One of the most debated aspects of ammo these days is that of brass or steel casings. As such, there are many different opinions on the subject, which are all and well good. However, along with views are the facts, and more often than not, the two do not cross over into one another.
Today we are going to run at that debate head-on, and take a look at some facts. The question of the moment: brass-cased ammo or steel-cased ammo?
Each side has its pros and cons, as with any debate. There are those that say they would get caught dead before they would resort to using steel, and then others would rather die than face the high prices these days of brass.
So, what is the difference? Does it even matter if you use one or the other type? Is one type of ammo that much better than the other? And more importantly, why should you care?
Brass Is Cleaner To Use
The primary difference between brass-cased ammo and steel-cased ammo is that brass provides a much better chamber seal than steel offers. This, in turn, results in significantly less blowback being seen in the chamber and the receiver.
Brass also has the advantage of providing a better seal due to it being more malleable than steel. This allows for a more snug fit against the walls of the chamber of the firearm, which prevents less gas and powder to pas backward into the gun each time it is fired.
Although steel is cheaper in cost, it is also a lot less malleable, and as a result, the seal is also more inferior. This means that the ammo will run dirtier in comparison. When the ammo runs dirty, it allows for more carbon buildup, which in turn leads to creating more malfunctions.
Steel Extracts Better
Now, there is the issue of extraction to take into consideration. Most of the newer type weapons you have heard of, such as the AR-15 or AR-10 as examples, are designed for the use of straight-walled cartridges that with reasonably light pressure will extract.
Now, consider that these same rifles, if chambered with softer brass casings, can result in the heads of the brass cases being ripped entirely off. The reason this happens is that the tolerances on theses guns are just not as tight. As a result, the force of extraction placed on the brass-cased ammo is more than the ammo is designed to tolerate.
When it comes to brass-cased ammo, if the rifle has a shorter and much more violent extraction, there are going to be more issues. However, those issues are cut down significantly with those rifles that present with a longer cycle tie and a somewhat less violent of an extraction.
Steel May Not Be Perfect After All
While admittedly, steel is a much harder substance, and as a given is much less likely to have an aggressive extractor rip it apart, there is the other side that it is known to get stuck due to the other physical properties it possesses.
There is the fact that due to its hardness and resilience against deformation, steel casing ammo is less likely to result in ripped rims or heads torn off. However, these are also the properties that result in steel ammo running much dirtier in your chambers. And, there is the fact that if it does expand, it will be unevenly and more of often result in your ammo getting stuck.
A malfunction of this type can cause more than just a headache if it occurs on the shooting range. If one finds themselves in a combat or self-defense situation—well, it goes without saying it could become a little death sentence.
Steel Can’t Be Reloaded—Brass Can
Well, not in any manner that will prove safe. This is another area where the malleable components of brass come in rather handy and economical. Brass can be reshaped back into its original factory dimensions and then reloaded. This is referred to by gun folk as resizing—direct and to the point.
If you have decided that you won’t be handloading or reloading your ammo, then this information is not that much of a concern for you. However, for those that are high-volume shooters, or those who want to save a few dollars here and there if they can, brass cased ammo is something to be considered.
Steel casings are not that easily resized, so once they have expanded, they are pretty much going to stay that way. This translates into safely using them two, maybe three, times before you will need to either throw them away or send them to the be recycled.
Case Coating On Steel
The reason that steel is so prone to get stuck may be that the metal by natural is not as slick as brass. Because of this, most all of your steel ammo on the market today comes coated, which aids in easier extraction of the casing. The coating also cuts down on the possibility of rust, which can play in issues of extraction as well.
Brass, on the other hand, by its very nature, is rust-resistant, and as already mentioned, is slicker than steel. Although some retailers offer their brass casing ammo coated, just for the sake of reliability, as a rule, is it not necessary.
So, now, with all of this taken into consideration, again, what type of round casing should you use—brass or steel? Well, the simple answer is: it depends. What is more important to you when shooting? The rounds in the magazine or the effect those rounds have on the target? In that same vein, should you be loading with brass-cased ammo or steel-cased ammo? Again, it depends.
As said in the beginning, the conversation and debate come down to personal choice. A choice that only you can make. So, sit down and weigh out the pros and cons of brass or steel casings, and before you know it, you will have the answer yourself.