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The premier online home gunsmithing and weapon resource website.


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Commentary (12)

   Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo – Torture Test
   The Big M4 Myth
   Sign to Repeal the Hughes amendment
   The Condition of Gun Forums - and a fix!

All News : Commentary News
January 08 2013
Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo – Torture Test
Contributed by weaponeer - There are 1 comments
Posted In Open Forum

Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo – An Epic Torture Test

Four brand new AR15's and 10,000 rounds for each rifle. The shocking news is if you shoot federal ammunition you get zero malfunctions in 10,000 rounds, and accuracy that's just fine, but if you shoot the cheap Russian ammo, your barrel will turn into a smooth bore in under 6,000 rounds and will require replacement.

There are two major types of centerfire rifle cartridges available on the market today:

  • Those which are loaded with steel, and
  • Those which are loaded with brass

This seemingly simple variation has caused a never ending stream of argument, discussion, speculation, and questioning from new and seasoned shooters alike.  Complicating the conversation are other variables that typically get lumped into the argument without proper segmentation, such as:

  • The different coating options available on the steel-cased ammo (lacquer or polymer)
  • The different projectile loadings available (copper jacketed lead, the bi-metal coating that most Russian manufacturers use, etc)
  • The different propellant (gunpowder) burn rates

Our team decided to try something ambitious and daunting:  to provide the best resource and data available to answer these questions once and for all through objective experimentation and observation.

We realize this is a lofty and borderline arrogant goal.  We’ve done our best.  Please keep reading to see if you agree.

Here’s what we did:

  • We acquired four identical Bushmaster AR-15 rifles.  We chose the Bushmaster MOE Series AR-15 because it’s a widely available, affordable, and mass-market.  We didn’t want something too cheap and of lower quality or something too expensive and of high quality since our goal is to help the most number of people.
  • We acquired 10,000 rounds each of the following ammunition (new production):
  • We paired each ammunition type with a specific Bushmaster AR-15 and then fired all 10,000 rounds of it through that particular carbine (except for Tula; more on that below)
  • We systematically observed and tested various things, including (more details below):
    • At the start: accuracy, velocity, chamber and gas port pressures, chamber cast
    • After 2,000 rounds:  accuracy, velocity
    • After 4,000 rounds:  accuracy, velocity
    • After 5,000 rounds: throat erosion, chamber cast
    • After 6,000 rounds:  accuracy, velocity
    • After 8,000 rounds:  accuracy, velocity
    • After 10,000 rounds:  accuracy, velocity, chamber and gas port pressures, throat erosion, extractor wear, chamber cast, barrel wear
  • We logged every malfunction of every rifle-ammo combination
  • The rifles were cleaned according to a preset schedule and temperatures were monitored and kept within acceptable limits (more below)
  • We sectioned the barrels and otherwise made unique observations after the test was complete

If you’re interested in any of the following, you’ll find observations, data, and further details below:


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