Steel Case Ammo: Good or Bad?

Metal military surplus ammo cans stacked up

Steel case ammo is available in a wide variety of calibers these days and has become quite popular, for good reason. Let’s talk about the good and the bad of using steel case ammo. Since I am generally optimistic, I will start with the good.

Steel Case Ammo: The Good

Price: Steel ammo is significantly cheaper than comparable brass case ammo—sometimes costing as little as half the price. Who wouldn’t want to shoot twice as much for the same cost?

Long-term storage: Many calibers are available in sealed spam cans, making it ideal for stashing away for the next family get together or zombie apocalypse.

tulammo steel case ammo
TulAmmo .223 Remington ammunition (steel case ammo) is used for sporting and hunting shooting through bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles and carbines.

Steel Case Ammo: The Bad

Extraction Issues: In some firearms, steel case can be harder to extract — or it doesn’t extract at all. This is caused by a combination of factors. Steel is harder than brass, so it doesn’t have the elasticity that brass does.

When a cartridge is fired, the resulting pressure makes the case expand to the internal dimension of the chamber. The case must contract slightly to allow for easy extraction.

Steel does not contract as easily as brass, so if a chamber has any roughness or tool marks in it from the manufacturing process, the friction caused by the case not contracting enough — and the rough chamber — can cause poor extraction.

On the other hand, studies have shown that over 10,000 rounds of .223 failed to show a measurable difference between steel and brass on the wear and tear of the chamber and barrel.

(Note: When I say rough, I don’t necessarily mean visibly rough to the naked eye. This might be remedied by polishing the chamber.)

Durability: Steel will be harder on parts such as extractors and barrels over time. It’s just a fact that if you rub a harder metal against the same surface as a softer metal, the harder metal will wear that surface more quickly.

Studies have shown that it literally takes thousands of rounds for the additional wear to become apparent so the cost savings offset this. Some shooters’ note that steel case ammo can be dirtier than brass ammo. This is due to the powder, not the case though. The solution is simple; clean your gun.

Range restrictions: Some ranges don’t allow steel case ammo. This is generally due to the heavy concentration of steel in the jacket. In warm, dry areas such as California, it can be a fire hazard. The same can be said of brass case ammo. The range has the issue with the bullet, not case. Check before you go.

There you have it. Steel case ammo is cheaper to shoot and generally works well in most firearms, but does have some downsides. I suggest trying a box or two before buying a large quantity. That way you won’t get stuck with a bunch of ammo that you can’t use if it doesn’t work in your particular gun.

Steel certainly has its place and as I said, over time the cost savings of the ammunition will equal or outweigh the extra wear and tear. After all, saving 30 to 50 percent on your ammo over the course of thousands of rounds will certainly outweigh the cost of a new barrel, perhaps even the gun in some cases.

What’s your experience with steel case ammunition? Tell us whether you are in the love it or hate it camp (and why) in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (123)

  1. I recently purchased a Springfield XDE 9 MM pistol. It appeared to be a very well made firearm.
    as I also own an XD45 Acp which is and has stood up admirably.
    First time at the range I fired maybe 25 rounds or so of Tulammo factory ammo brass cased 9 mm and completely lost My sight picture.
    I discovered that My loaded round indicator had broken during firing and was sticking up blocking the front sight completely, the firearm also began firing only after pulling the trigger twice.
    I contacted Springfield who took the weapon in for repair and returned it in short order it came back with an explanation that a round had suffered a cartridge case rupture which although was not a warrantable failure repaired my XD e any way. Kudos to Springfield ,recalling I retained the brass from that day imagine my surprise to find in the container only The bottom of a case the top portion probably flew out during the firing and was not found at all. These were not reloads but just a defective case. I am debating whether or not to use Tulammo ever again. Springfield replaced the loaded chamber indicator and expedited the firearm back to me which appears to operate normally again.

  2. I have multiple 9mm, 45acp, 38 special, and AR. I have run steel case in all of them. The only problems I have had were with the 38’s. I had to pry the shells out of the wheels. AR, 9, 45, no issue.
    I’ve had MORE ISSUES (in my 45s) with Herters brass.

  3. When I went down to a local indoor range, they did not allow steel cartridges, so me and my dad bought some brass bullets they had, shot just fine out of his new Cold War era 1911 (.45acp). My dad went to another range without me and shot steel cartridges out of the 1911, it permanently broke the magazine lip, making it useless. I’ve shot countless guns and have only used brass bullets and not once did any of them break or wear.

  4. Rumors become myths become facts. Lets dispense with the common ones.

    Steel doesn’t spring back and therefore doesn’t extract properly.
    Not true
    Brass does not spring back, like copper it retains its last form. Ever see a spring made from brass? Me neither. Steel does spring back. Ever see a spring made from steel? All the time. Actually it is steel that springs back. If steel cases aren’t extracting well then maybe your chamber is rough. Brass is more forgiving since it is almost self lubricating (often you can machine work brass without using lube) while you do use lube to machine steel. This has nothing to do with spring back it has everything to do with the friction of the materials. Two similar metals have greater friction against each other than two dissimilar metals. Stainless steel easily galls against stainless steel (of the same type). That is why at one time pistols with SS slides often had steel or aluminum frames and vice versa. That is also why often the slides and frames are of different types of steel or treated in some way so reduce friction and galling.

    BTW, anyone with a brass magazine spring report back and tell us how that works out.

    Steel case/bullets increase the risk of fires at ranges.
    Not true. Most ranges in California don’t allow steel because they pick up and re-sell or reload the cases, it has very little to do with starting fires because of retained heat. If a bullet or case is going to start a fire it will do so the instant it touched the fuel and not because it’s sitting there. If a steel case will ignite the grass or brush then so will copper bullets or bras cases and then you shouldn’t be shooting there in the first place. A range should be maintained so that the act of firing ammo doesn’t create a high fire risk.

    Steel cases damage dies even if they are carbide.
    Not true. Dirty cases are what does damage steel or brass. While you should lube steel cases carbide dies are not going to be destroyed because you use steel cases. Chamfer the outside of the case mouth very lightly (only to remove a burr if present) and lightly lube them and reload to your hearts content.

    Using steel cases voids the warranty of your firearm.
    Not true. Unless the manufacturer of the firearm specifically states using steel cased ammo voids the warranty there is no way they can dishonor a warranty claim because you used it. So long as the ammo is made to spec for that caliber is is suitable. What can happen is that regardless of the ammo steel or brass cased, the manufacturer can deny your claim because their evaluation they saw evidence that the reloaded ammunition wasn’t reloaded correctly. Now, if you have a rifle chambered for .223 Remington and then fire steel cased 5.56 Nato surplus in it that is shame on you. If you fire steel cased .223 in it they have to honor a warranty claim if the fault is related to the gun and not the ammo. Lets be smart about this. If you mess up your firearm because you messed up reloading that is no one else’s fault but yours and it won’t matter if it was steel or brass, you goofed up.

    9mm (or .223/5.56) is cheap so don’t reload it just use the 10,000,000 cases like I have.
    That is nonsense. Not everyone has thousands of empty cases laying around and this is 2021, checked the price of ammo lately? In many places you can’t get ammo and it’s almost as hard to get primers powder bullets and cases. So while it’s nice some other dude has 10 thousand cases, is he willing to send you some? The next time someone says you should do this or that because they have so much ask them if they’ll send you some and see what they say next.

