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Steel Cased Ammo - An Epic Torture Test

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Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo – An Epic Torture
Test
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By Andrew

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Jan, 08, 2013
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Quick Links
Test Video Summary
Past Tests
The Ammunition
Brass vs. Steel Results
Data Analysis
Which Ammo To Buy

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.

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Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo - An Epic Torture Test

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):
Federal 55gr – Brass-Cased – Copper Jacket
Wolf 55gr FMJ – Steel-Cased with Polymer Coating – Bi-Metal Jacket
(steel and copper)
Tula 55gr FMJ – Steel-Cased with Polymer Coating – Bi-Metal Jacket
(steel and copper)
Brown Bear 55gr FMJ – Steel-Cased with Lacquer Coating – Bi-Metal Jacket (steel and copper)
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:
Which ammunition was most reliable?
Which ammunition was the dirtiest?
Which performed better, lacquer or polymer coating?
Which ammunition maintained the highest degree of accuracy throughout the test?
Which ammunition maintained the most consistent velocity throughout the test?
Which ammunition caused the most throat, barrel, and extractor erosion/wear?
What effect did the powder burn rates have on bolt cycling?
How did the pressure at the gas port vary by ammunition type?
How did the pressure at the chamber vary by ammunition type?
Which is cheaper to use, after considering all the costs?
What follows is a mind-numbing heap of charts, tables, graphs, images, and data to catalog the entire test, plus a careful
analysis of everything we found.  We hope you’ll find it as fascinating as we did.  If you’re in a hurry and just
want a brief overview, check out the summary video below.

Test Video Summary
View and share our 2 minute video summary.

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Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo - An Epic Torture Test

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<p><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Copyright: LuckyGunner.com">Learn more at
LuckyGunner.com</a></p>

Past Tests
A number of tests have been made public but none offer the depth of
information shooters demand.
When considering an undertaking such as this, it’s a good idea to look at what had been done before. There have been a
variety of tests
conducted using the AR-15/M4/M16 platform over the last 55 years, and we studied as many as
possible in order to determine the best course to take.
One of the more notable tests – certainly one of the most discussed – was the Army’s “M4 dust test ”
of 2007. Much of
the public domain information about the test was lacking – were all rifles of new manufacture? Did all firearms use
the
same magazines? What qualified as a malfunction, and how was each type of malfunction defined? What were some of
the details relating to how each rifle functioned, such as cyclic rate of fire? We sought to address each of these concerns
in our test.
A test of the MK18 10.5″ CQBR was
conducted by Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane and presented at the 2003
NDIA conference. Although the public domain report is rather concise and also focuses on why the weapon itself was
created, it contains a lot of useful data such as throat erosion and cyclic rate. The total number of malfunctions is given,
but details on when and how each one occurred are not provided, perhaps due to time/length constraints. We borrowed
a number of ideas and methodologies from this test, including limits on rate of fire and temperature.
A 2012 collaboration between Tulammo USA and Anderson Manufacturing 
compared the performance of Federal and
Tula ammunition in Anderson Manufacturing carbines. Although malfunctions occurred during the testing, the number
of malfunctions was not given.

The Ammunition
For the test, 10,000 rounds each of 
Federal , Brown Bear , Wolf, and  Tula  ammunition
in caliber .223 Remington were
used. Each brand of ammunition used a 55
grain full metal jacketed bullet with a lead core. The Federal 55gr .223
ammunition featured a solid copper jacket and a brass case, while the other three brands used a bimetal (steel and
copper) jacket and a steel case. The Brown Bear ammo’s steel case was coated in a green
“lacquer,” while the Tula and
Wolf cases were coated with a
gray polymer.

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Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo - An Epic Torture Test

Brown Bear (left) and Wolf (right) were two of the ammunition brands used for the test.

It is a commonly held belief that the coatings exist to
provide additional lubricity, or “slickness,” to the steel
cases. In fact, their primary purpose is to inhibit rust. As the United States Army discovered with a test of
steel cased ammunition in the 1960s,
uncoated steel cased ammunition was prone to rusting. Due in no
small part to the coatings, we had no problems with rust during the test.

The Rifles
Four brand new and identical Bushmaster MOE carbines, Bushmaster model 
produced in Ilion, New York at the same facility where Remington rifles are made.

BCWA3F MOE, were used. Each was

Formerly located in Maine, Bushmaster rifles are now produced in New York.

Upper and lower receivers were of standard design and manufactured with 7075-T6 aluminum via the forging process.
Receiver extension tubes were commercial pattern and had six adjustment points; receiver endplates were not staked.
Buffers weighed 3.0 ounces and conformed to carbine dimensions. Fire control groups were semi-automatic and trigger
pull weight varied between 8 and 10 lbs. Bolt carrier groups were machined for semi-automatic use only; gas keys were

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Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo - An Epic Torture Test

properly staked.

