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Old April 7, 2011, 08:51 PM   #1
Cascade1911
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Nickel vs Brass?

When I first go into reloading I was told that nickel plated brass was better than plain brass. Now I seem to be seeing information that indicates nickel is inferior. Never really tested it for myself as I never had much nickel.
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Old April 7, 2011, 10:43 PM   #2
IowaYoungGun
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Nickel plated is still far more superior! You were originally informed correctly, happy shooting.
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Old April 7, 2011, 10:53 PM   #3
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Hum, My experience is this. Brass is more maluable. That means you will get more reloads out of a brass case then you will get out of a nickel plated case, however, nickel doesn't tarnish as easily. So for me, brass is the way to go unless you are trying to make a "pretty" round. Nickel cases will split quicker then brass. Just my experience.
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Old April 7, 2011, 10:54 PM   #4
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going to have to disagree. i have both with my 7mm-08 and i like the brass much better. it sizes much easier and accuracy is the same with both. nickel is very hard brass is soft i don't know about case life but i've heard it is also about the same.
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Old April 7, 2011, 11:28 PM   #5
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I'm with the brass boys.

I've used both also and I much rather prefer brass.

Its softer and easier to size and work with, and if annealed once in a while and you take care of them (minimal sizing and not max loads), you get many reloads from them. I've heard of guys getting over 40 reloads from properly cared for brass. I have some that are going on 15+ loadings now with no problems. I tried annealing nickel pistol cases to see if they would last longer, but I'm not sure if it worked or not.

I started going to nickel plated once when I first started reloading and after getting a couple hundred I stopped and once these go bad I'll never get anymore. I rarely shoot those ones now, so they'll probly last the rest of my life anyway.

Whenever someone gives me a can of empties I usually throw away any nickel cases that are in there.
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Old April 7, 2011, 11:46 PM   #6
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Hello, Cascade1911. Once that nickle starts to peel, & a piece gets between the case & die, it will scratch your die. Probably not carbide pistol dies, but it will on a steel rifle die.
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Old April 8, 2011, 12:38 AM   #7
FrankenMauser
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Nickel will suffer case mouth and neck cracks earlier than equivalent unplated brass.

Nickel cannot easily be used to form other cases (sometimes it can't be used at all).

Nickel is very easy to keep clean, is great for hunting loads (times where you'll be sweating on your ammo, or getting rained/snowed on), and can sometimes help solve issues with cartridges that suffer from difficult extraction.


Brass lasts longer, is easier to care for, won't damage other cases if the plating flakes off, is more easily annealed, and is cheaper to buy.


I use Nickel brass for some hunting loads, where I will be likely to have a pocket full of ammo (but the shorter life cycle of the brass doesn't matter, or I'm willing to pay the extra cost when time for replacement arrives). Everything else gets plain old brass.
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Old April 8, 2011, 07:44 AM   #8
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The few nickel cases I've worked with in rifle I do not like. They don't run through the sizer smoothly at all and the feel in the press handle is "odd." I avoid nickel in rifle brass. But it's not all that common anyway, so no big deal.

In handgun, I've certainly seen it flake off as mentioned, but I don't think it's quite as prevalent as some would have you believe. And there are benefits to nickel handgun brass -- some mentioned above by FM but I like it because it's smooth, especially in revolver rounds. It chambers nicely and ejects easily and the difference, in my opinion, is noticeable. Nickel is my go-to choice in .38 and .357.

Stays a lot cleaner and cleans up so well that it almost looks new after a ride in the tumbler. It's more enjoyable to work with.
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Old April 8, 2011, 08:28 AM   #9
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Like Ideal Tool says, the nickel can flake off and ruin a good set of dies.( the sizer die) Odds are low that that will happen but keep in mind that it does happen. Some guys get quite a lot of reloads with nickel plated brass but I too load brass more than nickel. I only have reloaded what I accidentally picked up at the range and only loaded it once, but it will make a bullet.
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Old April 8, 2011, 08:33 AM   #10
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I have loaded both and see no difference in number of reloads but the brass is a lot easier to size and not so hard on my dies. I see no advantage to the nickel except it does look prettier.
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Old April 8, 2011, 09:45 AM   #11
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Nickel has always been the first to crack for me. Plain clean tumbled brass lasts longer, cost less, feeds as well and looks great. I see no advantage to nickel what so ever.
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Old April 8, 2011, 06:03 PM   #12
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Better or worse are relative terms--Nickle plated brass is better at resisting corrosion when left in a firearm for long periods of time - such as in a policeman's gun when the guy does not get out to the range a lot--or if the cartridge is left in Barney Fife's pocket.............