    Yes, reloading steel cases is a bit more involved and you must take some care to make the reloading procedures work best but it can be done, efficiently and reliably. One thing is certain, picking up steel cases is a lot easier than picking up brass cases, a magnet takes care of it and instead of hunting for brass, you sweep with a magnet.

    Follow best practices when reloading and always reduce the powder charge anytime you change any component of the reload beit bullet (even brand in the same weight), case, primer, firearm etc.

  5. I had just picked up my first rifle, a Remington 783 and along with it, some 60 rounds of Tulammo. Sure enough, after about 25 rounds, I had a bolt that was jammed and would not extract the spent round. I just got off the phone with the shop Remington had authorized for repairs, and steel voids the warranty. This repair comes out of my own pocket… Won’t be getting steel ammo anymore.

  6. Thousands of steel case rounds have gone through my glocks, springfields, Ruger AR, PSA AR, 9mm,.40, .223, 5.56 calibers, not one issue ever. Always either Tulammo or Wolf brand. Normally, before this Wuhan virus crap, 9mm is $130 for 1000, .223 is $180 for 1000, and .40 is $100 for 500. Brass is usually twice as much.

  7. I fired 50 rounds of steel case ammo in my Rossi model 68, after 10 rounds ,they began to stick , making it near impossible at the end…….Then I shoot 20 brass case ammo , no probs ejected just fine . So , that tells me not to use steel case ammo in my revolver !

  8. Goodness the steel cased horror stories. I’ve put no less than 20k rounds of various steel 9mm flavors though my German Sig P226 still as accurate as the day I bought it in ’87. 8 year old PSA beater ranch gun has at least 10k rounds of Wolf 223 through it perfectly and my kids run that gun like windmill 12months a year. I like the internet memes on throat erosion and barrel wear it keeps my ammo cheap!

  9. Brass for several reasons – the number one is reloading. Also, I’ve watched guys at the range fighting with their weapons tryin to get them to run on cheap steel. They end up aggravated and frustrated – not having fun. Why bother?

  10. What I found on steel vs. brass case on military type arms, is Steel in The Soviet, Brass In the USA! Only one way of most east block military arms work well w/ steel, as were designed. Our AR Rifles, were made to use brass, and like brass. The steel swells, and will not eject in some AR rifles, and therefor not reliable. Brass will work well in the Soviet type arms, buy why? They were made for steel, and are operating on much greater tolerances, so why the added expense of Brass?
    Of course, for hunting and precision work, the best will never let you down.

  11. I agree with those stating having different stock for different use, just like the weapon itself. Expecting a cheap short production weapon to perform as well as a more expensive tried and true model is equally as irresponsible. Stock the brass for fight time, use the steel for playtime, keep the really cheap junk aside for potential trading. In tough times beggers can’t be choosers, and those times thankfully haven’t arrived just yet.

  12. I use what the manufacturer recommends, that being said I have a PTR 91 the owners manual states quality brass or steel case ammo. I use a mix of brass and steel ( not in the same magazine). I do want to try some heaver bullet weights for accuracy to see what happens.

  13. I’ve used Federal US Forged 9mm steel cased ammunition in two different pistols.

    It’s nothing but junk. Numerous misfires, jams and it’s also very dirty.

    I’m now trying to figure out how to safely get rid of that junk.

  14. Built a 7.62×39 AR and have been shooting only steel case Russian ammo. Aside from having to grind down and polish the feeding ramp no issues with the steel case ammo. Rifle does not like AR Stoner mags either. After about 150 rounds I cleaned the rifle expecting it to be dirty due to the corrosive type ammo. Was surprised to find it was not too dirty. Even tore down the BCG and it was relatively clean. Using iron sites on a 16” barrel. Within 200 yards I find this ammo to be accurate. Have not shot it further, yet. Will be keeping an eye on the BCG for excessive wear. Using a compensator and the rifle is LOUD.. Will be switching it out in the Future.

  15. You can store brass-cased ammo a lot longer and easier than steel-cased rounds which will show surface degradation on the casings (oxidation) in short order unless great care is taken to keep them sealed in a dry environment e.g. air tight ammo boxes with the addition of dessicant. The greater the humidity of your geographic location, the more you will have to keep this in mind. I never had to be very concerned about this when living in the Rockies at 9500′ elevation where the humidity level averaged 5-10%. Down here in the lowlands of the Southeast, my steel-cases exhibit oxidation in a few months time if not properly packaged.

  16. Vincent I own a armscor 9mm ria m1911fs tactical I’ve read not just their 1911s but all armscor guns will handle any factory load u can put in it now I did not contact them but read this on the armscor website not all but alot of customer service people know little about their products not familiar with the super load but should be fine and any manufacturer will tell you to only shoot+p ammo occasionally cause it’ll shorten the firearms life and i own a 1978 Ruger new model super Blackhawk in 44 mag great gun one of the very few mostly rugers that’ll handle buffalo bores heavy hot loads guns built tough anyway as for steel ammo have only shot it in 45,9mm,38sp, and 223 but I’ve never had a great experience with it in 45 shot it in Ruger American had decent amount of feeding issues ok accuracy for 9mm shot in Beretta M9A1,ria m1911,cz75 phantom,hipoint c9 only one did any good was actually the hipoint guess cheaper guns like cheaper ammo 38 special I shoot tulammo thru Ruger speed six almost every time seems to work great in revolvers no issues removing from the cylinder or anything and 223 I’ve shot thru a Amish arms buggy15 my local gunshops brand of AR-15 a little bit tried a box of 20 of almost everything and all functioned flawless just bad accuracy now maybe just my gun but some of it was quite bad would have 5-6 inch groups at 100 yards that’s not including the flyers that sometimes were so bad didn’t hit paper now cheap fiocchi 15 bucks for 50 can get 1-2 inch groups just not worth the accuracy especially now steels more popular so prices are getting as high as brass 20 rounds of steel ones cost 5-6 bucks can get 50 brass for $15 or 60 steel for $15-$18 haven’t tried but just bought hordany steel match that have heard great things about 50 for $19 so hopefully that’ll change my mind about steel but as for now my opinion is steel ammos good for revolvers that’s about it in semiauto pistols ok accuracy crappy feeding and rifles good feeding crappy accuracy so not sure where I’d find steel ammo half the price of brass but if I could might have to really think about it but I’m finding it almost same price as some budget brass maybe a buck cheaper sometimes not even that in 45acp bought perfecta for 14.29 for 50 steel was literally 20-30 cents cheaper infact couple cost more

  17. Yugoslavia ammunition was primarily brass case. Prvi and Igman were the primary sources for small arms ammunition during the war. They do not produce steel case ammunition. Soviet steel case ammunition was difficult to obtain once the war started. President Clinton and the UN failed to respond to humanitarian efforts to help the Bosnians. They would have been happy to take whatever type of ammunition they could get.

  18. My experience with steel cased cartridges has been mixed and nearly 20 years ago. While it performed flawlessly through the SKS in 7.62 x 39, the 5.56 x 45 was crap. I had more failures to feed and failures to extract in just one 30 round mag in either of my AR’s than I ever experienced with brass of various manufacturers. The 500 round special cheapo sale of the day wasn’t worth the headache, and I gave the remainder away to a friend who cussed me out when he had the same issues. Because of that experience, I never tried any in pistol calibers so I can’t comment on its ability in handguns. So my opinion is that it isn’t reliable in Non-ComBloc guns, unless you enjoy it as a gun failure clesrence drill. While I advocate clearence drills as being a positive learning experience, I don’t want to fo that on rvrry trip to the range.