The reciprocating components were fairly standard AR-15 parts which proved to be up to the task.

Barrels were 16” in length, with all other exterior dimensions matching those of the military M4. Front sight bases were
attached to the barrels with two taper pins driven from right to left. Barrel exteriors were parkerized after the
attachment of the front sight bases.
Gas ports, located at the carbine position, were .058” in diameter. Chambers conformed to 5.56mm dimensions. The
rate of twist was
1 turn in 9 inches, and both chambers and bores were chrome lined. Barrel nuts were torqued to
inconsistent values: two had been torqued to approximately 5 ft/lbs, while the other two had been torqued within the
appropriate range of 30-80 ft/lbs.
The use of Magpul MOE furniture enabled the attachment of sling mounting points and flashlight mounts from Impact
Weapons Components designed for the MOE stocks and handguards. The sling mounting points and flashlight mounts
remained attached to the firearms without issue throughout the entire test; however, flashlights of the correct diameter
installed in the mounts in accordance with provided instructions did not stay in the mounts. Excessive tightening of the
mounts’ tension screw did not fix the problem, and the flashlights were set aside for the duration of the testing.

Numerous optics and accessories were used during the test.

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The manufacture date of the 552 was April of 2005. That exception was the correction of improper torque values found in two of the four test carbines. The use of these accessories had no functional impact on the weapons and their use should not be construed as true modifications. Also. It should be noted that the carbines were disassembled and reassembled numerous times over the course of the test to allow for the use of Cerrosafe casts of the chambers. serial number ARA041079. The Bushmaster carbines were patterned after the military’s M4 Carbine. The majority of rounds (over 20. and the Rainier Arms/AXTS Raptor. a slower rifling twist rate. and the different colors of Magpul MOE furniture made it easier to identify which was which.Brass vs. each carbine fired only the ammunition it was supposed to. the results of this test reflect the performance of the carbines in the condition in which they were removed from the box. For simplicity’s sake. remained functional at the end of the test.luckygunner. the BCM/Vltor Gunfighter. with a few changes such as a semi-automatic fire control group.5″ longer barrel. which markedly improved battery life. and no practical differences were noted between the aluminum and steel latches of the various charging handle types. Excessive upper receiver heat did cause thermal discoloration of and cosmetic damage to the EOTech sights. the Brown Bear-firing carbine (LBM23712) had olive drab (green) furniture.An Epic Torture Test Optics used during the high volume shooting portion of the test include the Aimpoint CompM3 in GDI mount as well as the EOTech 552 and XPS 2-0. Backup sights were Magpul MBUS. especially during clearing. its battery spring “grommets” were replaced with a newer design.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . No functional issues were encountered with any charging handle used during the test. One MBUS sight cracked and fell off of the carbine to which it was attached due to heating and cooling cycles that negatively affected the polymer material. one CR123 battery in the XPS 2-0 ruptured – possibly due to heat – but both EOTechs. Throughout the testing. and the Wolf (LBM21236)and Tula (LBM23157) carbines had flat dark earth (tan) furniture. With one exception. Charging handles used during the test include the standard AR-15 type. had standard black handguards and stock. a 1.” etc. Most shooters who used the Raptors commented that they appreciated the ambidextrous design during manipulations of the firearms. the weapons will be hereafter referred to as “the Wolf carbine” or “the Federal carbine. Only one type of ammunition was fired through each carbine. The carbine firing the Federal brass cased ammunition. and a lighter bolt carrier.000) were fired with the Raptor charging handles installed in various weapons. http://www. as well as the Aimpoint. prior to the test. Steel Cased Ammo . we successfully avoided any “cross-contamination” – in other words.

Brass vs. During the first range trip. Steel Cased Ammo .com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . serious accuracy issues were noted with two carbines – the Federal and Brown Bear weapons.luckygunner. out of the box. It should be noted that ten shot groups http://www. this initial visual inspection did not  reveal any deficiencies serious enough to be addressed prior to the beginning of the test. however. or over 5 inches at 100 yards.An Epic Torture Test The carbines were put to good use. Initial Preparations Visual Inspection Each firearm was broken down and inspected to ensure that it was within acceptable standards. Both shot groups of over 5MOA.

