      • BattleshipGrey

        Some readers are a wealth of information and should not be discounted so easily. Just because someone is a reader/commenter and not a writer doesn’t mean they’re any less qualified to provide sound input.

        • Thus the reason for this type of post. Some of the readers have some good information to share.
          Then there are those who post nothing of use to anyone and make lame comments about the writers trying to get the readers to do the work.

          • Suppressed

            Clearly, Senpai has noticed me.

      • Blake

        Not really familiar with what a blog is are you?

    • Tritro29

      That’s what a blog stands fore. You will get participative threads on a blog. Some of the best threads in here were Opinions (that STG thread), which, regarding content had more or less the same approach. Cut her some slack.

      • Yes indeed it’s to get the reader’s opinions and experiences with steel cased ammo.

        • Budogunner

          I must respectfully point out that the place for those kinds of contributions are discussion boards. Our readers come here for content. They undoubtedly visit discussion boards as well, for that very different purpose.

          As a compromise, maybe TFB could reach out to notable firearm discussion forums on the Web for cross advertising in and effort to build and share visitors. Content can be contributed by TFB authors here, and linked to and discussed on those many boards. TFB gets more organic traffic, and therefore profit, and readers get content, not questions.

          • Suppressed

            I would love an open forum composed of the commenters here. A lot of times I’d like to get the feedback of some of the reputable folk here on a given subject, but since it’s not relevant to any recent posts, I’m not going to hijack something unrelated and ask about it.

        • Cmex

          I will hand it to Katie, she gets people talking like nobody except Nat.

          • Katie A

            😉

    • All the Raindrops

      Usually Katie A posts are just UTG press releases, so this is actually some nice progress. Way to go :/

  • E.D. Sartin

    I run all brass in my AR and all steel in my AK, just like I run the recommended motor oil and tranny fluid in my vehicles, just because that’s what they were designed around.

    • Vitsaus

      This is the point I wanted to make too. Most Soviet bloc and Soviet allied states designed their bolts and chambers for ammunition of a particular composition. Likewise the west designed theirs for a different type. Sure there are some western designs that are just fine with steel cases, and by all means run them, but not for all.

      • Nashvone

        What would you run in an AR chambered in 7.62×39?

        • Ryobiwankenobi

          A reamer in 7.62×39 Ackley Improved.

        • Gregory Markle

          The biggest issue I’ve seen with ARs in 7.62x39mm is the long, straight portion of the magazine well inside the receiver which tends to induce jams, which is why the CMMG Mutant and other designs have been created (other than being able to use cheap AK mags.)

    • Katie A

      This seems to be the common practice – AR and AK differences being what they are – but there are definitely more people running steel-cased rounds through their ARs now. Curiosity, do you have a specific brand of steel-cased you prefer?

  • Jeff Smith

    I’ve had steel cased ammo seize in an AR, a .308 bolt gun, and a Mosin. Once I started running the guns wet, I never had a problem. A couple blasts of some oil in the chambers and they’re totally fine.

    • All the Raindrops

      Sometimes if you go from shooting a bunch of steel to shooting brass you will get FTE because reasons.

      I still shoot lots of steel.

    • That’s been my experience as well.

    • Cmex

      “I’ve had steel cased ammo seize in an AR, a .308 bolt gun, and a Mosin. Once I started running the guns wet, I never had a problem.”

      “Once I started running the guns wet, I never had a problem.”

      “started running the guns wet, I never had a problem.”

      “running the guns wet, I never had a problem.”

      “guns wet, I never had a problem.”

      “wet, I never had a problem.”

      “wet”

      Lube — it’s not just for activities that make people walk funny.

  • John

    Brass for all my guns with the exception of AKs. I reload so the brass is a necessity. Haven’t reloaded yet for AKs but I’m tempted to start even if it’s not much of a savings. I just enjoy reloading 🙂

    • iksnilol

      You can also reload subsonic ammo for the AK 😉

      I am presuming you have a suppressor.

