Shell Shock Cases

shell shock

A company called Shell Shock Technologies has announced a new 9mm cartridge case design that uses two pieces and promises a variety of technological and marketing improvements.

Shell Shock divides the case into two parts: the head and cylinder. The head is made of nickel-plated aluminum, while the cylinder, or body, is made of a nickel alloy. The company states that the benefits of the design include:

  • weight reduction – 50% lighter than a conventional brass 9mm case
  • nickel has a greater lubricity than brass (nickel’s lubricity was the chief reason why Liberty Ammunition selected it as a bullet jacketing material)
  • patent pending design is said to prevent “ballooning caused by pistols and automatic weapons with an unsupported breach”
  • head portion can be anodized with different colors for branding or color coding purposes (polished nickel and black heads are available currently)
  • less expensive than standard brass

Of course, one of the primary concerns a lot of people will have relates to the case strength. Shell Shock Technologies claims the cases have been tested to 65,000 PSI. As a reference, the SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) for 454 Casull is 65k PSI. MAP for the lowly 9mm +P is only 38,500 PSI.

Sure, but what about reloading? Well, SST seems to have that covered as well. They claim that in testing, the cases have been reloaded up to 40x each. I’d like to see more information on this – like the average lifespan of a case.

One of the things that might cause a little bit of an issue for reloaders is the case size. The exterior dimensions are SAAMI spec, allowing them to be used in any 9×19 chambered gun. However, the cylinder is thicker, requiring the use of SST loading dies. This suggests that the case capacity will be reduced. (Update – This appears to be an error on my part, please see the update below.)

To combat increased pressures of a smaller case volume, the company enlarged the flash hole slightly. Standard Boxer primers are still used.

According to the company, they have tested the cases and dies on a variety of presses including those from Hornady and Dillon.

The company states that 9mm is the first case to be released, with .380 ACP and .45 ACP to follow on later this year. During the next 12 months, the company plans on including a number of rifle cases as well.

Update

After speaking to a company representative, I need to correct and hopefully clarify some of the information I originally provided in this article.

First, the company states the “cylinder offers uniform wall thickness” and a case capacity that is “fractionally larger than a standard 9mm shell.” I was told the case volume has increased “about 2-3%.” I originally reported the case capacity was reduced, and this was an error on my part.

Secondly, I was informed that the case wall is not thicker than normal 9mm cases.

Lastly, I wanted to reiterate that the external dimensions of the case and loaded ammunition are within SAAMI specifications for the 9mm cartridge. In fact, according to Andrew Vallance with Shell Shock Technologies, the external dimensions are exactly the same as conventional brass.

The reason for the special reloading dies/adaptors is they include a spring that pushes the case out from the inside, instead of pulling the case out from the outside. According to the company, the dies will work perfectly fine with normal brass cases, and could actually reduce chips and scratches on the brass.



Richard Johnson

An advocate of gun proliferation zones, Richard is a long time shooter, former cop and internet entrepreneur. Among the many places he calls home is http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/.


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  • YS

    “less expensive than standard brass”

    So how much is it?

    • Andrew

      The raw material is less expensive than brass, but their ridiculous manufacturing process makes the finished product cost twice as much lol

      • aka_mythos

        It’ll still holds value for people doing custom loads and reloads.

        As for their manufacturing costs being higher, I think it might not be. Typically bullet casing are made in a 6-7 step progression of dies that stamp and form it. They’ve reduced manufacturing down to 3 steps of a progressive die, with the cylindrical portion likely being bought as stock and just being cut to length. Quality control will be crucial for them, since they now introduced more opportunities for things to go wrong. Feasibility as an economical product really lies on the costs of their quality control.

        • Tim Pearce

          Feasibility of not being sued into the stone age over blown up guns and hands is the bigger worry.

        • myndbender

          I’m all for any new tech that can reduce cost, while being as reliable & user friendly as what it’s supposed to replace. I just have a hard time believing that any of the multiple component cases can be near as strong as a 1 piece design while at the same time promising to be less expensive. As you say,”QC will be crucial”, & I totally agree.

        • Perhaps holds some value for open-class shooters loading 9mm Major, if the marketing claims are true. Although. . . it doesn’t say the cases can withstand 65kpsi for up to 40 times.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I like. I can see how making it in 2 pieces can be a less expensive process; especially since the bulk of the material used is aluminum.

    I’ll take some in .30-30, .30-06, and .357 mag please.

    • Phillip Cooper

      Haven’t priced aluminum lately, I guess?