  19. I have shot steel case ammo, mostly in my AK’s and SKS rifles. Will consider it for my AR’s, based on the info from this article. An interesting twist I found on steel ammo, I have a friend who was in the Bosnian War and said he never saw ANY steel case ammo during his time in the conflict. That’s interesting to me , as we Americans hear constantly about how steel case ammo is the norm for AK’s and other across the pond weapons. Food for thought.

  20. OldGringo, I have 2 Ruger Blackhawk single actions revolvers, and I shoot .45 ACP with an alternate cylinder in my Ruger .45 Colt. I shoot .45 ACP +P and even Super .45 ACP, and with no issues. BOTH of this ammo is above 600 ft. lbs. (from 616 to 770). The 616 ammo is by Atomic with a MV of 1225, and a bullet weight of 185gr. I also shoot .45 LC ammo, and the most powerful I have shot in this same gun is 1217 ft. lbs., so even 770 ft. lbs. is not that great of a load for this gun. But I realize that this is not a semi-auto pistol. I have been looking for a semi-auto .45 pistol that can shoot the .45 Super, and in case you are not aware, this ammo is just a .45 ACP +P +P. so it can be fired in ANY .45 semi-auto handgun. BUT, the power may be too great for most .45 semi-auto pistols, so great care must be taken, or it may destroy the gun or even seriously damage your hand.

    So, I have done some inquiring from some .45 semi-auto handgun manufacturers. Armscor released such a handgun a few years ago, and I contacted them. Theirs will NOT handle the .45 Super at all. I also contacted Ruger about their .45 semi-auto gun, and they responded with the response that theirs will handle this hot load, but only in limited quantities, and not for shooting this ammo ‘all day’. But if anyone want to do this in a Ruger .45 ACP semi-auto gun, you should contact Ruger and ask about the specific gun if you are thinking about do this and make sure.

    As for the brass vs. steel casings, I have shot in both guns some steel ammo (and lots of brass), which has been less expensive than brass ammo most of the time. My experience with steel cased ammo was that I had a harder time getting the ammo to slide into the cylinder and even more so when ejecting the casings For those who do not know, you have to load each individual cartridge into the revolver cylinder (5 or 6 at a time, depending on the gun, and mine are both 6). So, with steel cases when loading, I sometimes had to push the cartridge in with some force, vs. it just letting it slide in. And when ejecting, I sometimes had to shove the ejector rod a lot harder as well. So, I quit buying ammo with steel casings.


  21. Want to thank you for the ballistics and such in your reply, but I am Deplorable Robert, not old gringo. And I do handload the .357 Sig, although I haven’t check my loads on a meter. I may purchase a cheap one but my 115 grains are. Fast when I load to Max powder charge.
    Still considering a 10mm. Or .45 ACP or Glocks 45 GAB cartridge. Be safe my friend.

  22. OldGringo, according to my ballistics file, the max power from manufactured ammo for the .357 Sig is 660 ft. lbs., with a 125 gr bullet raveling at 1,542 fps. The norm for the 357 SIG is between 390-500 ft. lbs. Whereas, the .45 ACP max is for a 45 ACP +P is 616 with a 185 gr bullet traveling at 1225 fps, and for a 96 gr bullet travelling at 1,900 fps delivering 660 ft. lbs. The average for the 45 ACP is between 390-460. In addition, the 45 Super (which is really just a 45 ACP +P +P) maxes out at 694 ft. lbs. with a 185 gr bullet traveling at 1,300 fps, and at 771 ft. lbs. with a 68 gr bullet traveling at 2,260 fps! The 45 Super averages between 590-650 for normal grain bullets (between 185-230).

    Of course, the .45 LC is a lot more powerful since it is a much bigger cartridge. But for all these statistics, I would out a lot more weight on the cartridges with the heavier grain bullets for stopping power when either hunting or for self-defense.

    As a comparison, the .357 Mag is quite amazing since it varies in power from around 350 ft. lbs. all the way up to 907 ft. lbs., and those give a real kick! I also have a .357 Mag Ruger blued 6.5″ Blackhawk, so for practice I shoot the lower powered ammo (and less money too), and for kicks I pull out the high power ammo! But my 45 Ruger Colt kick a lot more when I fire the real big loads than my .357 Mag.

    In general, revolver loads will almost always be more powerful than semi-auto loads since the cartridges are much bigger, and hence a lot more powder. The 45 ACP is unique in that it can be hot in both revolvers and semi-auto guns. I have been keeping my eye out for a 45 Semi-auto handgun that can handle the 45 Super ammo, or be altered so it can.

    Vincent (01-25-2018)

    1. Steel case ammo IS dirtier in your weapon than brass. This is because the steel case is harder than the brass case, and doesn’t expand to seal the chamber against the blowback gases and unburned powder particles, particularly in a semi-auto weapon. This blowback WILL build up, and if you have a weapon with close tolerances, it will require more frequent cleaning than if you use brass case ammo.

    2. As a general rule, I tend to agree. Being retired military I learned the need to clean the weapon at the end of every day, in a tent made of 2 shelter halves in the pouring rain. With the M16 we learned early on that the gun simply had to be run wet and clean, if lube or oil was not available then even water was OK to wash the crud out of the gun ( you take the bullets out first). We still have a hard time teaching the young guys to do that. WD 40 or Ballistol is great. but some of the younger guys are so totally ignorant they do not understand that fact. There are idiots out there who still think WD 40 can harm your gun, something they read on the net, they do not understand what it is and does). Several years ago, I started reloading steel cased 45 acp, just for grins, even though I had thousands of brass cases sitting idly by. As long as they are clean and have no rust on them they work very well. I especially like to use them for my Peacemakers, single action Rugers with the 45 acp cylinder and my SW Governor. You can pick them up with a magnet at any range, load em, shoot em, and leave them lay if you want, and remember steel is stronger than brass so you can load them hotter. . If you have read my earlier comments, brass had 6% failure rate after 4 firings, where the Tullamo brand steel loaded exactly the same had zero failures. Anyone who cleans their guns has zero worry about steel cases, with one caveat. If you load them down to say gallery or light loads, then they may not fully expand to fill the chamber. It is counter intuitive, but just physics steel is better. Now, personally when I load really hot ammo for say the 45 Colt Ruger only, 454 Casull, and 400 Corbon, I like nickel plated cases, with small rifle primers. The reason is they do not tarnish or corrode, although nickel plating does weaken the brass and there will be shorter case life, I just want that first firing of really hot ammo to be as precision as can be. I might also comment that I do not think most people chronograph their loads because I see goofy stuff quoted on here all the time. For example, I shoot the 400 Corbon with a 165 grain bullet that averages 1,361 fps or about 650 foot pounds and well beyond 1,400 fps with the 135 grain bullets. I read on here people are using 45 acps they claim above 600 foot pounds. I call BS, and the reason is, when you get a 1911 about 1,300 fps, the speed of the slide is pretty significant, you need a stronger spring and shock buffs or you will batter your slide. So, if you are shooting somebodies factory load that fast, I just do not think you are shooting very many and just hyping on the net. Those who shoot fast ammo 1,300 plus in 1911s (except the smaller 38 super and 357 sig) know to go to 45 Super or other modification. Just saying, I read the same stuff you do, but I shoot a lot off it and I see a lot of hype on here. Just because Buffalo Bore loads a 357 mag to 800 foot pounds does not mean you can match that in a reload and surely does not mean your gun will hold up to it. My opinion is that if you are going to carry a magnum caliber, then you need to train with it, or just use a smaller caliber that you can actually master. Opinions may vary.