  • lol

    go home katie

  • notalima

    I run it in my Sig556, my AK-pattern and VZs (in various calibers), my CZ carbine, but only one of my ARs (purposefully running just one upper to see how it wears over time…lost one extractor so far).

  • In Glocks and in AK’s I’ve not had issues. In my nicer guns… AR’s and revolvers and 1911 and such – No. I will not run steel cased ammo in it.
    I look forward to continued development of the polymer cased ammunition and I think that is where the future is.
    A lot of ranges, especially indoor ranges do not allow the steel cased ammo because most steel cased ammo uses steel core projectiles. Not all… just most. And it’s hard to tell the two apart. Steel core ammo is hell on indoor range equipment and backstops.
    Also most indoor ranges have a brass recycling agreement with a 3rd party company and neither entity wants to sort steel from brass due to man-hours involved.
    Yes, it is easy to use a magnet to separate, but still.. it takes time and no one wants that detail.
    When the poly cased ammo hits (It’s still fringe) it will probably be verboten as well.

    • Katie A

      I agree, the polymer rounds are fascinating. I admit I start out skeptical but I enjoy the .50 Beowulf quite a bit, and I’ve been suitably impressed by the damage the pistol-caliber PolyCase rounds do. It’ll be great to see the progression of polymer in the ammunition industry in bullets and casings.

  • iksnilol

    If I can replace the barrel and/or it isn’t a match barrel then I don’t mind using steel case.

    In other words, steel case never goes into my match gun or antique guns.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Bimetal = Good-to-go on any relatively new chrome-lined barrel, or any pistol barrel that has decent availability of replacement parts.

  • SLi-Fox

    I don’t mind steel cases rounds as long as the projectile has a true copper jacket like Hornady’s line up.

  • Bub

    I have shot 223 steel case and it seemed to work ok. Nothing bad happened. Tried 9mm steel case in a G17, a little dirty and couple rounds out of a case didn’t fire despite good strikes. 9mm until recently not priced favorably enough over other options to switch, but 223 prices make it more worthwhile IMO.

  • cdm

    If your AK variant doesn’t work with steel-cased ammo, throw that thing in the dumpster.

    • iksnilol

      Any 7.62×39 firearm that doesn’t work with steel case is iffy IMO. The case taper should provide more than reliable enough extraction even with a steel case.

  • Ken

    Steel(or rather, the bimetal jacketed projectile) isn’t worth it, at least for me with AR’s. I shoot steel in my 9mm Glocks (when I’m out of reloads) and 7.62 AK’s. Steel ammo is cheap, and both rounds are relatively slow and lower pressure and don’t put too much wear on the barrel.

    I can get Wolf Gold .223 at $310 shipped per case (used to be $290), and I sell the fired brass at about $50-60 per 1000. It’s literally not worth it to shoot steel out of my AR’s. Given the cost of steel case ammo, I’d only save $10-20 per 1000 at best. Assuming the barrel life is 6k or so rounds with steel per the Lucky Gunner test, it’s simply not worth it. Their test rifle with Federal brass ammo still had a serviceable barrel after 10k rounds. Now, I do run a Melonite barrel and don’t heat it as much, so it should last longer than their test barrels. If I could save $130/k by shooting steel like they did back then, I’d do it.

  • ironked

    Most of what I shoot is brass. Sometimes the cheapest range ammo is aluminum cased and that has worked well. I’m a little skittish about steel cased in my pistols. Maybe shouldn’t be. As long as I can get as cheap or cheaper brass and aluminum, no reason to buy it. Some mention of dirty steel ammo. That’s not a matter of the casing, it’s the cheap, dirty powder they use.

    • m-cameron

      i run a lot of Tula in my guns……honestly, its no dirtier than any other ammo…..

  • Cal S.

    Forgive the noob here, but I run both steel and brass. Is there a problem with steel-case? Does it wear out the bore/bolt face faster?