      • aka_mythos

        It’ll depend on grade of aluminum. Weighed against the cost of raw brass I’m pretty sure most aluminums are cheaper.

      • Tom Currie

        He hasn’t looked at the cost of using a far more complex manufacturing process either! Even if they could save on the cost of the metal, that cost is the smallest part of the cost of producing a complete round. The two largest costs are the mechanical steps of forming this complex case and the overall quality control (this round would require all the same QC checks as any conventional ammo PLUS additional checks on the forming and joining process for the two-piece case.)

  • TVOrZ6dw

    Interesting concept- I hope it works out in real life.

    • Tom Currie

      Why?

      Seriously, this looks like a solution in search of a problem.

      They tap-dance with the claim that the CASE is lighter than regular brass, but the case is only a small part of the weight of the complete round. No individual user is going to be toting enough ammunition to make the weight difference meaningful. It might save the military a few pounds when they load a few tons of ammo in a C5A, but you and I are never going to see any weight benefit.

      They talk about the better lubricity of nickel over brass, but who is having problems with stuck 9mm brass cases in their weapons and will a miniscule improvement is lubricity make any difference in the real world.

      • Theo Brinkman

        Based on the math by Rnasser Rnasser above, it’s about an 18% reduction in the total weight of the round. That means for every 6 rounds you carry, you’re carrying the weight of 5 ‘normal’ rounds. That’s pretty significant, though probably not noticeable by most people when they’re carrying a pistol and a spare mag or two. (Depending on my selection of EDC, that would save me either 3 rounds worth of weight, or 9 rounds worth of weight.) That’s a savings of about 4.5 lbs on a can of 1000 rounds.

        If their claims about being less expensive to produce are true, then that *is* a solution to a real problem. Every manufacturer in the world wants to reduce costs, because that enables higher profits.

  • SF

    case head separation anyone?

    • TechnoTriticale

      re: case head separation anyone?

      This is going to require a lot of track record before anyone will use it for mission-critical applications, or even competition. Even in casual target shooting, a CHS might be impossible to clear without tools often not taken to the range.

      Next topic might be dissimilar metal galvanic corrosion. They might have that covered by the alloys and plating chosen.

      • Lyle

        “Mission critical”. I suppose someone had to say it.

    • Shotgun Shells, Anyone?
      This has been proven that this can work. For many years and many millions of shells… this has been proven to work.

      • To be fair, shotshells work at a lot lower pressures. Remember that before plastic hulls were developed, shotshells commonly used paper hulls. Even all plastic hulls have been marketed over the years. The metal base of plastic shotshells is little more than a thin cup added to aid extraction, as well as to placate traditionalists.

        • Tassiebush

          Hey Daniel do you know what the convention is for testing cases pressure wise? I know engineering tends to go for something like 2x or 3x usual load safety margin. Is a similar one applied for this field?

          • A brass cartridge case couldn’t handle those kind of margins in a proof load without failing. In the US, centerfire handgun proof loads are loaded at most from 1.4 to 1.55 times higher than the Maximum Probable Lot Mean pressure. Centerfire rifle and rimfire proof loads are loaded up to 1.4 times higher. Shotshell proof loads are loaded up to 1.7 times higher.

          • Tassiebush

            Thank you for clarifying that for me.

      • raz-0

        1) Shotshells are WAY lower pressure. It’s apples and oranges.

        2) Freedom munitions uses brass that’s made in an odd way so as to have a ridge in that area. I see people having failures with that stuff on first run ammo. That seem is in just the right place for stress from pressure to leave a nice ring of brass/aluminum in your chamber upon extraction, so I’ll let someone else go first.

        • Blake

          Huh, I’ve used Freedom Munitions .223Rem, 9mm, 44Mag, 45ACP & 380ACP in a lot of different guns & never had anything but 100% reliability from the stuff.

          • raz-0

            Running uspsa & 3gun matches, we are seeing a lot of freedom munitions .223 pop out primers and a number of incidents with their weird 9mm cases letting go at the internal ridge.

            The hot .223 we’ve seen for a while. The 9mm stuff we haven’t seen too much of until recently. The only other stuff we see a lot of from them is .45, and that seems to be problem free.

          • Blake

            Interesting, never seen any of that. Haven’t used their .223 much at all recently (will probably be digging that out soon now that the weather’s nice).

            However it occurs to me that almost all the stuff we’ve bought from them is remanufactured, not new brass. We’ll keep an eye on any new brass & see what happens…
            (& we’ll be sure not to use any ridged cases in the Walther P.38…)

      • Kivaari

        Shotguns operate at very low pressures.