  23. OldGringo, Nice to hear back! It sounds like you have the same Ruger .45 Colt flattop convertible as I have, only with a shorter barrel. So, Flattops are fine for the ammo I mentioned, which I have shot numerous times, in both the .45 ACP and the .45 LC. Specifically, I have shoe the .45 Super from Buffalo Bore that delivers 694 ft. lbs. of ME for a bullet of 185 gr traveling at 1,300 fps. With the .45 LC also from buffalo Bore, I have shot the 260 gr bullet that has a MV of 1,450 fps that delivers an ME power of 1,214 ft. lbs. There is one more cartridge that is even a more powerful cartridge, which Buffalo Bore also makes. It is recommended not to shoot that higher powered one in the Flattop, but it is fine in the standard Ruger .45 Blackhawk Colt. The difference between these two is a bit more steel on the backend of the bar over the cylinder.

    So, I have followed these recommendations. But note that since the gun can handle the much higher power (and pressure) with the very powerful .45 LC, there is no issue at all with the .45 Super cartridges when you put the other cylinder in. I have examined closely the difference between the cylinders between the .45 LC and .45 ACP cylinders, and it appears that the only difference is the internal length allowed for the longer .45 LC cartridges. This implies that there is more steel in the 45 ACP cylinder!

    Since it sounds like you have both a Ruger Blackhawk Colt 45 convertible flattop (short barrel of 4 5/8″), and a longer barreled standard Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt, you should be able to shoot the very high powered ammo in your standard Ruger 45 Colt Blackhawk, and everything else in the Flattop! And for your 4 5/8″ Flattop, you should be able to fire the same ammo I have done, BUT your recoil will be a bit worse, and on my gun it is already quite a bit!

    I highly suggest you email me for the ballistics file. It will amaze you, even if you reload most of your ammo. It will give you guidelines of what to expect and what is available out there, and how reloading may not save you as much as you think! I am sorry that I cannot give you any pressure values because just about no one who makes ammo or resells it publishes that info.

    Vincent (012318)

    1. Wow. Pushing a 260 grain bullet at 1450 ft per second giving 1200 plus ft pounds of energy from a 45? I might have to get rid of my .357 Sig !!! I reload and would like that energy from my Glock32. Any suggestions? I load115,124,and 147 grain hollow point bullets ( Hornady) I think I get 1500 to 1600 on the 115 grain.Thanks

  24. OldGringo, Thanks for the great info! And it is good to hear that you have the same .45 Colt Ruger as I have – a stainless convertible Flattop. Mine has a 5.5″ barrel. Is yours the same?

    Anyway, my steel brass issue is not due to it being a blued gun, and I clean it an oil it (including the cylinders) every time after shooting it. Sometimes the steel brass does not slide into the cylinder chamber as easily as all the brass do as well, as well as having some issue ejecting them – not all, but just some. I realize the cost is lower for the Russian manufactured ammo (Tul Ammo and Silver Bear), and it may be better in duration for reloads, but in my gun it was too much of a problem, and I do not reload anymore. .

    Furthermore, the .45 ACP Silver Bear ammo has a much higher power offering than any of the Tul ammo cartridges, so check those out! I have not actually shot any of the Silver Bear since I am ‘gun’ shy with steel cases now, but I may be willing to try a small sample. Most of my steel case ammo experience is with the Tul ammo brand. The highest powered .45 ACP +P ammo I have shot in my Ruger is the Atomic with the fps of 1225 with a 185gr bullet (there is another load they make which has an fps of only 1,000). This delivers 616 ft. lbs. of ME, which is very good for a .45 ACP.

    There are even more powerful .45 ACP cartridges, called .45 Super! These are really just .45 +P +P cartridges, but most semi-auto handguns cannot handle this ammo, but with Ruger Blackhawk revolvers there is no issue still. I have shot in mine the Buffalo Bore .45 Super that delivers 696 ft. lbs. of ME! Of course, when I revert back to the .45 LC cylinder, I have shot high powered Buffalo bore that delivers 1,214 ft. lbs. of ME, so the gun can easily handle any .45 ACP load.

    If you buy ammo, I can offer you my ballistics file for free. It has ammo listed for 30 handgun calibers (with over 1,300 entries), and 18 rifle ones (with over 300 entries). This list contains ballistics info on each cartridge, an online link as to where to buy it, how much it costs (by box and per round), and bullet information. If you are interested, email me at vlavalle @ix (remove the spaces). I send this out to about 15 from the Shooter’s Log Forum almost every month.

    Vincent (01-21-2018)

    1. Thank you Vincent for the nice reply. My Flat Top is the shorter 4 5/8 barrel. I am surprised at the hot loads you have used, but nice to know. I have read several articles now where they have all said not to use full power hot 45 Colt Ruger only loads in the small frame flat top and small frame Vaquero. I cannot recall where it is at, but one gun writer measured the cylinder depth where the little cylinder lock is and said it was actually a bit smaller than the old Colt Peacemaker. They recommend 3 load levels going back to 2007 when Lane Pierce said the mid sized Rugers could only handle pressures in the 23,000 psi range, which is like the 45 acp+P. SO, I am wondering what is the PSI of those Atomic loads. I sure like the numbers you listed. Other writers have said they are safe to about 25,000 psi. I also have the full size stainless new model Blackhawk with the 5.5 inch barrel. It is a much larger gun and I load it nearly 44 mag pressures or the Ruger only loads. It does not have the 45 acp cylinder. Actually, my 250 grain at 1,200 fps which will group 2 inches at 25, so pretty good for me. I think they are at about 800 ft pounds. My carry load is the HSM bear load which I think is a 325 grainer at 1.150 which is a handful. Anyway, I am afraid to shoot them in the flat top, but sure would like getting 600 foot pounds from the smaller gun, so I may stay with the hot 45 acp. Do you know what the pressures are for that load? Thanks for the data.

  25. Reload brass and shoot brass. Play with the steel case if that’s acceptable and your weapon can eat it.
    I guess I would try it out If I got a good deal on it. I buy factory Remington and Winchester ammo and reload the spent cases. Nosler cases are great too.
    I don’t mind paying the extra coin to have better components to have quality reloading results.

  26. I have to disagree with you completely on steel cases. I have a Ruger .45 Colt Convertible Flattop 5.5″ barrel, and when I shoot steel casing ammo, they often get stuck in the cylinder after shooting, and I have to work at ejecting them with the ejector rod. This does NOT happen at all with brass cases. I have tried different ammo manufacturers (all are in Eastern Europe or Russia), and this happens with any of them. I stay away from steel cased ammo always now.

    I do not have any semi-auto handguns, so I cannot state how they behave in that setup. I can only gather that if the stick in my revolver, they may stick getting ejected as well, although it may depend on the gun quite a bit.