Brass cases will be easier to work with (reloading works the brass) for a longer period of time and are more easily restored to something like their original ductility through annealing than are nickle plated cases.
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Old April 8, 2011, 06:46 PM   #13
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I've seen no discernable difference between nickel (and it's only a plating) and regular brass in the following: Ease of sizing, mouth expanding, taper crimping, priming, functions when shooting with them, and cost.

Nickel is more corrosion resistant than regular brass and takes less effort to clean.

Brass seems to last longer before observing neck splits. I'm not talking about 3 reloads and it's done. I'm estimating with non-bottleneck pistol I get 85% of the longevity of normal brass.

Bottom line, I'd take nickel and run with it. The ease of obtaining a more quality finish is worth the minor setback of possible abbreviated life. I've had a couple of pieces flake off in the umpteen thousands of rounds I've reloaded. I had Lee carbide dies back when it happened and nary a scratch in the sizing die...
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Old April 8, 2011, 07:26 PM   #14
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I may have a different take.

I will admit that I have experienced most of the reasons to not use nickel. For load testing and fooling around in general, I use brass. However, I prefer to use nickel for the hunting loads. The nickel will resist tarnishing and lets face it, will not be used up at the same rate as practice rounds. I would like to have at least 50 rounds of nickel for every hunting load and caliber that I have.
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Old April 8, 2011, 09:57 PM   #15
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The nickle senerio has been going on and on and on for as long as i can remember . I love nickle plated brass and would love for everyone that's had a split mouth or flaking/peeling case to post a picture please. And anyone that has nickle plated brass of any caliber to send it to me to reload. I enjoy being able to find it amongst others yellow brass.


ps: try annealling it
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Old April 8, 2011, 10:54 PM   #16
abber
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Why bother? Nickel is just an added feature, and more prone to failures than plain brass. I have thrown most of mine out, and I once was a hard core nickel guy. It does clean up quicker, and looks real purdy. When the mouths start to split, it is very difficult to weed out the bad from the good. Not an issue with plain Jane. I am reformed.
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Old April 8, 2011, 11:49 PM   #17
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Quote:
Hello, Cascade1911. Once that nickle starts to peel, & a piece gets between the case & die, it will scratch your die. Probably not carbide pistol dies, but it will on a steel rifle die.
Quote:
Like Ideal Tool says, the nickel can flake off and ruin a good set of dies.( the sizer die)
You're both badly wrong! If not for rules on this forum, I would have said something stronger.

Mike, if you're an actual engineer, you must know something about brinnel hardness of various metals. Please explain how nickel plating can cut hardened tool steel that dies are made of!?¿

The nickel on the brass is really not plating, it's a coating called electroless nickel. It is very thin, so thin that if it did peel, it would be like shavings. Some nickel coated brass can have the coating tumbled right off, so you can see the yellow brass under it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroless_nickel_plating

I use a lot of nickel coated brass. In fact, I buy it if it's offered in any caliber. I found a nickel .280 that had fallen out of an ammo carrier during the November deer hunt. It was July of the next year. The BT copper jacket was almost black from corrosion, the shell was still bright and clean. Went through a Wisconsin winter, spring and early summer, fired without a hitch. A brass case would have been the same color as the bullet, wouldn't have even seen it.
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Old April 9, 2011, 01:19 AM   #18
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Quote:
Mike, if you're an actual engineer, you must know something about brinnel hardness of various metals. Please explain how nickel plating can cut hardened tool steel that dies are made of!?¿
Not all dies are created equal. Some are not hardened... at all.


I'm not much of a believer in nickel damaging dies, but I have seen the flakes get stuck in a die, and damage other cases.