chamber and gas port pressure testing. Steel Cased Ammo .com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .An Epic Torture Test were fired for all accuracy testing in this article. Cerrosafe at 5. http://www.000 rounds. which is a realistic result to expect from standard carbines firing bulk ammunition.000 and 10.Brass vs. Because these groups were much larger than they should have been with any factory new ammunition. These tests include but are not limited to chronograph (velocity) testing. Firing was periodically halted to identify the cause of a malfunction. Once the components were properly reassembled. so were the others.000 rounds. These tests were also conducted periodically throughout the testing – accuracy and velocity every 2. It was immediately apparent that the problem related to improper barrel nut torque values – the barrel nuts. we did not exceed certain temperature and rate of fire limits – the barrels did not exceed 750 degrees Fahrenheit. with up to ten magazines (300 rounds) being fired in a row. All accuracy testing consisted of ten shot groups at 50 yards from a supported position with a US Optics scope at 17x magnification. and high speed video of bolt velocities and cycle times. the rates of fire were identical for the test rifles – if one was fired quickly. The upper receiver assemblies of the two problem carbines were completely disassembled in order to determine the cause of this issue. which slide over a collar on the barrel and thread onto the front of the upper receiver. required less than 5 ft-lbs to break loose. the rifles were examined. or replace parts. Rates of fire did slow at times. conduct diagnostic tests. other tests and observations were conducted in order to gather as much data as possible about the performance of the firearms. Most of the firing was conducted at a very fast pace. Other Tests Before high volume testing commenced.luckygunner. especially when accuracy testing was being conducted. ten shot group sizes shrank to approximately 3.5 MOA. However. Proper torque values for this part are 30-80 ft-lbs. Although the shooting was fast and hectic. Cerrosafe measurements of internal chamber and bore dimensions. and the results are not directly comparable with three or five shot groups.

To satisfy that particular thirst. 3 malfunctions) http://www. Brass vs. Brown Bear: 10. a detailed cleaning was undertaken.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .luckygunner.500 and 7. and they will be discussed later in the article.500 rounds. Steel Results Which Ammo Was Most Reliable? The data which will probably be most interesting to everyone who reads this article is how often each rifle malfunctioned. 9 malfunctions (5 stuck cases.000 rounds. 0 malfunctions.000 rounds. This was the end of the second day of shooting. A single drop of FireClean lubricant was applied to the cam pin hole of the bolt carrier group every 1. Steel Cased Ammo . After all initial tests were complete. and six drops were used after each of the aforementioned cleaning intervals. Cleaning and Lubrication A cleaning and lubrication schedule was followed – at 2. Certain small parts were replaced as needed. and at 5.000 rounds in alternate carbine. the bolt carrier group was wiped down with a paper towel. the bulk of the shooting commenced. 1 magazine-related failure to feed.000 rounds. 3 failures to fully cycle) Wolf: 10. 15 malfunctions (stuck cases) Tula: DNF (6. here are the basic results: Federal: 10.000 rounds.An Epic Torture Test Large dust storms were a regular occurrence during testing.Brass vs.000 rounds.

Approximately 300 rounds were fired through an HK416 (no malfunctions). 1. and 6.jpg" alt="Photo of LuckyGunner Labs' 223 Torture Test"/><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www. Over the next three hundred rounds. http://www. All malfunctions with the other carbines were stuck cases or failures to eject.000 rounds without any malfunctions.000 through a Spike’s Tactical midlength without any cleaning (3 malfunctions). even with the use of a steel cleaning rod after the rifle had cooled. as the problems were causing significant delays.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . 24 malfunctions – stuck cases and failures to fully cycle. <img src="http://labscdn2.An Epic Torture Test The Bushmaster carbine firing Federal ammunition fired all 10.Brass vs. A decision was made to fire the remainder of the Tula ammunition through other carbines. Steel Cased Ammo .luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Read about the ultimate 223 Torture Test">Copyright: LuckyGunner.luckygunner. or “short stroking” – were encountered. At this time. After thousands of rounds without cleaning.com/labs/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/pshootfedsm1.luckygunner. the Tula carbine was removed from the testing.com</a></p> The carbine firing Tula had a case stuck in the chamber after 189 rounds which proved exceptionally difficult to clear. the internal components were… unclean.000 through a Spike’s Tactical carbine (3 malfunctions).