    Vincent (01-20-2018)

    1. Well, I have the stainless Ruger Flat Top with the extra 45 acp cylinder and a Uberti Cattleman with an after market 45 acp cylinder and never had a problem with steel cased ammo in either one. I bought a SW Governor last year and have put about 100 rounds of Tullamo from Walmart thru it and never a problem. About 5 years ago I started reloading Tullamo and other steel cased ammo for the first 2 and it actually is holding up better than the brass which has a 6% failure rate after 3 loadings and zero with the steel, You might remember when Elmer Keith was developing the 44 mag he commented that the weak length was the case and claimed that steel cased ammo would be the hand gunners dream as it could be loaded much hotter. I am guessing that your Flat Top is probably the blue model and needs a polisher thru the cylinder. They make an excellent one called the flex hone you just stick on a drill. I have a pile of Rugers and love them all, but they do not have the best of polishing inside and every gun smith recommends to have the throats of the cylinders reemed if they are 45 Colt. Just a weak link in the Ruger design policy. In 2011, Lane Pearce wrote an article in Shooting Times about reloading steel cased 45 acp that he shot in a Ruger P 90. He had about a 10% failure rate after 3 loadings with the steel case. Just pointing out, your gun may just not have smooth chambers. Personally, I have buckets of brass 45 acp, so it is just a fun deal for me. Also note that Hornady match now comes with steel cases in rifle calibers. Just saying…Oh yea, I also have a Blackhawk with the 9mm cylinder and have shot many brands of cheap steel thru it over 20 years and never a problem. I have shot thousands of round of steel thru ARs, bolt guns, other revolvers, and mini 14/30 Rugers. Many ARs have tight chambers and need to be kept oiled to shoot steel. And the Ruger mini 30 does not have much firing spring power and does not work with many Russian ammo. Keep your guns clean and oiled and if you have tight cylinders, just oil them more often and enjoy the cheap stuff which lets you shoot more. IMHO

  27. I have shot over 100 rounds of steel case ammo with no problem, like the article says I tried it first before I purchased a lot of it. REALLY don’t see anything wrong with it, just make sure you clean your gun

  28. I have reloaded steel boxer primed 45 acp cases to shoot in a 1973 Peacemeker with the spare acp cylinder….I have found that after 3 reloads, 3 brass cases split and zero steel ones, out of 2 boxes of 50 each loaded exaclty the same just for comparision. I just pick up the 45 acp Tullamo cases with a magnet at the range…..just throw away any with rust and keep the others clean and enjoy cheap brass….with bullets I cast and using Unigue powder I can load a 45 acp bullet with free steel cases for maybe 10 cents each….cheap shooting not much more than 22lr…FWIW

  29. I recently fired some Chinese steel ammo I purchased in the spam cans @$35 for 1440 way back when new and a like new Norinco SKS and AK’S cost $40 and $120..
    Only hardpart was these had the spam can keys that got lost years ago but we improvised by modifying an old tire iron.
    Not a misfire nor lack of accuracy from old targets from back then.
    These were the good rounds and definately not allowed on ranges or anywhere today.
    Suffice it to say 2900 steel casings lay in a nice pile covered by sand and gravel today.
    As I said not one misfire from my old gunsand friends and strangrrs newer multi national
    manufactured including old Valmets.
    Old boil out actions and barrels with bronze brushes and copprr out at end of firing, light lube.
    As dark came some newer Euro steel tracers lit dusk to targets not a bad round anywhrre.
    Been awhile and had forgot the kick of folding wire and steel butt plates and even smell of old powder came back and was noted by buds.
    Some guy said that true steel ammo was illegal to own but I figured let them dig the dirt to find em and they were the last.
    20+years and most likely 35. Years+ and steel still good.

  30. I’d buy & use steel case ammo if attending a “lost brass” event as happens at many casual shooting competitions (for what ever happens to be their reason).
    Some shooting ranges don’t permit -steel- ammo because of the problems involved with differentiating between -just- steel-cased vs. (COULD also be) steel-cored bullets.
    As far as many ranges are concerned, if it will attract a magnet -it might- be steel-cored, which is hell on steel targets and ancillary fixtures, along with the (remote) possibility of (steel-cored bullets) being a fire hazard (sparks & the like).
    Then there are those that make a secondary income by collecting & selling brass that don’t want steel casings polluting their semi-precious metal harvest.
    As far as reloading goes, IF you find steel casings manufactured with boxer primer pockets you CAN generally get one (and maybe two) reloadings to a straight wall type of case before it has work-hardened to such a point that you will find them unusable.
    Full length resizing of laquered steel casings can be a total fail for the uninitiated.
    Steel headed shotgun hulls lose primer pocket retention after a single reload cycle.

  31. The author is not quite right regarding the use of “dirty” powders in Russian steel case rounds. The powder is no more dirtier than American made rounds. Brass is a dissimilar metal to steel and has more elasticity compared to steel. When fired, brass cases expand and stay expanded while the explosive gas continue out the barrel, where as steel cases don’t stay expanded during the full firing cycle causing minor blow back of burnt powders around the outside of the case; leading to a dirtier chamber. This is why you don’t want to shoot a brass case round after shooting steel cased rounds which can lead to a extraction failure. Tighter chambers tend to be more sensitive also to this phenomenon.

  32. Thank you President Putin for suppling us with great, low cost ammo.
    My AR-47 spits out Tula 7.62×39 all day long. Maybe we will get a president that supports us too some day.

  33. The author of this article has SOFTBALLED the most important part about steel-cased ammo. It’s NOT the case that gets you (he even says at one point that steel cases wear barrels – WRONG) it’s the BI-METAL BULLET that is the problem.
    Steel cases have been in use since before WWII. Sure, they don’t expand and contract (called “obturation”) like brass cases, and yes it can be a bit hard on extractors, but the main wear factor on the barrel will be pushing STEEL JACKETED BULLETS through your barrel, and most steel-cased ammo has Bi-Metal (copper mixed with steel) jackets.
    These Bi-metal jackets are sometimes even found in brass cased ammo.
    So do the math and figure out how much your barrel is worth. If it’s cheaper to send 6,000 rounds of Bi-metal jacketed ammo through it between changes vs. 10,000 rounds of brass jacketed bullets, then have fun with that rotten Russian junk.

    1. Actually you can reload steel case, you have to use carbide dies. It is very hard on them but it is possible, just not worth it with the abundance of brass pickups.

  34. My Ruger SR 556 had some issues firing the steel case ammo (TULA) but with a quick BCM spring extractor upgrade, it now devours every ammo out there. When SHTF, I want to continue fighting regardless what ammo I can scavenge once my stockpile runs out. That is why it is important that I can run any ammo thru my fighting rifles.

    PS : Extractors are so cheap, replace it every 60,0000 rounds if you are concern. They run about $8-20 each.

  35. I shoot plenty of steel cased ammo with no issues. Most of what I shoot is Wolf .223, 7.62×39, and 5.45×39, but I’ve even shot plenty of corrosive 7N6 5.45 without issue because I diligently clean my guns, so I almost never have any issues. I’ve even watched a friend run a couple thousand rounds of wolf 9mm steel case through his MP5K (registered machine gun) with fewer problems than my AKs!

  36. Years ago I bought 1000 rds of Russian 223 for my MP-15. after 60 rds I got a stuck case. The extractor broke the rim off. I had to take a old cleaning rod and drive it out. clean it, shot 60 rds and another stuck case.
    My solution was Load the first and last round of every clip with a brass case cartridge, the one in between were steel. Never had another stuck case nor had to clean the gun. The brass expands more than the steel and when it expands it compress the dirt which comes out with the brass shell. The brass shells are black but the rifle keeps shooting.
    Now I only buy brass.

  37. I used .380 steel ammo in my Glock 42 and I had a failure to either feed the next round or eject the previous round I guess 70% of the time. I wasted money on the two boxes I bought to test.

