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Old June 18, 2012, 10:25 AM   #1
Kayser
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How does steel cased ammo even work?

So we all know that brass allows a firearm to function by flowing and sealing the chamber under pressure. What I'm curious about is - how does steel cased ammo work? AKs and many Russian semi-autos seem to digest it just fine. But it seems to me that steel is significantly stronger/less ductile so it would have problems sealing the chamber.

What's the deal here, gurus?
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Old June 18, 2012, 11:52 AM   #2
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The steel used in steel cased ammo is not the same steel used in I beams for 100 story sky scrapers. It is certainly not as ductile as brass but does form to tighter chambers though when it cools can shrink back a bit. Measure a steel casing before shooting then measure after shooting. It will not be the same...
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Old June 18, 2012, 12:20 PM   #3
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Steel is a generic term for iron mixed with other minerals in various concentrations known as alloys.

Depending on the kind and concentration of the additives, you can make steel with all kinds of different properties.

FYI, cartridge brass is an alloy of roughly 70% copper and 30% zinc.

A google search of "steel alloy composition" should get you off to a better understanding of smelting.

http://www.csudh.edu/oliver/chemdata/alloys.htm

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Old June 18, 2012, 03:20 PM   #4
Mike Irwin
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Steel cases are mild steel and are quite soft and ductile. Not as soft or ductile as brass but more than enough to seal the chamber of guns, even those with fairly sloppy chambers.

Brass cases arent the same size after firing either. They expand. They do bounce back but they still need to be resized after firing.
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Old June 18, 2012, 03:33 PM   #5
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In AK cases in particular, the Russkies knew what they were doing designing steel cases. I have more than a few ripped through rims from the violent extraction exhibited by some AKs.

YMMV
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Old June 18, 2012, 03:34 PM   #6
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Don't forget that steel case's are only used once.
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Old June 18, 2012, 11:43 PM   #7
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Only used once mor many of us, but thy are reloadable. PITA to pry that berdan primer out IMHO. As long as brass is available, I will toss the steel.
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Old June 20, 2012, 06:35 PM   #8
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Steel cases can stretch easily to conform to the chamber and seal it.........and they do spring back sufficiently to extract.However they do not have as great a differential as cartridge brass and can give problems in certain chambers.
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Old June 20, 2012, 08:42 PM   #9
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Steel cases have been reloaded in Afganistan since the Russians tried to control the area decades ago. The young boys taught to reload them by hand are now some of the grown men in the Taliban.
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Old June 20, 2012, 08:52 PM   #10
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Some .223 steel cases have boxer primers and I reload those. The good thing about them is nobody else picks them up, so I can often find 50 or 100 of them on the ground. They also need less case prep because they don't need trimming and the primers are not crimped.

I haven't been using them long enough to know if they are better for heavy-bullet loads or light bullets, etc.
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Old June 21, 2012, 11:35 AM   #11
CS86
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There seems to be a contradiction in the posts, and its been a questions I've wanted to ask. Are steel cases reloadable or not? Some seem to say they are, others say only a one time use. Can you FL size them, neck size them, or anneal them? What are the do's and don'ts when it comes to steel cases? How many times can you reload them if possible?
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Old June 21, 2012, 02:38 PM   #12
Mike Irwin
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"Are steel cases reloadable or not?"

Yes, they certainly are, but there are some limitations.

Steel work hardens MUCH faster than brass, so the cases tend to become unusable faster. Annealing is possible.

Because they are harder, steel cases generally tend to be tougher on the press and the arms because more force is required to size them.

Proper lubrication is an absolute MUST or you'll stick a case in the die in a heartbeat.

Most steel cases are berdan primed (some are not, as indicated in this thread) so if you reload those, they require different techniques.

Since most steel cases are European, you can run into problems in that they often require metric primers, which can be a real pain to find.
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Old June 21, 2012, 09:00 PM   #13
chris in va
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Rifle chamber pressure is what...55,000 psi? Certainly enough to press mild steel against the walls.
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Old June 21, 2012, 09:11 PM   #14
hk33ka1
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The real question is has anyone ever bought RCBS dies for 5.45x39mm since it seems to only be made in steel Berdan primed cases.
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Old June 21, 2012, 09:15 PM   #15
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5.56x45 can be trimmed and reformed into 5.45x39,
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Old June 21, 2012, 09:59 PM   #16
Mike Irwin
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LOTS of steel-cased handgun ammunition around, too.

During World War II the United States loaded millions of rounds of steel-cased .45 ACP for use in handguns and submachine guns because of a shortage of copper.

The US Mint also pressed pennies from steel.

Both happened in 1943.
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