After observation of high speed video showed inconsistent cycling.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .000 round mark. short stroking malfunctions were encountered.Brass vs.An Epic Torture Test <img src="http://labscdn2.luckygunner. For the Wolf carbine. Additional lubrication did not prevent the second malfunction. <img src="http://labscdn2.200 and 5.luckygunner. as were extractor springs ($6.com/labs/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/raining-1024x635.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Read more about LuckyGunner's 223 Torture Test">Copyright: LuckyGunner. the bolt carriers.jpg" alt="Internal AR-15 components"/><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www.luckygunner. the first malfunction occurred at 4850 rounds – a stuck case. It should be noted that this testing was conducted in the Arizona desert during monsoon season and was frequently interrupted by dust storms which covered the carbines in fine sand as well as rainstorms which drenched them in water. and the carbines were sometimes fired until they were too hot to touch. action springs ($3) were replaced. and occasionally not even far enough to eject the spent case.19). These rates of fire were identical for all weapons and they continued to function very well despite the adverse conditions.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Read about LuckyGunner's Ultimate 223 Torture Test">Copyright: LuckyGunner. Steel Cased Ammo .com</a></p> At the 5. These storms did not affect the previously set cleaning schedule. fairly heavy rain was also encountered during the monsoon season.99) and gas rings ($2.250 rounds.com/labs/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/dirtybcgsm.luckygunner.com</a></p> Of the remaining three ammunition brands. In addition to dust storms. the first malfunction encountered was a magazine-related failure to feed at 2250 rounds with the Brown Bear carbine. The second half of the test started off with several malfunctions with the Brown Bear carbine – at 5.luckygunner. upper receivers. High speed video showed that the bolt was barely coming back far enough to pick up the next round. the rates of fire were quite high.jpg" alt="Photo of 223 Torture Test"/><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www. No malfunctions were encountered during inclement conditions. http://www. In addition. and barrels were cleaned.

A change in report and recoil indicated that the round was possibly undercharged. and it was decided to set them aside in order to examine the phenomenon. Nine malfunctions might sound like a lot. A detailed physical examination revealed previously unnoticed carbon buildup in the gas key and gas tube which had almost completely occluded those components. and none exhibited carbon buildup which was even remotely close to that of the Brown Bear carbine.An Epic Torture Test Several malfunctions were encountered with the Brown Bear carbine shortly after the 5.500 rounds. The last malfunction with Brown Bear was a cycling issue similar to the first two. Cleaning of these components in the field proved difficult to impossible. The gas tube and bolt carrier of the Brown Bear rifle were replaced with identical components. The other firearms were inspected. but out of 10.09% failure http://www. after which firing resumed without incident.200 rounds. that’s only a .000 rounds fired.000 round mark.500 and 8. although the projectile did exit the bore. a number of cases with distended and/or split necks were observed.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . No malfunctions occurred until 7.500 rounds on.551st round to be fired.Brass vs. From 7. which was the 9.luckygunner. when five stuck cases were encountered between 7. Steel Cased Ammo .

mouse wheel or image controls to zoom or hold & drag http://www. a 99.91% success rate. The table below summarizes the reliability of each manufacturer’s ammunition as well as mean rounds between stoppages (MRBS).com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Read about 223 ammo and LuckyGunner's Torture Test">Copyright: LuckyGunner.850 rounds.com/labs/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Reliability-table-Sunday-e1357506241973.luckygunner. the carbine firing Federal ammo functioned flawlessly from the first round to the last. Or.200 to 10. <img src="http://labscdn2. if you’re the optimistic type.com</a></p> Which Ammo was Dirtiest? Of particular concern to some shooters is whether or not one type of ammo is dirtier than another. high-resolution photos of the lowers are available for your perusal. and the next stuck case was not encountered until the round count was over 9. There is not much else to report in terms of reliability. Steel Cased Ammo . It just worked. No actions were taken.luckygunner.000 rounds. in order to see which became the most filthy.luckygunner. During this time. Imported ammunition is often maligned for being dirty and difficult to clean.An Epic Torture Test rate. As stated previously. a Boresnake was used to superficially clean the bore and chamber.png" alt="Reliability During 223 Torture Test"/><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www. it did not appear to have any effect on the occurrence of malfunctions. and so the lower receivers of each firearm were not cleaned at all from the first shot to the last.000 round detailed cleaning portion of the test. Special attention was also paid to how much effort was required to clean each rifle at the 5.000. Two more stuck cases were encountered with the Wolf carbine at 5. Interactive photo .800 and 5.Brass vs. twelve stuck cases were encountered. From 9.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . Here.

Interestingly. Nearly the same level of buildup was found on the replacement key and tube after they had seen just short of 5000 rounds. the dirtiest lower receiver was that of the Federal carbine.mouse wheel or image controls to zoom or hold & drag http://www.luckygunner.An Epic Torture Test This photo allows you to zoom in and see the filthy lower receivers.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .Brass vs. Interactive photo .000 rounds that it would no longer function reliably. Steel Cased Ammo . The upper receiver and bolt carrier group assembly of the Federal carbine also took significantly longer to clean than the Brown Bear and Wolf carbines – although it should be kept in mind that the Brown Bear carbine’s gas tube and gas key were so fouled with carbon after 5.

