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Ammunition Casings - Brass, Aluminum, Steel?

JuggernautJuggernaut Member Posts: 719 ✭✭✭✭
edited July 2012 in Ask the Experts
I personally prefer brass casings for ammunition which would seem to be the general consensus judging from various gun forums although was interested in the pros and cons of each type or a website that shows comparisons of all types?

From what I understand dependent on the type of powder used ammunition with brass casings seem to be the 'cleanest' and 'best' for the gun...
Ammunition using aluminum casings while soft tends to be dirty and is easily damaged and ammunition that uses steel casings while harder than brass but softer than the gun steel tends to be dirty and could cause excessive wear to the gun reportedly.....

Thanks

Comments

  • rufe-snowrufe-snow Member Posts: 18,649 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I tried resizing boxer primed 40 S & W steel cases, fired in a Glock. It was a exercise in futility. All had the notorious loading ramp bulge even after full length resizing. No way would I reload them.

    Funny thing was that I resized some U.S. made, once fired, 40 cal. brass at the same time. with no problems. Both cartridges were fired in the same Model 27 Glock, with what felt like comparable loads.

    The only aluminum cases I'm aware of are CCI Blazers, using what I believe are Berdan primers. I don't know how you would even reload them. The only time I attempted to reload with Berdan primers in the distant past, it was a hassle that I wouldn't want to revisit.
  • Hawk CarseHawk Carse Member Posts: 4,319 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Brass is optimum for most current calibers, especially if you reload.

    Steel is serviceable and cheap once you have the machinery to draw it into cases. Some guns like ARs are not well suited to steel cases but many guns will run with them, especially the East Bloc stuff.
    I have reloaded Boxer primed steel Wolf brand .45s and WW II EC steel .45s with no trouble. I went two or three cycles before discarding them but would not want to try to push the limits for fear of work hardening and splitting sooner than brass.

    Aluminum is cheap and easy to work. I saw a commercial reloader run some Blazers through his equipment to demonstrate how tough his decapping pin was and how his primer pocket swage would reshape the Berdan pocket to take a Boxer. Advertising stunt, I wouldn't fool with it.
  • andrewsw16andrewsw16 Member Posts: 10,729 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Some of the aluminum case ammo is Boxer primed and I was able to run it through my press with no problems at all. You just have to inspect all of the casings and pitch out the ones that are Berdan primed to keep from messing up your decapping pin. I normally don't bother reloading any aluminum cases, but this was during the ammo shortage in late 2008 - early 2009. I wouldn't recommend many reloadings as the aluminum would probably crack a lot earlier than brass, but if you want to reload it just one or two times, it should be no problem. It is pretty soft and resizes easily.
  • Laredo LeftyLaredo Lefty Member Posts: 13,452 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Brass casings are by far the best for reloading. Most companies that make reloading gear make it with brass cases in mind. CCI aluminum Blazer cases were never intended to be reloaded. They are actually stamped "NR" meaning non-reloadable.

    Steel cases, I dont know why anyone even bothers with them. Soviet Bloc steel cases have to be a PITA to try to reload, not to mention most of it is berdan primed. I recall buying cases of 7.62X39 for $89 per 1000 rds years ago, but those days are over. I shoot lots of steel case ammo, but only in my AKs and SKSs that were designed to run on it.

    I reload lots of calibers as well as shotgun, but my handgun and rifle cases is exclusively brass.
  • gotstolefromgotstolefrom Member Posts: 1,479 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    As a side note I did not see mentioned.

    HORNADY had some STEEL CASED LOADS advertised in some recent circulars. Knowing what there rea$oning was would be intere$ting.

    ENJOY !
  • machine gun moranmachine gun moran Member Posts: 5,198
    edited November -1
    I reloaded some WW2 steel .45 cases. I used a carbide sizer, and the loads went together OK, but upon firing, complete case separations at the mid-point were common. The gun would extract and eject the rear half of the fired case, leaving the front half in the chamber. The next round would 'headspace' on that 'chamber sleeve', stopping the gun. The separated front-halves could be pushed out with a cleaning brush, but it was a PITA to have to be doing so. I concluded that steel cases were a one-shot proposition.
  • bpostbpost Member Posts: 32,200 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I am not sure if you are talking about the cases when saved for reloading or factory ammo and the cases it is loaded in.

    Brass seals best and is an ideal metal for ammunition. Steel cases are fine but tend to leak more gas back until the case expands to fill the chamber.

    Aluminum is fine for shooting once. It does not spring back like brass or steel and fatigue cracks quickly from bending forces.

    Out of the three only brass should be reloaded; although I reloaded tens of thousands of steel cased EC42 empties for use in Thompson Sub machine guns without an issue.

    Shooting factory ammo is different, it is component choices of the maker that determine its clean burning characteristics. It is impossible to say that brass is cleaner than aluminum is cleaner than steel, it does not work that way.

    You could load Varget powder into a primed steel case with a quality bullet and have a clean burning round. The Soviet Bloc nations tended to use powders that were little more than flammable dirt, burning like coal pushing bullets of questionable and varying quality out of guns designed to keep shooting even in a hog wallow. They were not concerned about powder residue or jacket fouling.
  • JuggernautJuggernaut Member Posts: 719 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by bpost
    I am not sure if you are talking about the cases when saved for reloading or factory ammo and the cases it is loaded in.
    Brass seals best and is an ideal metal for ammunition. Steel cases are fine but tend to leak more gas back until the case expands to fill the chamber.
    Aluminum is fine for shooting once. It does not spring back like brass or steel and fatigue cracks quickly from bending forces.
    Out of the three only brass should be reloaded; although I reloaded tens of thousands of steel cased EC42 empties for use in Thompson Sub machine guns without an issue.
    Shooting factory ammo is different, it is component choices of the maker that determine its clean burning characteristics. It is impossible to say that brass is cleaner than aluminum is cleaner than steel, it does not work that way.
    You could load Varget powder into a primed steel case with a quality bullet and have a clean burning round. The Soviet Bloc nations tended to use powders that were little more than flammable dirt, burning like coal pushing bullets of questionable and varying quality out of guns designed to keep shooting even in a hog wallow. They were not concerned about powder residue or jacket fouling.

    'factory ammo and the cases it is loaded in.'
    This is exactly what I was looking for originally however I let it go to get both sides of the story since there was an amalgamation of info that was varied and intriguing but informative especially in case I reload.

    'It is impossible to say that brass is cleaner than aluminum is cleaner than steel, it does not work that way.'
    I would agree that it is component choices of the maker that would determine its clean burning characteristics or not and stated from what I had read and heard from other accounts.

    I haven't used the aluminum or steel cased ammunition much at all as in the military we only used brass cased ammunition and I have always used that as it worked well and was clean.
    I haven't seen a real need to change from brass cased ammunition although brass can be more expensive than the aluminum or steel.
    Some report aluminum and steel cased ammunition being better, cheaper and clean enough but some say that's not so and I thought that I should check into it myself since its all relative and variable to ones perspective and experiences.

    Thanks everyone for the varied perspectives and answers which helps with the cased ammunition question as well as for reloading.

    Regards
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