    • USMC03Vet

      It’s just urban legend in the US that it’s going to ruin the gun because the vast majority of shooting ranges don’t allow it due to bi metal/whatever else excuse they wanna use to get people to buy their overpriced ammunition instead.

    • iksnilol

      Sometihng about many of them having bimetal jackets that wear out the barrel faster. Not a big deal for most. Might be a big deal if you have a nice or rare barrel.

    • n0truscotsman

      There are several peculiarities with steel case vs brass cases from my personal observations.

      Steel doesn’t seem to obturate (expand in the chamber) like brass does, which probably explains most of the anecdotes people have with dirtier guns after firing their boxes of wolf or tula. it also explains why AR15s have reliability issues when the shooter mixes ammunition at the range, starting with steel then shooting brass.

      Secondly, as demonstrated by the the luckygunner test, steel ammunition seems to accelerate barrel wear.

      As far as accelerating bolt face wear, leading to cracking, I suppose it would depend largely on the weapon. I haven’t noticed this with AR15s, although with the others, i cannot say definitively. I know M14/M1As are a no-go for steel case for sure.

      I still shoot steel case though through some ARs and all AKs. As long as I dont mix it with brass, my AR15s seem to shoot it just fine. Many ranges typically are poo-pooey on steel case ammunition due to steel core ammunition fears (which are legitamite concerns for indoor ranges, especially if one fires 7N6 5.45 which can cause damages, or certain areas where range fires are a problem). Most newer production steel case isn’t steel cored however.

  • Renegade

    The only steel ammo I won’t shoot is Wolf/Tula .30 Carbine. It’s very dirty and I get a black cloud coming out of the rifle with every shot.

    • iksnilol

      Tactical smokescreen considering the rounds limited range.

  • HH

    All depends on the gun, the volume shot, whether you reload, etc.

    For example it’s a cold day in hell before another steel Tula gets shot thru my M60 (caused $750 of damage- I wont bother w the details). For host guns with cheaply replacement barrels and esp pistol cal. stuff (much less wear – heat wise, FA fire) – Tula steel is great!

    Steel and brass expansion coefficients are different and some guns with looser tolerances run fine with steel. Others do not.

    There’s that great LuckyGunner (?) study where they shot 10k of steel vs brass and measured throat erosions and accuracy and whatnot. Wonderful study. The take away was if you have a cheap barrel then steel is fine. Unfortunately thats usually not the case in most MGs.

  • m-cameron

    they also admitted to shooting these barrels until they were too hot to hold……..that amount of heat with that high a rate of fire is going to contribute to rapid barrel wear………so the fact that some barrels were eaten up needs to be taken with that in mind.

    • Cmex

      Oh, thank God, I’ll only need to worry about my barrels in 200 years.

    • n0truscotsman

      That is certainly a variable worth considering!

      I cannot say I have ever measured differences on a scientific level since I replace barrels every 8-10k rounds anyways. It makes for an interesting subject worth testing.

  • USMC03Vet

    If I ever looked into The Monolith it wouldn’t be full of stars it would be full of steel cased ammunition like that picture. My AKM is racking itself in the corner after seeing this page.

    #SteelCaseMatters

    • iksnilol

      All cases matter you casist.

      • USMC03Vet

        What can I say, I’m a steel case guy, especially when it comes in OD green!

        • iksnilol

          THERE’S OD GREEN CASES!?

          WHERE!?

  • Lance

    Nothing wrong with steel cases. US army had used steel cases for .45 ACP ammo only down side is dirty commercial Russian gun powder.

  • Ben S.

    The very first 5.56 round I attempted to put through my very first AR was one of a box of twenty steel-cased “something Bear” brand ammo, I think. It fired. And got jammed in the chamber. Had to use the mortar technique to get it out. Thankfully, I had been given the box of twenty rounds by some nice gentleman at the range that day. I promptly gave the remaining nineteen rounds back and said thank you for letting me try them. All brass in every gun I own from then on.