How was Accuracy Affected? Although end users of off-the-shelf carbines firing bulk ammo should never expect tack-driving accuracy.luckygunner.An Epic Torture Test Another close up view of the the AR-15 lower receivers used in the test.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . group sizes were checked every 2.000 rounds in order to monitor how each type of ammunition was faring. using a US Optics scope at 17x magnification.Brass vs. http://www. these groups consisted of 10 shots at 50 yards from a supported position. Steel Cased Ammo . Again.

the Brown Bear and Wolf carbines exhibited significant accuracy loss by the 6. click through the http://www. While the carbine firing Federal ammunition maintained acceptable accuracy up to and including the 10.000 round mark. while some shots at 6. Steel Cased Ammo .Brass vs. To see accuracy results for each manufacturer at specific intervals of the testing.luckygunner.000 rounds.” or impacted the target sideways. or halfway through the test.000 “keyholed. but was serviceable right up to the end of the test.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .An Epic Torture Test A Marine infantryman and marksmanship instructor prepares to test accuracy. It is quite possible that this first started occurring earlier than 6. Its barrel was showing wear. Keyholing is not conducive to good accuracy or precision.000 round mark.000 rounds. the Federal carbine was by far the best performer in this category. because groups at 4. The Brown Bear and Wolf barrels would have required replacement at approximately 5.000 were well within standards of 5MOA or less. Even if we use accuracy as the only factor to determine serviceability.

com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . it was not an exceptionally reliable indicator of barrel failure. while the Brown Bear velocity did decrease in a more significant manner towards the end of the test.000 round intervals. or “shot out. http://www. Steel Cased Ammo . for the Wolf and Federal velocities were fairly close to one another all the way to 10k.luckygunner.An Epic Torture Test slideshow below: Were There Velocity Changes? In addition to accuracy data. we have chronograph data at 2. Velocity loss is another sign of a barrel becoming worn out.” However. in this case.Brass vs. A military standard for a barrel being unserviceable is a drop in velocity of 200fps or more.

steel torture test">Copyright: LuckyGunner.com/labs/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Muzzle-Velocity-2-19-e1357412984718.luckygunner.com</a></p> Data Analysis While the above section is essentially a factual summary of the events which occurred during testing. Steel Cased Ammo . there were two major issues with Tula: “short stroking” – a failure of the bolt to fully cycle to the rear – and extraction problems. Tula was also in line with the other products. the following is a logical explanation for the results of the test. based on our experiments/measurements/observations as well as the work of other individuals and organizations in the field. Tula was a no-go.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Read about LuckyGunner's brass vs. In terms of velocity. which saw 6.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .An Epic Torture Test <img src="http://labscdn2. In terms of functional problems. But in the Bushmaster carbine. Tula functioned very well in a Spike’s Tactical midlength.  it consists of a 55 grain bimetal jacketed lead core projectile loaded in a polymer coated steel case. http://www. and this description is by no means an outlier compared to the other ammunition in the test.000 rounds of Tula without any cleaning and only had three malfunctions. “What happened with Tula?” After all. Why Didn’t Tula Function Well in the Test Carbine? One of the first questions one might have after reading the above treatise is.Brass vs.png" alt="Muzzle Velocity During 223 Torture Test"/><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www. Further research and experimentation indicated that there was likely one factor which contributed to both failure types.luckygunner.

and these results were verified in a separate test barrel which was used for all ammunition types.   http://www. Steel Cased Ammo .5kpsi with Brown Bear close behind at 47kpsi.Brass vs. Federal was highest with a maximum average pressure of 52kpsi and Tula followed with 51kpsi. Wolf registered 47. but it functioned better overall. Brown Bear’s maximum average chamber pressure was lower than that of Tula.An Epic Torture Test Chamber pressure measurements indicated that Tula had the second highest chamber pressure of any ammunition in the test when all barrels were new.luckygunner.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .

fouled. has a rise time of 260-300ms. however. but powder burn rate and thus gas port pressure. depending on temperature. and it also had a peak which occurred later than the other ammunition types. and by the time the bullet has reached the barrel. the pressure drops. In comparison. Tula exhibited gas port pressures that were 10-20% lower than all other ammunition types.Brass vs. is 175ms. or worn out barrels. Wolf’s pressure curve looked very much like Brown Bear’s. the powder burns too fast. is not the maximum chamber pressure number.luckygunner.  The rise time of Tula. Whether measured in clean.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . new.   At the beginning of the test. What’s really important in this case. Federal AE223. Basically. http://www.An Epic Torture Test Federal’s maximum average chamber pressure was the highest. Steel Cased Ammo . defined as the time in microseconds for pressure to rise from 25% to 75% of maximum chamber pressure.