  • Andrew

    They should pair these cases with EXTREME SHOCK bullets. A gimmick in a gimmick.

    • Joshua

      I hear you like gimmicks, so I loaded a gimmick into a gimmick, to be fired out of a gimmick of a gun.

      • Xanderbach

        So… Will it feed out of a KRISS Vector 9mm?

  • TCBA_Joe

    I’d like to see how inexpensive it is. Provided it works as advertised it would be nice to see less expensive training ammo on the market.

    • Tom Currie

      HA! The case material is the smallest part of the cost of producing the complete round. The insanely complex process to produce this round will force it to cost much more than ordinary cases.

  • I’m sitting here waiting for @nathaniel_f:disqus to comment on this. (twiddles thumbs waiting….)

    • Dan

      Is it an AR? Is it 5.56? No? Then it’s Garbage! Burn it all!!!!!! There I answered for him……totally kidding. Get my friendly jabs in before his hater squad shows up.

    • iksnilol

      Well, he can’t hate it that much since it isn’t an M14.

  • hking

    I like that it is electro nickle plated to make it magnetically reactive. They dont exactly say what alloy their aluminium is but for the claimed pressures it has to be 7075. I don’t see how this could be cheaper than brass (under $2/pound) however 7075 aluminium ($12-15/pound) costs more than the raw brass does.

    • raz-0

      Yeah, but what is the volumetric cost of both metal? Ammo isn’t specced by the pound. blazer aluminum is way lighter than brass cases, so the cost per unit isn’t going to map by proportionate cost per weight of the metals.

      • Kivaari

        I would never recommend Blazer aluminum ammunition to anyone. I’ve seen guns ruined by it. When the aluminum fails it basically becomes a plasma cutter even in .38 Special pressure rounds. The increased lubricity is a good thing, since an all aluminum Blazer case sticks to chamber walls. It is very noticeable in MP5s.

  • Ken

    If the worry is pressure, can’t they simply make brass cases with a thicker case head? The .45 Super comes to mind. It’s a .45 ACP case with a heavier case head and operating at a higher pressure.

  • Stephen Hubert

    Forgot to mention the manufacturers claim below:

    “NAS3 is “Best in Class” for maintaining consistent velocity between rounds. In an independent test performed by H.P. White Laboratory (a major munitions testing facility), rounds fired using NAS3 cases achieved a velocity standard deviation of 0.093 FPS (124 grain FMJ bullet, 4.2 grains Titegroup powder, 10 rounds, extreme variation 3fps). Unbeatable performance!”

    Which has my B.S. alert blaring…

    • Where do you even find a chrony that measures hundredths of foot per second, much less thousandths?

      • LeadFarmerMF

        Radar.

  • Tim Pearce

    “However, the cylinder is thicker, requiring the use of SST loading dies. This suggests that the case capacity will be reduced.”
    So, I have to replace my brass, dies and load data. I have to treat this as a totally different round, as a handloader. Considering it’s doubtful it will cost less than steel cased ammunition, I really fail to see any attraction.

    • Phillip Cooper

      – and then in the next paragraph, they say it’s been tested successfully with existing presses. They need to get their story straight.

      • Tim Pearce

        They tested their dies in those presses.

        • Phillip Cooper

          Ahhhh….

  • LG

    Ductility is as important as strength is for the case. The case MUST also act as a seal. The shell case must expand to accommodate the chamber and effect a good gas seal. But then there needs to be enough resiliency for the case to “contract” as the pressure drops to allow easy extraction. That is the crux of the problem with steel cased ammunition, being soft enough to seal yet resilient enough to contract sufficiently for good case extraction.

  • Peter (BE)

    I wonder about the heat dissipation qualities…

  • Brocus

    I’ll let someone else bet their fingers on this working as intended.

  • Rnasser Rnasser

    Saving about 35 gr per case in 9 mm is meaningless, that’s only about 18% of total bullet weight with a typical 124 gr bullet. This is 0.23 lbs if you carry three 15 round mags.
    Solution looking for a problem…

    • Kevin Craig

      You, ummm, do realize that the case and the bullet are two totally separate items, right?

      The case weight as a percentage of bullet weight is meaningless.

      • Rnasser Rnasser

        Of course case and bullet and primer and powder are different and separate ítems…
        The claimed reduction of 50% weight compared to a brass case translates to about 35 gr, and this 35 gr is an 18% reduction of total round (nominally: “bullet”) weight.