  • VF 1777

    Only in my AK. Everything else is brass. Partly because the ranges don’t allow steel and partly because I’ve had issues with lousy ammo before that wasn’t worth the savings over brass. Besides my brass all go to my re-loader buddy and earns me some points (although I don’t shoot his reloads. Just a practice I picked up from an old head: ‘never shoot someone else’s reloads, never do someone else’s wife, and never pass anyone riding a Harley’. It’s served me well so far….)

  • New barrel is 250-300 for an AR. just think of the savings from steel case over the years. Most people will retire before they shoot out their AR barrels.

    Well, with glock barrels, they range 100-120, no? $10 for a 50pk of steel ammo vs 19 for WWB… I’ll be happy to buy a new barrel for my pistol after 6000 rounds.

    • m-cameron

      exactly, people grip about how steel “wears the extractors” and “wears the barrel”…..

      well if shoot 5000 rounds and break a part…….you literally saved enough in ammo to buy a COMPLETE new gun…

  • toms

    I prefer to not send my hard earned cash to enable the Russian defense industry. That being said Steel ammo works ok, I would say you are more likely to get the occasional stuck case with steel, if that is an acceptable risk than you are OK.

    • Scott P

      Not all steel-cased ammo comes from Russia. Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, and even the U.S. makes steel-cased ammo.

      • Cmex

        I feed my M57 that Romanian steel; it loves it.

  • Bob

    Same as most everyone here, I shoot steel out of Slav guns, and brass for my more expensive or ammo sensitive toys.

  • Scott Wagner

    Steel case? Go for it. Bimetal jacket? Nyet, rifle deserves better.

  • Andrew Foss

    My AK will eat Wolf all day long. That’s all I’ve ever bought for it in bulk, and it hasn’t had a hiccup yet. (I have run some brass cased through it every so often, but not since I found Wolf works and is way cheaper.)
    My ARs won’t: Silver Bear is the minimum, with brass preferred. Because when you have FTF/FTEs with it, I won’t bother any more unless I’m doing live-fire immediate action drills.
    My Mini-14 will eat Wolf all day long as well.

    Maybe there’s something to having an op-rod or gas piston versus direct impingement, but I know my AR hates steel cased, and sometimes disagrees with zinc-plated steel.

    • ostiariusalpha

      It has nothing to do with the kind of gas system on your rifle, and everything to do with the particulars of your actual rifle. Lots of AR rifles eat steel case just fine, but they tend to be overgassed (AKs and Mini-14s are also are designed to be overgassed). Put a click adjustable gas block on there to switch between the two types and your golden. What manufacturer is your AR, and what kind of gas length does it use?

      • Andrew Foss

        Doublestar, 16″ mid. And a second that exhibits the same trouble is a S&W, Also a 16″ middie. I installed a 20″ rifle length setup on the Doublestar with a milspec front sight base later. But both still have the same trouble. And y’know, once I shoot the Wolf remaining on hand with my Mini-14, I’m going to

        just stick with silver bear.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Yep, the mid-length gas is ideal for shooting brass ammo; not so much for steel case though. You’d want a carbine length gas on a 16″ barrel to get the most out of the fast burning propellant that steel cased ammo is usually loaded with. The pressure curve on that ammo is pretty darn short, so short gas systems of either the op rod (AK or Mini-14) or internal piston (AR-15) are best suited for reliable cycling. Either system is going to have some serious problems getting enoughwith cycling on a rifle length, the Soviet designs all had proportionally shorter gas systems to deal with this.

        • Rick5555

          Actually, the gas length system has nothing to do with an AR not shooting steel case ammo. It’s the gas port size on the barrel. Most AR’s that stay true to a Mil Spec, gas port…will have issues using steel case ammo. Mil-Spec Gas Port size is, .0635″ And I know for a fact S&W AR’s use a mil-spec gas port. I recently changed my barrel on my S&W AR. And the calipers on the smith barrel gas port was exactly mil-spec. Many companies will run their gas ports at ..0700″ to ensure all ammo whether it’s steel, brass, under powered .223 will be able to run in their AR’s/ I know Faxon use a larger gas port size as well as some Daniel defense, and so on. Quite easy to enlarge your gas port at home with a drill. Just get the desired size and you’re set.