and so it functioned without any short stroking issues. Steel Cased Ammo .058″ gas port used on the Bushmaster rifles – about the same as a Colt 6920 with a 16″ barrel. The peak pressure and overall curve of Tula ammunition at the gas port were low and flat… http://www.An Epic Torture Test Couple this with the . and just about the smallest gas port you’ll see on any 16″ carbine AR-15.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .luckygunner. and you’re bound to encounter problems. The Spike’s Tactical midlength did not have a small gas port relative to its longer gas system.Brass vs.

steel does not expand and contract the same way that brass does – in fact. if there are pressure curve issues. is it possible that extraction of Tula – and possibly other ammo – could be made easier by adjusting the pressure curve? A clever test conducted by the US Army’s TACOM and presented at NDIA in 2003 may have the answer.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . http://www.5 times as much as steel . We know from the rise time and gas port data that the powder does burn too fast for the system. this plus the fact that steel doesn’t expand – and more importantly. so it is quite likely that this is a contributing factor to the rate of extraction failures. but that residual chamber pressure holds the case against the bolt face until the extractor returns to the case rim. Steel Cased Ammo .An Epic Torture Test …while ammunition such as Wolf had higher peak gas port pressures as well as more distinct peaks. This explains the short stroking issues. The shape of the . it is possible that the location of the gauge is not ideal for reading pressures against the bolt face.” the test concluded that the extractor lifts off the rim of the case during initial rearward travel. for an insufficient gas port pressure for a given gas system length and port diameter would logically cause insufficient bolt velocity – but what about the failures to extract? Part of the answer to this question is the nature of the case material itself. as the extractor may not return to place in time to pull the case out of the chamber.56 case was designed with brass as the case material. Titled “Understanding Extractor Lift in the M16 Family of Weapons . contract – like brass means that extraction will be naturally more difficult. While a drop in Tula’s chamber pressure at the appropriate time is not observed. though. In other words. When heated.Brass vs. Beyond these differences. brass expands 1. case extraction – made slightly more difficult by the steel case – becomes questionable.luckygunner.223/5.

we might have believed that. the rate of extraction failures in those rifles was lower than that of Wolf.luckygunner. chances are that you will encounter problems with this rifle/ammunition combination. we saw three times as many failures to extract  with the polymer coated Wolf brand ammo (15 extraction failures) than with the lacquer coated Brown Bear ammo (5 extraction failures). At one point.An Epic Torture Test Tula ammunition is not ideal for AR-15s with small or military spec gas ports. Steel Cased Ammo . There will be a very small number of stuck cases experienced when shooting steel cased ammunition. which is due to a powder burn rate not perfectly matched to that which would be ideal for the AR-15 platform.Brass vs. but we didn’t see a correlation between lacquer coatings and stuck cases. To be sure. Although the polymer coated Tula ammunition was fired in different rifles. What Effect Did Coatings Have On Steel Cased Ammo Performance? A common belief is that the lacquer coating of certain steel cased ammunition will “melt” in the chamber of a hot rifle and cause subsequent rounds to fail to extract. If you aren’t sure if this ammunition will cycle in your AR-15. If the bolt does not consistently lock back to the rear. But in this test. the short stroking failures are a result of low gas port pressure. http://www.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . buy a few boxes and shoot one round at a time from an otherwise empty magazine.

luckygunner. “Because we shot them until they got hot.Brass vs. None of this harsh treatment caused extraction problems. Why Did The Barrels Wear The Way They Did? Certainly one of the most visually striking parts of this article is the inclusion of post-test barrel cutaways. We also tried leaving rounds chambered before temperatures reached that point. Still. there were other factors which played a major role.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .mouse wheel or image controls to zoom or hold & drag http://www. This lets us see exactly how the barrels wore throughout the test – and there were significant differences. Interactive photo .An Epic Torture Test If anything would make that lacquer coating “melt. We found no evidence to back up the claim that lacquer coatings melt in the chamber and cause extraction failures. The rate of fire definitely contributed to rapid barrel wear. and then we kept shooting them.” it would be the treatment these rifles received during the test. The first answer to this question is. Steel Cased Ammo . the front sight base of the Brown Bear carbine had to be cut off before the barrel could be removed from the upper receiver and sectioned. We shot them until they were too hot to hold – hot enough that a chambered round would cook off in ten to fifteen seconds. The barrels were cut axially with an angle grinder and then longitudinally by the wire EDM process.” Due to the position of the front taper pin and the effects of extreme heat over time.