        • Kevin Craig

          And again: “round” != “bullet”.

          But does it matter? Are they claiming significant reductions in the weight of finished cartridges?

          My daily carry is a full size steel 1911 plus two ten round spare magazines (10+10+8+1); my magazines and ammo alone weigh more than the .380 I sometimes carry in polite company.

          Unless I missed something, the only discussion of weight here has been the price per pound of various materials, which is a poor comparison when the finished product relies on volume, not weight.

          • Tom Currie

            So we have an expert who doesn’t know the terminology trying to guestimate the weight saving — and unable to do basic math. There is no way that replacing brass with a significantly larger amount of aluminum and nickel is going to achieve any 18% reduction in the total weight of the round — and even if they could manage an 18% weight saving, that would not be a noticeable real world difference for the average person carrying a gun. In the real world, most people carry only the magazine in the gun, or perhaps one additional magazine as a reload. LEOs in uniform generally carry two additional magazines. So perhaps a maximum of around 52 rounds of 9mm so even if we trust the inflated numbers suggested, it might save them the equivalent weight of 9 rounds — not absolutely trivial, but hardly any major fraction of the total weight on their duty belt.
            The only customer who might really benefit from that kind of weight reduction would be the military when they are shipping ammo by the ton in freight cars, cargo aircraft, and trucks — but the military would have to balance the savings from any weight reduction against the increased cost of this ammo.

            The scales just won’t balance (pun intended)

    • Tom Currie

      Actually the real weight saving is how much lighter your wallet will be after you buy a few boxes of this gimmick

  • Tassiebush

    They say it’s tested to 65k psi but that seems a bit limited. What’s the point of failure with them? They seem to have some merit but more info needed.

  • guest

    Solution in search of a problem Inc presents….

  • Lew Siffer

    Where is the plastic ammo? “If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?” said President Obama. So by his logic, if we can make a gun out of plastic, why we do the same thing for our ammunition?

  • John

    WOW! Did you say 9mm target ammo for under $10 a box! Great!

  • Shane

    A solution looking for a problem.

    • May

      You do know what weight is, right?

      • Lyle

        For the who carry pallets of ammunition with them, they’ll won’t need forklifts with as much lifting capacity.

  • jerry young

    I have been reloading for nearly 40 years now so I have questions,I have seen many different case failures over the years so first how do they join the two pieces together? it seems that case separation could be a problem, this could range from slight seperations to complete seperation of the upper case if this were to happen and the upper case would become stuck in the barrel you may not notice it and firing another round could be disastrous, I know they said they reloaded cases up to 40x each but that doesn’t always happen I’ve seen cases from factory fresh ammo that developed cracks and was not safe to reload, they say case wall thickness is thicker than normal how much? this does seem to be a drawback since now you would have to use a smaller diameter bullet when reloading this itself can cause accuracy problems

  • Blake

    What exactly is a “marketing improvement”?

  • Kurt Hargarten

    An answer in search of a question.

  • MrApple

    Interesting. I can’t wait to shoot some.

  • Kivaari

    If the case wall is thicker than standard, then how does the same bullet (.356-.358) not cause the finished round to have an oversized case diameter? If you shove a bullet into a thin “normal” case the case expands to “normal” diameter. Shove the same bullet into a smaller interior diameter, the thick case wall must get shoved outward, thus increasing the diameter. Is it still in spec? This looks like a disaster in the making. Going to a two-part case has shown to bring problems. We no longer use many cases like the .577-450. The aluminum base and polymer upper cases of recent making seem to fail often. When the use of aluminum and polymer was used in the late 60-early 70s, we saw case failures. When resurrected a few years back we saw on TFB the FAL gun “reject” the new super over priced 7.62mm ammo come apart. That company wanted the public to be their testing labs. Are we also going to be asked to pay two times the price of conventional ammo, so we cn find out it is another failed two-part idea that literally goes to pieces?

  • Kivaari

    WHY? There is no real advantage to adding a new method of assembling ammunition that brings along the increased potential to fail. I would never use this ammunition.

  • throwedoff

    The company talked about reloading cases 40 times each. However they didn’t say if those rounds were cycled. Were they cycled or were the projectiles pulled, and the cases resized? Either way I would worry about work hardening of the aluminum. It would not take very many firing and reloading cycles for the cases to become work hardened and brittle. I seriously doubt any could actually make even half as many reloading cycles as the manufacturer claims.