    • Cmex

      I think AR’s are picky eaters for two reasons. First, the design is fairly undergassed, which can run into trouble during the operating cycle, because steel ammunition does not obturate and contract like brass ammunition, leading to differences in the pressure curve. Second, direct impingement does not have the momentum of a piston to help shove the carrier to the rear, meaning if the pressure curve and the operating cycle don’t match up, the weapon just seizes up. Third, steel has a different texture and friction than brass, which can throw off timing and feeding.

      • Don

        What are you talking about, AR’s are generally over gassed. Let me guess, you’re a piston fanboy / direct impingement basher… Do us all a favor and do more in-depth research before you spout stuff out that you’ve heard from a friend of a friend or something you’ve read on some forum somewhere where everyone claims to be an expert…

        • Cmex

          Wow, you know so much about me so quickly. I had no idea I was a piston fanboy or a DI hater until you told me. Now let me explain, the AR as a platform is generally undergassed, at least as compared to something like an AK (47/M/74 — take your pick). Looking at how AR’s tend to eject shells compared to how AK’s tend to eject shells, the difference is clear; AK shells tend to get spat out far harder than AR shells, resulting in a more forward trajectory and farther flight.AR shells tend to fly almost out perpendicularly from the receiver and generally not as far.

          The AR also has more points in the design where it’s possible for excess friction to occur (read: proper cycling may take more gas and time than expected) thanks to things like having multiple small locking lugs which rotate a relatively steep angle compared to other designs. Translation: More surface area rubbing against other parts of the gun — more friction. Steeper angle demands more force, so a load that doesn’t quite deliver may not give quite enough to overcome these. I guess a flaw in DI is that there isn’t a piston to keep pushing once the bolt’s unlocked and traveling backwards, in theory; it doesn’t seem to matter all that much in real steel.

          • Don

            Come on now… Man… And why does the brass fly away from the AR almost perpendicular… Hmmmm… Let me think on that one… Oh yeah, they have this thing called a brass deflector which alters the trajectory of the brass. And what did we learn from physics class, we learned that when objects hit other objects not only does their trajectory change but so does their rate of speed. Obviously you have never shot an AR that has no brass deflector, if you had you would realize how off base your statement is. So now knowing this, how does your statement prove that the AR is under gassed? I have adjustable gas blocks on every single one of my AR’s from the .223 to my .458, I run every single one of them with the gas block adjusted as low as possible. They eat any and all rounds I throw at them without any hiccups.

            “The AR also has more points in the design where it’s possible for excess friction to occur”… My stomach hurts from laughing so hard. Both the AR and the AK use gas pressure to operate, what do you think pushes the piston back? So an under powered round could do the same thing to the AK. You’re starting to reach to try and prove your point…

          • Cmex

            I’ve shot an AR15 more than once. The brass deflector is the little ridge behind the ejection port to stop brass from flying into your eye. The perpendicular angle is what happens normally. Your reading comprehension is lacking. I said both use gas pressure, but the way the pistons are constructed cause differences in friction. Smaller, more numerous lugs have more surface area and therefore more places for friction to occur. My point is that AR’s are comparatively undergassed relative to some other systems and the design seems to lend itself to greater pickiness, as a far amount of anecdotes would suggest, which the Tuohy test of the various ammos did confirm to some degree.

  • Tim U

    I hand load my pistols and .223. That helps the cost some.

    My AK I just feed steel case – it was meant for it and it’s cheaper than hand loads for x39.

    If you do not hand load, steel case is just fine for all guns even with parts replacement, you are still ahead.

  • JLR84

    I’ve had no problems feeding .223 Wolf/Tula through my AR. My experience with 9mm through pistols was not as encouraging.

