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Brass vs Steel Ammo — Which Is Best

There are two major categories of ammunition that one can buy. Brass and steel cased ammo. What are some of the significant differences between these two ammo types other than the obvious cost savings of steel cased ammo? Let’s have a closer look.

On the side of brass, most shooters agree that the softer brass case is going to provide a better chamber seal than its steel counterpart, meaning less blowback and carbon is coming rearward into the chamber and receiver. This is important for keeping the gun clean and operational during long periods without maintenance or cleaning.

Favoring steel, its a significantly cheaper option, although it burns much dirtier and filthies the action of the weapon, potentially inducing malfunctions.

Some other considerations are the fact that many of the weapons we like to shoot today have straight-walled cartridge’s, which don’t extract easily. While soft brass rims will often tear upon the violent extraction of eastern built guns such as AK’s, steel cased rims will be able to handle the additional stress that extraction places on the material.

For most delayed actions however, there is sufficient dwell time that this is not a major consideration between the two.

The most common complaint about steel ammo is it’s poor quality. Remember the cost savings, you get what you pay for. Steel ammo is built to looser standards, meaning that it’s less consistent (i.e. accurate), has tougher primers which can sometimes fail with weapons that have weak hammers or strikers, and steel ammo uses bi-metal jacketing to coat the bullet, increasing barrel wear compared to solid copper jackets.

Another consideration for many preppers is reloading. Brass ammo uses boxer priming, which can be reloaded, whereas steel ammunition is primed with berdan style primers, and consequently cannot be reloaded. Even if a steel case had a boxer primer, the steel would be too difficult to resize in a reloading die and become brittle far more quickly than brass casings.

So how is one to decide between the two? The higher quality brass ammo is probably your best bet for 100% reliability, and would be the best choice for actual self defense. But steel ammo’s cost savings make it a great option for range time and training. Both are great for stockpiling for different reasons.

Author: Jim Meyer

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