the Wolf and Brown Bear barrels were subjected to the same rates of fire and were completely “shot out” by 6. At the end of the test. the chrome lining of the Wolf and Brown Bear barrels was almost gone from the throat forward. While the barrel of the Federal carbine had plenty of life left. even after 10. As indicated by accuracy testing.Brass vs. Steel Cased Ammo . the steel cased/bimetal jacketed ammunition caused accelerated wear to the inside of their respective bores.000 rounds at extremely high rates of fire. and the barrels had effectively become smoothbores. http://www.An Epic Torture Test These tight images of the barrel cutaways offer insight into barrel wear. A throat erosion gauge could be dropped into the bore from the muzzle end with absolutely no resistance.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .luckygunner. with the rifling near the muzzles acting only as a mild suggestion on the projectiles.000 rounds.

com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . for the grooves have some chrome lining left.mouse wheel or image controls to zoom or hold & drag http://www. What’s still visible is the differences in material. Longitudinal scratches are visible inside the bore. Steel Cased Ammo .An Epic Torture Test This is a throat erosion gauge. the lands had been completely ground down to the diameter of the grooves. It’s not supposed to fit inside the muzzle. The bottom line is that for both Brown Bear and Wolf.Brass vs.luckygunner. Interactive photo . and it is believed that they were caused by the projectiles meandering their way down the bore in a casual manner before exiting and tumbling in a fairly random direction.

reducing the flame-cutting effect on the gas port as time went on.An Epic Torture Test A detailed look at gas port erosion for each of the ammunition manufacturers tested.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .luckygunner. However. Steel Cased Ammo . while the Wolf and Brown Bear barrels let a significant amount of gases past the projectile. I believe that this is due to the excessive throat erosion and barrel wear of these two barrels – the Federal barrel maintained a good seal between itself and the bullet up to 10. http://www.Brass vs.000 rounds. the gas port of the Federal carbine was far more eroded towards the muzzle than the Wolf or Brown Bear barrels.

An Epic Torture Test Brown Bear exhibited secondary pressure spikes and ignition delays at 10.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .000 rounds.000 rounds.Brass vs.   http://www. Steel Cased Ammo .   At 10. Wolf’s pressure curves were about as ugly as they could be and still result in a functioning weapon.luckygunner.

was manufactured via the hammer forging process. The barrel of the Spike’s Tactical midlength shot acceptable groups at 4. The data from this weapon cannot be directly compared to the others. The diameter of the entire bore had become enlarged. Firing continued for the Wolf and Brown Bear carbines after their barrels had been shot out in order to collect other data and finish the test. water. even if direct comparisons cannot.Brass vs. due to differences in construction (the barrel had a midlength gas port. The difference lies with the projectile – the soft copper jacket of the Federal ammunition simply doesn’t cause the same amount of wear as the bimetal (copper and steel) jacket of the Russian ammunition. The steel cases themselves don’t have any effect on the condition of the bore. Tula firing was halted at 6. However. throat erosion was measured in thousandths of an inch from a specific point forward of the case mouth. and featured “extra thick” chrome lining) and methodology (it was fired with only reliability testing in mind and saw even higher rates of fire as well as environmental abuse such as mud.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . Steel Cased Ammo . Still. At 10. For this measurement. the Wolf and Brown Bear throats had eroded to a point which could not be easily measured.000 rounds from the backup Spike’s Tactical midlength.000 rounds. but the initial rise was not vastly different than the initial testing. general conclusions can be drawn.luckygunner.000 and 5.An Epic Torture Test Federal ammunition at 10. after it saw seventeen http://www.000 rounds. and dirt testing).000 rounds exhibited minor secondary pressure spikes.

1:13 <iframe width="615" height="555" name="wistia_embed" src="http://fast. Steel Cased Ammo . An important factor to consider is that in the real world.Brass vs.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .000. but by 6. only becoming obvious with the aid of macro photography. Think of it this way – if a barrel A costs 50-100% more than barrel B but only delivers the same level of accuracy for 0-50% more time.000 rounds. Given that most of the extraction failures with the steel cased ammunition brands occurred during the last half of the test.An Epic Torture Test magazines of 30 rounds dumped through it several times. Steel Torture Test">Learn more at LuckyGunner. it too was keyholing.luckygunner. They will eventually become unserviceable if shot enough. it is possible that a replacement of the extractors at the halfway point or later would have reduced the number of failures to extract. If you plan on shooting a lot. The AR-15 is a modular platform.000 rounds had been fired.com%2Flabs%2Fbrass-vs-steel-cased-ammo&plugin% 5Bsocialbar%5D%5Bversion%5D=v1" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe> <p><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www.luckygunner. Performance indicators for the Federal barrel show that it would likely have remained serviceable for at least another three to five thousand rounds when it was sectioned after 10. change the barrel. When that time is up.mouse wheel or image controls to zoom or hold & drag http://www.luckygunner. Interactive photo . don’t get too attached to your barrel – think of it as a thing that does a job for a certain period of time at a certain cost. and barrel changes are quite simple. isn’t it a more financially sensible decision to shoot through more examples of barrel B? The high speed video below offers a comparison of each firearm’s cyclic rate as testing continued. while changes in ammo – to copper jackets only – did.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Brass vs.com</a></p> Did The Steel Cases Break or Wear Down The Extractors? Different wear patterns were evident on the extractors after 10. These wear patterns were not easily visible with the naked eye. The changes in barrel construction did not appear to offer a massive advantage in terms of barrel life.com/embed/iframe/oyxijy8z9p? controlsVisibleOnLoad=true&endVideoBehavior=reset&version=v1&videoHeight=527&videoWidth=615&volumeControl=true&plugin%5Bsocialbar%5D%5Bbuttons% 5D=googlePlus-twitter-facebook-email&plugin%5Bsocialbar%5D%5BpageUrl%5D=http%3A%2F%2Fwww. barrels are wear items.wistia.