    It seems like the friction of the cases between each other and the walls off the magazine cause the follower to stick. I’d often fire a round and get a click on the next shot, ejecting the magazine would reveal the next round too far down to be fed. A smack on the mag would move it up into position.

    I’ve seen the same thing with my of my range buddies, running an assortment of Glocks and M&Ps. Ended up switching back to brass cased 9mm.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I prefer to reload Brass cases than buy new Steel every time, but I dont shoot AKs where it would appear its not that simple.

  • Michael

    When I first got my Yugo AK, I fired 11 cases of steel cased ammunition through my rifle in the course of three months. Long story but was doing some intensive marksmanship training with it. Since then over the course ten years, I’ve probably put another two or three cases through it.
    In that time I’ve had two malfunctions, both feed errors, one was on account of not seating the magazine properly, the second was from an extreme lack of cleaning to the point that the extractor was completely fouled. So I don’t know what you expect steel casings to do to harm a rifle, but if after that much shooting there is not problem, I don’t predict one.

    • Katie A

      The specific gun definitely comes into play here. Of course, not all steel-cased rounds are created equal, either.

  • 1inidaho

    I haven’t had an issue with either. I prefer brass because I reload.

  • Joel

    Steel is much cheaper than brass in x39, so it gets used exclusively. In 5.56 I’ll go either way, if I’m shooting for performance I’ll go brass (usually M193), if I’m just having a fun afternoon with new shooters where tiny little groups are not the objective it’ll be brass, especially if we’re shooting somewhere where case recovery is not easy.

  • De Facto

    My SKS likes it just fine. My Mosin has no complaints either.. & my CZ75 eats 9mm steel case fine too, but I usually shoot brass cased in my pistols.

  • olivehead

    Nothing wrong with steel case if you and your firearm are fine with it. However, I’d just gotten a NIB HK P30 for cost from a local LGS and after some brass started putting a box of steel case through it. Somewhere in the first couple mags a case got jammed in the chamber and locked the slide like it was welded shut. A gunsmith across the street from the range got it loose for me and there was no damage, but after that I only run some steel through my Glocks on occasion. I can get factory brass reloads on line for less than 22 cents/round and would rather save $$$ that way than by shooting steel case.

  • Hurri Cane

    When nobody had anything, i shot steel out of my M4 and my R1, no issues. Now that things are better and i have a reloading press, i’m all brass. I refuse to buy anything Made in Russia for political reasons, though, but that’s where most of the steel stuff comes from anyway.

    • Sgt. Stedenko

      Haha.
      I refuse to buy anything Made in Israel for political reasons.
      Keep drinking from the MSM kool aid firehose.

      • Hurri Cane

        Being tough is one thing, like bombing ISIS. If Russia had done that and only that, i’d have no issues buying Bear, Wolf, TulAmmo, etc. and would probably buy extra to speed Kebab Removal. Invading Crimea, however, I can’t be doing with that. That being said, i’ve never had a problem with

        Independence (made in Israel from Federal components) and i’d buy that before stooping to Russian stuff, but we are kind of getting off topic.

        • Sgt. Stedenko

          Agreed, but if 93% of Crimea voted to stay with Russia, calling it an invasion is a bit disingenuous.
          I guess you’ve never seen the white phosphorous damage Israel has inflicted on children in the West Bank.

          • Hurri Cane

            ” White phosphorus smoke is used to start fires, burn a target, or to create smoke which is useful in concealing the movements of friendly units.” PLO shoots rockets into Israel. Israel sends soldiers in (they aren’t occupying the West Bank) to catch/kill the guys launching the rockets. PLO uses snipers to shoot at Israeli soldiers. Soldiers set off Willie Pete in/around for smoke to cover their assault on the launch site. SURPRISE, PLO was launching rockets from roof of day care/pre school/orphanage/children’s hospital. There’s pictures to back this up, don’t forget Green Helmet Guy, too. Don’t act surprised, Palestinians (and i use that term lightly), have been sacrificing their kids to Baal or something since at least WW 1. Last i’ll say on this, Ronulan, we’re waaay OT now.

