Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo – An Epic Torture Test

I’ve long been cautioned that using that horrid “communist” ammunition is just all around bad.  I tend to take this advice as seriously as I do those who become upset when their pristine gun experiences “holster wear” or their magazines dent when they drop them during a mag change.

The gun world is chock full of sea lawyers who dispense technical (and legal) advice in a manner that would leave the uninitiated to believe there is validity in their pre-apocolypic warnings of melted laquer and worn extractors.  Turns out, these two commonly held beliefs in the use of steel case ammo are the least of your worries.  It’s not the case that causes the issues but the bimetal projectiles causing pre-mature wear on the barrels.  Think accuracy deficits and velocity deficits.

Read for yourself, it’s a very well written article:

Here are a couple of passages from the article:

Laquer Case:
If anything would make that lacquer coating “melt,” it would be the treatment these rifles received during the test. We shot them until they were too hot to hold – hot enough that a chambered round would cook off in ten to fifteen seconds. We also tried leaving rounds chambered before temperatures reached that point. None of this harsh treatment caused extraction problems.

We found no evidence to back up the claim that lacquer coatings melt in the chamber and cause extraction failures.

If you regularly shoot steel cased ammunition, it might be a good idea to replace your extractor along with your barrel, or at 5000 rounds, whichever comes first. Replacement extractors are not very expensive. Changing the extractor spring at the same time would require no additional work – just set aside the old extractor and spring assembly and install the new one after popping the new spring into place in the new extractor.

When discussing this article with a friend (who many consider a subject matter expert in firearms and accuracy) he relayed his assessment that the cost savings using steel case ammo is still substantial even if you have to swap barrels every 5,000 rounds.  Throw in an extractor and spring while you are at it.

I guess if you only own one rifle and you are going to shoot a ton of ammo and you don’t want to change a barrel then by all means go with something like Federal (their ammo is great).  But if you are willing to get your hands (and your gun) dirty then walk on the wild side.

And speaking of dirty guns, one of the reasons I switched to gas piston rifles is that I don’t have to clean as much, especially when I shoot with a can.  Several people conveyed deep concern when I initially switched to piston as the piston guns were unproven and prone to failure.  I shoot my piston guns and haven’t fired a round in a gas impingement gun since the switch.  Color me lazy.

And besides, everything mechanical fails.  That’s why we have more than one.  And spare parts.  And the tools to change those parts.