    1. I find the most .380 guns are very ammo sensitive. Yet, both my PPK/S and Sig P238 eat Fiocchi FMJ flawlessly.

  38. Steel shhots fine in my .45. Not so great in my .380. However, if I lube the gun well and rotate my ammo in the mag brass, steel, brass, steel etc I’ve found this to help significantly with ejection problems. Try it out!

  39. Like any other ammo it depends on what brand, caliber, the gun, etc. I have shot a lot of Wolf and other brands 7.62×39 in SKS and MAK90 rifles. In my guns the steel case ammo shoots as well as Remington or anything else I’ve tried. It is as accurate, effective and clean as more expensive stuff. And most of what I have bought is cheaper than just the price of bullets to reload, so much cheaper than any other option. If I was shooting a Mini30, AR or whatever it might not be such a good deal.

  40. Lacquer or varnish type sealant used on steel cartridges liquefy and build up (gum up) over time in the AR–15 often causing steel case extraction issues. This is the real problem.

  41. Our range uses a metal detector on all rounds to prevent steal cored ammo. The detector picks up the casings as well and so we can’t use them
    I have however fallen in love with the aluminum casings of late. Cheap as in less then $10 for a box of 50 in 9x19mm and no issues so far we have easily shot 2K rounds thru a S&W and my own Glock 19 and we like them allot
    Good compromise between cost and “issues” with the steal
    Dr D

  42. 1. Steel-cased ammo means mild steel jacket on the bullet as well…more frags coming back from reactive targets, and ALOT more bore wear over time.
    2. Because it doesn’t seal as well to the chamber, the gun gets dirtier quicker, which can cause malfunctions if not cleaned more often.
    3. THIS CAN VOID YOUR WARRANTY- as far as pistols go, S&W, Walther, Sig, H&K, Colt all say the same thing…ONLY BRASS CASED AMMO to SAAMI or NATO specs. Ruger and Taurus are a bit more loose on their requirements for certain models. I did a survey a while back and called 10 pistol manufacturers and they all (except Ruger and Taurus) said the same thing…it can void your warranty.

  43. Another point, cheaper ammunition usually means less accurate ammunition. I would say this stuff maybe okay for plinking in a less expensive gun, but not good for competition or even use in a very expensive gun.

    I remember buying 6 boxes of Tula for shooting 45’s at the range when I was paying a minimum of $24/box of brass ammo. Walmart had some and I did not realize it was the steel stuff I bought, I thought it was the “brass max”, which is okay for plinking. Walmart doesn’t allow returns. Since it was so hard to find cheap 45 ammo, I was able to sell it on gun broker at enough of a profit that with shipping costs, I broke even. At that time, I only had a Kimber 45 and I would not put it in the gun.

  44. I’ve fired over 1,200 rounds of Tula steel case out of my M1991A1 Commander with very few failures. The muzzle normally looked like I used it to dig in the garden after about 100 rounds (dirty powder), but very few FTEs or FTFs. I will note, though, that the slide lock did shear off after about 1,100. I now fire brass, although admittedly, the money I saved on ammo easily paid for the slide lock.

  45. On the best and most extensive “Torture Test” on Brass vs. Steel cartridges for the AR-15 you will find anywhere: Tul was the only one ammo that didn’t make it all the way through the trial but if you clean your rifle often I think it will do most just fine.

  46. The same applies to shotgun shells. If you are having extraction problems with European made ammunition or ammo made on European machines,(Estate, Spartan, Rio) try U.S. shells from Federal, Winchester , or Remington.

  47. I have several ARs and I use steel ammo when shooting upto 25-100 yards. And the brass when shooting longer. I have had extraction issues but good cleaning with the chamber brush. And never had one ever since.

  48. I tried to put 7.62×39 steel through my Ruger mini 30. Choked on it every time. Took those same FTF’s and loaded them in my SKS and shot every one of them. Now I’m looking to sell the Ruger and buy another SKS.

    1. I’ll take your unwanted Mini-30. How much and when can I see it. The one I have works fine with factory magazines and steel ammo. But if I explain that too loudly you may want to keep your Mini-30. I can put it to good use.

  49. I have 2 Delton AR 15 and yes that is all I shoot is steel ammo however I did have issues of jamming a lot so I broke them both down and polished the m4 feed ramps And ran at least a thousand rounds through both rifles and not one jam good article

  50. I bought a bit of 9mm steel case ammo and was having a lot of extraction issues with it in my XD. I noticed that the empty casing was very tight in the chamber, so that seems to validate the “expansion/contraction” issue raised in the article. I tried it on my Sig 2022, and it had no problems. Either the Sig barrel is microscopically larger or it is more polished. I believe I will avoid steel case ammo in the future, though.

    1. @ George Bone.

      In Germany, it’s 0.00035/1.0. So for a 9x19mm Parabellum, it’s 0.0031535mm. And ALL German made Guns are Mil-Std. In the US Mil-Spec. is ~0.001″ of Barrel Specification, US Mil-Std. ~0.0001″ of Barrel Specifications…

  51. I have several Saiga AK’s, and I shoot predominantly steel case, Russian manufactured ammo. With several thousand rounds of ammo through the weapons over the past few years, I’ve had no FTF’s, no FTE’s. Yes, the steel case powder leaves more residue, but it’s nothing the Saiga’s can’t deal with. On the other hand, I have a Mossberg .308 tack driver that doesn’t like anything except 168 gr match ammo..

  52. Several of the ranges I go to will not allow 5.56 steelcase ammo because it has copper plated steel bullets that damages the target traps indoors and ricochets more outdoors. I have also been warned about the steel bullets possibly harming the bore. I have shot a few zinc plated cases with no problems but don’t shoot them anymore. Why risk these problems to save a few cents per round.

    1. Steel cased ammo DOES NOT have a steel core! It is Illegal in the USA.
      If the gun range tells you its a steel core. separate the bullet from the case with a knife and show them…Copper plated Zinc ammo will NOT attract a magnet. Here is just one MFG’s MSDS sheet on their Ammo. I had the same fight with my range until I showed them the proof.. Its all about money! They can’t reload spent steel cased ammo that mixes in with their brass. its a pain for them to separate it. That is what this is all about. My range had the same policy until I proved them wrong. Look at the link for TulAmmo’s MSDS Data and you will see it does not contain Steel core ammo of any kind. And it is never mixed in by accident either. its made in a different plant so it can’t get mixes.
      Print this out and take it to your range. Show them the truth!

  53. Steel cases will eventually rust away whereas brass and aluminum will be around to litter almost forever.

  54. i shoot steel in pretty much every gun i own…prepare yourself…even in my custom built AR..!!! i love how all the gun snobs say their high end state of the art top dollar gun cant shoot steel. in my eyes if your firearm cant fire anything u shove in the chamber its a hunk of junk and u paid too much.

    1. Most steel case ammo has berdan primers, which takes a harder hit, to fire the ammo. Brass ammo has boxer primers which take a softer hit to fire. Some guns will fire berdan primers some won’t. You can put heavier hammer springs that may solve this.

    2. Actually that’s not correct. Berdan vs Boxer has NOTHING to do with the hardness of the primer. It has everything to do with the flash hole.

    1. I have been looking into reloading my empty casings and have spoken with some friends, who reload. Brass is easier to reload, several times, because of its elasticity, which helps to manipulate the metal when reloading. I generally buy all brass casing ammo for that reason, so when it comes time to reload, I will have plenty of empties.