        • Cmex

          Hurri Cane

          There’s non-Russian steel ammo. Red Army Standard is made in Romania, which is NATO. I think there’s some stuff made in Ukraine, IIRC. I can’t remember if anywhere else makes steel ammo. I think there may be some from Serbia or the Czech Republic, but I’d need to go do some digging on that. Prvi Partizan is Serbian and they make pretty good stuff, but I think it’s maybe all brass

          Crimea has always been Russian; it’s always been populated by Russki, it’s always spoken Russian, it’had been part of Russia until 1956, and the people there voted to be part of Russia. Following the end of the Soviet Union, Crimea was originally allowed to be its own independent place, but after a few years, Ukraine screwed them over, went back on the deal and absorbed them. Now they’ve held a referendum and joining Russia proved to be more popular; they’ll get to be part of a country with which they share ethnicity, language, and culture, and they’ll get to be an autonomous republic, which beats Ukraine’s program of trying to marginalize Russians by doing things like making public life and education be conducted in Ukrainian. Imagine if America gave Arizona to Mexico with the condition Arizona would be given a degree of respect and autonomy, only for Mexico to then go back on its word twice and then do its best to force the Mexicanization of the Arizonans. And then when America retook Arizona after popular referrendum of Arizons showed widespread support, people called America an evil invader. That’s pretty much the situation.

          @Sgt. Stedenko

          I’m not taking a side on the catastrophe cascade in Canaan, but be aware that boycotting Israel harms Palestinian jobs, and Hamas already likes to kill Palestinians who work for Israel; boycotting Israel makes the economic situation worse and empowers Hamas by making the people dependent on it for everything OR ELSE. Hamas does like to launch rockets into Israel, and they don’t mean RPG’s or things like that; they mean essentially tactical ballistic missiles, and they like to set up launch sites, training camps, headquarters, and rallies right by schools, hospitals, playgrounds, and so on, so if Israel responds, Hamas gets to cry about how Israel killed a bunch of civilians who got placed in the way just for this purpose, all the while targeting Israeli civilians indiscriminately for murder by any means necessary, including getting children to stab random people in public and indoctrinating people with hate propaganda from birth and then whining every time Israel doesn’t just bend over and take it. Peace isn’t easy to come to reach here, partially because Hamas exists for the stated aim of the destruction of Israel, and because Israel is not willing to give up on the Jewish state. And when talk is made of ending the occupation, what is typically meant is the complete disestablishment of Israel. And all this over a situation that’s so full of propaganda, agendas, emotional appeals, religious and ethnic tensions, and myriad ethical questions of astounding complexity that good luck ever getting to the bottom of it without resorting to gross oversimplification.

  • Rock or Something

    For my AKM, definitely. For my M1a, probable. For my AR, maybe.

  • Jeremy

    I run steel case in almost everything. MP5, PSG1 clone, ARs, AKs, AUG, HK45, P2000, UZI you name it. It all runs fine with the exception of my sig220 where the Wolf OAL does not work in the magazine. I really don’t have any problems with it. My HK53 does not like it, but that is an underpower issue and not a steel case issue per se.

  • Longrange

    For AR-15 I use brass cased ammo only. For my AK-47 semi I use steel cased surplus ammo as the brass cased ammo costs triple and does not shoot one iota better.

  • Cmex

    I feel almost everything steel case. The only brass case I have is M76 Yugo surplus 7.62x54R. I don’t go for extreme peformance or have the money to get into extreme performance. I don’t reload or wildcat. For all my needs and budget, steel case is perfectly fine. I test a variety of rounds for things, and the most foolproof ammunition I’ve yet used has actually been plain steel Wolf, believe it or not.

  • Katie A

    True, the FAMAS F1 is run with 55 grain, steel-cased rounds as a general rule – there’s an entire discussion here that could actually be fun to have. Points for thinking of the FAMAS (see, this is exactly the kind of comment I love to see…thank you!).