I honestly wouldn't care much about a die getting damaged. If I didn't immediately notice the issue; losing a premium lot of brass would cost more than a replacement sizing die! I don't want my brass getting damaged.
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Old April 9, 2011, 08:35 AM   #19
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Brass for me. I avoid nickel at all costs. Just don't like working with it.
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Old April 9, 2011, 05:05 PM   #20
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Here are some more facts about the drawbacks of nickle plating brass--especially as pertains to rifle rounds and annealing. I was not much concerned with this article when I first read it as I did not use nickle brass in rifle rounds--but since I have been using an induction heater I have discovered that I can actually anneal certain handgun cases and when you heat nickle it becomes more brittle while the brass becomes softer--not a good situation...........anyway--read what Varmint Al has to say on the subject a couple of pages down--------->


http://www.varmintal.com/arelo.htm
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Old April 9, 2011, 11:47 PM   #21
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Engineer or not, all I can say is that one out of every 150 re-loaders I talk to have had an issue with the nickel platted brass. It will sometimes flack off and imbed itself/stick in the die body and start to scratch the brass. Some reload their whole life and don't have problem and some don't. I to believe it could be the quality of the die body, as I had a problem with an new die and from the start it scratched my brass and had to be replaced. (Something about it not being polished) it was replaced and I moved on. (Bad out of the box not from nickel platted brass)

So if you must reload the nickel platted brass then I would suggest that you buy a cheap (In price not necessarily Quality) sizing die and move on. If it reloads the nickel platted brass for the rest of you life then so much for the nickel flacking off and scratching your other brass and if it does start to scratch your brass then just buy another cheap sizing die and move on. I have a few of the nickel platted brass and will start to reload them when I find another resizing die other than my good one i had replaced. But here again, the chances of the nickel platted brass harming your die is low but as the saying goes, "I'm the unluckiest guy I know".

Not sure about the nickel plating cutting into the die, last time I looked all the nickel plating has to do is just stick to the die body to cause the problem. But as far as being hard, when was the last time you cut off a catalytic converter of a 1979 Ford pickup truck? Never mind, maybe that was a harder nickel alloy. I guess that is platinum, rhodium and palladium. I just remember them being hard to cut.

Last edited by engineermike; April 10, 2011 at 12:01 AM.
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Old April 10, 2011, 12:20 AM   #22
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I think I just trashed a Lee carbide sizing die tonight by resizing one, yes one nickel plated 9mm case. I just don't like the way the next 50 cases looked like someone used steel wool on one side of the brass cases.

I might add that there was No flaking of the plating.

I will never pick up another nickel plated case again. Just not worth it even if they do look purty.

I resized .40 S&W and .45acp nickel plated cases for poops and grins with no issues.

Edited to add:
I took the decapping pin out and cleaned with some Hoppes and a properly sized brass bore brush followed by a similar sized bore swab. Almost all gauling is gone. If it doesn't go away entirely when I am resizing my next 9mm brass I will take it apart and clean it again.

Last edited by Miata Mike; April 10, 2011 at 10:57 AM.
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Old April 10, 2011, 05:43 AM   #23
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Well, a bunch of responses for sure. What prompted my original question was what I perceived as indications from posts on this and other forums that nickel didn't last as long as brass. I'm only talking pistol brass (I've never come across nickel rifle brass).
I don't keep track of my pistol brass, just inspect and discard suspect pieces. It might seem to me that I discard a disproportionate number of nickel cases but I have no real data. From my limited experience I do believe nickel extracts from my revolver slightly easier than brass. For me it actually seems to run through my carbide die just a touch easier. I've not met flaking of the nickel, I have tumbled the nickel off.
As neither extraction nor tarnish/ corrosion have been an issue with me and I use carbide dies I guess I'll not place a premium on nickel when I hunt for brass but not avoid it either.
(I know Hornedy uses nickel by design in their "Critical Defense" ammo. One reason was that it was easier to see in the dark. I don't remember if they sited easier extraction and corrosion resistance. If you reload your own SD rounds (start your own thread if you want to start THAT argument once again) you might want to choose nickel for those reasons).
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Old April 10, 2011, 08:08 AM   #24
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To make a long story short ,nickle brass is harder than yellow brass so if you load on the hotter side it will wear out faster than yellow but if you stay in the middle or lower side for your target loads you will loose it before you wear it out.
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Old April 10, 2011, 08:27 AM   #25
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I use the nickle plated brass for the leather loops on my ammo belts. If I leave a brass round in the loops, it turns a wonderful ugly color.

The nickle seems to last longer. I like to keep the loops full so they do not shrink. My belts hang on the wall and the look of cartridge loops full of ammo brings a smile to my face.

In my situations, I have noticed I do not get the same number of reloads out of my nickle that I get out of my brass, but I still get at a minimum several very good loadings. For me it is half - a -dozen of one and six of the other.

If I notice the nickle coming off, I remove the die and clean it and toss the nickle case.
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