      On the other hand, I have shot many steel casing 9mm rounds (+p included) out of my Ruger P89 with zero problems. The Hornady Leverevolution brass 45-70 rounds have extraction issues about 50% of the time. It may be that specific round, but I believe it’s because of the size of the cartridge and the amount of powder that causes the casing to expand so greatly. I can load and extract unfired rounds all day, but it’s the expanded rounds that give me hell. That’s a little off topic, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that some steel casings issues may depend on the amount of pressure created by the round (size of the cartridge). A cheap gun and barrel might add to that.

      Lastly, my theory on firing ranges requiring brass ammo is mainly so that they can cash in on the empties, and sell reloaded rounds back to the guests.

  55. Have used steel cased ammo manufactured in Rumania. This was surplus military 8mm Mauser. Problem: The cases were laquered and that made the rounds hard to feed, the final bolt closing was very, very stiff. The gun I was using is a 1941 manufacture K98k issue Mauser in excellent condition, All the specs are in tolerances and the gun works fine with brass ammo. If you are using steel ammo, make certain that it doesn’t have a lacquer coating.

  56. I guess those Ruskies, Chi Coms, and other assorted Com Block countries were pretty stupid to develop and mass produce ammo that would render their firearms worn out and useless after a few thousand rounds.

    Maybe that is why they had to produce so many millions of Nagants, SKS’s, and AK’s, because they had to be replaced so often, and why it is so hard to find a shootable used Com Block weapon.

    What do you think?

    As for lacquered cases, how many AK’s and or SKS’s have failed on the battlefield due to problems with this type of ammo? How many Dragonov’s wore out after a few cases of this “Trash” ammo?

    I would say “Not Too Many”

    Is your typical bulk Com Block ammo going to give you minute of angle groups at 300 yards? Probably not. Might it add some wear to your fragile AR? Probably?

    So, there are trade off’s in every aspect of shooting. Will shooting cases of +P .38 special in your aluminum “J” framed snubbie cause you more trouble than the same amount of ammo in your “L” framed .357? Certainly.

    You pays your money, you takes your choice.

  57. My only problems with steel cased ammo is what the steel cases are coated with, not the steel itself. I shoot a lot of 7.62x54r out of several Mosin-Nagants and reload it as well. I have never used lacquer coated cases, but had a problem with Herter’s polymer coated cases gluing themselves stuck in a hot chamber. I had to use a mallet and block of wood to get the bolt open. After switching to MFS (made in Hungary about $10 for a box of 20) with their zinc plated steel cases the problem went away. My “torture test” was to fire 20 rounds as fast as I could to get the receiver and chamber nice and hot. I then chambered a round, waited one full minute, discharged that round down range, and attempted to open the bolt. It opened as though the rifle was ice cold.

  58. Steel ammo does indeed increase fire hazards. 9/10 times we have to shut the range down due to fire, we will find steel cases in the lanes in front of it. We have 58 signs that inform and warn against using steel, yet shooters claim they never saw one. Worse are the shooters who bring steel ammo inside boxes that say brass.

    1. @Todd.

      Not doubting you, since I’ve never owned a range, but how does the steel case cause fires? The case stays in the gun as the bullet goes downrange, then drops to the floor on extraction. How does the composition of the case being steel instead of brass cause a fire downrange, or are you talking about fires at the firing booth?

  59. I have but one rifle that I will shoot steel cased ammo through. It’s a CZ VZ58 and I generally run Golden Tiger ammo.It was built to run the commie ammo, none of my other rifles and pistols were so they will never see one round down the pipe.

  60. I use both steel and brass but for different applications. I always use the cheaper steel for practice loads in almost all of my calibers except of course .22 – which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in a steel cartridge outside of Russia. Otherwise I use brass for my daily carry loads and to stockpile as my dependable premium ammo to break out when the sh*t hits the fan.

    I always buy in bulk without fear of quality issues because I am fortunate enough to own a multitude of ARs and AKs that can be matched up with any steel round I’ve ever purchased. What won’t fire well in one rifle, I’ve always managed to fire just fine in another. My AKs are not picky and chew up anything in steel that I have ever fed them.

    I do have a few ARs that I baby and will never put a steel round through, but that is the elitist attitude I’ve acquired due to misnomers regarding supposedly harsher steel ammo. Even though I know these particular ARs could handle the steel, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

    1. @G-Man

      I tend to have the same approach as you on steel rifle ammo. AKs are made to shoot whatever the peasant holding it can find, so I don’t worry about running through an AK or SKS. But I must be an elitist too, because I never run it through any of my ARs. I did run a couple of magazines of it through an M1A once and it handled it just fine, and I have no worries about running it through my Just Right Carbines AR style .45ACP.

      In terms of pistols, my PPX and Jericho don’t like steel cased ammo at all, but my XD and my wife’s Beretta have no problems with it. Of course, my Glocks are like an AK, they’ll shoot anything you can load into them.

    2. @ Mikial,

      That is good to know about the Glocks. Given all my Glocks have only ever been used for defensive carry, they’ve always fallen into my “brass only” category, and thus I have never considered firing steel cased ammo even in practice. However, now that you bring it up, I have a few Glock models I rarely use any more so I may just have a bit of fun testing some steel through them in the near future. Thanks.

    3. @G-Man

      By all means, go for it. And please let me know how it goes. I own two G21s and carried a G17 for several very rough months in Iraq, and I swear by them. I use HTPs as my EDC load, but almost all of my practice ammo is steel cased and the G21s eat it without a hiccup.

      Don’t know where you’re located (I’m in the DC/VA area), but it might be fun to hit a range together sometime. A friend just recruited me to work with him setting up a training facility in Alabama. He’s got good creds and 200 acres of undeveloped land with virtually no zoning requirements. Sounds like Heaven to me.

  61. I wish to add comments to the steel case cartridge issue. I have 2 Ruger single action revolvers, and between these two hand guns I can shoot 38 Special, 357 Magnum, 45 ACP, and 45 LC. I have tried many box (50 rds. each) of Wolf steel case 45 ACP ammo, and have decided to stay away from all steel case ammo. The reason for this is somewhat related to some of the issues described in other comments and in the article here as well. But in my case, the steel cartridges simply do NOT slide into or out of the cylinder easily. Sometimes I actually had to push hard to get the cartridge into the cylinder, and it would not just slide in. Sometimes I had to push pretty hard with the revolver’s extractor stem that slides down the barrel, thru the cylinder, and thus ejecting the case.

    I do not shoot any semi-auto weapons, so I cannot comment on how these steel cases would work in that type of a weapon. But since I had have trouble with the manual loading and unloading on my revolvers, I would have to guess that this extended to the semi-auto world to some degree as well.

    Vincent (01-04-2015)

  62. Your statement about the powder doesn’t agree with my understanding and I’m skeptical about whether you are correct. Do you have any sources?

    The conventional knowledge on why steel is dirtier is that the case doesn’t expand and form a seal as easily as brass does when the powder starts burning. As a result high pressure air and ash can more easily slip past the case and get into areas in the gun besides the barrel, dirtying your gun. It’s not just about powder quality.

    1. Grant,

      You could well be correct. My understanding was always that it was the powder, but I have never went to a manufacturer to confirm it one way or another. Thanks for the information. ~Dave Dolbee

    2. @Grant

      That’s a very interesting observation. I never thought of that.