The firing of approximately 412 pounds of ammunition with very minimal maintenance in austere conditions without a single malfunction – not to mention remaining serviceable and combat accurate from the first shot to the last – could hardly be improved upon. Why Bother Buying Steel Cased Ammo? The performance of the carbine firing Federal ammunition in this test was undoubtedly impressive. and would not have required replacement after 5. Which Ammo To Buy If Federal Brass Cased Ammo Performed So Great. http://www. it might be a good idea to replace your extractor along with your barrel. Steel Cased Ammo . 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. Average OEM extractor springs should be replaced beginning at 2.500 rounds and no later than 5.luckygunner.An Epic Torture Test The image above lets you zoom in to see the extractors in great detail.000 rounds.Brass vs.000 rounds were still providing reliable extraction at the 10. or at 5000 rounds. Better extractor springs will not require such frequent replacement with any ammunition – the Colt “Gold” extractor springs used in each rifle starting at 5. this is all the justification they need to purchase this type of ammo. whichever comes first.000 round mark. If you regularly shoot steel cased ammunition. To many who read this report.000.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . Replacement extractors are not very expensive.

the increased cost of brass cased ammunition isn’t worth it – after all. it is.000 rounds through their AR-15.000 rounds.luckygunner. Plus. We created a chart comparing the cost over time of each type.Brass vs. most people will never shoot 10. brass is generally more expensive. all things considered.An Epic Torture Test It is hard to argue with a functionally flawless performance. this test will be justification that buying steel cased ammunition is a sensible decision. The difference in price between brass and steel cased (more specifically. Although ammunition prices are volatile. brass ammunition was calculated at $130 per thousand higher than steel and replacement barrels at $250 apiece. including ammunition and spare parts replacement costs. Steel Cased Ammo . let’s be honest – in all likelihood. In many cases. As a company we would be excited if they did. the Wolf and Brown Bear ammo had very few malfunctions. Imported steel cased ammunition is a lot better than it is sometimes given credit for. copper jacketed and bimetal jacketed) ammunition means that you’ll have plenty of savings with which to buy new barrels – even if you shoot so fast that you replace them every 4. To others. especially considering the reduced price. So. but the use these rifles saw was far beyond what is likely to be encountered in the real world. for many consumers. the prices of brass and steel remain similar to one another – that is. For this chart.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] . http://www.

png" alt="Chart indicating brass vs.-Steel-Sunday-e1357509017349.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo" title="Read more at LuckyGunner. but now that you know some facts. Did you enjoy this article? Get FREE updates via email Share this article with your friends! We will never spam you! http://www.luckygunner.luckygunner.Brass vs. you can make a better-informed decision.com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM] .com/labs">Copyright: LuckyGunner.An Epic Torture Test <img src="http://labscdn2. Steel Cased Ammo . steel cost comparison"/><p style="text-align:center"><a href="http://www.com</a></p> The final decision is up to you.com/labs/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Brass-vs.luckygunner.

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Steel Cased Ammo .com/labs/brass-vs-steel-cased-ammo/[9/22/2016 12:41:43 PM]  Free Targets Legal Disclaimer .com Fast Shipping. In-Stock Ammo. All Rights Reserved.An Epic Torture Test Select the Best Shooter and Scribe The Colt Python – An Ideal Zombie Gun? Brass vs. LLC. http://www. Steel Cased Ammo – An Epic Torture Test   Shop LuckyGunner.Brass vs.luckygunner. 110% Guaranteed   About Lucky Gunner Labs Who is Lucky Gunner? Lucky Gunner Lounge © 2009-2016 LuckyGunner.