    • Joshua Knott

      Thank ya, actually I think that would be an excellent article on the famas. From what I have read and understood, the bass casing would get ripped apart in the chamber due to I guess a couple of different circumstances. Call it the short coming of the FAMAS, its crazy to see the french gulp up so many different firearms, I mean heck the French Special Police have Ruger AC-556’s (I would love to own a ac)

      • Cmex

        The FAMAS needs that special ammo because of mind-bogglingly stupid design decisions, such as using a weird lever blowback system instead of a gas system, making the system not absorb enough recoil to avoid destroying brass cases, not providing enough rifling for standard ammo to be effectively stabilized, making the magazines 25 rounds, and then decided to make the magazines single use disposable before forcing people to reuse the magazines anyway.

        • Joshua Knott

          Ahhh the French, they always seem to have their priorities straight hahaha. I couldnt remember on why the Brass was getting ripped apart, I thought it was something to do with chamber fluting but you are correct.

          • Cmex

            Yeah, the French never seem to quite get their firearms designs quite 100% right. They introduced a pointed bullet that used tubular magazines, they made their rifle longer after WW, they finally issued a semiautomatic rifle 15 years after WW2 ended, they had a rifle with the magazine latch located on the magazine instead of on the gun, they refused to adopt standard NATO 7.62×51, they made a 5.56×45 rifle that needed unique ammo, and depending on how you look at it, they had either one or two service rifles which lost every war they fought in. What’s the saying, “The French, in their usual perversity…”?

          • Cmex

            The French sure are quirky ones. They fielded a rifle with pointed ammunition in a tube magazine, they finally fielded a semiautomatic rifle starting after WW2, they refused to adopt 7.62×51 despite being NATO, their 5.56×45 rifle is a bullpup that can’t stabilize normal ammo which they don’t even make themselves, they fielded a rifle with the magazine latch located on the magazine instead of the gun, and they fielded a rifle that could only have its sights adjusted by replacing the entire front sight blade.

          • Joshua Knott

            I have sense that you really hates French Logic ahahahaha, at least they have some pretty ladies over there. Im pretty sure the only great gun they ever made was the Lebel.

          • Cmex

            It’s contractual; my father is English hahahaha. It’s not so much that I hate it, but I find it just boggling. The MAS36 is a good rifle according to people who’ve used it, as is the MAS49. The rifles seem to be screwed by being attached to a state with a bit more pride than sense.

          • Joshua Knott

            So like myself, every time you see a crossbow you think “blimy, no skill french, good thing I still have my flicking finger”

  • Scott P

    Steel-cased in my Combloc guns, everything else is brass.

  • Ivo Shandor

    I was having feed problems with Tul 223 in my AR. Switched out the buffer spring with a reduced power spring (Wolff $15), no more problems.

  • Tylor Wehr

    My bushmaster AR hates steel but my Daniel D. Runs everything. I feel a gun should be able to run both.

  • Cymond

    I found the Lucky Gunner Labs article to be very informative. http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/
    Short version: the crappy jackets used in those bullets will wear out your barrel significantly faster than standard copper jackets. However, the difference in ammo price is enough to buy a new barrel after a few thousand rounds.
    Of course, that assumes your barrel is easily replaced, like an AR-15.

    Ideally, I’d like to buy & try a small amount of Wolf or Barnaul from a local shop, and if it functions in my AR-15s, then I’ll buy in bulk online.

    • Cymond

      Also, I have a few boxes of Tula steel cased 9mm. It’s OK in my Glock 34 with standard mags, but doesn’t play nice in certain magazines like the 33 round Glock mags or 19 round XD-M mags. I can’t even fully load the XD-M mags with Tula.

  • Bobd06

    As long as it runs through the gun…..

  • Cmex

    It looks like I’ve have to replace my rifle in about 200 years at my current rate of consumption, then. Darn damaging steel ammo! 😛 Thanks for the quick synopsis.