      I will say that when I watch my wife shoot, I always notice a lot more smoke and sparks when she is shooting inexpensive Russian steel cased ammo than inexpensive (relatively speaking) American brass cased ammo. I can’t say for certain, but I don’t see how the steel case could cause that.

  63. The thing about steel cased ammo is that it’s either Russian, Turkish or European in origin. The powder is questionable and it will wear your chamber down. If you OK feeding that stuff to your prized baby AR, then be my guest. Brass cases are much softer and easier on your chamber and bolt mechanism.

  64. I have a Bushmaster AR that jams repeatedly with steel case ammo. The last time required a trip to the gunsmith to get up and running. My daughter has a DPMS and my son has a Colt that will shoot steel all day long. My gunsmith thinks the tighter tolerances in my rifle chamber vs that of the DPMS and Colt and the lack of elasticity of the steel case are the difference. Unless there is a warranty issue with using steel case ammo in your particular rifle, I would try it for the cost savings. But if there are any ejection problems, then you are better off with brass cases.

    1. @Jim

      I would agree with you on the Bushmaster. I was issued a Bushmaster SBR in Iraq by one employer,and it wouldn’t shoot anything. But I am surprised that your daughter’s DPMS will extract steel cased ammo. I had two of them that wouldn’t even extract brass cased ammo. I finally rebuilt the extractor on one and installed a whole new upper (not DPMS) on the other and they work fine now.

      The Colt is another story. i was issued a Colt selective fire M4 on my last contract in Iraq and it ran like a Swiss watch. Never a malfunction in almost two years.

  65. OK brass reloaders – what is the price/ round of reloaded brass v. new steel? Don’t count your time (we will write it off as ‘therapy’) but do count the amortization of the reloading eqpt. and any consumables – thanks!

    1. You asked, so here goes:
      $1,000 investment in reloading equipment over 25 years = $40/year. Roughly 5,000 rounds loaded/year, so equipment breaks down to just uner $0.01/round.
      Pistol components cost me (average) $0.12/round; Rifle (match-grade) = $0.25/round, plinking rounds = $0.18/round. Add a penny to each round for cost of equipment.
      One other great advantage is that I NEVER pay for pistol or (plinking) rifle brass EVER. I can pick-up cases off the range grounds/floors, or have my non-reloading buddies give me theirs.
      I have no idea what steel-cased ammo costs (because I never buy it, nor do I care), but it is certainly much more expensive than my reloads.

    2. One thing not mentioned with reloading cost, which I reload both rifle and pistol is the cost of your time. I love steel case for what it is, and it runs fine in the several guns I run it in.

      The time it takes to load rifle vs buying steel is no contest if you want something for a local match or plinking. Now comparing reloading rifle brass vs buying accurate or specialty loads is another matter.

      IME steel runs just as reliably as brass. Runs fairly accurate if you have a barrel that shoots accurate and safe alot of money over the life of the barrel.

  66. I am concerned with the reloading of steel casings. Can it be reloaded and what are the effects on carbide reloading dies?

    1. No, my experience is that steel cases cannot be reloaded. Look around at reloaded ammo and I very much doubt you will ever see it reloaded in steel cases.

      If I’m mistaken, I will gladly stand corrected.

  67. I disagree based on another study. Steel cased ammo generally has bi-metal projectiles which significantly reduce the life of the barrel, increase throat erosion, and are very harmful to guns in general.

    Now if you compare the overall cost of ownership including replacing parts, steel cased ammo is the better budget. It’s all addressed in the article.

  68. Actually, the biggest issue with reloading it is the primer configuration. They are almost always Berdan primed which makes fore broken decapping pins.

  69. I have shot steel in some of my guns and in some there is no difference, some however do not like it much and jam often mostly on failure to eject properly. Otherwise when it works I have no issue using it especially for blasting paper.

  70. I think steel is OK for high volume shooting such as an AR or if you have your .45, .40, 9mm IF you don’t reload. No where was the steel mentioned that you can’t RELOIAD it. Would never shoot lacquered steel casings in my Glock. Just wouldn’t. Prefer to reload my once shot brass that is new factory ammo.

  71. You forgot one HUGE benefit. You don’t have to collect your steel cases if you are shooting on a home range like mine. Since It can’t be reloaded, I leave it where it lands. Kinda adds to the ambiance of the place IMHO.

    1. @ David.

      If you going to Leave Spent Steel Cartridges on the Ground, add a Little Salt from Time-to-Time. It will Help Breakdown the Steel and Add to the Mineral Content in the Soil…

    2. Forget the salt, and pick up the damn cases! Stop being the jerk that makes responsible shooters look bad! A pick-up magnet from Harbor Freight is less than $5, and will pick up the steel cases easily so they can be discarded responsibly.

    1. You “DO NOT” reload steel for a number of reasons, but mainly due to sizing, coating and primer issues. My experiences with steel are varied depending on the gun and the coating. Using both lacquer and poly coatings produced basically the same results in my Ruger Mini-14, two out of the first ten lacquer coated rounds split at the mouth of the casing and it took 19 of the poly coated rounds to achieve those same results. The lacquer ammo was Wolf brand and the poly was Tul, not sure if that made a difference, but no steel will ever cross the threshold of my Mini again.
      The same results occurred with my 7.62x.39 Romanian WASR/AK with the exception of Silver Bear ammo which is Zinc coated and just rolled through the AK and my Windham AR also in 7.62x.39. After 300 problem free rounds I bought another 500 Silver Bear and came across 1100 round cases of Belgian, brass cased, which I scooped up two cases of, however I have yet to fire any. Reviews upheld my decision, that and a ridiculous low price. I have a tin of steel ammo (440 rounds) for my Mosin, but have not opened it as of yet. That will be my long shot Zombie killer for when the Fast Movers finally develop.
      That’s about it for my experiences in the world of steel cased ammo, I am strictly a brass guy and would like to give reloading a go some day, however, if you want to play with the toys of the Eastern Block you either shoot steel cased ammo, take out a second mortgage to buy brass or learn to reload. I have never used steel in my Ruger P-90 45 or my little daily carry piece, an SCCY 9 mm, the ATI 5.56/.22 lr AR combo or my officially 100 year old matching numbers 8 mm Gewher (Mauser) 98K manufactured in Berlin in 1916. That old Girl get’s only the finest, I found 200 rounds for .65 cents each last year (dude wanted.80 cents each, got a deal on the lot) and it just purrs like a kitten every time I slide a round into that chamber and squeeze one off….

    2. If the cartridge is boxer primed and most steel cases aren’t, theoretically they can be reloaded. But just because they can doesn’t mean they should be.
      Currently MAXX tech is selling a boxer primed, 9MM steel cartridge.
      So I had to experiment just to answer the same question.

      First of all the steel case has an internal reinforcing band so the volume is reduce by 16% and the powder charge must be reduce accordingly.

      The steel resized just fine with carbide dies, and functioned correctly in three different autos and a convertible Blackhawk. (the first reload)
      The second reload exhibited more stretch than would be acceptable in brass and you can’t trim steel cases with a standard trimmer without damaging it.

      The third reload of the steel cartridges all showed some signs of stress or failure. Some had cracking on the side wall and one had a split from the mouth of the cartridge to almost the base, and these were very light loads at best.

      Conclusion: not worth the time or trouble, plus the case failure could be very dangerous under standard or heaver loads. If you want to reload use a good quality brass case.

  72. The biggest issue is the low ductility of steel making it hard to reload, hard on the reloading dies, and dangerous to reload. It does not flow well and easily fatigues.

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